Racialised ‘price tag’: Intersectional commodification of Central and Eastern European workers in the UK labour market
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This thesis explores the intersectional commodification of migrant labour from post-socialist EU Accession 8 (A8) countries and its effects on Polish and Slovenian migrant workers in the UK. Using historical and macro socio-economic contexts as its point of departure, the thesis aims to uncover how a postcolonial narrative surrounding A8 countries’ transition to market economies and their accession to the EU has legitimised on-going colonial processes that construct A8 countries and their nationals as second class EU citizens and re-evaluate subjectivities in relation to the market. Further, it explores how this narrative has been appropriated by transnational employment agencies that colonise A8 countries and as such play an active role in commodifying A8 workers and supplying them to the UK. Moreover, the thesis sets out specifically to explore how this colonisation and its narrative affect workers’ (self)value and emigration from Poland and Slovenia, as well as the value extraction possibilities and strategies of diverse actors involved in transnational labour relations between East and West. Through a transdisciplinary adoption of a Bourdieuian conceptual framework, this research offers an original theoretical and methodological toolkit for complex intersectional analyses that uncovers the multiple and misrecognised power relations associated with embodied categories, spatial and temporal dimensions and varying modalities of knowledge. As such, it uncovers on-going colonial processes that characterise a contemporary post-socialist world marked by changed transnationalised consumption and production processes and the marketization of cultural, diversity and identity politics. In this way, the research uncovers symbolic economy hidden under neoliberal (self)colonisation, which enables strategic utilisation of migrant labour and disciplines, segments and divides the global poor. By providing a broader comparative analysis of diverse actors and A8 groups, the thesis widens our understanding of A8 labour migration to the UK and also leads to insights into the remaking of class, race and gender politics on the local and global scales.
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