I am interested in how migrants and refugees from diverse backgrounds experience (all forms of) work. To address some of the difficulties of identity and intersectionality approaches commonly used to study the working lives of migrants and refugees, my PhD employed a translocational positionality frame to provide an in-depth and more nuanced understanding of participants’ experiences engaging in different forms of work and what this means for broader processes of belonging. Focusing on the working lives of Syrian migrants and refugees in the UK from varied immigration and asylum experiences and statuses, an immersive research design, including Arabic language learning by the researcher-interpreter, allowed for the collection of rich, in-depth semi-structured interviews with first generation Syrian men and women in North East England.
By bringing together key debates in belonging, refugee and migrant employment and migration studies, this project unearths the multiplicity of migrant and refugee realities and the contextual factors shaping working lives. In doing so, this project develops a more nuanced understanding of belonging to specifically include the meaning and attachments attributed to and generated from diverse roles and responsibilities that make up refugees’ working lives. Findings also highlight the importance of understanding the strategies of belonging developed by Syrians including strategies of seeking, partaking in and/or creating meaningful work which shape wider processes of belonging in participants’ working lives. This study further illustrates the significance of a processual and translocational understanding of belonging to comprehend better the contextual and temporal effects shaping refugees’ and migrants’ social locations in the UK and the strategies of belonging adopted that affect levels and modes of engagement across individuals’ working lives. By developing a nuanced understanding of variations in and across working lives in a population that is often considered to be homogenous, this thesis has important policy and theoretical implications for other migrant and refugee populations.