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Performing Ontological Security: Latvian Migrants in the UK and Post-Brexit Meaning Making

Sun, June 3, 2:00 to 3:30pm, History Corner (450 Serra Mall, Building 200), 205

Abstract

This paper will focus on how Latvian migrants in the UK cope with Brexit vote. In particular, the paper explores how the social representation of Brexit is publicly constructed – anchored and objectified – and how this representation frames the migrants’ hopes and anxieties as well as attitude towards Latvia, UK, and the European Union. The paper also intends to examine how the representation of Brexit has changed. The primary data are obtained from online discussions on Facebook pages oriented to Latvian migrants in the UK (Latvians in the UK, Latvians in London, Latvieši Anglijā etc.) in the period from 20 June 2016 to 31 December 2017. The Brexit-induced topics are actively discussed on these webpages.
Today, the majority of Latvians who have migrated to the UK during the past decade are mostly satisfied with the quality of life in the host country. Yet research suggests that new migrants maintain rather strong ties with a homeland, along with individual integration strategies as regards the British society. Nevertheless, the Brexit vote in 23 June 2016 and the subsequent plans of the UK political elite to revise the present migration policy have shaken the ground for the migrants’ new identity projects. Brexit has increased the level of xenophobia in British society, occasionally switching it from discursive aggression to physical violence toward immigrants from the so-called Eastern Europe, including Latvia. Arguably, such conditions may reinforce the ontological anxiety of Latvian migrants as well as various self-protection practices.

Short Bio

Mārtiņš Kaprāns is a researcher at the Institute of Philosophy and Sociology, University of Latvia. He holds PhD in communication science. He is also an associated expert at the Center for European Policy Analysis (Washintgton). Kaprāns current research interests involve Baltic labor migrants, Russophone communities in post-Soviet area, and historical politics in Europe. He has recently published articles in Journal of Baltic Studies and Memory Studies as well as several book chapters in international volumes.

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