In Pursuit of the “Ideal Migrant”: The Alienation of Idealisation in the Migrant Experience

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The act of human migration is itself a radical immersion into the otherness of another culture, an experience that takes place on the very borders of subjectivity. At these borders, the feeling of alienation can dominate a migrant’s existence, due to the displacement of their spatial and psychic references. The purpose of this paper is to consider the influence of the idealized migrant figure on the newly migrated subject, using representations from modern literature. The methodology used for this paper is based upon the theoretical work of psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan, whose understanding of fantasy illuminates how the structures of alienation and idealization converge within a subject’s
psychic life. Within the context of migrant, the migrant subject has recourse to fantasy, a concept defined by Lacan as driven by the question: what does the Other want from me? While an answer to this question evades any direct answer, it gives the subject an image to strive towards, thus disguising the antagonism that pervades their existence. In the case of the migrant, the desire of the Other is founded by the figure of the ‘ideal migrant’, an acculturated subject able to traverse their foreign surroundings without fault. Certainly, such an image prevails in contemporary society through celebrities who have effectively
succeeded in their country of migration, yet similar relationships are perhaps more common and potentially damaging in more localized forms. In this paper, the dramatization of this concept will be explored in recent representations in modern literature, specifically the short stories “Further South” by Isabelle Li and “The Dignity of Labour” by Roanna Gonsalves. The major findings proposed here is as follows: instead of investing in idealized figures of success for migrants, a more effective solution would be to encourage communities that embrace a shared feeling of alienation, to avow the antagonism at the core of migration and allow individuals to relate to one another’s a hardship.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)42-48
JournalProceedings of ICSAI Conferences
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2019
EventThe 13th International Conference on Language, Literature, Culture, and Education - Royal Plaza on Scotts, Singapore, Singapore
Duration: 18 Mar 201919 Mar 2019
Conference number: 13


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