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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 3 Mapping the Spaces of Post-Accession Migration


The previous chapter analysed the post-war migrants’ expression of Polish identity. This chapter concentrates on Poles who arrived in Manchester after Poland joined the EU in 2004. The comparison of these two groups’ experiences allows an exploration of the ways in which the formation of a network society, consumerism and globalization has changed the form of national identity over the last fifty years. There are some common behav- iour patterns and common components of national identity that the post- accession migrants share with the post-war migrants who preceded them, but there are also new phenomena typical of the post-accession migrants’ generation that illustrate new processes of identity formation. The chapter addresses whether – as is advanced in some of the literature – we are wit- nessing the end of geographically rooted identity and the development of a hybrid and fragmented identity. It also evaluates to what extent Massey’s (1992) theory of place may be used to explain the new processes of migrant identity formation. Here, the analysis of the migrants’ everyday life is inter- esting. I present the ways in which migrants build their subjective feeling of familiarity and unfamiliarity with place. Their feeling of unfamiliarity and lack of suf ficient competences in everyday life, which can be seen as indicators of the dif ferences between Polish and English national cultures as experienced by the migrants, may result in identity change. On the other hand, the processes of globalization mean that the migrants are familiar with some aspects of their new life....

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