Denying discrimination: East European migrant workers in the UK

Thursday, June 27, 2013
D1.18A (Oudemanhuispoort)
Jon Fox , School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies, University of Bristol
Laura Morosanu , School of Law, Politics and Sociology, University of Sussex
Eszter Szilassy , School of Social and Community Medicine, University of Bristol
The UK’s managed migration policies have helped channel East European migrant workers into jobs in the low-end sector of the economy. Despite having higher than average qualifications, analyses of the labour market position of East Europeans have pointed to the possibility of different structural forms of discrimination. But whilst this evidence of discrimination mounts, our study of Hungarians and Romanians in Bristol shows that the migrants themselves don’t exactly see things the same way. To the contrary, these migrant workers neither claim a discourse of victimhood nor even acknowledge that they have been targets of discrimination. Rather, they deny discrimination by saying they have not experienced it or they deflect it by attributing any disadvantage to a combination of linguistic and legal deficiencies. The purpose of this paper is to explain how and why Hungarian and Romanian migrants in Bristol engage in these discursive practices of denying and deflecting discrimination. We posit that acknowledging discrimination would compromise the perceived advantages their putative whiteness implicitly bestows upon them; denying and deflecting an implicitly racialised discrimination allows them to symbolically preserve their claims to whiteness and the privileges those claims entail. Thus, rather than confronting discrimination head on, these East European migrant workers have instead developed and deployed discursive strategies to defend their precarious position in Britain’s racialised hierarchies.
  • Denying discrimination - Fox, Morosanu, and Szilassy 02.13 FINAL.pdf (538.7 kB)