Beyond ‘us’ and ‘them’: Migrant encounters with difference and reimagining the national
In an era of accelerated international mobility, individuals have increased opportunities to confront values, practices and discourses linked to their national belonging with lifestyles, cultural scripts and social norms of receiving societies. This paper discusses how migrants who move between a relatively homogeneous society (Poland) and a superdiverse one (the UK), negotiate ‘the national’ and ‘the foreign’ in orientalist binary oppositions. It explores how Polish migrants’ lived experience of difference in the UK context impacts on the construction of Poland. As such, it focuses on essentialist discourses of ‘inferiority’ and ‘superiority’ (of the UK to Poland and vice versa) that are mobilised while migrants negotiate what they believe are British values (i.e. tolerance and diversity) and Polish values (i.e. family). The article draws upon multiple interviews and audio-diaries from a wider study that explores Polish migrants’ encounters with difference and the circulation of values and attitudes between Poland and the UK.