Guest Workers – From Their Own Perspective. Narratives About Life and the Socio-Economic Position of Migrant Workers

  • Dragana Antonijević Department of Ethnology and Anthropology Faculty of Philosophy University of Belgrade
  • Ana Banić-Grubišić Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology Faculty of Philosophy University of Belgrade
  • Marija Krstić Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology Faculty of Philosophy University of Belgrade
Keywords:
guest workers, Eastern Serbia, life stories, waves of migration, process of acculturation, returned migrants

Abstract

Based on fieldwork conducted in Eastern Serbia (Knjaževac and Kučevo with surrounding regions), this paper analyzes the life stories of migrant workers as material crucial for anthropological and folkloristic research into experiences, values and attitudes of the members of a certain culture. The term "guest worker" (ser. gastarbajter, i.e. ger.gastarbeit) was used to designate temporary migrants who served as labor at the time of the reconstruction of Western Europe after World War II. A large number of migrant workers decided to stay in the host countries, and work migrations are still a common occurrence today. Based on the life stories of guest workers, in this paper we will attempt to map out the specific characteristics of different waves of migration. While all the waves of migration had a common cause – the desire for a better life and material stability – there were certain additional motives which depended on the political and socio-economic conditions in the home country. Furthermore, we are interested in the process of acculturation in differenthost countries, focusing on the differences in social policy regarding immigrants, the geographic distance from Serbia and the number of compatriots in the host country. Finally, we will address the narratives of guest workers who have returned, focusing on the reasons they decided to come back to their home country and the ways in which they settled down after their return.

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Published
2011-12-06

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