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“We have a little bit more finesse, as a nation”: Constructing the Polish Worker in London's Building Sites

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This paper examines how male Polish builders in London construct themselves relationally to English builders as they negotiate their place within the labour hierarchies of the building site and in the London labour market. This is based on semi-structured interviews and participant photographs taken by Polish migrants arriving in the aftermath of the European Union expansion in May 2004, and now working in building sites across London. These buildings sites are mundane elements of a global city which employ transnational labour, and where differences between Polish and English builders become significant discursive tools of survival in a competitive labour market. The paper illustrates how Polish workers mark themselves as “superior” to English builders through the versatility of their embodied skills, work ethic, artistic qualities, and finesse in their social interactions on the building site. This paper thus provides new ways of understanding the meanings of work and the complexity of identity politics within the spaces of low-paid manual work in a global city.
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Keywords: English; Polish; building site; difference; identity; work

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Cities Programme, London School of Economics and Political Science, London, UK;, Email: [email protected] 2: Department of Geography, Royal Holloway, University of London, Egham, Surrey TW20 0EX, UK;, Email: [email protected]

Publication date: 2009-06-01

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