Constructions of ‘the Polish’ in Northern England: Findings From a Qualitative Interview Study
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AbstractThe enlargement of the European Union in 2004 gave rise to moral panics concerning the likelihood of mass migration from the new eastern European member states to established member states in the west. A great deal of social and political science research has examined the ongoing impact of the enlargement, but there remains a gap in the literature regarding the ways in which members of ‘receiving’ populations reacted to these changes. The present paper reports findings from a qualitative interview study of 14-16 year-olds conducted in northern England. It focuses on how migrants from one particular country – Poland – were constructed by participants. Drawing on previous analyses of immigration and racist discourse, the study points to some ways in which Polish migrants and migration were constructed, and how complaints against ‘the Polish’ were formulated. The analysis focusses on four key issues: employment and the economy; language and culture; threat and intimidation; and physical stereotyping. It is suggested that constructions of ‘the Polish’ draw on the tropes of both ‘old’ and ‘new’ racism, and that attention to the use of deixical ingroup referents (‘us’, ‘we’, ‘our’) in contrast to the explicit labelling of the outgroup (‘the Polish’) can be understood in terms of the requirement to present complaints concerning migrant groups via appeals to assumed universal standards of behaviour and civility.