Louise Ryan and Jon Mullholland (University of Sheffield, UWE) ‘Highly skilled migrants in the City of London: Applying the concept of differentiated embedding to understand responses to Brexit’

31 October 2019, 5.00 PM - 31 October 2019, 7.00 PM

10 Woodland Road G4/5

The Centre of Ethnicity and Citizenship Seminar

Louise Ryan and Jon Mullholland (University of Sheffield, UWE) 

Title: Highly skilled migrants in the City of London: Applying the concept of differentiated embedding to understand responses to Brexit

Drawing upon the concept of differentiated embedding as a way of understanding how EU migrants, resident in the UK, are responding to Brexit. We draw upon a rich, longitudinal dataset of French highly skilled migrants whom we have interviewed repeatedly over a 7 year period.  Having interviewed them both before and after the Brexit referendum, our data offer insights into how their experiences and evaluations of life and work in the UK have changed in response to the UK planned exit from the EU.

As a relatively privileged, ‘low-visibility’ group, our participants had tended not to see themselves as migrants, but took advantage of mobility rights as EU citizens to develop their careers in London. Following the 2016 referendum, their attitudes had changed considerably. They expressed novel feelings of rejection, being defined now as outsiders and immigrants.

Our framework of differentiated embedding, understood as an active process of developing belonging and attachment over time, is useful in analysing these reactions to Brexit. When we first met them, our participants seemed to be successfully embedding in the labour market and in the diverse cultural life of London.  Now, some appear to be ‘disembedding’, while others are engaging in ‘civic embedding’ by applying for British citizenship as a way of securing their employment and settlement rights. This shows the dynamic, differentiated and contingent contexts of belonging and attachments, even for the most privileged migrants, and suggests the value of a concept of differentiated embedding in making sense of the complex, processual and changing nature of migrants’ relationships to people and places in migration contexts.

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