NEGOTIATING SPACE AND CONTESTING BOUNDARIES: THE CASE OF POLISH ROMA AND POLISH MIGRANTS. MIGRATION AND ADAPTATION AS VIEWED VIA A SOCIAL CAPITAL LENS
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Over the last two decades, globalization has resulted in an unprecedented level of migration flows due to the freedom of movement, and, social exchange, due to the improvement of both telecommunications and increasingly affordable travel. A striking feature of what has come to be termed the ‘new migration’ is precisely the dynamic ways in which some arriving migrants, such as the Poles, have capitalised on their transnational associations, via a most efficient ‘exploitation’ of existing/new social capital networks. On the other hand, such benefits appear to remain beyond the reach of other arriving groups, such as the Polish Roma. The paper focuses on narrativising the differing patterns of migratory experience, by utilising data from research on post-Accession Polish Roma and Polish migrants arriving to the UK. It examines social capital formation in urban settings, juxtaposed with their respective relationships’ to the ‘wider world’. Also, their respective mechanisms adopted in order to ‘appropriate’ contested space as a basis for individual / group interaction with the wider society, and, the differential levels of success in securing such. The paper also analyses how the groups’ culturally determined public and private activities (such as boundary observation) can inhibit their public representation, and resulting ownership to shared public space. This analysis is intentionally contextualised; set within the geopolitical and cultural contexts of each group. It explores the contingent nature of existing social / cultural capital, and the negotiation of space for the ‘self’, as well as for the group. The detailed personal experiences, illustrated via personal narratives, exemplify the situational realities – that social capital can be seen as both an enhanced provider [as in the case of Polish migrants], or an inhibitor [as in the case of Polish Roma], of equitable representation within public space in civil society.
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