Gintarė Venzlauskaitė, a researcher at KTU Faculty of Social Sciences, Arts and Humanities, who has recently obtained her PhD at the University of Glasgow, Scotland, today is already a thousand miles away. Dr Venzlauskaitė is undertaking a four-month fellowship at one of the best in the world, Yale University in the US. A number of opportunities opened to Gintarė when she won the scholarship of Kazickas Family Foundation.
Tautiškos giesmės giedojimas
Tautiškos giesmės giedojimas
© Organizatorių nuotr.

“It is still hard to believe that my candidacy was successful. I received my PhD just recently, and now – the good news from Yale. I am extremely grateful to both the Kazickas Family Foundation and the MacMillan Baltic Studies programme which made it all possible. I instantly got my motivation to get back to work”, says Dr Venzlauskaitė.

Many different reasons for (not) coming back to the homeland

During the time at Yale, the young researcher will further investigate the issues related to returning and repatriation of displaced Lithuanians (and their diaspora), the topic that has emerged during her previous studies.

“Returning and repatriating is undoubtedly one of the cornerstones when it comes to the experience of migration and diaspora. The aspects of this topic are more sensitive in terms of forced migration and displacement, because return is often restricted or impossible due to a particular threat in homeland. The issue of repatriation is relevant at both personal and state-levels”, Dr Venzlauskaitė explains. When it comes to the most recent migration wave from Lithuania, the researcher says that the relevance of the issue is easily demonstrated by discussions about the need for programmes that promote repatriation and socio-economic reintegration, as well as by simple every-day questions between and with migrants: are you or are you not planning to come back? “There are many different reasons why migrants are coming or not coming back. However, quite often, for the diaspora caused by political migration, the reasons of returning to homeland or staying in hostlands will be political and for the economic migrants – economical. In any case, the question of return itself has always been and will remain relevant to all migratory waves. But different situations require different dimensions of inquiry when it comes to research as they are not always easily comparable despite certain emotional and symbolic similarities that come from returning experience”, says KTU researcher.

The Yale University itself is a motivation

In terms of her fellowship expectations, KTU researcher has several of them. First of all, this visit gives her time to concentrate on her research and publishing work. The first in line is a monograph based on the doctoral research. Also, she aims to analyse the material that has not been covered in the doctoral thesis. “I knew about Kazickas Family Foundation scholarship for many years and was determined to try myself in getting it when I finish my PhD. There are not many similar opportunities, especially when talking about the support favouring researchers from Lithuania. And, of course, the name of Yale was a motivation itself”, says Venzlauskaitė.

Gintarė Venzlauskaitė
Gintarė Venzlauskaitė
© Asmeninio archyvo nuotr.

She hopes to meet with local researchers of the same or relevant areas, to get acquainted with their work culture, methods, environment and to learn from the academic community of one of the most prestigious universities in the world.

Therefore, she intends to participate in the university events, seminars, workshops while also auditing lectures and presenting her own research and its results.

“However, I already have to admit to myself that my experience at Yale will be unusual. At least, it will differ substantially from the experience of the previous participants of this programme”, says Venzlauskaitė.

Due to the current COVID-19 situation worldwide and in the US, Yale University functions differently. The university prioritises virtual lectures and remote work, therefore the restrictions will reflect on the usual academic activities there.

Empathy helps while conducting the interviews

Gintarė’s current permanent residence is in Scotland, so when asked about how does being a migrant herself affect her research, she says that her experience in some cases helped to build connection with research subjects.

“Although I have never dared to compare my migratory experience to that of my research participants, which was often traumatic, coercive or life-threatening, it is difficult to ignore some correlations. This is particularly evident when it comes to the sentiments concerning relationship with their homeland: the longing, romanticising, and dilemmas of return are among the key tropes shedding similar personal insights”, explains Venzlauskaitė. Each interview, according to her, is authentic, as the experience itself. She believes that personal experience can help to emphatise with research participants.

However, she also suggests that it can work both ways: “It is difficult to assess how my experience and attitude to life abroad influence the analysis of the topics in question. But I know that listening to diverse, multi-layered experience, that I got familiar with during the interviews with displaced people and their descendants, has pushed me to rethink personal experience and relation to the life abroad”, she points out.

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