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2017 Conf. Learning how to tell, learning how to ask: storytelling & minors asylum seekers in Sicily
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Sicily and particularly the port of Lampedusa, have become in recent years an important site of passage for economic migrants and asylum seekers who come from many parts of the world. Most of these are unaccompanied minors. In 2015 they constituted 73% of arrivals. The University of Palermo, through its School of Italian has set up a number of programs to facilitate language acquisition and social integration of the unaccompanied minors who are sent to the school through social services. Among them are courses of Italian for foreigners and theatre workshops. In this paper we report on an ethnographic project documenting the process of insertion of minors in the school and in society. In particular, we analyze data that come from interviews by teachers to minors in their classes and interviews with teachers, focusing on storytelling. Storytelling is regarded in this paper as an interactive process of meaning negotiation and relation building rather than a process of self-revelation as viewed by many biographical approaches to narrative. Indeed, we illustrate how the analysis of talk around stories reveal the difficulties and struggles that take place among interlocutors in the process of getting to know each other. We discuss how lack of mutual comprehension, but also the impossibility to tell certain stories and the social processes in which asylum seekers‘ storytelling is inserted determine silences and reticence that are only slowly overcome through the creation of alternative spaces for telling .
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