More than 2 million young people have left Poland since May 2004. Poles have been the most mobile nationality in the EU since 1990s and they form now the largest immigrant group in all European countries. Two countries received the majority of this flow: Great Britain where over half a million Poles found employment, and Germany where the number of those with Polish citizenship is estimated for some 400 thousand, out of some 2 Million people of Polish origin. Since this unprecedented movement is now consolidated into an East-West transnational migration system, it is the time to study the tremendous impacts it has on the respective societies.

 

The TRANSFORmIG project is grounded in four premises: 1) contact between people of different groups may reduce prejudice towards otherness; 2) Polish migrants sustain transnational connections; 3) particular socio-historical settings of diversity mediate effects of contact; 4) migration effects communities sending migrants. TRANSFORmIG uses the differential context between Poland’s relatively culturally homogenous society and the comparatively heterogeneous societies of England and Germany as a case study for understanding the ways in which values and attitudes around diversity are transferred by migrants circulating between new and long-standing EU states with different experiences and imaginaries of diversity.


Component 1

The objective of Component 1 is to examine how and what kind of multicultural habitus migrants acquire and how these transfer across their social networks back to their home country. It makes use of a qualitative longitudinal study to examine processes of change in values and attitudes over time, thereby drawing attention to their context and particularities.

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Component 2

This component will deepen the understanding of perceptions of diversity and explore their contexts. Its aim is to discover contradictions and ambivalences involved in situations when people encounter socio-cultural difference. In-depth individual interviews will provide data on personal trajectories of migrants and so give a detailed picture of the contexts in which attitudes on diversity alter. Focus groups will provide rich material to explore individuals’ discursive practices and what kind of rhetoric is at use in relation to diversity.

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Component 3

The aim is to investigate and understand the configurational and representational conditions of acquisition of multicultural habitus. The component will use various ethnographic techniques to study the material and visual settings which are constitutive for conceiving of diversity.

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Research sites

Great Britain

London: Almost one third, which is some 2.3 million Londoners, was born outside the UK. London attracts migrants from all over the world, with high concentrations from India, Bangladesh, Ireland, Jamaica, Nigeria, Poland, Kenya, Sri Lanka, South Africa and Ghana. However, London’s population is highly diversified also in terms of legal statuses, employment paths, living conditions and strategies so that London has become one of the world’s most super-diverse places. It defines itself as a cosmopolitan city which appreciates its diversity and knows how to turn it to a successful strategy for global self-positioning. Despite the large dispersion of Polish migrants across every region in Britain, the highest number of application for National Insurance Numbers has been in London, with the Worker Registration Scheme showing London as a key destination for Poles.

Birmingham/West Midlands: this region hosts many industries and warehouses which provide employment to a large number of Polish immigrants – estimated for about 30.000. Birmingham is the second largest city in Great Britain with a population over 1 Million, out of which 1/3 is immigrant, with large Pakistani, Indian and Caribbean populations. The population is expected to grow even more diverse due to outflow of White population and a constantly increasing immigration. People in Midlands are generally more likely to view immigration as a problem compared to people in London.

 

Germany

Berlin: is home to about 45.000 Poles (34% of all foreigners) which makes Berlin to the city with the largest Polish community in Germany. Estimates speak of about up to 100.000 Poles who temporarily work and live in Berlin. Polish migration to Berlin has been in particular strong in the 1980s and 1990s. Berlin is close to the Polish border, which makes commuting easy and affordable, and due to its economic problems and unemployment affecting much of its population there is a demand for cheap workers. Berlin notes the highest increase in registration of Polish one-man companies. Nevertheless, Poles are very heterogeneous and their community is ‘invisible’ – well integrated in culture and labour market of Berlin. The overall foreign population in Berlin of 13% is relatively law, in domestic comparison. Yet, alike London, Germany promotes itself as a cosmopolitan city, creative, young, dynamic and open. Its multicultural policies mark the growing inequalities between affluent and economically privilege appreciating diversity and the ethnically other, economically and socially deprived minorities.

Munich: is a 1.3 million, economically well developing city which attracts various migrants, also those highly qualified, young and ambitious: the so called “intellectual cosmopolites” or “multicultural performers”. It is the city with the highest foreigners’ quota in Germany – 24%. Counting all people whose background is migratory, one third of Munich’s population is non-German. People from 181 national groups live in Munich; the largest groups constitute Turks and Croats, followed by Greek and Italians. Ethnic origin and social status are less decisive for socialisation than lifestyles, aesthetic sense and value orientations of immigrants. Some 16.000 Poles live in Munich, which is the third biggest Polish population in German cities. Yet this group is much diversified so it is hard to speak of a Polish community. Few churches offer services in Polish on Sundays, two groceries sell Polish foods, and a Polish culture centre are focal points for many old and new immigrants from Poland.

 

Poland

The project will follow the social networks of the migrants to the particular localities, while considering the diversification of local contexts ranging from large cities to rural areas. While surveys will cover the largest possible parts of the identified social networks, ethnographic research will focus on selected localities ensuring the contrasting and comparing strategies of comparative research.