Marcelo Borges

senior fellow
EURIAS cohort 2013/2014
discipline History
Professor of History and Chair in the Latin American, Latino, and Caribbean Studies Program at the Dickinson College

Research project

Epistolary Connections: Portuguese Migration through Family Correspondence


This project focuses on late nineteenth- and early-twentieth century labor migration from Portugal to the Americas, Africa, and Europe. Through the study of family correspondence, it examines the ways in which migrant husbands and their wives who remained in Portugal evaluated and negotiated their migratory strategies, the opportunities at home and abroad, as well as their hopes, dreams, and the perceptions of their fluid reality. In particular, I will explore the possibilities of a variety of immigrant correspondence commonly known as call letters or cartas de chamada. These letters were used by Portuguese migrants to ask their families to join them abroad. Call letters were part of ongoing epistolary exchanges among members of transnational families.

Call letters offer a rare opportunity to learn about the motives of migration, the lives of migrant families, the process of migration and decision-making, and the ways migrants viewed their places of origin and destination. Call letters are also unique in that the imminent reunification brings to the fore explicit considerations of family strategies, aspirations, and negotiations. Also, the impeding trip results in a wealth of information about the journey and its preparations. Finally, since the majority of these letters were sent to married women by their husbands, they open a unique window into the analysis of family and gender relations in these transnational families.

As means of communication across vast spaces, call letters provided occasions to share achievements and failures, negotiate roles and expectations created by distance and separation, and facilitate the functioning of transnational families and the process of family reunification. They also reflect the existence of conflicts and tensions among family members in general, and migrant husbands and their wives, in particular. In short, they provide an intimate, gendered, migrant-centered record of the experience of turn-of-the-twentieth century migrant families.



Marcelo Borges is Professor of History and Chair in the Latin American, Latino, and Caribbean Studies Program at the Dickinson College. He holds a Ph.D. in History from Rutgers University; and a B.A. in History with a specialization in Latin America from the National University of La Plata, Argentina.


His fields of research include Transatlantic Migrations in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries; Immigration in Argentina; Comparative Migrations; Migrant Correspondence; and Memory and Oral Narratives of Migration. 

Selected publications


'Portugal, Modern Era Migration', in I. Ness (ed.), The Encyclopedia of Global Human Migration, Wiley-Blackwell, New York, Oxford, 2013.


Company Towns: Labor, Space, and Power Relations Across Time and Continents, with S. Torres (eds), Palgrave Macmillan, New York, 2012.


'Portuguese Labor Migration in Northwestern Europe since the 1950s: The Example of France and Germany', in K. Bade, P. Emmer, L. Lucassen & J. Oltmer (eds), The Enclopedia of European Migration and Minorities: From the Seventeenth Century to the Present, Cambridge University Press, New York, 2011, pp. 619-623.


Chains of Gold: Portuguese Migration to Argentina in Transatlantic Perspective, Brill, Leiden/Boston, 2009.


‘Migrações portuguesas na Argentina: redes transatlânticas e experiências locais’, in H. Carreiras and A. Malamud (eds), Do Fado ao Tango: Os Portugueses na Região Platina, Editora Mundos Socias, Lisbon, 2010, pp. 15–41.


‘Portuguese Migrations in Argentina: Transatlantic Networks and Local Experiences’, Portuguese Studies Review, vol. 14, no.2, 2009, pp. 87–123.


‘Migrations in Latin America: A Crosscultural Perspective’, International Review of  Social History,  vol. 49, 2004, pp. 483–488.


‘Many Americas: Patterns of Transatlantic Migration and Choice of Destination in Southern Portugal (19th–20th Centuries)’, Studi Emigrazione/Migration Studies, vol. 40, no. 150, 2003, pp. 351–375.


junior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2016/2017
Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study (NIAS-KNAW)
discipline Linguistics and Discourse Analysis
junior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2014/2015
Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study (NIAS-KNAW)
discipline Cultural Studies
junior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2012/2013
Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study (NIAS-KNAW)
discipline Anthropology
senior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2011/2012
Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study (NIAS-KNAW)
discipline Literature