PhD Thesis Abstract – Niven Whatley – University of Birmingham

‘Voices from the Periphery: Representations of Marginalised Female Immigrants in Postmillennial Spain.’


In spite of an alleged move towards open, democratic politics in Spain, immigrant female representation in recent cultural publication is still predominantly that of the exotic, pathetic or visually fetishistic and spectres of paternalism remain in the sociological mind-set. Collective memory is also illusory, since female immigrants often appear voyeuristically, as peripheral, two dimensional characters.

Through scrutiny of newfound authorial variety, I search for notable indications of forward-thinking agenda in Spanish literary output and aim to illumine any stark issues within the sociological experiences of immigrant females in Spain.

My research presents a review of Spanish immigration laws, postmillennial literature and film, discourse analytics and a history of gender and women’s writing in Spain, with a view to establishing how liminal immigrant females are imagined and represented in the EU-minded postmodern Spain.

I consider: contrasting filmic and literary representations of female immigrants from China, Latin America and Africa; spatiality, identity and social capital; and the limitations of maternity, sexuality and ‘otherness.’

To set this against the current socio-literary milieu, I explore how key philosophical interpretations (such as Foucault’s ‘heterotopias’ and Derrida’s ‘specters of Marx’) may be applied or contradicted in relation to specifically female immigration works.


My chapters firstly include a sociological, historical and cultural analysis of Spain, Spanish social discourse and the overall context of Spain as a nation which has progressed from Colonial metropole to European backwater to Nationalist Dictatorship to central European Union state.


Following this, I present a thorough theoretical review of the key thought behind gender, migration, racism, Eurocentrism, exoticism, prejudice, assimilation and cultural confluence, before reviewing the content and implications of key monographical publications and journal scholarship in the secondary literature and literary criticism previously published. I offer new interpretations and opinion on these key studies and suggest revised theory in this critical and current political and academic research topic.


Following this, my thesis considers variations in representations of immigrant females in Spain with different regions of origin. I do this to explore whether there are distinguishable stereotypes or tropes associated with different races, nationalities or political backgrounds and also to consider whether there is evidence of variation between and potentially socially progressive moves towards cultural assimilation and overall acceptance of immigrants (and particularly of female immigrants) for females from different heritages.


The three world regions of origin for the female immigrants to Spain which I consider are China, Africa and Latin America, each of which has a vastly different geographical, historical, political, economic, linguistic and religious association with Spain.


In each of my thesis chapters I consider the unique links, bonds or separations between Spain and the immigrant community cultures and the different ways in which the females from these immigrant populations might be represented and might act as a cypher or point of reference for the actual social status quo of society and race, immigration and gender relations in Spain and therefore also in Europe and even white Western society as a whole.


Each chapter of the thesis considers female immigration to Spain against different frameworks, including: cyborg representation; spectrality; inundation; contamination; disorder; indigestion; utopia; dystopia; (re-)generation; (re-)occupation; communication; emancipation; vulnerability; resilience; and resistance. There is also a view of areas for hope for the acceptance of, empowerment and equality of opportunity for immigrant females in each chapter.


Finally, there is an overall conclusion which summarises representations of marginalised female immigrants in postmillennial Spain and places the contributions of this thesis within the scholarship and within the global conversations surrounding feminism, race, gender, social progress and immigration.


This study brings new scholarship and new interpretations of existing theory and literature to the immigration opus and represents a very focused but widespread and original exploration of world affairs which are very current, critical and central to conversations everywhere, at a time of global political change, where there are crises of mass migration, questions around the future of the European Union, increasing calls for true sexual and gender equality; demonstrations around racial injustice and increased instances of belligerent nationalism and even terrorism.