Gender, Generation and National Identity of Czech Émigrés in Denmark

Gender, Generation and National Identity of Czech Émigrés in Denmark Lenka Škodová ENG 245 K

The thesis is based on multi-sited fieldwork among Czech émigrés who came to Denmark during the 1960s and 1990s and re-emigrants to the Czech Republic. The general goal of the project was to map the migratory patterns (migrancy) during the transitional period between the fall of the Berlin wall and entry to the EU. The main focus of my thesis is an analysis of identity and relevant aspects of identification among the émigrés. I supplemented the six months of field research I conducted during the second half of 2001 with a long-term contact with the field during the period 2000-2003. I complemented the traditional anthropological methods (participant observation, interviews and focus group) by phenomenological epoché to capture my emotional experience of identity.

On a more theoretical level I hope to make contribution the ongoing debate on how migration affects identity. In my thesis I ask: What dimensions of or discourses of identification are relevant to Czech émigrés in Denmark and re-emigrants to the Czech Republic? How do these dimensions and their impact differ among two waves of émigrés? I have identified four dimensions or discourses of identification: 1) national, 2) regional/supranational, 3) gender and 4) generational. My analysis of Czech émigrés' national identity builds on the concepts of Czech Gemeinschaft and Danish Gesellschaft that manifest themselves in the émigrés narratives as Czech Emotion and Danish Function. I pay attention to the phenomenon of national time as a form of Gesellschaft.

I discuss the Czech and Danish interpretation of the supranational concepts of Central and Eastern Europe and the corresponding identities. I describe the clash of ascribed and self-ascribed identity of the émigrés, and the disempowering effect the former has on their lifeworld.

In the analysis of Gender identity I pay attention to the development of gender perception in Czechoslovakia during the 20th Century. On this background I describe the entry of two generations of Czech women to Denmark, the first in the 60s and the second in the 90s. I focus on gender-internal differences (i.e. Czech women versus Danish women) within the 90s generation.

Finally, I analyse narratives of the two generations of Czech émigrés to Denmark. I show the differences between the 60s and the 90s generation, that I introduced in the analysis of gender identity. The narrative form itself - the well-polished life histories in the case of the 60s generation and the on-going discussions of dominant narrative themes in the case of the 90s generation - correspond to the period of time the émigrés have spent in Denmark and the conditions of their stay (migration/migrancy). Despite narrating stories of prosecution, the 60s generation in their "flexible" victim/hero narratives employ a Central European satiric-lapsarian emplotment. The dominant narrative themes of the 90s generation are not only narrated in a different narrative form, they witness a different lifeworld - that of a muted gender discourse and a dynamic process of cultural adaptation.