Migration for welfare (WELLMIG) Nurses within three regimes of immigration and integration into the Norwegian welfare state
Collection of book covers

Our favourite reads in 2018

The New Year is a time for taking stock, reflecting, and looking ahead. The researchers in the WELLMIG team took stock of our readings in 2018.

As is to be expected, we have been reading—or should we say perusing—plenty of academic books on migration, including books directly related to our project such as “Caring for Strangers” by Megha Amrith, but we have also read novels and poetry involving migration and migrants, often penned by immigrant writers. Below is a selection of our readings. Maybe we can inspire you to pick up some of these titles, too?

Marie Louise Seeberg 

Book cover: The Sympatizer by Viet Thanh NguyenThe Sympathizer” by Nguyen Viet Thanh (2016) is a spy novel and a love story, but first and foremost a book about living one’s life between two very different countries and realities.

Book cover: Mastering the art of Soviet cookingA very different book but similar in just that one respect, “Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking: A Memoir of Food and Longing” by Anya von Bremzen (2013) paints a vivid picture of life in the Soviet Union through the lens of food memories. Not Proust, but much more fun to read – and again, conjuring up very different realities that are dependent on one another.

Bokk cover: The mushroom at the end of the worldImpossibly complex but a rolling good read all the same is “The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins” by Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing (2017). Yes, it’s about mushrooms. It’s also about Hmong refugees in the US, and about Finnish and Japanese forestry. And just about everything else.

Book cover: In the sea there are crocodilesIn the Sea There are Crocodiles: Based on the True Story of Enaiatollah Akbari” by Fabio Geda is the devastating and beautifully written account of a young Afghan boy’s journey from his village through several countries and across the sea.

Book cover: PersepolisI like graphic novels too – and “Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood” by Marjane Satrapi is one of my favourites here. It lets you into the home and life of the author as she grew up in Iran during the years of the Islamic Revolution.

Finally, I’ll include “1947: Where Now Begins” by Elisabeth Åsbrink. This is a month-by-month recount of one year in history and not a particularly famous year at that. The fascinating thing here is that it lists sometimes unremarkable and always apparently unrelated events that are rooted in the preceding years of World War 2 (on which there must be millions of books), and that led to most remarkable events in the following years, such as the foundation of the state of Israel, the creation of the CIA, the invention of the Kalashnikov, and the beginning of the Cold War. All alongside quietly recorded events on the individual scale, in the life of the author’s father, then a 10-year-old refugee.

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Reading novels as part of social science research

Aslaug Gotehus writes about Viajero – A Filipino novel in the book corner.

Conducting doctoral studies involves a lot of reading. Mostly, I read peer reviewed articles and books on theory and methodology, but I also try to find time to read novels. I believe that reading novels makes us better researchers and better writers.

In my PhD project, which is part of the WELLMIG project, I focus on the experiences of nurses educated in the Philippines. Although my focus is on the individual nurses and their experiences, getting to know the culture as well as the history of the people is also central.

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Experiences of a Polish nurse in Norway

Elzbieta Gozdziak has read Beata Babiarczyk's account of her four-year sojourn as a nurse in Norway.

Book coverEvery research project requires intensive field research as well as extensive reading. In addition to peer-reviewed literature, we are also reading popular accounts of migrant nurses’ experiences in Norway. After all, in this ethnographic study we are trying to uncover the insiders’ points of view.

Beata Babiarczyk worked in Bergen for four years in the early 2000s. Between 2000 and 2002, she published short dispatches from the field in a nursing and midwifery periodical. In 2007, these letters were published in a small volume titled Norwegian Memoir (Pamiętnik Norweski).

In the memoir, Beata narrates her professional migration journey. We learn about hear tearful departure from Poland and a dramatic arrival in Bergen—three plane rides, horrific turbulence, and a lost luggage—as well as the mundane details of working in a Norwegian hospital on a post-operative ward.

Beata shares her awe of Norwegian nursing equipment, her surprise at the truly collaborative partnership between doctors and nurses, the mutual respect doctors and nurses accord each other, and the comradery among all hospital staff.

These positives, however, could not keep Beata in Norway forever. She made a decision to return to Poland. She cites her love of her native land as the main reason for her return. But while she now lives mostly in Poland, she returns to Norway to work there during summers. Beata is cognizant of her privilege of being able to continue to work in Bergen from time to time. She realizes this privilege every time she listens to her nursing friends in Poland who barely make ends meet on their meager salaries.

Beata’s account of her four-year sojourn in Norway is not a candidate for the Nobel Prize in literature, but it is a delightful little book that seems to be appreciated by her fellow nurses (and our research team). We plan to interview Beata this fall to see how she is doing in her teaching job training student nurses. Stay tuned!

By Elzbieta Gozdziak

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