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Argentineans in Spain : immigrants or returnees? Institutional versus popular interpretations Vives Gonzalez, Celia

Abstract

Since 1985, the phenomenon of immigration in Spain has emerged as a social concern, a keystone in national politics, and a topic in need of further research. This thesis aims to build on the existing work by exploring how two processes, the growth and increasing diversity of the immigrant population in Spain and the Europeanization of the country's immigration law, have impacted the legal integration of the Latin American immigrant community since the mid 1980s. Focusing on the case of Argentinean immigrants, I use a variety of methods to discuss the profile and evolution of this community in the context of the broader general and Latin American immigrations in Spain. This includes an analysis of the changes in immigration and citizenship legislation since 1985, paying special attention to those that have impacted Argentinean immigrants; an exploration of the representation of Argentineans in popular discourse; and a discussion of the ways in which these immigrants see themselves as insiders / outsiders within the Spanish nation-state. I conclude that there are two conflicting interpretations of Argentinean immigration in Spain. The first and most prevalent is the representation of the Argentinean immigrant as a returnee. This representation emerges strongly in popular discourse, immigrants' claims of belonging to the nation-state, and citizenship legislation; it is a legacy of both Spanish colonialism and emigration of Spaniards to Argentina in the past. The second is the representation of the Argentinean as an economic immigrant, which emerged in the 2000 immigration law. Argentineans are trapped in the contradictions and tensions between these two representations, but far from being passive recipients of the definitions and categories that the state imposes on them, there is evidence that they organize, accept, resist, or manipulate public discourses in their search to find a place for themselves in Spanish society. This thesis supports the status of public policy on immigration and citizenship as a boundary-marker for the national community, and calls for a greater attention to non-governmental actors in the institutionalization of immigration as an object of such public policy.

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