Aspirations of Belonging. a Study of Romanians in London and Paris

Thursday, July 13, 2017
JWS - Stevenson Lecture Theatre (University of Glasgow)
Claudia Paraschivescu , University of Leeds
This paper explores how Romanian migrants’ senses of belonging towards the sending and receiving country are shaped by their social encounters in London and Paris. It presents original empirical data generated through semi-structured, qualitative interviews with 78 participants and key informants in order to understand and interpret Romanians’ social worlds. Data was collected during fieldwork in London and Paris between September 2013 and June 2014. The study examines Romanians’ home aspirations, which are believed to be materialised through migration. However, understandings of ‘home’ through everyday lived experiences in London and Paris evolve to conceptualise ‘home’ as multiple homes susceptible to change. In the process, belonging is brought into question through perceptions of (non-)belonging as a result of social encounters with the mainstream. Consequently, another aspect explored is the processes through which Romanians hope to achieve inclusion in the mainstream. Using the analytic lens of critical whiteness studies, Romanians’ relational strategies are examined. These ‘whitening’ strategies aim at both socio-culturally elevating their own persona and at racially marginalising those perceived as ‘others’, in order for the participants to become ‘whitened’. Lastly, the paer engages with participants’ institutional approaches deemed beneficial in Romanians’ journey to overcome their vulnerable status. It investigates interviewees’ reasons for (not) taking up the nationality of the host country and how their considerations of political belonging are validated or contested by the majority. The study identified that for Romanians interviewed, the process of migration evolved from a quest for a personal home, to a quest for belonging.