‘I Didn't Expect It to be so Hard'. Expectations and Realities of Life in the West.

Thursday, 14 July 2016: 16:00
Location: Hörsaal I (Neues Institutsgebäude (NIG))
Oral Presentation
Polina MANOLOVA, University of Birmingham, United Kingdom
The increasing popularity of the UK as one of the most preferred migration destinations amongst Bulgarians is in contrast to the hostility with which migrants are met in British society and the precarious working and living conditions they often experience. This paper aims to explain the paradox of popularity despite hostility and the contrast between expectations and reality by exploring the role of the Western imaginary as providing continuous motivation for people’s migration projects. It is suggested that Bulgarian migrations to England are informed by an imaginary of the West, which can be seen as a part of a modern social imaginary process in which more and more people are convinced that life there will be better than here. The appropriation and application of different aspects of this imaginary are carried out in accordance to individual subjectivities and the different capitals at one’s disposal. By following a group of Bulgarian migrants on their way to the UK, this paper aims to account for the often experienced gap between such an idealized imaginary and the actual experiences of life in the West, as migrants struggle with various hurdles and precarity in their new lives abroad. As the realization that it is hard to ‘make it’ there settles in, people are caught in a constant process of redefining and reconsidering their migration projects in accordance to their changing circumstances. Return home, even when desired, is often not a viable option as migrants fear the insecurity of life in Bulgaria and the loss of social prestige which is often part of ‘unsuccessful migrations’. Thus in a process of constant re-examination and re-negotiation of migration plans, the West does not lose its pre-invested meaning and is thus uncritically reproduced in the practice of migration.