Understanding trans-border career trajectories: Post-Soviet women professionals in London

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This thesis analyses transborder career trajectories to explain how the micro-level of working agency is imbedded into broader social processes. Women migrants’ professional careers are understudied in social sciences which overwhelmingly remain gender-blind and nationally bound. As a starting point this thesis understands working lives as a complex social phenomenon. The interdisciplinary socio-analytical framework elaborated within this thesis is rooted in the sociology of work and migration as well as in gender and area studies. The research develops a trans-border career trajectory approach which connects meanings, strategies and actions over time and space. The multi-dimensional impact of family and migration processes on working lives is critically analysed. Trans-border careers are explored from three interconnected perspectives: work-related values, resources for career-making and work-life balance practices. The thesis focuses on women professionals originating from post-Soviet Eurasia and settling in the UK. In-depth interviews have been conducted with thirty five women working in London. The participants moved to the UK between 1991 and 2011 from Belorussia, Kazakhstan, Moldova, Russia and Ukraine. They are ethnically diverse and speak Russian as a first or second language; most of them are in their thirties. This study conceptualises migrants as strategising agents and raises the visibility of a particular group of non-EU women professionals who often move through non-skilled migration routes. It sheds light on the largely unexplored area of post-Soviet migration of professionals to ‘the West’ and to London, in particular. This research also challenges ethnocentrism in migration studies and methodological nationalism in social sciences. The overarching argument of this thesis is that, on the one hand, neoliberal restructuring in the post-socialist region leads to mass out-migration as a life scenario. On the other, growing appreciation of ‘skills’ in knowledge-based economies allows for some (women) migrants with a strong ability to strategise around different forms of capital to secure middle class positions in ‘the civilised West’. They can do so mainly by building professional careers and creating dual career families across borders. Therefore, trans-border careers are interpreted as part of life strategising; however, this is not necessarily a case of upward social mobility. Key findings suggest that these processes can be better understood in terms of social reproduction of knowledge workers and dual career families across time and space. Finally, this thesis shows how the study of migrants’ working lives can contribute to the understanding of societal transformation in a particular country or region of origin (the post-socialist one here) and a particular place of destination (London here) as well as trans-nationally. In short, transborder career trajectories reflect the on-going interplay between continuities and changes in our society. Thus this thesis makes an interdisciplinary contribution to knowledge.

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... Migrations from Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) and the Former Soviet Union (FSU) have been mainly analysed in the historical context of the collapse of the Soviet Union and/or as labour migrations in the aftermath of the EU enlargement (Cretu, 2016;Datta, 2009;Fox et al., 2012;Kopnina, 2005;Manolova, 2018). This research has mainly constructed CEE and FSU migrants as economic subjects, as labour supply for Western European labour markets (Datta, 2009;Fox et al., 2012;Manolova, 2018). ...
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The article argues that the post-Soviet youth construct their migratory projects as an effort towards social distinction vis-a-vis post-socialist imaginary. We argue that their migration can be understood as a search for distinctiveness and for what is perceived as a ‘better’, that is, more western, lifestyle. Analysing their narratives through the prism of imagination, we demonstrate how young Russian-speakers vision the position of the post-socialist condition within the global coloniality of power and claim their belonging to the western project as educated young people with global cultural capitals. The article brings the case of Russian-speakers’ migration within debates on global coloniality and offers a contribution to the theorising of post-socialist imaginaries in the context of global coloniality and sociological imagination. The analysis is based on a multi-sited ethnographic fieldwork in 2014–2016 in Helsinki, Finland.
... These migrant categories are often assumed to relate to men by default, while women are represented as accompanying spouses and family migrants whose skills are not important. Therefore, despite a trend towards feminization of migration (Yinger 2006;Marinucci 2007) and an increasing participation of women in highly skilled migration flows (Iredale 2005;Dumont et al 2007;Docquier et al 2009), research on experiences of mobile women as independent and self-standing professionals is rather scarce (Liversage 2009;Vance, McNulty 2011;Cretu 2017). Taking into account that "feminised gender roles" constitute a vital component of women's migration experience (Raghuram 2008: 43), female specialists encounter particular difficulties in their international mobility in addition to adaptation and integration problems common for all immigrant professionals. ...
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Intensification of transnational academic mobility, rise in cross-border cooperation and expansion of global collaboration networks signify increasing internationalization of science and higher education. United Kingdom is one of the leading research nations accommodating scholars from different regions around the globe and one of the major migration destinations for scientists from Post-Soviet states, especially for professionals in STEM. Many studies are focused on scale, factors and consequences of this intellectual migration, but women are largely absent from these accounts, despite substantial share of female researchers and faculty in engineering and technical disciplines in former Soviet Union (FSU) countries. This paper seeks to partially fill this gap exploring migration of Russian-speaking female computer scientists (FCS) in the UK in 1990s-2000s on the basis of semi-structured interviews and open Internet sources. Taken into account that women are reported to be disadvantaged in computer science as a male dominated discipline and may suffer from additional pressure as immigrants in the host country, the study aims to answer the following questions: What is the specificity of migrant experiences of female scientists in comparison to their male counterparts? What difficulties do women scientists encounter in their movement and adaptation? What strategies do they develop to overcome these difficulties and professionally advance in British academia?
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Since the 1930s, a peculiar ‘working mother’ gender contract was dominant in the Soviet Union formally empowering women. The pressing expectation of this contract and a necessity to combine motherhood, housework and employment led to the image of the near superwoman who ‘has it all’. This paper examines whether highly-skilled Russian-speaking female academics continue to adhere to this cultural ideal in constructing their work-life balance after migration to the UK and Germany. Based on qualitative interviews with 22 female scholars, the article provides a typology of scenarios for negotiating professional and private life. It elaborates on how role-related partners contribute to achieving balance between paid employment and mothering, and explores the consequences for women’s well-being. Moreover, the study suggests a feminist approach to analyzing work-family balance, which valorises women’s point of view, emphasizing motherhood, children and family relations as an essential personal and social value, while also documenting the increasing challenges faced in the realization of these life priorities.
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Labor market trajectories of migrants are seldom explored in a longitudinal and comparative perspective. However, a longitudinal approach is crucial for a better understanding of migrants’ long-term occupational attainments, while comparative research is useful to disentangle specificities and general processes across destination and origin countries. This article explores the labor market outcomes of migrants from Senegal, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Ghana in different European countries, using the MAFE data to compare their occupational attainments before migration, upon arrival and during the first 10 years of stay in Europe in a longitudinal perspective. Results highlight different pattern of migrants’ selection across destinations, influenced by prior employment status and education, gender and colonial legacies, and which impact subsequent trajectories into the European labor markets. Our analyses also show a severe worsening of migrants’ occupational status in Europe compared to their situation prior to migration, which is the resultant of a dramatic downgrading upon entry and of a slow occupational recovering during the first 10 years of stay in Europe. Results suggest that the educational–occupational mismatch of skilled workers might represent a long-lasting “price” for migrants, unless (further) educational credentials are achieved in destination countries.
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This article aims to examine some of the difficulties of theory formation in international migration studies, and to suggest a response. The starting point is an examination of the dominant perception of ‘migration as a problem’. This is followed by a discussion of some key obstacles to theoretical advancement in migration studies. I argue that a general theory of migration is neither possible nor desirable, but that we can make significant progress by re-embedding migration research in a more general understanding of contemporary society, and linking it to broader theories of social change across a range of social scientific disciplines. A conceptual framework for migration studies should take social transformation as its central category, in order to facilitate understanding of the complexity, interconnectedness, variability, contexuality and multi-level mediations of migratory processes in the context of rapid global change. This would mean examining the links between social transformation and human mobility across a range of socio-spatial levels, while always seeking to understand how human agency can condition responses to structural factors. The argument is illustrated through the example of the changing dynamics of labour forces in highly developed countries.
The citations above refer to a well-known predicament faced by women in modern times as the public sphere became increasingly open to their involvement in work outside the home. Russian writer Natalia Baranskaia’s A Week Like Any Other, first published in the late 1960s, illustrates the conflicting situation for a woman rushing between family and work in a seemingly endless rat race. In contrast, Gates of Paradise, by Swedish writer Dagmar Edqvist, published some ten years earlier, depicts the frustrated feelings of a housewife looking back at her life which seems suddenly empty and pointless. During the twentieth century, radical changes in gender relations between men and women took place in both Sweden and Soviet Russia. This chapter presents an analysis of public discourses on the question of women and wage labour, as they were expressed in Swedish and Soviet Russian media publications in the 1960s. It will also compare gender practices regarding women’s wage labour and the provision of public childcare in these countries based on existing statistical data.4
The figure of the ‘Heroine Mother’, a woman who had borne ten or more children, took her place in Soviet propaganda in the wake of the catastrophic losses of the Second World War. In 1944, a draconian piece of family legislation which made divorce virtually impossible simultaneously instituted a range of honours for the mothers of large families.1 By the 1970s, however, a quarter century after the death of Stalin, the ‘Heroine Mothers’ could be easily dismissed as an anachronism. As the 1944 law was superceded by the more humane family legislation of the 1960s, these ‘Heroines’ of an earlier pronatalist policy appeared to be simply a leftover from the Stalinist past. Though the array of orders and medals on offer to mothers of five or more children still remained, their relevance to the majority of the population was increasingly doubtful. Their presence, if it was felt at all, appeared to be largely confined to the obligatory tables in the annual statistical yearbooks. Indeed, so rare were the holders of these awards that most people outside the territories of the Soviet Central Asian republics were unlikely ever to have met one: in the entire history of honouring mothers in this way in the USSR, only 8000 women received an award, just over 400 attaining the pinnacle of ‘Heroine Mother’.2 It was something of a surprise, therefore, when, in the late 1970s, the Heroine Mothers became the focus of sustained propaganda as the Communist Party leadership once more became concerned at demographic developments.
Since the 2004 enlargement of the European Union over half a million Polish migrants have registered to work in the United Kingdom, constituting one of the largest migration movements in contemporary Europe. Drawing on research undertaken across a wide range of disciplines - history, economics, sociology, anthropology, film studies and discourse analysis - and focusing on both the Polish and British aspects of this phenomenon - both emigration and immigration - this edited collection investigates what is actually new about this migration flow, what its causes and consequences are, and how these migrants' lives have changed by moving to the United Kingdom. As the first book to deal with Polish migration to the United Kingdom, Polish Migration to the UK in the 'New' European Union will appeal to scholars across a range of social sciences, whose work concerns migration and the migration process.
Based on the oral histories of eighty migrant women and thirty additional interviews with 'native' women in the 'receiving' countries, this volume documents the contemporary phenomenon of the feminisation of migration through an exploration of the lives of women, who have moved from Bulgaria and Hungary to Italy and the Netherlands. It assumes migrants to be active subjects, creating possibilities and taking decisions in their own lives, as well as being subject to legal and political regulation, and the book analyses the new forms of subjectivity that come about through mobility. Part I is a largely conceptual exploration of subjectivity, mobility and gender in Europe. The chapters in Part II focus on love, work, home, communication, and food, themes which emerged from the migrant women's accounts. In Part III, based on the interviews with 'native' women - employers, friends, or in associations relevant to migrant women - the chapters analyse their representations of migrants, and the book goes on to explore forms of intersubjectivity between European women of different cultural origins. A major contribution of this book is to consider how the movement of people across Europe is changing the cultural and social landscape with implications for how we think about what Europe means. © 2007, 2010 Luisa Passerini, Dawn Lyon, Enrica Capussotti and Ioanna Laliotou. All rights reserved.
In this article I examine Bourdieu’s conception of symbolic domination as based on misrecognition and compare it with Gramsci’s notion of hegemony based on consent. Drawing on ethnographic research in workplaces in the USA and Hungary I show how both theories are flawed. Gramsci does not appreciate the importance of mystification as a foundation for stable hegemony in advanced capitalism while Bourdieu’s notion of misrecognition, based on the notion of habitus, is too deep to comprehend the fragility of state socialist regimes. Comparative analysis, I argue, calls for a concept of domination that is more contingent than Bourdieu’s symbolic domination, yet deeper than Gramsci’s hegemony.
The Soviet nationality regime, with its distinctive and pervasive manner of institutionalizing nationhood and nationality, has transmitted to the successor states a set of deeply structured, and powerfully conflicting,expectations of belonging. Successor state elites, with their deeply institutionalized sense of political ownership and entitlement, see the polities that bear the names of their nation — above all the territory and institutions, but also, with some ambivalence, the population as well — as “their own,” as belonging, in a fundamental sense, to them. National minorities, above all Russians, with their institutionally supported, basically ethnocultural understanding of nationhood, see themselves as belonging, in a deep if not exclusive sense, to an “external” nation; this cannot help but color and qualify, even if it does not exclude, their belonging to the would-be nation-state in which they live, and of which they (or most of them) hold citizenship. Russian state elites, finally, whose national self-understanding was not in the Soviet period embedded in, and is now only very imperfectly contained by, the institutional and territorial frame of the Russian Federation, see the Russian minorities in the non-Russian successor states as belonging, in an ill-defined yet potent sense, to the emerging Russian state. These deeply rooted and powerfully conflicting expectations of belonging — interacting, of course, with conflicts of interest engendered by state-building, regime change, and economic restructuring — will make the dynamic interplay between non-Russian successor states, Russian minorities, and the Russian state a locus of refractory, and potentially explosive, ethnonational conflict in coming years.
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