Funded by the ESRC
Duration: 1/06/2009 - 28/02/2011
Dr Jon Fox, PI (email@example.com)
Ms Laura Moroşanu, Research Assistant (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Dr Eszter Szilassy, Research Assistant (email@example.com)
The primary objective of this research is:
to improve understanding of the ways in which ‘race’ operates in recent migration from East Europe to the UK
To date, there has been no systematic study of the racialisation of these migrations. But examples from earlier ‘white’ migration to the UK, coupled with preliminary evidence from these East European migrations, suggests that ‘race’ can play an important role, even when migrant and host nominally share the same ‘race’. This study therefore proposes an in-depth qualitative examination of two cohorts of migrants from East Europe: Hungarians (among the first wave of ‘A8’ migrants to the UK) and Romanians (among the second wave of ‘A2’ migrants). The ethnographic approach developed in this proposal is distinctive because it focuses on racialisation from the perspective of the migrants themselves. Whilst most scholarship stresses the role of the state and associated actors in categorising migrants in racial terms, this project seeks to uncover the ways in which the migrants themselves – ie, those thus categorised – view themselves, their hosts, and their predicaments through a racial lens. In so doing, it will provide insight into the migrants’ racialised experiences of inclusion and exclusion in the UK.
This study has three related objectives:
to understand the main differences in the racialisation of Hungarian (A8) and Romanian (A2) migration;
First, this research is interested in how differences in the legal and economic status of Hungarian (A8) and Romanian (A2) migrants engender differences in the two groups’ experience of ‘race’. A8 migrants are mostly unrestricted in their employment in the UK; A2 migrants, by contrast, face significant controls and quotas constraining their employment and movement. Both Hungarian and Romanian migrants are employed in predominantly low-end sectors of the economy. The reception of Romanians, however, has been less friendly, perhaps owing in part to the stigmatised reputation they have acquired in other West European migration contexts. This study aims to account for the different ways in which ‘race’ manifests itself in these two migrations.
Second, this study seeks to elaborate and explain the way the migrants themselves understand and experience difficulties associated with work and life in the UK. The economic dimensions of their exclusion have been documented; the ways in which they make sense of this exclusion, however, has received less attention. This study explores the link between exclusion and racialisation in the context of these recent East European migrations. It shifts the focus from the structural determinants of exclusion to the ways in which Hungarian and Romanian migrants experience and express economic difficulties in an idiom of racial distinction.
Third, this project challenges the viability of the ‘colour paradigm’ in the study of ‘race’. In much of the scholarship on ‘race’ and racism, colour is assumed to be (or posited as) a key determinant of ‘racial’ difference. And indeed, the history of racism bears this out: colour is often the feature of choice for defining racial difference. But not always: ample evidence of white-on-white racism challenges prevailing assumptions about the explanatory power of colour for understanding racism. This study approaches this problem by innovatively operationalising ‘race’ not as a category of analysis but rather as a category or practice put into use by its everyday practitioners – the migrants themselves. In so doing, it invites a more empirically grounded understanding of the relationship of colour to ‘race’, thus calling into question the analytical usefulness of colour in the study of ‘race’.
For further information please contact: Jon Fox, Laura Moroşanu, or Eszter Szilassy.