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Diamond Minds: Interviews with Migrant Workers

On December 27, 2012

Diamond Minds is a unique platform that advances discourse on issues of bordering, nationality, citizenship, gender, and social mobility from narrations of migrant workers. The site's author, Chanzo Greenidge Ph.D., adopts a multidisplinary approach integrating history, architecture, life course studies, sociology, urban studies, and anthropology to articulate a comprehensive conception of migration and transnationalism.

"The mission of the Diamond Minds project is to infuse the dominant narratives and imagery of the major events of 20th century ‘big’ history with the stories, views and experiences of ordinary labourers or labour migrants, in particular female migrants and their families. "

In sum, Diamond Minds offers a "digital and physical archive of memory and current history" of the contemporary migrant.

Below is a brief interview with Dr. Greenidge on the subject of his interest and methods in curating these narratives. Migrant Rights will feature Diamond Mind's collection of migrant worker oral histories over the coming weeks.

MR: How did your scholarship on migration begin?

I've been interested since childhood in biography and my own family history.  The core idea of the diamondminds project came when, as a first-year student at the University of Toronto, a tutor challenged us to connect the biographies of non-elite peoples with major trends of history and international relations.  Migration and travel are major themes in my family history and in my own identity as a migrant/dual-citizen between Canada and the Caribbean.  My doctoral work at the University of the West Indies' Institute of International Relations was a balancing act between my interest in migration and innovation policy, and my love for stories and genealogies, ideas, language and people. 

MR: How did you conduct your research?

I began collecting these stories after taking a course in Ethnography at the UWI Institute of Gender and Development Studies in 2005, starting with members of my own family who had centuries of experience of migration and diaspora among them.  I collected the stories published on the site so far over a five-year period during visits to New York and my relatives' visits to Trinidad.  In 2008, I took my interest in 'global islands' (island societies with significant diasporas) from the Caribbean to the Philippines and continued to develop my research on identity, migration and development as a Visiting Lecturer at Miriam College, where I first presented elements of the diamondminds project after completing my doctorate in May 2009. 

I learned about Migrante International, an advocacy group for Filipino migrants in the Middle East, through editorials in the Manila press.  My wife was working in Kuwait at the time, and in traveling between the Caribbean and the Middle East in 2010, I made contact with Migrante International's Manolo Abella, using the diamondminds format to research migration between Asia and the Middle East.

The project has had a major impact of my family and my own work as a writer and researcher, and I hope to build partnerships to continue the work and to present the stories in new formats to a wider audience.