Nathasha S. Edirippulige Fernando

Doctoral Researcher
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I was born and raised in Milan, Italy, but my parents are Sri Lankan. Over the years, this dual cultural heritage constantly encouraged me to question the concepts of identity, belonging, the awareness of being ‘the Other’, and above all media’s power in defining the ‘Other’. After completing my BA in Media and Modern Literature at Goldsmiths College, I interned in a number of NGOs working on alleviating homelessness or fostering social cohesion. Having learnt a great deal through this experience, I studied and completed the Masters on Diversity and the Media at University of Westminster, which gave me the opportunity to study the issues and academic concepts around migration and apply them to my own life. In fact, inspired by this I applied for a Doctoral position at CAMRI. My intention was to analyse and hear from those whose actual voice seemed to be completely absent in the Italian media. My objective was to take a snapshot of their/our everyday life. In fact, this made me question not only my positionality not only between ‘second generation migrant’ and ‘Italian’ but also between ‘researcher’ and ‘participant’. Besides finalising my thesis, I work as a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Westminster and University of Greenwich and in my spare time I talk about migration and identity on an Italian podcast called ‘S/Confini’.

Doctoral Project

Chain of Discriminations: Migrant communities in Milan perceiving the ‘migration crisis’

Immigrati, migrants, struggle to find a position in the Italian society. They represent 8% of the population in Italy and they are usually employed in low-paid and low-skilled services. They are perceived as “wanted but not welcome”.

When I started the PhD in 2015, the overwhelming negative portrayal of immigrati in the Italian media was already evident, but it worsened with the rise in news reporting of the Mediterranean ‘migration crisis’. It was then that I became interested in understanding how such media practices might have affected the already established immigrati’s perceptions of the newcomers. In particular, the focus of my research is an exploration of whether immigrati, already residing in Italy, would show empathy or would be drawn to discriminate against the new arriving migrants, using the same rhetoric to which they themselves had possibly once been victims to and probably still are.

To study whether this ‘chain of prejudice’ was being renovated in the Milanese context, I embarked on a 6-months ethnography in Milan’s diverse areas of ‘Zona 2’ and ‘Zona 9’, (in)famous for the high demographic presence of immigrati, studying the everyday life and media habits of well established migrant communities.

The findings show that that despite there being some empathy towards newly arrived migrants, this seems to disappear in the case of Muslim migrants: the stigmatization towards the ‘Muslim-Other’ is increasing even in these Milanese communities and goes in line with the general European sentiment.

Overall, my study tries to uncover the way immigrati make sense of their own transnational narrativity through other people’s determination of who they are and through the portrayal of the ‘migration crisis’ in various news outlets. In fact, the research examines how ‘immigrati’s’ identity is formed and enacted within these different areas and communities of Milan, where new relations and networks are created that nonetheless lead to new forms of exclusion and ‘othering’.