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The Race, Class and Gender of Transnational Urban Labour: Romanian Workers in the Cities of London and NYC

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - MigrWorkers (The Race, Class and Gender of Transnational Urban Labour: Romanian Workers in the Cities of London and NYC)

Reporting period: 2015-09-01 to 2017-08-31

My project is titled Race, Class, and Gender of Transnational Urban Labor: Romanian Workers in the Cities of London and NYC. The central problem addressed by the project is transnational work migration, which is an important topic because migration flows continually change the structures of our lives, communities, and politics. In Britain, increased diversity has become central to dialogues about citizenship rights and responsibilities, social justice, community inclusion. These debates took a turn toward exclusionary effects during the Brexit campaigns and Brexit negotiations. In the United States, migration is also at the core of political debates, legislative reforms and shifts toward populist exclusionary discourses targeting migrants. The research sites of this project were London and NYC. Its overall objectives were: a) to analyzes the politics of immigrant labor; b) to analyze the production of racialized modes of femininity and masculinity associated with Romanian "low-skilled" and "high-skilled" labor in two centers of global capitalism.

Theoretically the project engaged with analyses of labor sectors situated within and beyond the so called low skilled feminized realms (e.g domestic or sexual work). In doing that I drew upon feminist scholarship on transnational circuits of affective labor in order to theorize the emotional dimensions associated with other discrete economic sectors governed by contemporary politics of austerity (e.g. humanitariasm and NGO work, medical services, finance and banking, education and research).

Towards this ends, qualitative data was collected: a total of 70 in depth,unstructured interviews were collected in London and NYC; a total of 900 hours of ethnographic work were conducted in neighborhoods of London and NYC; archival and newsmedia data sets.The research illuminates processes of racialization in the UK and the US reliant on modes of othering that move beyond the focus on physiological difference that figured so prominently in 19th and 20th century scientific racism. By placing discourses of work at the core of its investigations, it traces constructions of ethnicity and nationality that shift the boundaries of belonging to exclude those who fall squarely within the category "Caucasian." Furthermore, it shows modes of femininity and masculinity are rearticulated within structures of transnational class stratification and vocabularies specific to neoliberal capitalism. Presently the analysis traces the increasing racism and xenophobia promoted by neoliberalism within global cities. Finally, I seek to theorize global cities not only as spaces that produce conditions for the exploitation for gendered and racialized labor, but also as spaces that enable the formation of new politics toward labor justice, citizenship and cultural dialogue.
During the duration of the grant, 1.09.15-31.08.17 I carried out the following research activities:
-- preliminary research was for the two sites of the project, London and NYC;
-- compiling and analysis of theoretical and empirical studies to inform the project with the state-of-the-art literature;
-- gathering a corpus of archival and news media texts throughout the grant period (the news media collection was expanded particularly for the London-site due to the prominent impact that Brexit/Brexit negotiations have had on the lives of work migrants from the EU, and in particular from Eastern Europe and Romania);
-- fieldwork for empirical data gathering was also completed with 35 in-depth interviews collected per site, ranging from 1-5 hours, with a significant number of participants having agreed to participate in follow-up meetings and leading to a total of 900 hours of cumulative ethnographic work;
-- the data collected was mobilized during data analysis and theoretical analysis phases toward the development of conference papers, workshop materials, academic and blog publications, informal and formal exchanges for the researcher's training purposes;
-- 2 book chapters and a book contract were completed and 2-3 articles and a book manuscript are in work-in-progress stage;
-- 2 new projects on the theme of migration were developed, one of which was awarded a 2017 Leverhulme grant.
The 18 months of ethnographic work in NYC and London were outstandingly productive thanks to the generosity of my research participants. The work histories and professional trajectories of my interviewees varied considerably by destination, moment of arrival in relation to the end of the Cold War (NYC) or in relation to the 2007 EE Enlargement and 2014 lifting of work restrictions (London), entry visa and citizenship status, qualifications and educational attainment, support networks, living in co-ethnic enclaves or integrating into the ethnic mosaics of their city. Many conversations shed light on intimate and work immigrant experiences among heightened securitization measures. Drawing insight from the work of geographers, anthropologists and cultural theorists on global migration, I delved into analyses that placed my data in dialogue with affective theories and feminist scholarship on the negative consequences of continued neoliberalizing economies, of anti-immigrant mobilizations and of pressures towards securitization.

The results of the 23 June UK Referendum occurred midway through my MCSA grant. This moment held central significance to my research participants and interviewees from London. As pointed out by a majority of my interviewees and research participants, Brexit had visible implications everyday effects on their work, livelihoods and social interactions. These, alongside the larger implications in relation to social, economic and political rights such as freedom of movement, employment, social security, activism and political participation in local and regional government constituted significant analytical trajectories for my research and they can lead to wider societal and policy impacts.

"What is coming out of your data? Who will benefit from it?" were questions asked by all my research participants. My answers always highlighted the significance of making their experiences known to the students and practitioners of public policy as well as of social advocacy and politics. Particularly in the aftermath of Brexit, whose results have been attributed by many to misinformation and misunderstanding of migration data, I came to understand that research projects should culminate in strong education and outreach activities. The effects of such an expanded field of communication reach past the mere dissemination of research outcomes. Day to day conversations could in fact contribute not only to sensitizing and but also to getting people involved in debates that lead to inclusive communities.

The thematic analysis of my data revealed thematic segments (comparative explorations of migrant motherhood; career planning strategies; educational strategies for upward professional mobility; the role of the church in the making of migrant communities; intra- and inter-ethnic political affinities; intra-ethnic class stratifications) that could structure timely syllabi on Work and Migration; Comparative Methodologies; Migration and Education. My MSCA project shaped my thinking in ways that made possible the development of my next project, Rethinking Education: Young Migrants, Citizenship and Inclusive Communities, funded by Leverhulme Foundation and hosted by Strathclyde.
Publications of the Romanian Orthdox Institute, Queens, NYC, 2016
Romanian Music Performance at the Orthodox Cathedral, Manhattan, NYC, 2016
Eastern European Grocery Store, Queens, NYC, 2016
Romanian furniture factory's collaboration with street artists, Brooklyn, 2016
Romanian Music Festiva, fEAST, London, 2016
News Media Rhetoric_UCL Migration Conference, 2017
Romanian Store and Library, Wembley, London, 2017
Romanian Grocery Store, Catford, Londom, 2017
Romanian Churches in Queens, Entry points in NYC fieldwork, 2016
Visual Art Event, Romanian Cultural Institute, London, 2016