Crossing boundaries of cultures and identities: Polish migrants in Belfast

  • Marta Kempny

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    This thesis deals with the construction of ethnic identities of Polish migrants in Belfast. It proposes an understanding of identity as a multidimensional and multilayered entity, and focuses on the processual nature of shaping of one’s sense of belonging, where different kinds of identities are in dialogue. My study then centres on the array of possible identities that migrants in Belfast tend to embrace: Polish,regional (representative of small homeland), Slavic, European, and cosmopolitan self. In relation to the emphasis on the dynamic nature of one’s belonging, the thesis also tackles the issue of dialectics inherent in migrants’ attempts to maintain their culture. It focuses on the dialectics between people’s efforts to preserve rigid boundaries of their culture and the tendency to transgress them, present both in everyday life, and in religious holidays and ethnic festivals. Furthermore, the thesis examines the role of religion as an important factor in shaping ethnic identities of Poles, focusing also on the migrants’ perceptions of the Catholic-Protestant conflict in Northern Ireland. Finally, it raises the issue of narrative construction of self-image of a victimized social group, depicting certain cultural scripts that migrants employ in their interpretation and dealing with perceived discrimination and hate crime.I conclude that self ascription as Polish remains a powerful building block of identity In the context of Northern Ireland’s sectarian division, migrants’Catholicism becomes a salient feature of their experienced identity, and due to the longstanding linkages between Catholicism, notions of victim hood and Polish nationalism, this heightened experience of Catholicism, feeds a heightened sense of Polishness. Nevertheless, Polish migrants are open to potential movement beyond the ethnic group, and to the accretion of additional, contextually moulded, layers of identity.This research includes both qualitative and quantitative methods: in-depth interviews, participant observation, textual analysis and structured questionnaire.
    Date of AwardJul 2010
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • Queen's University Belfast
    SupervisorLisette Josephides (Supervisor)

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