Strangers within? Russian-speakers’ migration from Latvia to London: a study in power geometry and intersectionality

2018-10-30T14:08:14Z (GMT) by Aija Lulle Iveta Jurkane-Hobein
This paper seeks to contribute to debates on ethnic identification and migration through a focus on a specific group – Russian-speakers from the Baltic state of Latvia who have migrated to the UK. Twenty-six interviews with members of this group were gathered in London and the wider metropolitan area during 2012 and 2014. Russian-speakers represent uniquely combined configurations of ‘the other within’: in most cases, they are EU citizens with full rights; yet, some still hold non-citizens’ passports of Latvia. While in Latvian politics Russian-speakers are framed as ‘others’ whose identities are shaped by the influence of Russia, interview findings confirm that they do not display belonging to contemporary Russia. However, London is the ‘third space’ – a multicultural European metropolis – which provides new opportunities for negotiating ethnic identification. Against the background of triple ‘alienation’ (from Latvia, from Russia and from the UK) we analyse how ethnicity is narrated intersectionally with other categories such as age and class. The findings show that Russian-speaking migrants from Latvia mobilise their Europeanness and Russianness beyond alienating notions of (ethno)national identity. The paper also demonstrates that being open to ethnicity as a category of practice helps us towards a progressive conceptualisation of often overlooked dimensions of integration of intra-EU linguistic ‘others’.