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date: 28 June 2022

Abstract and Keywords

This article discusses written communications by international migrants across time, from immigrant letters to instant messaging. Chronologically, it ranges from the nineteenth century to the end of the twentieth century, and spatially, the focus is on the United States and those who migrated to or from the country. It covers the definition of an immigrant letter, particularly as it relates to systematic study of the genre, and some of the cultural associations bound to the term. It relates issues of literacy—who could write and how well—and the status of postal connections, how they influenced the production and distribution of correspondence by migrants. Other sections explore how scholars have used epistolary records by migrants as sources for various topics and in several disciplines, and types of analysis they use for both written and electronic communications, including e-mail. Finally, there are suggestions for further study of correspondence related to immigration.

Keywords: immigration, correspondence, written communication, immigrant letter, instant messaging, e-mail, United States, nineteenth century, twentieth century

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