Oana Romocea presents her paper 'Transformative stages of migrant identity' in Parallel session VI(C) of the conference Examining Migration Dynamics: Networks and Beyond, 24-26 Sept 2013
Part of my doctoral research, the present paper aims to explore how migrant identity transforms over time in response to political and social changes. For the purpose of this study, I conducted in-depth interviews with first-generation Romanian migrants settled in the UK over the last half a century. Using the timing and reason of their relocation, I identified three sub-groups: pre-1989 political refugees, post-1989 knowledge diaspora and post-1989 labour migrants. The study is both a diachronic and synchronic analysis which follows the identity transformation, dynamism and re-adaptation of the Romanian migrant community. I argue that political and social changes have led to major identity shifts within the migrant community at both individual and collective level. If before the 1989 revolution, the Romanians settled in the UK had formed an active diaspora, during the 1990s, they lost this status and became known as an immigrant community motivated by aims of personal development. However, we have been witnessing a new transformative stage since 2007 when Romania joined the European Union. The Romanians settled in the UK have again started displaying traits specific to an incipient diaspora.
The study takes into account patterns of migrant integration in the context of everyday experiences in order to understand how Romanians in Britain have, over time, delineated their relationship both to their homeland and the host society across the transnational space of Europe. This interrelation is a dominant element of the diasporic imagination of what it means to be Romanian, given the migration experience. Based on this analysis, my study will reveal how the Romanian migrants responded to political and cultural changes, addressed identity crisis, adapted to new contexts and reinvented themselves. All these processes are reflected in the transformation of their migrant identity.