How do Poles “Use” Their Diaspora Organizations? Evidence from Ireland and the UK

How do Poles “Use” Their Diaspora Organizations? Evidence from Ireland and the UK

Project: Endless Returns to the Homeland – Projects of National Identities Proposed by the Organizations of Polish Diaspora in Great Britain and Ireland in Times of Crisis (NCN, 2022/06/X/HS6/00814)

17.10.2023, Room 154, 12.00-14.00

The historical moment Poland is currently in – the war in Ukraine, the ongoing economic uncertainty, consequences of COVID-19 pandemic, growing political conflict, questions about deeper integration in the European Union and rapid influx of people of other nationalities into the country – forces civil society actors, politicians and state institutions to reevaluate existing definitions and contexts of national belonging. An extremely important framework for these revaluations is diaspora (Brubaker 2005). The national identity projects created within its borders are not important only by themselves – transnationalism (Morawska 2004), long-distance nationalism (Anderson 1992, 1998), return and rotational migrations (Dzięglewski 2020), as well as emerging transnational social movements and political communities (Köngeter, Smith 2015) are phenomena that have an impact on national identities beyond the host countries.

Previous research shows the impact of host countries, their policies and culture on the nature of the activities of Polish diaspora organizations and Polish migrants, and the growing the involvement of the Polish state in the activities of the Polish diaspora (Nowosielski 2016; Dzięglewski 2020; Nowosielski, Dzięglewski 2021). However, they do not answer questions related to the problem of diversity of national identities and contexts of their expression, focusing primarily on the institutional perspective. This preliminary project consists in conducting 60-days fieldwork in Great Britain and Ireland devoted to national identity projects created by Polish diaspora organizations. Great Britain and Ireland provide valuable comparative context for the proposed study that is placed in the framework sociology of culture (Alexander 2010, 2012), culturalist sociology of the nation (Kłoskowska 2005) and theoretical and methodological studies (Cohen 1985; Calhoun 1993) on the nation and empirical research on national identity (Billig 1995; Ścigaj 2012; Edensor 2004).

The project asks two general questions: 1) Are changes in host countries’ migration policies influence the national identity projects of Polish diaspora organizations? 2) What is the relationship between these changes and events such as the war in Ukraine and related migrations to Poland, as well as institutional connections with the Polish state institutions? The fieldwork brought some surprising results steering the project toward the political economy and political anthropology direction: the relations within Polish diaspora are complicated by divisions into different migration waves. These different migration groups do not just have different attitudes toward Polish and host countries’ states but also understand the state as such differently and use it to various, often divergent, purposes: to maintain their social status from Poland, integrate within British or Irish society or make sure that they do not have to fully embrace the new national identity.

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