Genres of Departure: Forced Migrants’ Family Separation and Personal Narratives



The absence of family members is often inseparable from the phenomenon of forced migration. This article examines how forced migrants make experiences of family separation bearable and meaningful through personal narratives. Following narrative theory and methodology, we understand that people organise their experiences and memories of past incidents predominantly in the form of stories. Narratives also play a crucial role in managing emotions. Earlier literature emphasises that there is no uniform refugee experience or story, but telling a story may help in reconstructing identities and coping with losses. Our data set consists of interviews with 55 forced migrants living in Finland who have experienced family separation. Our narrative analysis reveals that forced migrants make sense of their lives by telling three types of stories: fractured tragedies, salvation narratives and absurd stories. These genres provide different ways of presenting one’s experiences and oneself as an actor. At the same time, each genre limits what can be considered appropriate within a given story. As our study shows, forced migrants may use different types of narratives very creatively to make their hardships more manageable. And stories may enable breaking free from oppressions.


Forced migrationrefugeesfamily separationstorynarrative methods
  • Year: 2021
  • Volume: 11 Issue: 3
  • Page/Article: 235–249
  • DOI: 10.33134/njmr.372
  • Submitted on 22 Jul 2020
  • Accepted on 29 Mar 2021
  • Published on 3 Sep 2021
  • Peer Reviewed