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The Emotional Function of the Migrant's “Birthplace” in Transnational Belonging: Thomas Mellon (1813-1908) and Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919)

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Two migrant autobiographies (Mellon and Carnegie) are selected for comparison of their detailed descriptions of return to the birthplace. It is of added interest that both birthplaces are now public museums. The narratives are analysed in terms of the sevenfold typology of Booker (2004). Consideration is then given to a theory about the significance of the migrant's birthplace advanced in a third migrant narrative by Edna O'Brien. Finally, it is suggested that return to the birthplace has a therapeutic function, especially in the case of those like Mellon and Carnegie whose experience of emigration as children was traumatic. Their returns are found to complete their migration narratives, in a circular rather than linear way, with a kind of “rebirth” after which they experience a new, harmonious sense of transnational belonging. “Roots tourists” who visit the birthplace of an emigrant ancestor or, as a surrogate, an emigrant birthplace museum, may experience similar emotion and, as a result, a similar enhanced and liberating sense of transnational belonging.

Keywords: Carnegie; Emigrant Museum; Mellon; Migrant Autobiography; Roots-Tourism

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: August 1, 2008

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