A study of the experiences of international migrants in the UK: a life history approach.

Toalster, Richard. (2012) A study of the experiences of international migrants in the UK: a life history approach. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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Abstract

Globalisation can no longer be thought of as a term that merely describes the practical, political and procedural networking of capital, commodities and consumers. Working reflexively it networks people, who use the physical, electronic and psychological networks set up to serve the interests of global commerce to travel from one locale to another. Like the cheap frocks, fridges or foodstuffs globalisation has weaned society to expect, these people are a ubiquitous source of labour, prepared to work in our factories and in our fields, servicing our hotel rooms, cleaning our homes and teaching our children. Yet despite this little is known about the lives of international migrants in the UK from their own perspectives, and there is relatively little social research (educational) with which to contextualise the migration statistics or evaluate the claims of the British press.

This thesis starts by discussing the impacts of rising international migration on a place, Nottingham. It moves forward to discuss the relationship between UK society, globalisation and international migration to explore the idea that globalisation is reflexive, and that people are able to use what Appadurai (1996) terms the scapes of globalisation to network themselves from poorer regions of the world toward regions where they will experience higher levels of safety, structure and reward for their labours. Investigating the range of statistical, policy, evaluative and scholarly research relating to international migrants in the UK, this thesis focuses in on the need to ‘get beneath’ the statistics, the reports and the evaluations, to understand international migrants, their lives in Britain and their relationships with UK society and its social structures from their own perspectives. The study, which drew on material from a series of interviews held with 20 international migrants over the course of a year, succeeded in giving ‘voice’ to a set of deeply personal narratives about circumstances, motives, dreams and aspirations that belonged to a group of people who are often spoken of, but rarely heard; those living the ‘silenced lives’ (LeCompte, 1993) of the ‘hard to reach’.

The study found that reflexive globalisation is not a fair and equal process; migrants enter and travel through ‘zones of migration’, which they navigate and negotiate via the differing amounts of agency apportioned to them by the UK State on the basis of their legitimacy within and in relation to a tiered policy of immigration and asylum. Framed by this relationship with the UK State, migrants become agents of this legitimacy, which serves to empower or restrict their abilities to act. Further agency is found in securing paid employment and by ‘diasporic clustering’ rather than integration. The thesis argues that the concept of reflexive globalisation adds to the literature around ‘glocalisation’ and the ‘geography of power’ and that the study itself (in its development of substantive and lasting relationships with a ‘hard to reach sample’) offers practical insights from which other researchers may benefit.

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Supervisors:Thomson, P.L.
Uncontrolled Keywords:Immigrants, Great Britain
Faculties/Schools:UK Campuses > Faculty of Social Sciences, Law and Education > School of Education
ID Code:2389
Deposited By:Mr RJ Toalster
Deposited On:03 Sep 2012 15:27
Last Modified:03 Sep 2012 15:27

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