Identity Politics in Local Markets: Comparing Immigrant Integration Outcomes in the ‘New’ Europe
Molles, Elitsa Vladimirova. “Identity Politics in Local Markets”, Boston College, 2015. http://hdl.handle.net/2345/bc-ir:104634.
This dissertation explores the factors that influence immigrant reception and integration in new immigration spaces like Dublin and Madrid. Through the case studies of Poles and Nigerians in Dublin and Ecuadorians and Bulgarians in Madrid, the thesis provides a response to three research questions: 1) How do Western European receiving societies construct inclusion and exclusion of the immigrant?; 2) Why do immigrants belong or fail to fit in?; 3) How do inclusion-exclusion dynamics and immigrants’ perceptions affect incorporation outcomes? The project contributes to migration scholarship by emphasizing the understudied cultural and local aspects of incorporation and bringing immigrant agency back into the integration equation. The central argument is that culture and identity matter. While acknowledging the significance of material self-interest, social contact, or national policy regimes, the dissertation finds that identity characteristics, both those of the newcomers and their host societies, are primary in determining the welcome or rejection of different ethnic communities in receiving cities. Further, the study shows that migrants are agents who form their own perceptions of belonging or isolation on the basis of cultural identity. These perceptions determine the foreigners’ stake in the host context and what they do with the openings and closures they face. The thesis concludes that political, economic, and social incorporation outcomes are ultimately conditioned on the interplay between the inclusion-exclusion dynamics in the receiving context and the immigrants’ perceptions of welcome or rejection. Analysis of in-depth interviews, survey data, and relevant documents and legislation for all four case studies confirms the main argument. The comparison among European and non-European immigrants in Dublin and Madrid attests to the significance of culture and identity for integration outcomes and contributes to the broader understanding of immigrant incorporation in Europe and beyond.