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Changing Polish Identities

Post-War and Post-Accession Polish Migrants in Manchester

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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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The idea behind writing this book was to take the reader on a journey through the Polish worlds of Manchester in order to show how dif ferently national identity can be understood, experienced and performed. There are two main groups of Polish migrants in Manchester and both groups pos- sess a Polish identity. All the migrants sometimes refer to themselves using the label ‘Pole’; however, there is no consensus between the groups on the content of Polish identity. It seems that Polishness is negotiated within a particular group but not between the groups. The dif ferences between the two groups when defining their members’ rights and obligations illustrate the transformation of the concept of national identity itself. National belonging in the twenty-first century is still a defining characteristic for an individual; however, it now has dif ferent qualities than in the first half of the twentieth century. Postmodern national identity is not the same as the national identity of the time of modernism. The Polishness of the post-war Polish migrants is dif ferent from the Polishness of the Poles who arrived in Manchester after May 2004. The key findings of my research can be summarized as follows: national identity still exists and provides spatial embedding – however, it has undergone a great transformation over the last half century. The changes in national identify ref lect a set of processes that have af fected identity in general in the last fifty years. Researchers have tried to isolate the key processes using such...

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