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Soviet SignorasPersonal and Collective Transformations in Eastern European Migration$
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Martina Cvajner

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780226662251

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2020

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226662428.001.0001

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Proper, Respectable Places: The Arduous Construction of Community Institutions

Proper, Respectable Places: The Arduous Construction of Community Institutions

(p.144) Five Proper, Respectable Places: The Arduous Construction of Community Institutions
Soviet Signoras

Martina Cvajner

University of Chicago Press

This chapter charts the construction of community institutions, the variety of associations and places of worship that represent an important step toward a respectable, decent, life in emigration. For many of the women, participating in these associations was both a marker of social status and a self-proclaimed indicator of moral worth, and their activities functioned as an alternative to the open-air market and other sites of informal sociability, which they increasingly identified as disreputable. Because in the political culture of Alpinetown, migrant associations are conceived along “cultural” or “national” lines, the fledgling institutions fostered by the women resulted in sometimes unexpected cleavages along these dimensions. More than a decade after arriving in Alpinetown, the initial group of women had thus separated into several distinctive, albeit interlocked, networks defined along ethno-national lines. Moreover, the associations allowed the women to publicly perform respectability for audiences that included (rarely) Italian locals. But while activities organized by the associations could play an important role in offering the women internal recognition, they utterly failed to foster intercultural contact and external recognition on their own terms.

Keywords:   associations, churches, ethno-national cleavage, respectability, decency, morality

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