Precarious workers, troubled nation - the reconfiguration of national attachment through precarious work. A case study of Romanian migrants in London

October 2013 - December 2016
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This project looks at the experiences of Romanian migrants who work in the low skilled sector in London. Through a combination of in depth interviews and extended participant observation in a Romanian community in Barnet, the project traces these migrants’ strategies for cross-border mobility and place making. I examine in particular how the experience of being a migrant, often characterised by work in low paid jobs, living in overcrowded homes and a permanent anticipation of mobility, shapes Romanians’ relation to their national community. In other words, I ask how the experience of cross-border mobility affects migrants’ ideas of Romanian-ness.

In this sense, the project provides a new ethnographic angle on the recent discourse generated by the liberalisation of work restrictions for Romanian and Bulgarian citizens in 2014, but also on the long running public anxiety formed around the unregulated mobility of the global poor. I go beyond the framework that regards Eastern European migrants as purely economic agents, and that has tended to focus on work conditions or their economic contribution. Instead, I focus on the relations generated beyond the workplace, with the state and imagined national community.

Principal Investigator

Olivia Vicol