Moving lives : everyday experiences of nation and migration within the Polish, Greek-Cypriot and Italian populations of Leicester since 1945
This thesis aims to uncover and explore a series of everyday experiences of migration, a phenomenon which can be both a monumental upheaval and an ordinary activity. The research for this study has been carried out in Leicester, a city recognised for its large and diverse migrant population, orientating around Polish, Greek-Cypriot and Italian immigrants, three relatively small but distinctive migrant groups. Based on evidence collected from 55 oral history/in-depth interviews and supplemented by other sources including the census, local newspapers and several pie-recorded interviews, four overlapping themes are considered. The first studies the migration process itself, highlighting the important contrast between voluntary and involuntary migration and examining the different memories and legacies of migration. While migration has been the pivotal experience in Polish life histories, for example, it has been notably less significant for the Italian and Greek-Cypriot interviewees. Secondly, the national, rather than ethnic, identities of the groups are analysed, demonstrating how national consciousness survives the upheaval of migration to continue through the recognition of national histories, traditional rituals and material culture, and the persistence of national myths and ambiguities. The third theme incorporates the different respondents' memories and experiences of their homelands, focusing especially on the transnational connections that are established with the national territory after migration. Subscriptions to national satellite television channels, for example, have become an important feature in homeland relationships in the past decade. Finally, different experiences of community life in Leicester are studied, considering how 'community' is projected in the interviews, and analysing the shared social and cultural norms and values that underpin community life. Using the individual testimonies, the study highlights the tensions felt between collective ideals and personal autonomy. Overall the thesis seeks to assert the continued importance of national identity in migrants' everyday lives, and the flexibility of collective constructs which allow each respondent to experience migration, nation and community individually.