Milin Bonomi, Università degli Studi di Milano,

Spatial and linguistic mobility in the narrative of a transnational speaker between Peru and Italy


The aim of this paper is to explore the language-space relationship by analysing the way Latin American transnational speakers experience mobility processes and the way these shape their linguistic practices and identities. Namely, the focal point of this study is the way spatial and sociolinguistic bordering are constructed and conceived by analysing the narrative of a transnational woman who experienced back and forth migration between Peru and Italy with her family. I will analyse this aspect from a theoretical point of view in the first part of the paper, where I will refer to that part of the literature that, while studying the relationship between language and migration, addresses questions about how language ideologies, the centre-periphery dynamics, as well as the material conditions of diaspora influence language practices and the construction of social identity in contemporary societies. I will then explore these epistemological aspects through the voice of a Peruvian transnational woman relating the social and sociolinguistic cross-bordering she experienced with her family through her spatial mobility.


Mobility, bordering, language-space relationship, Latin American diaspora, language ideologies.


El objetivo de este trabajo es explorar la relación entre lengua y espacio analizando el papel que desempeña la movilidad en las prácticas lingüísticas e identitarias de los hablantes transnacionales de origen hispano. Más concretamente, el punto central de este estudio es investigar la construcción narrativa de las fronteras espaciales y sociolingüísticas, desde un punto de vista epistemológico y al mismo tiempo práctico, a través de las palabras de una mujer

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involucrada en procesos migratorios de ida y vuelta entre Perú e Italia con su familia. Analizaré este aspecto desde un punto de vista teórico en la primera parte del trabajo, donde me referiré a esa parte de la reflexión sociolingüística que, al estudiar la relación entre lengua y migración, aborda cuestiones sobre cómo las ideologías lingüísticas, las dinámicas entre centro y periferia, así como las condiciones materiales asociadas con las diásporas influyen en las prácticas lingüísticas y en la construcción de la identidad social en las sociedades contemporáneas. A continuación, exploraré estos aspectos epistemológicos a través de la voz de una mujer peruana transnacional que en el relato sobre la experiencia de la movilidad espacial aborda también la experiencia de cruzar fronteras sociales y sociolingüísticas.

Palabras clave

Movilidad, fronteras, prácticas sociolingüísticas, diáspora latinoamericana, ideologías lingüísticas.

1. Latin American diaspora to Italy

Being on the gateways to the Mediterranean Sea and the Balkan Route, Italy is one of the European countries increasingly in the spotlight with regard to migration issues. According to the latest figures (ISTAT 2022), residents of foreign background in Italy number 5,030,716, constituting 8.9% of the total population, with an increase of 123,000 individuals (+2.3%) compared to 2019. Despite what one is led to believe, this increase is not due to new entries into the country but rather to new births1 and regularisation processes.

National groups from Eastern Europe (Romania, Albania, and Ukraine), North Africa (Morocco and Egypt), and Asia (China, India, the Philippines, and Bangladesh) are the most represented in Italy. Nevertheless, the groups originating from Central and South America (368,049 citizens as of January 1, 2022) also play an important role, especially in Lombardy and Northern Italy. As a matter of fact, 46.7% of non-EU citizens settled in the most prosperous and most densely populated Italian areas, such as the one around Milan, Turin, and Genoa.

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Milan and its surroundings are specifically the place with the highest concentration of citizens of Latin American origin, with registered populations of approximately 138,681 at the regional level and of approximately 79,253 in the Milan metropolitan area. The Latin American immigration is indeed part of the industrial and post-industrial economy of northern Italy, where the increase in demand for care work (Bettio, Simonazzi, Villa 2006; Scrinzi 2013) and other jobs no longer performed by the local population has attracted many Hispanic-Americans in search of better opportunities.

Peruvians and Ecuadorians are the most prevalent groups. More than 40,000 Peruvians are in the metropolitan area and 28,932 Peruvians are in the inner city, whereas there are approximately 32,000 Ecuadorians in the entire region and 20,049 Ecuadorians in Milan proper. Other prominent Latin American groups include Salvadorians (approximately 15,000 in the metropolitan area), Bolivians (approximately 10,000), Dominicans (approximately 7,000), Colombians (approximately 4,200), and Cubans (approximately 5,000). These figures, however, do not account for those migrants not enrolled in the official registers or those holding a EU passport as descendants of Italian, which is the case for many Argentinians and Uruguayans. Thus, the size of the Latin American population is expected to be higher than that indicated in the official figures.

Within Europe, Italy is the second most common destination chosen by Latin Americans, although not always definitely. Indeed, the notion of diaspora often implies the idea of a one-way trip conceived as an irreversible and unrepeatable action. This idea in many cases is related to the cognitive and spatial representation of migration determined by the internal perception of host countries, which see the phenomenon mostly in terms of ‘arrivals’ and ‘tactics of bordering’ (de Genova 2017).

This view is countered by one more attentive to individual perspectives and internal bordering processes (Yuval-Davis; Wemyss; Cassidy 2019), that of the protagonists, for whom arrival is only one part of a long journey that may include onward or circular migration. In spite the fact that aspirations and intentions regarding the future of migration are a fundamental part of the whole experience of relocation, in the case of return or onward mobility we cannot account for data as reliable as those concerning arrivals to Global North countries. Regarding Italy, for example, very few studies have focused on return migration, and even fewer studies on return projects and future expectations among Latin Americans in Italy (Boccagni 2011). However, it should be noted that arrival flows from Latin America have been decreasing since 2016, with the main source of entry being family reunifications over the last 6 years (Ambrosini 2020). The capitalisation of migratory experience, the improvement of some Latin American

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economies and the difficulties linked to legal status2 and low social mobility have contributed to return processes in the last few years. The protagonist of this paper is an example of this. Through her voice I will try to highlight not only the perspective of arrival, but also the experience of return.

2. Theoretical underpinnings

Mobility as a phenomenon in its general sense is not new. Large migrations and trade networks have been part of human history for millennia, manifesting themselves in different ways according to specific times and social structures. As a matter of fact, historical phases such as colonialism and the rise of capitalism have been strongly marked by globalisation (Wallerstein 2004). What is new is the digital and technological acceleration that has led to unprecedented space-temporal compression and new forms of interconnectedness among people, services, capitals, etc. (Castells 2000; Harvey 1989).

Within this perspective, while people have always been on the move, the increasing importance of various forms of movement in contemporary societies has determined a ‘turn’ in social theory to reorient the way we look at social phenomena, including—needless to say—language theory and practice. Rather than focusing on movement per se, the new mobilities paradigm (Sheller and Urry 2006) has been proposed as an analytical lens to observe how people move and to what extent the idea of movement is socially embedded and shaped by sociocultural knowledge and practices. Such an approach has positioned itself by problematizing the perception and the ideological gaze with which Global North societies look at the superdiverse and nomadic myth, inviting us to reconsider the historical conditions that have produced specific forms of mobility, and taking into account questions such as “who can really move” and “under what conditions”. As argued by Cresswell (2006: 53): “The postmodern nomad is a remarkably unsocial being—unmarked by the traces of class, gender, ethnicity, sexuality, and geography”. This is how the imaginary of mobility conceived as freedom and ease of movement across the globe, seen from this perspective, necessarily uncovers its paradoxical counterpart: the immobility of many others (Salazar and Glick Schiller 2014).

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Current thinking on mobilities has been addressed in sociolinguistic research (cf. Britain 2016; Wang et al. 2014, among others) in an effort to reconceptualise language issues and phenomena. Thus, in the same way, the attempts to control and restrict mobility affecting many subjects as characteristic of late modernity reveals how, from a sociolinguistic perspective, speakers are not equally mobile. Some of the issues most debated in the field are, for instance, the (re)production of ‘old’ and ‘new’ forms of inequalities, driven by the power asymmetries between people living in the centre and those living in the peripheries. An example of this is the power that language can wield as an ideological tool in political and economic processes for self-legitimising, de-legitimising or racialising the other (Rosa and Flores 2017; Urciuoli 1996). Central to this perspective are the roles of knowledge (re)production (Foucault 1980) and symbolic capital (Bourdieu 1987) —being linked to language issues or to any other phenomena regulating habitus, ideas, or discourses—. From a sociolinguistic point of view, Bourdieu’s notion of habitus (Bourdieu 1990) can be useful to refer to speakers’ internalized system of linguistic habits, dispositions and perceptions shaped by given social constructions and power relation. Habitus is not a fixed or invariant category, on the contrary, speakers tend to reproduce and reflect certain forms of agency and sociolinguistic identity under the influence of changing individual and collective experiences, such as migrations. In this perspective, Caravedo (2014) uses the concept of mental space, precisely to indicate how the context that surrounds us is not an objective and material reality, but rather the result of perceptual experiences handed down and lived by speakers, which leads to the activation of internal and external linguistic perception dynamics when facing with “otherness”.

The concept of mobility inevitably intersects with all that theory in the field of globalisation studies that has focused on the new global hierarchical relationships developed with the attempt to overcome the borders of the nation-state. Many scholars in the past few decades, for example, have pointed out how through mobility old and new language-ideological hierarchies between centres and peripheries are being perpetuated not only at the national level, but also on a vertical and stratified continuum of layered scales under a local and translocal perspective (Wan et. al 2014). On a local level, for example, in many countries of the world language ideologies are built on the principle of linguistic homogeneity, achieved by separating the standardized national languages from “local” languages or non-standard varieties, often associated with essentializing identities and indexicalities (Irvine and Gal 2000; Jaffe 2007; Gal 2018). Some studies on Quechua, for instance (Horneberger 2000; Zavala 2018; 2019), have revealed the remedial and compensatory connotation that often characterises Peru’s linguistic and educational policies, often driven by the modernist vision of language as a delimited,

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objective and homogeneous system, bound to a uniform territory and the spirit of a people. This dichotomy, still grounded on a colonial episteme, does not take into account a glocal reality in which young and not only young Quechua speakers are embedded in a series of globally interconnected relationships, even beyond national borders. The notion of scale, thus, referring to phenomena framed in given space and time, should be conceived as a tool that allows to see sociolinguistic phenomena as “non-unified image of social structure” (Blommaert 2007a: 4), but rather as stratified and complexes orders of indexicality.

At the same time, at a global level, mobility has raised questions about the relationship between language and citizenship in late capitalism (Heller 2007; Blommaert 2009), and the consequent reflection on how postmodern societies keep interpreting sociolinguistic reality within a monoglossic frame and essentializing discourses about linguistic practices. In opposition to this static and homogenising vision, many scholars have highlighted the need for moving from a sociolinguistics of fixity to a sociolinguistics of mobility (Vigouroux apud Blommaert 2009: 435). From this same perspective, not only the biunivocal bond between language, identity, culture and territorial space ceases to exist, but the very idea of language as a homogeneous and autonomous entity also gives way to a conception of linguistic practices as intrinsically mobile, variable, heterogeneous and untied from spaces, but rather belonging to speakers. As stated by Li (2018: 22):

We are entering a post-multilingualism era where simply having many different languages is no longer sufficient either for individual or society as a whole, but where multiple ownership and more complex interweaving of languages and language varieties, and where boundaries between languages, between languages and other communicative means and the relationship between language and the nation-state are being constantly reassessed, broken or readjusted. No single nation or community can claim the sole ownership, authority and responsibility for any particular language, and no individual can claim to know an entire language, rather bits of many different languages.

Untethering languages from specific places and putting the focus back on the speakers also means reconsidering and reassessing the “complex interweaving of languages and language varieties”, as well as the “boundaries between languages”, by replacing the conception of monolingual and monovarietistic repertoires to a more heteroglossic and pluralistic perspective on language structure and use. Linguistic variation and contact-induced linguistic change have long been regarded as consequences of contact between stable and well-defined “communities” and language systems. Contrary to this view, conceptions such as trans or (poly)languaging (Jørgensen 2008; Blackledge y Creese 2010; García and Li 2014) came to the

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fore, in order to focus attention on variation as a linguistic resource that speakers have at their disposal in their daily life, even in officially monolingual spaces.

In the field of Hispanic sociolinguistics, for example, these concepts have been largely used to shed light on the new glocal forms of speaking Spanish that adapt to different local contexts as a consequence of many Hispanic speakers’ processes of deterritorialization through the global space (García and Otheguy 2014). The mobile, dynamic and heteroglossic character of translingual practices within the Hispanic communities in Italy, for example, is evidence of this (Bonomi 2018, 2019; Calvi 2018).

In spite of the fact that from the earliest times mobility has always been a prerogative of human beings and languages have always been created and evolved by incorporating elements from other speech communities to ensure their survival (Mufwene 2008), in contemporary societies heterogeneous language practices keep being treated as exceptions (Léglise 2018, 2021). As a matter of fact, the innovative and creative translingual practices of transnational speakers in Europe often have to encounter the immobility of perceptual and evaluation patterns still strongly determined by a modern ‘centre-periphery’ (or ‘North-South’) perspective, as happened with colonialism in other eras (Heller and McElhinny 2017; Mignolo 2010).

With these theoretical underpinnings in mind, the relationship between language, identity, culture and territorial space in a context strongly characterised by mobility and heterogeneity such as the post-modern one, will be explored through the narrative data presented in the following sections. The underlying aim is indeed to explore how mobility and the encounter between different mental spaces at different scales shape language practices and identities beyond a biunivocal and bounded relationship between language and local spaces.

3. Methodology

According to many scholars (Baynham and De Fina 2005; De Fina and Tseng 2017; Keating 2019), in migration contexts the analyses of perceptions that emerge in the narratives of displaced subjectivities become particularly illuminating in understanding the relationship between language and power, and the way linguistic and other kinds of knowledge are produced and hierarchized. Within processes of language displacement and relocation, storytelling is also central to index ways of being, categories of inclusion or exclusion from groups, and as given conceptions about social behaviours and values. Narrative data are in fact excellent material

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from which to explore how identity is constructed and negotiated in migratory contexts, as well as to examine how transnational speakers socially position themselves and on the power relations they interface with. Furthermore, storytelling are excellent tools for observing the dynamics of truncated repertoires (Blommaert 2010) and translingual practices in contemporary mobile societies. Last but not least, from an emic perspective, narratives also represent a way of giving voice to the protagonists of studies focusing on subjects with a migration background, who are very often excluded from the observations of their own practices.

In order to examine the social and sociolinguistic reality that emerge from biographical narrative data, two analytical categories useful for understanding the positioning of the speaker should be taken into account: agency and indexicality.

By indexicality I refer to all these semiotic processes which link particular forms of speech to social categories. As grounded in relation to their objects by spatio-temporal connection or contiguity, processes of indexicalization are not precise or fixed, but rather they can change through time and space. Indexical meanings have also to be conceived as related by multiple orders or levels (Silverstein 2003), as well as organized into fields, i.e. “a constellation of ideological related meanings, any one of which can be activated in the situated use of the variable. The field is fluid, and each new activation has the potential to change the field by building on ideological connections” (Eckert 2008: 454).

As contextually situated, indexical signs are excellent tools in order to observe how meaning-making processes can change through the space and its relationship with other social orders at a local and a global level. In the case of contact between different language communities in contexts of social inequality, as is the case of diaspora, indexical meanings are in fact important in revealing conceptions about the management of multilingual settings, since they can also represent “systemic patterns of authority, of control and evaluation, and hence of inclusion and exclusion” (Blommaert 2007b: 118).

In this perspective, another useful methodological tool for analysis is the concept of agency, conceived as the degree of control over one own’s behavior, which is closely connected to the concepts of evaluation, power, and performance (Duranti 2004). Accordingly, narration represents a privileged place to observe how the social context constrains sociolinguistic spaces, how ideologies are constructed and expressed, and whether these are internalised or not through speakers’ agentive or passive positionings.

Data reported in this study were collected in Cusco, Peru, between February and March 2019 as part of a larger research on the discursive practices of transnational communities of the

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Hispanic American diaspora in Italy (see Bonomi 2018; 2019), as well as on and the effects of return migration to the countries of origin.

4. Rosa’s narrative

As previously mentioned, the storyteller participating in the study is a woman of Peruvian origin. Rosa, 50 years old at the time of our meetings, is the youngest of three sisters who grew up in Cusco Province, where she graduated in anthropology and where, for a time before leaving for Italy, she devoted herself to teaching in primary schools and to supporting Quechua, the language spoken by her grandmothers, which she decided to rediscover after this had been abandoned by her parents. At the beginning of the 1990s, her sister Emilia left Peru firstly for Rome and then for Milan, where she worked as a health-care assistant for the elderly. Ten years later, Rosa decided to embark on the same adventure to improve her own economic conditions, encouraged by her sister, who could help her enter the world of care work. Rosa's story, like that of many other transnational Latin American women, is that of a migratory chain fed by the closest contacts.

Rosa left Peru when she was 33 with her young daughter, 6 years old at that time, and once in Italy, with the help of her sister and after a professional training, she started working as health-care assistant. During her Italian life, Rosa met Luca, an Italian man, whom she married and with whom she has a daughter, aged 11 at the moment of the interview. In 2018, the family decided to leave Milan and to invest their savings to open a hostel and launch a new business based on natural and holistic medicine in the city of Cusco.

In the following extract, I find myself at a family reunion in Cusco with Rosa, her husband, their two daughters, and Emilia, who was spending her holidays in Peru during that period. In this part of the conversation we are dealing with issues of identity and linguistic experience at different scales, either as cuzqueña, as Peruvian and as migrant. In the first fragment Rosa dwells on the indexical order linked to her context of origin and on the way this has shaped her identity:

  • 1. RO: […] una de las / ehm / de las bondades que nos ha dejado la abuela ¿no? / ehm la papá / ehm la mamá del papá / porque ella sí hablaba en quechua / no sé si entendía / sí habrá entendido / sí entendía / honestamente no me recuerdo / yo soy la menor de todas // entonces este:: / yo he gozado poco de la abuela // y sé que ella ha sido quien ha ayudado a mis hermanas más grandes a hablar en quechua ¿no? / hablaban en quechua::
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  • y se comunicaban en quechua // la MAMÁ en vez / ehm / desde que yo me recuerdo siempre nos hablaba en castellano / desgraciadamente / [risas] / yo que soy la menor no he tenido en casa la posibilidad de hablar en quechua
  • 2. MI: ¿se ha perdido?
  • 3. RO: sí se perdió // se perdió en el tiempo // por muchas cosas / se perdió en tiempo porque:: / ehm / en ESA época era el pensamiento / ehm / de que
  • 4. EM: [que hablar quechua
  • 5. RO: que hablar quechua] era / ehm // PEYORATIVO ¿no? // o sea que no / o sea el objetivo de la mamá / ella quería
  • 6. EM: […] era un idioma que tenía que hablar la gente que era de un nivel un poco más inferior / en cambio la que hablaba español ya era una persona de un buen nivel
  • 7. RO: sí en otros momentos [inintelegible]
  • 8. MI: ¿por qué ahora ha cambiado?
  • 9. RO: ESTÁ CAMBIANDO / está cambiando / ahora hay una fuerte tendencia a repristinar lo que sería el quechua // hay mucha gente que habla en quechua / hay muchas películas dobladas al quechua / se está reprendiendo toda esta IDENTIDAD / diremos / ehm / ripr- / reprendiendo
  • 10. MI: ¿y ustedes cómo le ven? / ¿qué les parece que se esté re- / ehm / digamos / retomando un poco3
  • The two sisters recount how during their childhood in 1980s Quechua was used to index such a poor and marginal identity that Rosa’s family had abandoned the use of this same language in favour of Spanish - in her same words “desgraciadamente” —, since “el que hablaba español ya era un persona de un buen nivel” (‘speaking Spanish indicated being a person of good standing’), whereas Quechua was meant to be the language of social immobility in Peru. The disalignment produced by Rosa’s stance-taking “desgraciadamente” reflects the indexicality that animate her positioning as a Quechua activist, unfortunately cut off from an ancestral family tradition by an old ideological frontier that has been challenged in the last years. As a matter of fact, we can observe how, instead of adopting a passive attitude, Rosa

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    displays a reflexive agency against this colonial linguistic border emotionally referring to Quechua language as one of the “bondades” inherited from the grandmother. From this perspective, using the language of her female ancestors who migrated from a small Andean village to Cusco, not only reveals the deep tie with her family history, but also the relevant symbolic resource this language represents for the performance of gender (cf. Zavala and Bariola 2008). It is interesting to note in fact how in this case women (“la mamá”, “la abuela”) are the key figures in the transmission or interruption of the use of one or the other language.

    What is important to highlight from the beginning is that Rosa's identity is linked to overlapping indexical orders of language, all framed in a global and at the same time local scenario. Beyond her transnational identity in Italy, which will emerge later, here we can note her positioning as a return migrant with respect to internal linguistic borders, in which Quechua is indexed through a lens of local repoliticization (Zavala 2019), still generated by post-colonial tendencies at a glocal level. The reconfiguration of the indexical order associated with Quechua is in fact referred to as a recent event (“está cambiando”), aimed at restoring an identity that, as we shall see also later, can be understood as a form of agentivity projecting Quechua into a global dimension and no longer as the expression of a local, rural and immobile community to be protected.

    Another point that must draw our attention in this reflection about the indexical order underpinning the different kinds of de-bordering and re-bordering in a postcolonial context is the one that follows my question about what Rosa precisely thinks about this ‘recovery’ of Quechua-speaking identity. In this case the order of indexicality transcends the local aspect, and shifts to internal migration in Peru on a first level, and to international migration on a second level.

  • 1. RO: yo soy CHOVINISTA / yo adoro / yo amo ser cusqueña / peruana / ehm
  • 2. MI: ¿sí?
  • 3. RO: soy muy fiera de serlo / amo mucho mi cultura // y:: / ehm / prima de irme yo era / ehm profesora / enseñaba el bilingüe / o sea enseñaba el primer grado en pasado de la lectoescritura en quechua
  • 4. MI: ah
  • 5. Ro: que para eso no necesitabas saber quizás qué cosa // te / te la cavavas con poco // y:: / en ese periodo4 estaba entrando en el Ministerio de Educación fuertemente este: / esta historia del bilingüsimo // ahora está muy muy avanzada: / ehm / hay mucha más identidad // y:: / sí / sí sí / o sea se puede decir que hay mucha más gente que acepta el hecho de estar / de ser quechuahablante y se siente anche orgulloso de serlo ¿no?
  • 6. MI: ¿sí?
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  • 7. RO: y anche en Lima lo mismo / o sea ya la gente migrante no se hace tantos problemas por ser un serrano / porque antes era proprio peyorativo ¿no? / en cambio ahora no
  • 8. EM: discriminativo
  • 9. RO: discriminativo
  • 10. MI: ¿sí? / ¿en Lima también?
  • 11. RO: oh en Lima más que todo
  • 12. MI: ¿sí? ¿por qué?
  • 13. RO: en Lima más que todo [porque
  • 14. EM: los provincianos: / los cholos: / los serranos:
  • 15. RO: ahora // LIMA ES COMO MILANO
  • 16. MI: [risas]
  • 17. RO: limeños no existen // todos son migrantes de primera / cuarta / y así quinta generación ¿no? // entonces el / el cinturón más más externo de Lima / es pues un migrante cien por ciento de segunda o tercera generación // ahora esta gente tiene más identidad y no se avergüenza ¿no? // pero esencialmente Lima es muy // ¿cómo se dice?
  • 18. MI: ¿multicultural?
  • 19. RO: NO / ¡RACISTA! / racistas con ellos mismos // o sea porque el migrante de quinta / sexta generación ya no quiere reconocer / ehm / ahora // esta medición es de un poquito más atrás ¿no?
  • 20. MI: ¿sí?
  • 21. RO: me han dicho que está cambiando // pero no quiere reconocer mucho su / su identidad y es él que es más racista con el que está llegando de primera / segunda generación que está en Lima ¿no?5
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    In this passage, Rosa strengthens the emotional bond to her identity through the deployment of the verbs “to love”, “to adore”, “to be proud of” being Cusqueña”, all verbs which indeed signal her mental space with respect to the linguistic and cultural borders imposed by the colonial order in Peru through the opposition between the Andean periphery (‘los provincianos, los cholos, los serranos’) and the centre (Lima). This same opposition is also reflected in the geographical composition of the capital where the hierarchical indexical order opposing Quechua and Castilian identity at a national scale is re-bordered in the same space.

    The most interesting issue here is that Rosa, in trying to better describe a complex sociolinguistic reality where different identities converge in the same geographical space, uses a comparison: Lima is just like Milan. At my (naïve) attempt to better understand the meaning of this comparison, which I ask her to specify through the suggestion ‘multicultural?’, she actively reacts with a clear and strong dis-alignment stance by clarifying it aloud through the spoken words: no, racista!

    This fragment is particularly remarkable for the way Rosa deploys a deep reflexivity to talk about racism. A racism that represents yet another social, geographical and linguistic border she had to cross both as Cusqueña in Peru as well as Peruvian migrant in Italy. As such, her testimony provides a perspective that well delineates the colonial episteme ruling knowledge and linguistic hierarchies outside purely national borders. In other words, we can see how the colonial order is deterritorialised through the transnationalism of dislocated subjects, making it clear how the distinction between a center and a periphery is still maintained, although according to other scales. While Lima represents the center of the national indexical order, if we move to an order of global migrations, that same center becomes a periphery subject to other power relations. As a matter of fact, the centrality of Lima with respect to the Andean periphery - indexed by the devaluating adjectives cholos and serranos - corresponds to that of a Global North symbolic city (Milan), in which the unequal relationship between different orders of indexicality is marked by linguistic, social, and economic borders defining inclusion or exclusion to the European canon. Through Rosa’s voice and her comparison of racism on a national and transnational level, thus, we can observe how in the age of mobility, through de-bordering and re-bordering dynamic, the colonial logic is being deterritorialised to other latitudes at different scales while remaining faithful to itself. Contemporary transmigrations have in fact made it clear that, although the geopolitical experience of colonialism is largely over, the different distribution of material and symbolic capital between Global North and Global South is being reproduced through “coloniality”, i.e the way of establishing borderscapes and hierarchies of knowledge and humanities grounded on European and modern categories.

    The adherence or non-adherence to this logic is outlined in a very clear way a little further in the conversation when the reflexivity centred on social mobility in Italy intersects with language issues. Based on the following statement by Rosa, ‘en ese periodo6 por ejemplo me decía Emilia que el peruano era visto malísimo en Milán, ¿no? / y el que se / el que robaba era

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  • 1. RO: no / no nos hemos relacionado no porque no queríamos // sino porque no / ehm no es que andá- ehm íbamos en busca de las personas / sino que era otro nuestro objetivo / o sea ir a trabajar y a hacer lo que tenemos que hacer / este
  • 2. LU: integrarse
  • 3. RO: sí / INTEGRARNOS / sí integrarnos que fundamentalmente significa muchas cosas
  • 4. Mi: ya
  • 5. RO: partir desde el idioma ¿no? / o sea / si me preguntas cómo ha sido mi experiencia de migración / te digo que en el primer momento yo he dejado de ser yo // he dejado de sentir // cioè no es que he dejado de sentir
  • 6. MI: mh
  • 7. RO: pero he tenido / he QUERIDO y he tenido / habiendo estudiado un poco antropología creo que esto me ha servido / sí me ha servido seguramente para ehm tener una / un inserimento un poquitito más dulce en el sentido que yo sabía que había cosas que yo no podía imponer de mí / y que en ese momento no me podían servir / por eso dejaba de ser quién era // pero que en ese momento hablar el español no me servía a nula
  • 8. MI: ¿no?
  • 9. RO eh no / porque tenía que aprender el italiano
  • 10. MI: mh
  • 11. RO: entonces para aprender el italiano / para SENTIR en italiano / para razonar en italiano tú necesitas darle duro // hablar / como dice mi hermana yo también me leí libritos de allá / libritos / empecé con libros de niños y / y / y así un poco a la vez ¿no? / pero reconozco que esta segunda migración7 / la más grande que hablamos / había llegado allá ya con problemas y heridas de sus anteriores migraciones / o sea con grandísimas carencias de identidad / que / ehm arrivando / llegando a un mundo ehm TAN diferente / era lo más lindo / lo mejor no sé / o sea tratar de encontrar otras personas y seguir manteniendo sus raíces ¿no? // o sea / es por eso que encuentras muchísima gente que está mucho tiempo que no sabe hablar el idioma // o sea / yo tampoco no sé hablar el italiano / o sea me escapan
  • 12. LU: un idioma nuevo / itañol ¿no?
  • 13. MI: [risas] ¿cómo es el itañol?
  • 14. LU: una mezcla8
  • Milin Bonomi: Spatial and linguistic mobility in the narrative of a transnational speaker between Peru and Italy - 24 -

    In these words, we find the same vision defining the sociolinguistic borders between the Global North and Global South that we observed earlier; however, this time the borderscape is implemented by contrasting the dominant language, i.e. Italian, and Spanish, a language that as a result of the migration process loses its value. As a matter of fact, here language is openly defined as a tool of social mobility, identified with the term ‘integration’, and the way to achieve it is to abandon one’s own identity (en ese momento he dejado de ser yo / he dejado de sentir), that is to say, a migrant identity attributable to a symbolic and linguistic capital not expendable in the European linguistic market, in which ‘hablar español no me servía a nula’ (‘Speaking Spanish was useless’). Despite this, Rosa once again demonstrates a strong agency in trying to overcome the language boundary by explaining how she decided to embark in learning Italian and all the strategies she followed. The linguistic ideologies regarding the learning of Italian lead her to reveal a profound reflexivity about her own identity, on which she acts in an active and conscious manner in order to pursue her goal. On the other hand, this same reflexivity goes beyond the personal experience and tackles the collective aspect, highlighting the emotions linked to the need and desire to maintain one's linguistic roots as part of a whole (era lo más lindo ….tratar de encontrar otras personas y seguir manteniendo sus raíces ¿no?). In this same perspective Rosa aligns herself with the rest of the transnational Spanish-speaking community by identifying with the new border identities’ linguistic practices that do not fit within the monoglossic standardisation and are jokingly defined as a new language: itañolo (on this issue cf. Bonomi 2018, 2019; Calvi 2015). As can be seen from the fragments presented so far, moreover, these translingual practices in which it is hard to establish a clear border between the

    Milin Bonomi: Spatial and linguistic mobility in the narrative of a transnational speaker between Peru and Italy - 25 -

    two linguistic systems involved, form an integral part of the linguistic repertoire of Rosa and many other Latin American speakers in Italy, although their use is considered a deviation from the norm.

    The translingual practices used by Rosa in all the fragments analysed also revealed an overlap between different linguistic identities: despite her strong attachment to the language of her family and her homeland, her perceptions and linguistic practices reveal how mobility has forged her identity as a transnational speaker, accustomed to moving between different scales and orders of meaning. Rosa is at the same a Quechua speaker proud of her ancestral history, a Peruvian migrant in Italy dealing with a new sociolinguistic identity, and a return migrant to Peru, where she comes back with a Spanish strongly shaped by the experience of transnational mobility. Every one of these linguistic identities cannot be separated from each other, being intertwined in different way at different scales and levels.

    5. Conclusions

    This paper is meant to examine the language-space relationship and the way spatial mobility shape and condition language practices and identities in late modern societies, increasingly characterised by global and transnational dynamics.

    After an epistemological reflection about the bond between language, citizenship, identity, culture, and territorial spaces in postmodern societies and after dwelling on the new ways of interpreting linguistic practices from a perspective that goes beyond the very idea of boundaries between language systems and identities, I turn to the analysis of data. These are based on the narration with a woman about the experience of the diaspora between Italy and Peru, with a special focus on the role that agency and indexicality play in the description of sociolinguistic reality. Through the socioindexical experiences and perceptions at different scales, either as cuzqueña reflecting about the role of Quechua at a local level, and as migrant returning to Peru from Italy, dealing with dynamics of language acquisition, sociolinguistic inequalities in diasporic settings and the effects of language contact, we can see how Rosa’s identity is linked to overlapping indexical orders of language, all framed in a global and at the same time local scenario.

    Data reveal in fact how, through de-bordering and re-bordering dynamics, the linguistic and social hierarchies displayed at a local and global level contribute to maintaining a clear

    Milin Bonomi: Spatial and linguistic mobility in the narrative of a transnational speaker between Peru and Italy - 26 -

    separation between centre and periphery, often just deterritorialised to other latitudes according to other polycentric and stratified scales. In the age of “new mobilities” old and new language-ideological hierarchies between centres and peripheries are in fact still active at a national level, as well as on a stratified continuum of layered scales under a transnational and global perspective.

    In conclusion, through this study about the relationship between language and space and the considerations offered by a transnational speaker on the conflict of different mental spaces at different scales, I tried to highlight how the experience of mobility also involves crossing different kinds of bordering, in which language represents a fundamental tool of inclusion or exclusion deployed in different ways. As mental spaces, linguistic bordering can, however, be crossed, overcome or even overturned through forms of agency and more pluralistic language ideologies.


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    1 According to the legal principle of ius sanguinis, children born to foreign citizens in Italy acquire the citizenship of their parents rather than the citizenship of their country of birth.

    2 Non-EU citizens with a regular residence permit can acquire Italian citizenship after 10 years.

    3 1. RO: […] one of the / ehm / of the gifts that the grandmother has left us / ehm the father / ehm our father's mother / because she did speak in Quechua / I don't know if she understood / she must have understood / I honestly don't remember / I am the youngest // so:: / I have enjoyed the grandmother a little // and I know that she has been the one who has helped my older sisters to speak in Quechua, right? / They spoke in Quechua:: and they communicated in Quechua // MOM instead / ehm / since I can remember she always spoke to us in Spanish / unfortunately / [laughs] / I, who am the youngest, have not had the chance to speak Quechua at home 2. MI: Is it gone? 3. RO: it was lost in time // for many things / it was lost in time because:: / ehm / in THAT time it was the thought / ehm / that 4. EM: [speaking Spanish 5. RO: speaking Spanish] was / ehm // PEJORATIVE right? // actually / mum’s aimd was / she wanted 6. EM: […] it was a language that had to be spoken by people who were of a slightly lower level / on the other hand the one who spoke Spanish was already a person of a good level 7. RO: yes in other times [unintelligible] 8. MI: why / is it changing now? 9. RO: IT IS CHANGING / it is changing / now there is a strong tendency to restore what would be Quechua // there are many people who speak Quechua / there are many films dubbed into Quechua / all this IDENTITY is being restored / we will say / ehm / rest- / restored 10. MI: and how do you see this / what do you think about this recovery?

    4 At the end of the 90’.

    5 1. RO: I am CHAUVINIST / I like / I love being cusquenian / peruvian / ehm 2. MI: really? 3. RO: I’m proud of it / I really love my culture // and:: / ehm / before leaving I was / ehm a teacher / I used to teach bilingual programs / I used to teach the first level of writing and reading in quechua 4. MI: ok 5. Ro: and for it you don’t need any special skills // you / you could get by easily // and:: / at this time it was heavily being introduced in the Board of Education this:: / this about bilingualism // now it’s very very forward / there is much more identity // and:: / yes / yes / yes / we can actually say that there are many more people that accept being quechua-speaking / and they’re also can be proud of it 6. MI: really? 7. RO: in Lima too / migrants don’t have many problems anymore for their Andean origin / in the past it was really pejorative / now it’s not 8. EM: discriminative 9. RO: discriminative 10. MI: Is it? / in Lima as well? 11. RO: oh in Lima more than everywhere 12. MI: why? 13. RO: in Lima more than everywhere [since 14. EM: los provincianos: / los cholos: / los serranos: 15. RO: now // LIMA IS JUST LIKE MILAN 16. MI: [laugh] 17. RO: Limeans don’t exist // they’re all migrants of first / fourth / fifth generation right? // so the / Lima’ more external outskirt / is therefore a 100% second- or third-generation migrant // now these people have more identity and don’t feel ashamed // but basically Lima is very // how do you say it? 18. MI: multicultural? 19. RO: NO / RACIST! / racists with themselves // that is because the fifth / sixth generation migrant no longer wants to recognize / ehm / now // this measurement is from a little further back / right? 20. MI: ok 21. RO: I have been told that it is changing // but they don't want to acknowledge very much their // their identity and they are the more racist with those coming from outside of first / second generation

    6 At the end of the 90’.

    7 She’s referring to the first decade of 2000, when the first wave of forerunner women arrived in the 1990s like Emilia determined a big flow of family reunifications in the following years. This flow is composed of many husbands and children left behind in Peru.

    8 1. LU: we have been invited I don't know how many times but never went 2. RO: no / we didn't relate to them not because we didn't want to // but just because we didn't / ehm it's that we were not looking for people / we had an other goal in mind / working and just doing what we had to do / you know 3. LU: be integrated 4. RO: yes / BECOME INTEGRATED / yes be integrated that basically means many things 5. Mi: I see 6. RO: starting from language right? / actually if you asked me how was my migration experience / I could say that from the very first moment I stop being me // I stop feeling / well / it’s not that I stop feeling 7. MI: mh 8. RO: but I had to / I WANTED and I had to / I think that studying anthropology helped me in this / definitely it helped me to get a / a softer inclsuion in that I knew there were many things about me that I couldn’t impose / things that were needless at that moment / that’s whay I stop being who I was // in that moment speaking Spanish was just useless 9. MI: ¿was it? 10. RO: yeah / since I had to learn Italian 11. MI: mh 12. RO: so in order to learn Italian / in order to FEEL in Italian / to to think in Italian you have to get it on // speaking / as my sister uses to say I read booklets there / small books / I started with kids books and step by step right? / but I recognise that this second migration / the biggest one / arrived there already with a lot of traumas by their previous migrations / actually with big lack of identity that / uhm / arriving to SUCH a different world / the best thing you could do was meeting other people like you / keeping your roots right? // that’s why you can meet many people who despite have been living there for many years they don’t speak the language // actually / me too I don’t speak Italian / some words run away 13. LU: a new language / itañol right? 14. MI: [laugh] how is itañol? 15. LU: a mix