‘No smoke without fire’: strategies of coping with stigmatised migrant identities

Thursday, June 27, 2013
D1.18A (Oudemanhuispoort)
Laura Morosanu , School of Law, Politics and Sociology, University of Sussex
Jon Fox , School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies, University of Bristol
Since around their accession to the European Union in 2007, Romanians have become a recurrent concern in the British tabloid press, which has imported and reinforced the negative stereotypes about Romanians circulated in the rest of Europe. This paper examines Romanian migrants’ strategies to cope with stigmatisation and the extent to which ethnicity informs them. Instead of assuming the relevance or irrelevance of ethnicity, our purpose is to determine the specific ways in which responses to stigmatisation may or may not become ethnicised. We consider two strategies. The first response to stigma invokes and reinforces the salience of ethnicity, albeit in a negative and thus still stigmatised way. Instead of countering stigma with a positive reappraisal of ‘Romanianness’, some Romanians seek to transfer the stigma onto the ethnic Roma with whom they are frequently associated. This strategy thus acknowledges stigma, but attempts to detach it from the self and reattach it to the ethnicised other. The second coping strategy we discuss lessens the salience of ethnicity by emphasising individual skills and accomplishments to overshadow the effects of a stigmatised ethnicity. Ethnicity is made less salient by this switch to a register of personal skill and worth evidenced through everyday practices. Exploring the interplay of these coping strategies, we highlight the fluctuating relevance, rather than declining relevance, of an ‘ethnic lens’ in individual migrants’ de-stigmatising discourses and practices that produce, transform or at times elide different ethnic boundaries.
  • No smoke without fire Morosanu and Fox 16 May.pdf (295.5 kB)