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Places of everyday cosmopolitanisms: East-European construction workers in London

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  • G Geography (General)
  • Hm Sociology


This paper illustrates how cosmopolitanisms among East-European construction workers in London are shaped by the localised spatial contexts in which encounters with difference take place. Their cosmopolitan attitudes and behaviours arise from both survival strategies and from a taste for cultural goods, thus challenging the elite/working-class divide in current cosmopolitanism literature. Through semi-structured interviews and participant photographs of 24 East-European construction workers who have arrived in London since the European Union expansion in May 2004, this paper illustrates how these ‘new’ European citizens, develop varying degrees and multitudes of cosmopolitanisms in everyday places such as building sites and shared houses. These cosmopolitanisms are shaped by their transnational histories, nationalistic sentiments, and access to social and cultural capital in specific localised contexts. Thus subjective perceptions of gendered, ethnic, and racial notions of ‘others’ that are carried across national boundaries are reinforced or challenged as their encounters with ‘others’ produce perceptions of marginalisation or empowerment in these places. This paper finally suggests that cosmopolitanism should be understood not simply through class but rather through access to power and capital in everyday localised contexts.

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