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Other Whites, White Others: East European Migrants and the Boundaries of Whiteness

Halej, JO; (2015) Other Whites, White Others: East European Migrants and the Boundaries of Whiteness. Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

This thesis examines the integration experiences of East European migrants to England using the theoretical framework of Critical Whiteness Studies. ‘Whiteness’ in this research is conceptualised as a symbolic boundary that is articulated, redrawn, permeated and negotiated by members of both the ‘white’ English host society and by East European migrants to England. The findings of this thesis challenge the notion of ‘whiteness’ as ‘invisibility’, and contribute to an understanding of ‘whiteness’ as a fragmented identity, not solely tied to phenotype, but also to a set of cultural practices, so called ‘whitely scripts’, that migrants are expected to perform in order to be considered incorporated into white English society. The research comprised a media analysis and in-depth interviews with English respondents and East European migrants in high-migration and low-migration areas in England, namely Manchester, Norwich and Winchester. It reveals how references to culture, behavioural norms and manners inform discursive constructions which simultaneously position East Europeans at the center and at the margins of the symbolic boundary of ‘whiteness’ in the media discourse and individual narratives of English participants. At the same time, the analysis outlines the ways in which East European migrants themselves navigate and articulate this boundary, by constructing sameness with the English mainstream, how they negotiate experiences of racialization and discrimination, as well as the various strategies in terms of ‘passing’ and ‘taking a stance’ that they employ in order to avert or resist these experiences. Moreover, the analysis provides insights into how questions of socio-cultural in/visibility inform the integration experiences of East European migrants and shape their senses of belonging, further informing their understandings of ‘whiteness’. The thesis argues that ‘East European’ has in fact become a ‘boundary term’ in England, with East Europeans being ambivalently and partially incorporated into the mainstream society, featuring in the English imaginary simultaneously as ‘Other Whites’ and ‘White Others’.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: Other Whites, White Others: East European Migrants and the Boundaries of Whiteness
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1460871
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