Convivial Cultures in Multicultural Societies: Narratives of Polish Migrants in Britain and Spain

  • Alina Rzepnikowska-Phillips

Student thesis: Phd


The European Union expansion in 2004 has resulted in the most significant migration within Europe in recent years. While a contemporary understanding of multicultural Europe often emerges from politicians' ideas on managing diversity, this thesis concentrates on a new understanding of multicultural societies which emerges from routine interaction between the recent arrivals and established individuals. These new patterns of interaction are a result of what Gilroy (2004) calls conviviality. While the literature on conviviality tends to focus on non-white ethnic minorities, my study fills the gap in research by concentrating on convivial experience of recent migrants coming from a predominantly white society to super-diverse cities. This research empirically explores how convivial culture emerges in encounters between Polish migrant women and the local population in Manchester and Barcelona, in the context of post-2004 migration. By applying a cross-cultural comparative and gendered approach to research on conviviality, the thesis focuses on Polish presence increasingly affecting multiple and complex relations situated in a specific time and place, and positioned by personal biographies. It develops the conceptualisation of conviviality by drawing on the historic and contemporary forms of convivencia in the Spanish and Latin American context. This allows an understanding of conviviality as a practical and dynamic process grounded in daily interactions. Furthermore, the conceptual framework is situated within the emerging field of geographies of encounters, and literature on race, racism and whiteness. It draws on the combination of methods, including participant observation, focus groups and narrative interviews conducted with Polish migrant women in Manchester and Barcelona. It stresses the importance of a person-centred approach through a use of cases. This contributes to a better understanding of everyday social relations between these women and the local population, including settled ethnic minorities and other migrants. The empirically explored narratives shed light on interaction in a myriad of quotidian situations in various spaces of the neighbourhoods, homes and in the workplaces. These encounters illustrate various forms of conviviality not necessarily free from tensions and classed, racialised and gendered perceptions of the Other.
Date of Award1 Aug 2016
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorBridget Byrne (Supervisor) & Chris Perriam (Supervisor)


  • conviviality, convivencia, Polish migration, encounter, ethnicity, gender, race, whiteness, class, racism, city, Manchester, Barcelona

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