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Migration, belonging and the ‘place-based contract’: The civic and political participation of Polish migrants in Northern Ireland from a transnational perspective

By Jennifer McCurry


PhDThis research explores the civic and political participation of Polish migrants in Northern Ireland from a transnational perspective. Examining how migrants construct belonging at multiple scales, it emphasises the role of place in shaping their civic and political participation, attitudes and interests. Despite a significant body of work examining the experiences of Polish migrants in the UK, their civic and political participation remains under-explored. Moreover, given Northern Ireland’s status as a relatively recent immigration destination, little is known about how migrants engage in politics and civil society in the region. Employing a mixed methods approach that entailed in-depth interviews, an online survey and ethnographic participant observation, this research elicits a range of insights regarding migrants’ motivations for participation in civil society, in formal politics and in political parties. It also sheds light on the barriers to participation which they experience. Drawing on Thomas’s (2002) idea of a ‘contract’ as a means through which claims to citizenship are articulated, the research develops the idea of a ‘place-based contract’ to conceptualise how migrants construct belonging to civic and political communities, and how this shapes and facilitates their civic and political engagement. I argue that participation is facilitated by a sense of belonging to place which has legal, personal and societal dimensions, and which includes both practical and emotional elements. Highlighting how this process operates across multiple scales, I argue for the need to ‘rescale the polity’ in order to pay closer attention to how migrants form attachments to place at a scale ‘below’ the nation-state and how this facilitates engagement in different forms of civic and political activity. As such, the research urges that greater attention be paid to the geographical context in which politics is practised, as well as focusing on the interconnections between migration, political participation, citizenship, identity, belonging and place.Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Grant number: ES/J500124/1)

Topics: Geography, Migration, Polish migrants, Northern Ireland
Publisher: 'Queen Mary University of London'
Year: 2018
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