Skip to main content
Rebordering Britain & Britons after Brexit

Performing whiteness: Central and Eastern European young people's experiences of xenophobia and racialisation in the UK post-Brexit


The state-induced anti-immigration environment and the normalisation of xenophobia in political and media discourses have led to the increased othering of European migrants in the UK through new forms of social stratification, especially since the Brexit Referendum of 2016. For young people who migrated to the UK as children from Central and Eastern Europe, Brexit has represented a major rupture in the process of their identity formation, adding new insecurities in the context of increasingly uncertain rights. Based on a survey with 1,120 young people aged 12-18 who identified as Central or Eastern European migrants, followed by focus groups and case studies, we report on young migrants' everyday experiences of xenophobia and racialisation. We explore the coping and resistance strategies young people used to integrate themselves in these racialized hierarchies. Drawing on insights from emergent theories of racialisation and whiteness, we add new evidence on the direct consequences of these experiences of marginalisation on young people's sense of belonging and their own attitudes towards other ethnic groups.

You might also be interested in :

New Scots? Eastern European Young People's Feelings of Belonging and National Identity in Scotland Post-Brexit
This article examines the impact of Brexit on young people aged 12-18 who had moved to Scotland from Central and Eastern Europe. It draws on empirical data collected with over 250 young people who contributed to an online survey and focus groups between 2016-2018…
Economic turbulence and labour migrants' mobility intentions: Polish migrants in the United Kingdom, Ireland, the Netherlands and Germany 2009-2016
Economists view earnings as a primary driver of migration, both actual and intended. However, studies on the relationship between migration intentions and earnings yield mixed results. We argue that earnings are an important factor…
Inclusion through irregularisation? Exploring the politics and realities of internal bordering in managing post-crisis labour migration in the EU
The technologies and practices of migration management are changing profoundly. They have been extended beyond territorial borders, immigration policies and assigned legal identities and downshifted to `inside' spaces across state and non-state `ordinary institutions'.
Policy, office, votes–and integrity. The British Conservative Party, Brexit, and immigration
While Europe’s so-called migration crisis is of fairly recent origin, some of the continent’s centre-right parties have been successfully politicising immigration for at least half a century. But that success and that politicisation can come at a heavy price–for the country, for the party…




Daniela Sime (United Kingdom)
Naomi Tyrrell (United Kingdom)
Emmaleena Käkelä (United Kingdom)
Marta Moskal (United Kingdom)

Article meta

Country / region covered

Population studied

Year of Publication

Source type