‘Brexit’, Eastern Europeans and tactics of belonging

This paper is a critical exemplification of the concepts of ‘liquid migration’ and migrant political agency, based on new empirical research on young-adult Eastern Europeans who have migrated to Great Britain since 2004. Against the backdrop of ‘Brexit’, we interrogate one of the defining characteristics of what has been called ‘liquid migration’ – its ‘intentional unpredictability’, meant as intentional openness to future migration trajectories under the open border regime – and further develop its linkages to the tactics and temporality of migrant agency. Our research data derive from two sources. The first is netnography – analysis of English, Russian and Latvian language blogging and social networking sites where Eastern Europeans have been advising each other on the issue of the referendum. Through critical discourse analysis of netnographic material we reveal migrants’ own conceptions of their positionality, preparedness for future uncertainties and tactical (voice-less) struggle to prove their belongingness to Great Britain. Our second source of data is an ongoing interview survey of 60 Eastern Europeans (Latvians, Slovakians, Romanians) aged 18–35 living in London and the South-East Region. The respondents are equally divided between students, high-qualified (graduate-level) workers and lower-skilled workers. From the interview transcripts and from off-the-record conversations, we will apply the same discourse-analytic and thematic approach as for the netnography. Through this dual-method analysis we aim to contribute novel understanding of the role of everyday tactics in the meta-concepts of belonging and migrant political agency.

Aija Lulle (University of Sussex and University of Eastern Finland)

Russell King (University of Sussex and University of Malmö)