Review of Migrants in the City: New Dynamics of Migration in Urban Settings Conference

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On October 12-13th I had a pleasure to participate at a conference titled “Migrants in the City: New Dynamics of Migration in Urban Settings”, brought by a collaboration between The Sheffield Methods Institute, Faculty of Social Sciences Migration Research Group and the ESRC Applied Quantitative Methods Network. Thanks to the Ailsa McKay Travel Grant organised by the Feminist & Women’s Studies Association (FWSA) I had an opportunity to give a presentation at this interdisciplinary and international event on the challenge of investigating social inequality and work experience of Polish women in the Scottish hospitality industry.

The conference sought to provide a discussion forum for the phenomenon of contemporary international migration and questions of urban spaces, diversity and inclusion. The event explored a variety of related issues ranging from causes and consequences of international migration to gender and family life of migrant communities and issues of identity. The discussion was organised into five parallel steams and several workshop sessions. I had a pleasure to present in a stream dedicated “Spaces of diversity: negotiation of difference in different spatial scales” where together with Wan Teng Lai, from University of Bonn and Maren Boersma, from City University of Hong Kong, we talked about gendered work experience of migrant women.

My presentation was titled “Visibility of inequality and the question of research methods”. I was the first to present in our afternoon workshop. In my paper I revisited Joan Acker’s seminal work on inequality regimes and discussed the methodological challenge of invisibility of inequality in the organisational context. I discuss a multi-method framework applied in my doctoral study of Polish migrant women’s experience of work in the Scottish hospitality industry. The paper concluded with early findings emerging from the data set showing that Polish women who participated in my study experienced both privilege and disadvantage on the basis of their gender and national identity.

Wan and Maren, who are also a PhD students, illustrated in their presentation gendered work of migrants out-side of the UK. Wan’s paper looked at the everyday experience of factory and construction workers in Malaysia from Indonesia, Vietnam, Nepal, Myanmar, Bangladesh and the Philippines. Wan discussed the migrant worker’s agency and coping strategies with harsh working conditions. She argued that her research participants are neither passive victims nor active fighters. Through aspects of consumption, fun, dressing style, social relations or entrepreneurship they experience new form of freedom in the host country. Maren gave a presentation about worker-employer relationship of Filipina domestic workers in Hong-Kong. In their clearly gendered work experience domestic workers are constrained specially and temporally. Maren found that while some Filipina women try to have a positive notion of their migration experience others are ‘stuck’ in their situation. The whole stream was hosted by Catherine Harris, who manged to provoke an interesting discussion after each presentation.

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