A Great Lakes Colleges Association initiative supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

Autonomy Over Displacement: Conversations with Migrants in Rome (Michelle De Leon)

About the Project

This project explores the daily practices of displaced peoples from Western Africa and Middle Eastern countries who, at the time of the interview, were living in Italy while awaiting asylum in Sweden, or who had been denied asylum, were in a state of appeal, or who had faced deportation from Germany.

This project aims to share the experiences of migrants in countries with large migrant populations in order to pay homage to their resistance, resilience, and contributions. Since we are agents of our own lives, it is important that we, as researchers, embrace and illustrate the autonomous power of immigrant communities through documentary work and organizing that shapes immigration policy.

This project currently includes eight interviews recorded between May 2017 to June 2017 in Rome, Italy by Michelle De Leon in a refugee center in the Repubblica neighborhood.

The initial phase of the project was conducted in late May when Brooke Bryan, the student’s Faculty Mentor, visited Michelle in Rome. The interview questions were developed and implementation plan was finalized. The second phase of the project was carried out during the month of June when interviews were  be conducted with migrants under the auspices of the Joel Nafuma Refugee Center in Rome. The third phase began in July when Michelle started indexing her interviews and preparing them for archiving. The fourth phase of the project continued in August when Michelle and Brooke worked together to develop an analysis of the material and consider appropriate forms of publication. The interviews are being indexed in the Winter of 2019, and will be published here in an Oral History Metadata Synchronizer searchable collection. 

Interview Index







Written by

Born to Guatemalan immigrants and raised in Los Angeles, Michelle De Leon’s research is based in empathy to the world-wide phenomena of migration. In the years she worked abroad on sustainable agriculture projects and in child care, Michelle grappled with notions of cultural integrity and language barriers that took a different form in Norway, Germany, Luxembourg, and Italy. These experiences inspired an Oral History Project focusing on the recurring question of identity, agency and resilience in a larger discussion of migration, displacement, and integration policy.

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