The book Migrants in Translation: Caring and the Logistics of Difference in Contemporary Italy is an ethnographic reflection written by Christina Giordano. Being an ethnographic reflection, the book discusses foreign migration, the translation of culture in Italy as well as mental health. It looks into Europe in its larger context and the rapid shifts related to cultural identities in addition to political identities negotiated in the middle of cultural affinity apart from multicultural and multiracial Europe (Giordano, 2014). The issues of together with the cultural variation are central issues in the process of the formation of both the diversified and unified identities of Europe. In the context of European identities, both legal and illegal foreigners coming from Eastern Europe, Northern Africa, and Sub-Saharan Africa are on numerous occasions viewed as a threat to security, national interests, the foundations of culture, religious values as well as supranational identities (Hanlon & Vicino, 2014).
Regarding other authors, Hanlon and Vicino (2014) explicate the sensitive nature of migration in respect to all elements of the society including politics, economic as well as social factors. They emphasize the need to always evaluate the roles that migrants play in the development of the society and their influence on the economy and the political landscape of any given country. More so, Hanlon and Vicino (2014) emphasize that sound policies need to be put in place when dealing with the changing nature of migration. These are the same aspects and themes captured in the analysis of Giordano (2014) where the impact of migrants is evaluated as it cuts across the country elements.
The book addresses various themes including the legal, therapeutic, and moral techniques in line with the recognition of cultural translation that consequently emerges while responding to the social uncertainties such as religious values. Particularly, the book focuses on the Italian ethnic-psychiatry as a technique that helps in the provision of therapeutic services that are culturally appropriate to the migrants, torture victims, political refugees, and victims of trafficking. Giordano (2014) refers to ethno-psychiatrists as “cultural experts” (p. 106). In line with this assertion, he argues that the focus of ethno-psychiatry on the identifications of culture as a therapeutic technique considering its compliance with the political desires with respect to diversity and multiculturalism leads to the radical critique of the categories of inclusion that can be termed as psychiatric besides being moral. All this results in the rethinking if the view of politics of recognition.
The book provides a special insight into the comprehension of the politics regarding humanitarianism, cultural variations, and citizenship in contemporary Italy. In the light of the context of non-European migrants’ influx, being qualified as a refugee or rather a human trafficking victim is the sole option for the individuals in search of a legal status according to the law of immigration in Italy. Giordano (2014) poses the question “How can the work of culture inform the therapeutic process and posit a new kind of politics for clinical work?” (p. 47). From this question, it is right making an assertion that the intervention of institutions and discursive formations aim at remaking complex histories and the lives of females migrants. These institutions and discursive formations transform the female migrants from sex workers to victims that are worthy of who can face rehabilitation, emancipation, and integration into the Italian society. The author skillfully provides evidence to the above-mentioned assertion by showing the manner in which state bureaucrats deploy power that leads to the transformation of migrant women.
The portrayal provided by Giordano is well depicted in Chapter One and Chapter Six of the book through the ethnographical engagement of the ethno-psychiatric clinic exploring how the practitioner of this clinic approached the therapeutic work with the migrant women and the manner in which they engaged in tackling the aspect of culture. Chapter three of the book provides an insight into the work of ethno-psychiatrists including other services. In this chapter, there is the manifestation of the practical shortcomings of ethno-psychiatry. It is clearly seen that clinicians find it difficult to destabilize the dichotomies that are established between pathological behavior or cultural norm and victim or agent. Giordano (2014) illustrates this difficulty through the assertion: “What is at stake in this erasure is that the kind of subjectivity foreign women are allowed to perform before Italian state is dichotomized” (p. 118). In these discourses, the force comes from the manner in which clinicians offer a basis as far as the state is concerned in the inclusion of migrants on the terms of the migrants rather than in the ways that the state might take the concerns of the migrants seriously. In Chapter four, there is the development of the theme of the agency of migrants by using the examination of denuncia, the filing of formal charges against the traffickers that participated in exploiting the migrant women.
Chapter five of the book discusses the life of refugees in the shelters that are established by Catholic nuns for the women who are victims of trafficking. The residents are portrayed in a state of progression from dependency on the exploitation experiences that were left to them to both an independence and maturity that is idealized. Paradoxically, some of these women are of the view that the independence deprives them of the agency that they initially possessed being victimized. The author demonstrates this by asserting that “The women live by themselves, in groups of two or three, and independently manage their time and activities” (p. 173). Thus, this chapter provides an argument that there is compatibility between the church and the state in the manner in which they handle the migrant women particularly referring to the use of the same confessional logics besides using the same redemption teleology.
This provides an account of other agencies underlining the various distinct positions occupied by Fanon of Centro Franz. This space tries to avoid teleologies in order to listen in the attempts of remaining open to various forms that show distinction with the failure of foreclosing meaning or giving priority to cure at the cost of care. Giordano thus provides true arguments that the ethno-psychiatric institution opens possibilities in the radical disruption of both the fixed categories and discourses that other institutions use in positioning the migrants. Giordano (2014) justifies the statement with the assertion:
In line with a phenomenological approach to mental illness, the ethno-psychiatrists at Centro agree that to enter the life-world of the patient one has to break free from the apparatuses of control of medical institutions beginning with its classificatory language (p. 48).
This assertion emphasizes the significance of ethno-psychiatric institutions. It is essential to note that the perspective of therapists in line with theoretical aspects as well as clinical justifications regarding particular interventions is not appropriately explained. This raises various questions including the extent to which the users of the therapy services value the stance of therapists in line with culture and its interpretation. The second question that can be raised is the extent to which these users employ another institution of navigation. These questions have not been addressed sufficiently by the author probably because he might have lacked enough data to make an informed judgment. However, her failure to mention the views of women on ethno-psychiatry contrasts with the discussion of their perspectives on the institutions that are considered in the book. This, therefore, calls for further research in this area as the author’s analysis of ethno-psychiatry grounds on theoretical principles rather than leads to empirical demonstration (Solomon, 2012).
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The book is very interesting and thrilling as it attracts the attention of readers while coercing them to raise a myriad of questions. Some of the thought-provoking questions include:
In conclusion, despite several weaknesses, the book makes a crucial scholarly contribution providing insight into the rigidity of various discourses thus shaping the social rehabilitation as well as the integration of the women who are victims of trafficking. The book explores the manner in which various practitioners that are involved with these women utilize the concept of culture while performing their work and the manner in which the concept of culture can be utilized by the practitioners in a different way. Therefore, these achievements make the book a rich ethnography that provides essential information to the ethnographic scholars regarding migration, mental health, and the use of culture on the one hand and the misuse of culture, on the other hand.