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Changing Polish Identities

Post-War and Post-Accession Polish Migrants in Manchester

Series:

Agniezka Bielewska-Mensah

This book discusses how globalization transforms national identity, comparing the assertion that globalization disembeds national culture with contrasting claims that identities remain primarily anchored in national space. It examines the impact of mobility on identity and explores the role of virtual worlds in preserving national culture.
The investigation is based around a case study looking at two very different groups of Polish migrants in Manchester: those who settled in the city after the Second World War and those who arrived after Poland joined the European Union in 2004. A comparison of the two groups reveals a fascinating transformation in the process of identity formation, which has led to the clearly defined modern identity of the post-war migrants being replaced by a postmodern, multidimensional sense of self in the post-accession migrants.

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Introduction

Extract

Twenty-first-century migrants are dif ferent from those of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Globalization has transformed how national iden- tities are perceived and expressed by migrants. Alongside this, a shift in how place, a specific geographic area, is perceived, coupled with advances in tech- nology, has changed the migration experience in virtually all aspects of life. Poles are currently the fastest growing minority group in the United Kingdom. When Poland was finally admitted into the European Union on 1 May 2004, and the UK opened its labour market for citizens of new member states, the result was a massive inf low of migrants. Around 60 per cent of them were Poles. According to of ficial data, in 2009, with a population of 494,000, Poles were the largest group of foreign nationals in the UK (ONS 2009 after Lacroix, 2011). The arrival of Poles was well documented by the UK media, who at first were excited by drunk Poles sleeping in London parks or begging for money, then contrasted hard- working Poles with lazy Brits, and finally, when the economic crisis hit in 2008, blamed cheap Polish workers for taking jobs from British workers. The new arrivals have become part of a public mental map. Poles rep- resent for British society a young economic migrant, and the general public seems to forget that these new young arrivals are not the only Poles living in the UK. In fact, the label Poles refers to two fundamentally dif ferent groups who, once...

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