Calendar of ICES

ICES Lecture: Dr. Simone Varriale (University of Lincoln)

This lecture explores how migrants’ strategies of class distinction reproduce racialised hierarchies between ‘modern’ and ‘backward’ European populations. Drawing on 57 interviews with Italian migrants who moved to England after the 2008 economic crisis, and combining Bourdieusian class analysis and decolonial critique, the lecture shows that migrants in different social positions are equally concerned with claiming closeness to the UK’s meritocratic culture and with distancing themselves from Italy’s backwardness. However, they mobilise unequal forms of capital to sustain this claim. More resourceful migrants use economic and cultural capital to demonstrate fit with British culture and to racialise less resourceful co-nationals as too ‘Southern’ to belong. The latter stress self-resilience and Italianness as sources of distinction, but more frequently report exploitation and stigma in the context of insecure, low-status professional fields. The paper advances research on migration, class and racialisation unravelling the coloniality of distinction, namely how class helps more resourceful migrants to symbolically claim modernity and, implicitly, North European whiteness while displacing ‘race’ – in the forms of laziness, lack of rationality and self-restraint – onto less resourceful migrants.

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