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Not quite white: the gap between EU rhetoric and the experience of Poles’ mobility to the UK

Myslinska, Dagmar Rita (2019) Not quite white: the gap between EU rhetoric and the experience of Poles’ mobility to the UK. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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This thesis takes account of east-west power differentials to explore Poles’ experience of mobility and their positioning within EU and UK equality frameworks. Through a systematic content analysis of laws and legal discourse related to mobility and equality, I explore how the historical hierarchy positioning the west as superior and the east as unable to be fully ‘European’ can still be observed today in how EU and UK policies have pushed the eastern region and its nationals to the periphery of Europe and of whiteness. Whereas cleavage between EU ideals and EU citizens’ actual experience of its policies has been attributed to the EU’s limited competence, I propose that the EU project itself has been founded on and continues to propagate differentiation between the west and the east, at odds with the EU’s fundamental rights narratives. Notably, EU rhetoric has imagined the EU project as a western endeavour. Unequal accession policies and post-accession transitional mobility restrictions had helped to support the creation of a social reality that enables Polish movers’ racialisation and inequality, reinforced through the recently increasing willingness of EU institutions to limit workers’ access to mobility. EU institutions have tended to overlook mobile Poles’ experiences of inequality and exploitation, further naturalising their status as second-class EU citizens. The Racial Equality Directive has not accounted for them in its promulgation or interpretation, and has been especially unfit for protecting their rights. Similarly, movers have been absent from how equality is conceptualised in the UK. The Equality Act’s ineffectiveness appears compounded when it comes to protecting the rights of Polish movers, as revealed through my review of employment tribunal cases. Through such othering and omissions, the west’s relationship with the east has reproduced markers of coloniality. My research also suggests that critical race theory and critical whiteness studies frameworks should pay greater attention to contemporary transnational power dynamics and mobility. Only then can the concepts of racism and race begin to more accurately reflect the nuanced picture of micro-level racial and ethnic power relations in today’s globalised world.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2019 Dagmar Rita Myslinska
Library of Congress subject classification: J Political Science > JN Political institutions (Europe)
J Political Science > JV Colonies and colonization. Emigration and immigration. International migration
Sets: Departments > Law
Supervisor: Phillips, Coretta and Lacey, Nicola

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