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Rebordering Britain & Britons after Brexit

The ambiguous lives of 'the other whites': Class and racialisation of Eastern European migrants in the UK


A body of recent literature has examined how migrants from Eastern European countries have been racialised in the UK both pre- and post-Brexit, and has explored the limits of their earlier assumed 'invisibility' owing to their perceived whiteness. Less attention has been placed on understanding how intersections of class and nationality may play out in these processes of racialisation. In this article we argue that it is precisely the entanglements between racialisation, nationality and class that are conditioning unequal possibilities of inclusion for different groups of migrants in British society, especially in the post-Brexit reality. Based on a qualitative longitudinal study with over 70 migrants from Poland and Lithuania, undertaken between 2019 and 2021, we demonstrate how cultural capital and other resources help migrants to 'pass as white' or, more precisely, 'middle class white' to escape certain forms of racialisation and othering experienced by their co-nationals. The acceptance into the 'community of value' is nevertheless conditional. The racialised and classed forms of othering force migrants to constantly prove their 'good immigrant' status either by reaffirming their class position, hiding their Eastern European origins and/or racialising other groups. Our article sheds light on the relational and entangled ways in which race, nationality and class are lived, negotiated and resisted by migrants and how they can be experienced simultaneously as a privilege, a burden and a weapon (for othering others).

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