Society

Feeling strange in a small island community

Erika Anne Hayfield, Associate Professor in Social Sciences at the University of the Faroe Islands, and Mariah Schug, Associate Professor in Social Psychology at Widener University, have published a scientific article in “Journal of Intercultural Studies”, a well known UK-based periodical.

The article, called “It’s like they have a cognitive map of relations: Feeling strange in a small island community”, emphasizes immigration to small places, such as the Faroe Islands, and feeling strange in such settings.

“Living with strangers is a feature of modern life, typically conceptualised in urban contexts in terms of anonymity and diversity,” the authors explain, adding “strangers in small places, on the other hand, have received less attention; possibly, because there is an assumption that such places are relatively stable, static or homogenous. In small places, typically characterised by high levels of familiarity and close social networks, strangers may have different experiences. Therefore, we are concerned with immigration to small places and feeling strange in such settings. We employ the concepts of the stranger and place-belongingness to understand the experiences of immigrants to the Faroe Islands,” the authors note, according to Gransking.fo.

The findings from this interview-based study are structured around three main themes. In the first, strangers in places characterised by high familiarity, the authors discuss how informants experience and navigate Faroese networks. In the second, negotiating place-belongingness, the discussion focuses on how immigrants negotiate belonging and how relations, security, and time, impact place-belongingness. The third theme, boundaries of belonging, refers to the politics of belonging. In this theme, the authors discuss how language and identity are key sites of tension in creating boundaries, determining who belongs versus who is rendered a familiar stranger.

The research is based on interviews with immigrants from 24 different countries.

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