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"On an island” – Perceptions of immigration among Britain’s Poles and the Brexit vote'

In my talk I will juxtapose two different sets of Polish migrants’ narratives collected in England before and after the Brexit-vote to address the continuities of culture and social belonging in a transnational context. I try to explain the obvious discrepancy - if not a paradox - in Poles’ rejection of immigration and their status as immigrants referring to the concept of ‘cultural precariat’ (Eriksen 2014). “On an island” stands metaphorically for the sense of multiple alienation of immigrants who lack alternatives to their current position. I consider migrant Poles’ sense of belonging to different ‘moral communities’ that may span transnationally, as well as their ideas of geopolitical racialized hierarchies, weakening of their old social obligations, and acquired cultural hybridity. The interplay of these positionalities, I will show, results in particular complex and somewhat chaotic socio-cultural formation which might be symptomatic of the current situation in Europe, when someone’s belonging to a category - such as immigrant - does not allow us to predict her or his attitudes and behaviors. 

Bio: Magdalena Nowicka is professor of migration and transnationalism at the Institute of Social Sciences and member in the Berlin Institute for Integration and Migration Research (BIM), both at Humboldt University. Her current project is ‘Transforming Migration. Transnational Transfer of Multicultural Habitus’ (www.transformig.hu-berlin.de). Her publications include The Ashgate Research Companion to Cosmopolitanism (edited with Maria Rovisco, Ashgate 2011) and numerous articles on migration, transnationalism, conviviality, diversity, racism and cosmopolitanism.