Congratulations to Gil Fernandes for the successful defense of his dissertation!

Title: Of Outcasts and Ambassadors: the Making of Portuguese Diaspora in Postwar North America.

Abstract: How can a small peripheral government with few material resources assert itself as a geopolitical player in an era of rising global governance and dwindling nation-state sovereignty? This was the question in the minds of Portuguese officials when developing their foreign policies in the aftermath of the Second World War and again after the Revolution of the Carnations of April 25, 1974. In their case, examined in this study, the answer was similar in both contexts: tie Portuguese nationhood with imperial and diasporic imaginings, and develop a national diaspora with close ties with the homeland and its government. This study examines the social, cultural, religious, economic, and political processes by which Portugal’s Estado Novo dictatorship laid the foundations for the diasporic discourse and institutions that followed the end of the colonial empire and the introduction of a new democratic political order after 1974. I will focus on the role played by homeland diplomats, ethnic entrepreneurs, Catholic missionaries, political activists and other transnational intermediaries in shaping a diasporic consciousness among the Portuguese communities of eastern Canada – Toronto and Montreal – and northeastern United States – New Bedford, Fall River, Boston, Providence, Newark, and other cities in New England and the Greater New York City area. This dissertation also engages with current discussions in the field of migration studies, especially those related with the concepts of diaspora, transnationalism, and nation-state, as well as ethnicity, class, and race, and introduces an imperial and homeland dimension to our frame of analysis. The period of history examined (1950s-70s) covers the inauguration of Portuguese mass migration to Canada and its resurgence to the United States; the rise of large international governing bodies, rival Cold War superpowers and their spheres of influence; the Portuguese Colonial Wars in Africa and the downfall of settler colonialism; the emergence of cultural pluralism and identity politics in Canada and parts of the United States; the radicalization of the Portuguese “anti-fascist” opposition; and the revolutionary transition to democracy in Portugal. These larger processes framed the local, national, and transnational histories of Portuguese immigrants in North America and had significant impact in the development of their diasporic communities, consciousness, and identities.

Supervisory Committee:
Roberto Perin (supervisor)
Adrian Shubert
William Jenkins

Defense Committee:
Franca Iacovetta (external)
José Curto (internal/external)
Gabriele Scardellato (Dean’s rep/chair)

Gil, good luck and many thanks (also for being a co-president of the GHSA in 2011-12).

From all of us : ) 


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