The economic mobility and the identity construction of Hungarian Roma migrants in Canada and in the UK – A comparative study
University College London
Anthropologists have recently shown a growing interest for the spatial configuration of economic life in societies in which future and hope have become synonymous with geographical mobility. Drawing on these approaches to the study of how people make their everyday living, I will depict a Hungarian Roma group’s migration trajectory between Hungary and Canada and two industrial cities in the UK during the last 3 years. My ethnographic findings show that it is hard to differentiate between political and economic migration; or to separate asylum seeking from labour migration. The paper will also address the following questions: 1) are there any specific ethnic patterns in the migrations of different Roma groups from Hungary or are they more class-related processes? 2) why do Hungarian Roma believe that the UK offers better opportunities for their families? The case study will show that it is much easier for Hungarian Roma to “switch ethnicity” and to ‘pass’ as non-Roma to a British person, thus achieving a higher social status in the host country. Furthermore, while there is much public talk about the Roma as a threat for the (imagined) national community and for the welfare state – Roma are in reality a demanded labour force in undervalued segments of the UK labour market. The unskilled Hungarian Roma migrants, among other East European labourers, provide a regular supply of cheap labour for factory work that no native British people want to take up.