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Changing Polish Identities

Post-War and Post-Accession Polish Migrants in Manchester


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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Chapter 1 Mapping Identity


Identity is formed through the self-definition and self-conception of a person, which in the case of social identity is based on a feeling of belong- ing and of being recognized as part of a particular social group. Polish identity is a national identity connected with belonging to a specific imag- ined community – the Polish nation. The members of this nation share a common culture (language, religion, a set of habits and traditions), his- tory and a belief in their common origin. They also share a solidarity with, and loyalty to, the nation, although the level of solidarity and loyalty will vary as national groups are usually internally diverse. There is a constant debate within any group about which features are key to being a member and which may be changed. Bokszański (1989) draws attention to the fact that social identity does not cover all aspects of individual identity: the group controls those parts of the auto-perceptions of individuals that are crucial for group continuity, and leaves other parts so that individuals can experiment in some aspects of their lives. However, what individuals should conform to in the name of belonging is always debatable. Members are expected to express some level of commitment towards their minor- ity ethnic group but there is no definition of what it means to be a group member, because this is continuously contested and redefined through collective debate (Song, 2003). The subject of this book is the national identity of Polish immigrants in Manchester; however,...

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