This monograph argues that well-established concepts in migration studies such as ‘settlement’ and ‘integration’ do not sufficiently capture the features of adaptation and settling of contemporary migrants. Instead, it proposes the integrative and transdisciplinary concept of anchoring, linking the notions of identity, adaptation and settling while overcoming the limitations of the established concepts and underlining migrants’ efforts at recovering their feelings of security and stability. Drawing on 80 in-depth interviews with Polish migrants in the UK and Ukrainian migrants in Poland, ethnographic and autobiographical research together with an analysis of Internet blogs and forums, the book presents the author’s original concept of anchoring, underpinned by a combination of sociological and psychological perspectives, as well as demonstrating its applications. The book aims not only to provide a theoretical and methodological contribution to better understanding and examining the processes of adaptation and settling among today’s migrants, but also to highlight practical implications useful for the better support of individuals facing changes and challenges in new, complex and fluid societies.
The introduction explains the overall goals of the monograph, outlines the context of the research, presents its main arguments and provides an overview of the whole book. The main goal of the book is to theorise complex, multidimensional and flexible adaptation processes and settling practices among migrants through the lens of the author’s original concept of anchoring. The working definition of anchoring refers to the process of establishing significant footholds which allow migrants to satisfy their need for safety and restore their socio-psychological stability in new life settings. The monograph argues that the established categories employed in migration studies such as ‘integration’ and ‘settlement’ are not sufficient for us to understand and examine the ways of accommodation, functioning and experience of contemporary migrants. It is argued that the concept of anchoring, developed through research with Polish migrants in the UK and Ukrainian migrants in Poland, might provide a more integrative and comprehensive, transdisciplinary approach to analysing the processes of migrants’ adaptation and settling, by linking the existing notions while overcoming their limitations, as well as by underlining psychological needs for safety and stability and the additional value of capturing the processuality and multi-layeredness of the analysed processes.
Chapter 1 includes a critical review of the theoretical field and the established concepts in migration studies such as integration, identity and settlement, arguing that they are insufficient to conceptualise the adaptation and settling processes among contemporary migrants. This chapter crosses disciplines in order to better understand the studied processes, particularly highlighting previously underestimated psychological contributions that strongly informed the approach presented in the monograph. These contributions include the selected theories of acculturation and adaptation, Maslow’s theory of needs, Ager and Strang’s (2008) framework for integration and the conservation of resources theory by Hobfoll (2001). Chapter 1 develops the argument referring, on the one hand, to such notions as individualisation, social cohesion, transnationalism, superdiversity, and on the other hand to more specific concepts trying to conceptualise the process of migrants’ adaptation and settling such as belonging, emplacement, embedding.
From a metaphor through a sensitising concept to an empirically grounded concept
Chapter 2 shows how the author’s empirical research on the processes of adaptation and settlement of Polish migrants in Belgium and later Vietnamese and Ukrainian migrants in Poland provided a basis for her critical reflection on the limitations and sometimes insufficiency of the key concepts used in migration studies, especially the concept of integration. It illuminates how the former empirical work and outcomes of previous analyses of the existing theoretical field in migration studies led the author to her search for different ways of conceptualising migrants’ adjustment and settling, and allowed her to sketch her first integrative and transdisciplinary framework incorporating the previously underestimated psychological perspective. This chapter analyses the role of the metaphor of anchor and how the concept had been built upon, and it highlights the significance of a single study of psychological usage of anchors in therapy for cancer patients to overcome identity crises and restore their feeling of continuity and integrity (Little, Jordens and Sayers 2002). The chapter demonstrates that in spite of its theoretical and practical potential, anchoring has not been developed into an analytical concept either in migration studies or in broader social theory, only being mentioned in passing in a metaphorical way by authors such as Bauman (1997) or Castells (1997). The concept of anchoring is thus presented here as an analytical tool which makes use of the strength of its founding metaphor and the promising intuitions which it embraces. The chapter ends by featuring the general characteristics of the concept.
Chapter 3 explains the methodology of the research. The empirical analyses presented in the book are based on the material gathered in the author’s research, conducted in 2014–2015 within the Marie Sklodowska-Curie fellowship ‘Social Anchoring in Superdiverse Transnational Social Spaces’ (SAST) at the University of Birmingham. The processes of anchoring were examined and theorised through research with post-2004 Polish migrants in the UK and Ukrainian citizens residing in Poland. The two case studies represented the major recent migrant groups respectively in the UK and Poland. The research, based on grounded theory, included: 80 in-depth interviews and questionnaires with Polish migrants in the UK and Ukrainian migrants in Poland, ethnographic and autobiographical research, and an analysis of Internet blogs and forums.
Chapter 4 focuses on the adaptation of Ukrainian migrants in Poland captured as a process from drifting to anchoring. It argues that the concept of anchoring allows for understanding of the simultaneity, temporality and flexibility of Ukrainian migrants’ attachments as well as the complexity and changeability of their ‘settlement’. It helps to capture their dynamic identities and the complex mechanisms of settling down. The adaptation and settling of Ukrainian migrants is discussed here in relation to their ‘lasting temporariness’, linked to the nexus of legal constraints (lack of an established legal status – with only three interviewees holding a permanent residence permit), cultural and geographical proximity enabling individuals to cross identity and cultural boundaries, as well as spatial circulation and the maintenance of various simultaneous attachments and links with the country of origin and the host state. The complex and dynamic processes of adaptation and settling are also influenced by Ukrainian migrants’ multiple and fluid identities and ambiguous position in Poland, constructed and perceived by Poles as neither strangers nor the same; neither on the move nor settled. The SAST study showed the Ukrainian migrants’ different layers of anchoring in Poland, from external footholds related to the legal and institutional framework and work, through more complex anchors embedded in social networks and to deeper internal footholds, linked to high competencies in Polish language, familiarity and the constructed cultural closeness, as well as European aspirations, which could coexist with the revival of Ukrainian civic activism in the face of the political developments and the military conflict in Ukraine.
Chapter 5 analyses the mechanisms of adaptation and settling among Polish migrants in the UK. Even though settlement processes remained more noticeable among the Poles than the Ukrainians, they could still be better characterised in terms of anchoring rather than putting down roots. The research demonstrated the centrality of security and stability in the experience of Polish migrants in the UK. The migrants represented agents looking for life opportunities while recovering their sense of stability and security, based mainly on the ethno-cultural networks, family ties and work opportunities. The footholds strengthening Polishness and ethnic bonds included: Polish language and culture; strong national identity; close family; narrow circles of support and the wider Polish community (particularly involvement in the Polish school, church and voluntary work). They were related to gender and family roles as well as homemaking and other daily practices. The main footholds grounding the migrants in British society encompassed: work, English language (e.g. skills, language classes); children’s (English) school and after-school activities, and anchors in neighbourhoods and local communities. In spite of many commonalities in anchoring across the sample, differences were noticeable between family-oriented participants, single (working) self-oriented migrants and institution-oriented migrants (e.g. the homeless or other vulnerable individuals), showing the variety of adaptation and settling patterns.
Chapter 6 aims to synthesise crucial points about anchoring which emerge from the SAST research with Ukrainian migrants in Poland and Polish migrants in the UK, to develop a framework allowing a better understanding of the processes of adaptation and settling. In order to outline key elements useful for building a general model of migrants’ anchoring, it concentrates on commonalities observed across both groups, in contrast to the previous chapters focusing on Polish migrants in the UK and Ukrainian migrants in Poland as separate case studies to highlight their specifics and contextual insights. This chapter showed the centrality of the need for security and stability. The proposed model of anchoring outlines layers of anchoring, from external footholds related to the legal and institutional frameworks and work opportunities, through more complex anchors embedded in social relations, to deeper internal anchors, such as constructed familiarity and closeness. Chapter 6 highlights the significance of practices and spaces for anchoring as well as the importance of cognitive, emotional and spiritual anchoring. This part of the monograph shows the dynamics of anchoring and the uneven and relational character of settling. It sheds light on the flexibility and reversibility of anchoring, including the processes of re-anchoring or un-anchoring (e.g. through selling houses in the country of origin, relocating loved ones, changing names). It argues that although the migrants were active agents endeavouring to establish themselves and reach a relative state of safety and stability, they were also constrained by their existing anchors, their limited resources and societal structures.q
Whereas the previous parts of the monograph focused on the positive functions of anchoring – that is, recovering the feeling of safety and stability – Chapter 7 also considers negative aspects of certain anchors that disadvantage or disable migrants, producing insecurities and reinforcing exclusions. It demonstrates some possible disadvantaging anchors, particularly those of an involuntary and aggravating character such as those related to illnesses or substance abuse. This part shows ambiguity in establishing certain footholds and countereffects of maintaining some anchors, including new types of insecurities produced, for example, by too strong grounding in the ethnic community and closest family circles. In contrast to Chapter 6 underlining migrants’ agency, this part concentrates on constraints and inequalities in the processes of anchoring. Drawing on Cooper’s (2008) work on the inequality of security, the SAST research displayed how individuals’ positionality influenced both their levels of exposure to risk and uncertainty as well as migrants’ capacities for agency, ability to navigate, deal with challenges and make use of opportunities.
The concluding chapter explores new directions for research and possibilities of using the theory of anchoring. This part of the monograph opens a discussion about policy and practical implications of anchoring. It underlines the particular importance of the first period of migration, with first encounters and exchanges providing significant framing experiences. The book also highlights the importance of cognitive anchors (both adaptive and adverse) which may be changed when reflected upon by individuals willing to learn, especially when adequately supported. Possible further applications are proposed, based on the principles of cognitive and behavioural therapy to assist migrants in adaptation and settling in the sense of establishing themselves in the receiving society and better satisfying their needs of safety and security. The chapter claims that the theoretical and practical significance of the concept of anchoring seems to go beyond migration studies. This approach might be useful for theorising the recovery of individuals’ safety and stability after major changes and crises, as well as analysing the wider problem of settling and adaptation to life in the complex and changeable world, particularly in the case of those who have experienced traumatic life changes and/or remain not grounded or socially connected, such as homeless people.