The fall of the Communist regimes and the difficult transition to a free market economy stimulated many people in Central and Eastern Europe to leave their country. Most of them moved to Western Europe and found a job as domestic workers (cleaning woman, building worker, plumber, etc.). In several European cities, big Central European communities arose. Some of them, for instance the ones in London and other British cities, count hundreds of thousand people since the EU enlargement of 2004.
These migration waves have not only influenced economy, but have also stimulated contacts between different European ethnic and national groups. The immigrants themselves face new social structures, values, principles, and behaviour patterns. Since they also keep in touch with their homeland (their movement is often considered as a pendulum migration), they share some of their experiences with their compatriots staying at home. Also Western Europeans have been influenced by this migration. The employment of a Central European worker was often the first direct contact with an individual from the Eastern part of the continent.
At the conference, we want to analyze to what extent these migration waves had and have an influence on the construction of a European identity. How have contacts between employers and employees changed mutual perception and classic stereotypes? Are the identification processes negligible and what are the reasons (e.g. the confirmation of each other’s otherness or the lack of intense contacts and a common language)? Or have they led to the discovery of common features and, if so, which ones and which frameworks are they put in (geographical and other ones)? Special attention will be paid to the European context and the representations, perceptions and divisions of the continent. This can include questions concerning, for instance, the influences of these contacts on the classic East-West division and the role of the 2004 enlargement on the political structuralization of strictly speaking illegal contacts. The research will focus on both hosts (employers) and guests (employees) and analyze if and how Europeanization processes have differed between these groups.
This conference is organized in the framework of a research project at the Jagiellonian University (Krakow) and the K.U.Leuven, that is subsidized by the Polish Minister of Science and Higher Education. It will present the first results of the analyzis of dozens of in-depth interviews concerning the Europeanization processes among Polish migrants in Belgium and their employers. However, the subject will be put in a broader context and other questions are welcomed. Do Western Europeans have other perceptions of Eastern European immigrants than of other migrant groups, for instance from the Far East or the Maghreb countries? How have these processes developed the last fifteen years: recent immigrants seem to have a different profile than the ones who migrated in the 1990s, children are sometimes raised in Western Europe, and these new groups must have another stance towards their Europeanization. How should we assess the influence of this labour migration on the homeland regions: next to financial input, it also causes difficult social situations, such as split families and disturbed neighbour relations. Which roles do immigrants play in other cases of geopolitical identification and perception?
For more information, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. We have already a preliminary program, but are still looking for some German scholars working on this subject.