Translocal Lives: Social Reproduction Amongst Polish Migrant Entrepreneurs in the UK

Monday, 11 July 2016
Location: Hörsaal 41 (Main Building)
Distributed Paper
Catherine HARRIS, University of Sheffield, United Kingdom
Since EU enlargement in 2004, which enabled the free movement of workers, the UK has seen migration from Eastern Europe on an unprecedented scale, with flows from Poland being arguably and visibly dominant. One feature of this is Polish migrant entrepreneurship, with migrants establishing businesses to serve the local migrant populations, but also increasingly the wider market. As such, Polish migrant entrepreneurs have built lives in the UK, not only through establishing businesses but raising families, making friends and buying homes. In order to operate, these businesses rely on translocal relationships and linkages, often with family members elsewhere in the UK or remaining in Poland. A feature which is heavily apparent in the functioning of these migrant businesses and translocal relationships is social reproduction.

In response, the paper explores social reproduction through translocal exchanges within Polish migrant businesses in the UK.  The research is based upon in-depth interviews with Polish migrant entrepreneurs in the West Midlands region of the UK, who migrated around the time of EU enlargement in 2004.  In particular, the paper explores the financial relationships involved in such businesses which operate across borders, whilst maintaining local-local ties. This exchange of capital and financial advice is often provided by family (usually parents) who remain in Poland and as such demonstrates translocal social reproduction.  The entrepreneurs’ social relationships within the social network in which they are embedded, particularly those with family members, are critical in shaping entrepreneurial aspirations and behavior and are also explored in the paper. Entrepreneurial decisions are often based on a family-first rather than a business-first perspective and again have a translocal element.

The paper contributes to debates about migrant entrepreneurship and social reproduction through the concept of translocality and questions whether such factors are specific to migrant entrepreneurs or applicable to migrants more broadly.