'We all eat the same bread': the roots and limits of cosmopolitan sociability amongst Romanians in London
(Oxford Brookes University)
Paper short abstract:
The paper examines the cosmopolitan social networks of Romanians in London. Building on recent theorisations of ‘everyday’ forms of cosmopolitan sociability, it explores the interplay of ethnic and non-ethnic elements in the constitution of cosmopolitan migrant ties, their benefits and limitations.
Paper long abstract:
Romanians are a recent addition to London's highly diverse population. Their low 'ethnic' visibility and relatively modest numbers raise questions about the extent to which they partake in London's diverse social landscape or retreat in familiar, ethnic spaces. This paper examines how Romanians forge ties and socialise with migrants from diverse backgrounds in work and residential contexts. The analysis has two aims. First, it contributes to recent theorisations of 'everyday' cosmopolitanism, showing how cosmopolitan attitudes and behaviours emerge not only amongst privileged migrants but also in contexts of precariousness. Whilst some scholars envisage cosmopolitan sociability as uniting individuals despite ethnic and related differences, I show how Romanians' cosmopolitan networks comprise both ethnic and non-ethnic elements. Migrants' non-native status and experiences of vulnerability in Britain constitute non-ethnically marked commonalities that engender migrant solidarities. Yet migrants' ethno-cultural background sometimes becomes an important ingredient of cosmopolitan socialisation, revealing the ongoing currency of ethnicity in participants' daily experiences. Second, the paper examines the role of cosmopolitan networks. Contrary to common assumptions about the universal benefits of cross-ethnic ties, Romanians' narratives reveal both their advantages and limitations. Migrants' cosmopolitan ties yield significant cultural and social capital, providing companionship, daily support and opportunities for personal development. However, these ties also evidence important downsides, due to their convenient and fleeting nature as well as limited capacity to facilitate migrants' institutional integration and upward mobility. Unpacking these aspects contributes to a more nuanced view of the nature, role and limits of 'everyday' cosmopolitan socialisation in migrants' lives.
Vernacular cosmopolitanisms in an age of anxiety