Migrant and Refugee War Orphans

(Europe, North America, and Africa, 1945 - Present)

Sonia Cancian (project duration 2018-2019)

War and migration have characterized society over much of the 20th and early 21st centuries. Among those who have been gravely affected are the children who lost one or both parents in contexts of war and armed conflict. These children not only suffered a fundamental psychological loss. Once they became adults many also left their homeland as refugees or migrants, pointing to a second removal from home that compounded the trauma of parental loss and war first experienced during childhood. For these children, the violence and trauma is two-fold. The emotional experiences of war orphans who eventually leave their homeland and become migrants or refugees within or outside their nation-state are intensified.

This qualitative, transnational project examines and compares the life experiences of women and men who were orphaned by circumstances of war and armed conflict from 1945 to the present and who migrated within their homeland or to countries in Europe, North America, and Africa. Through extensive oral interviews and archival material (autobiographies, memoirs, and letters), this interdisciplinary research explores the ways in which war orphans reconstruct ideas of self, identity, family, and belonging through the language of emotions, narratives of resilience, trauma and mobility from 1945 to today.

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