|European Union Enlargement and Diasporic Networks of Communication: the politicization of Romanian work diasporas in the United Kingdom, Spain and Italy|
|This paper proposes to analyse the results of a multidisciplinary project, which looks at the uses of new media (Internet, mobile phones) by Romanian work migrants. Online non-institutionalized communities provide information and support to pre-migrants, ‘newcomers’ and established migrants, facilitate networks of socialization and construct an imaginary home. This process has to negotiate between cyber and physical spaces, situating the diaspora within the actual social, cultural and political context of both the original home and the host.
Digital networks of communication help construct diasporic identity and facilitate ‘safe passage’, but ultimately have the potential to produce politically assertive groups. The politicization of diasporic groups is important because it helps combat ‘social dumping’ (Giddens 2007) and ‘differential’ or ‘racialized exclusion’ (Schierup et. al. 2006), particularly in the absence of a EU agreed common policy.
Although some progress has been made in the fields of migration, workers rights and social provisions, Western European states still adopt individual stances in the face of Eastern European migration resulting from the 2004 and 2007 EU enlargements. The project argues the need for a European framework that would address the perceived threat of ‘postnational’ ideologies (Balibar 2004). It aims to show how work migrants and new diasporic networks of communication promote a ‘cosmopolitan’ European identity (Delanty and Rumford 2005) that outstrips the traditional understanding of national identity. It is through such networks that migrants acquire ‘transnational capital’ (Meinhof and Triandafyllidou 2006).
The research encompasses Italy (largest Romanian migrant community – over 1 million), Spain (half a million) and the UK (more professionalized Romanian migrants and yet the sight of more acerbic anti-Romanian press discourse and general Euroscepticism, with evolving and somewhat haphazard policies regarding work migrants and workers rights).
The research methodology contains three tiers.
Media tier: newspapers with the largest circulation in the UK, Spain, Italy and Romania (Sun, El Pais, Corriere della Sera, Evenimentul Zilei) were monitored for one month before and one month after the 1st January 2007 enlargement. Aim: understand the discourse of the majority and the issues associated with enlargement (e.g. impact of work migration).
Web tier: the main Romanian diasporic websites in the 3 target countries were also analysed and the chat group exchanges monitored over the same period to understand the topics, debates and protagonists. Aim: comprehend the use of websites at a time of key political and legal change; analyse the responses to the issues raised by majority media, including signs of political activism and public stance (particularly in Italy).
Migrant, oral history tier: focus groups and interviews with Romanian migrants aim to highlight the construction of meaning through the consumption of new technologies. Aim: this methodology not only records ‘oral history’, but also adopts the concept of ‘global mediagraphy’ (Rantanen 2005), which maps individual life stories onto global social, cultural and media phenomena.