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Poles Apart?

A model for Polish community integration in Scotland

Satrosphere Science Centre, 179 Constitution St, Aberdeen, AB24 5TU

 17 November 2014, 7pm

Poles Apart

Scotland is an attractive destination for migrants from Eastern Europe. Figures showing a higher than UK average increase of East European migrants to Scotland bear this out, yet charities and councils have few resources to address this phenomenon. This public roundtable and discussion forum will draw on theoretical models and practical experience of Scotland as a prime destination for Polish migrants. Even before the recent wave of Polish migrants triggered by Poland's EU entry in 2004, Scotland had seen several waves of Polish migration since the Second World War. What have the benefits to Scottish society from these migrants been, and how well have Poles settled and integrated into Scottish society? What are the benefits of the acquisition of this new East Central European business community? How does the experience of integration reflect in community relations, and what impact does it have on economic and market forces, with Polish businesses and skilled labour joining the Scottish economy? The roundtable was invited to think how such experiences can relate to a wider European migration context.

Professor Karin Friedrich, School of Divinity, History and Philosophy, University of Aberdeen

Professor Andrew Blaikie (Historical Sociology, University of Aberdeen)
Professor Anne White (School of Slavonic and East European Studies, University College London)
Professor Máiréad Nic Craith (Intercultural Research Centre, Heriot-Watt University)
Jean Urquhart (MSP Highlands and Island, Chair of the Scottish Parliament's Cross-Party Group on Poland)
Martin Stepek (Scottish Family Business Organisation)
Dr Marta Trzebiatowska (Sociology, University of Aberdeen)
Magda Czarnecka (Secretary of FENIKS. Counselling, Personal Development and Support Services Ltd.)

Photographic Exhibition
Neighbours - Photographs of Polish migrants in Scotland by Aberdeen-based artists Blazej Marczak

The Polish-Scottish Choir, Elphinston Institute, Aberdeen


Prof. Rebecca Kay's (Glasgow) blog about the Poles Apart event in Aberdeen is live.



This event is part of the
Linking Northern Communities

supported by the SUII


Transnational Biographies

18 December 2014, 5-7 pmScots

Scottish Universities Insight Institute
Strathclyde Campus, Collins Building, 22 Richmond Street, Glasgow
G1 1XQ, Email: info@scottishinsight.ac.u, Tel: 0141 548 4051/5930



When people cross political, national, linguistic and religious borders and decide to stay, they start belonging not only to new communities. They also face – despite the victory of globalisation and an international market – different cultural contexts, mentalities, collective memories and values. They bring their own heritage which reminds them that they are and remain foreigners even once they master the language and adapt to local customs. Scots and East Europeans should remember that they have been migrants and settlers in each other's countries for centuries. At some point these newcomers stop being migrants and integrate, even assimilate. This has been the case with elite burgher families of Scottish descent in Polish, Lithuanian and Hungarian towns as much as with Poles, Slovaks, Czechs, Romanians, Russians and other Baltic and East Central European migrants who entered Scotland through various historical and contemporary waves of migration.

In an event organised and funded by the Scottish Universities Insight Institute, a series of short papers by specialists on migrants' history and culture focused on individual "transnational biographies". The aspect of Scots abroad was stressed just as much as migration to Scotland. One's memory of origin often melts into the experience of a new environment and society very quickly, but it also causes conflicting identities and even heightened consciousness of one's own heritage. The idea for this public seminar and discussion was to explore the long-term impact of migration and the importance of history for identity-formation for individuals within communities through their biographies. One of the most important issues discussed was the question at which point someone stops being a migrant without becoming a 'native' of his/her new home.

MigrantsProfessor Waldemar Kowalski (University Kielce, Poland):
Integration and self-reliance: the Scottish community in earl modern Kraków

Professor Andrew Blaikie (University of Aberdeen):
Visual documentation, Polish/Lithuanian identities and social interaction in the 1940s

Dr David Worthington (University of the Highlands and Islands):
Scots in East Central Europe – the Leslie Family in Slovenia

Vitalija Stepušaitytė (Heriot-Watt University Edinburgh):
The Experience of Home: Lithuanians in Scotland

Nicolas Le Bigre (University of Aberdeen):
Considering 'Home(s)': Transnational Voices from North-East Scotland?

The discussion was led by Professor Karin Friedrich (University of Aberdeen). Her blog on the event is now live.

Photographic Exhibition:
Neighbours - Photographs of migrants in Scotland by Aberdeen-based artist Blazej Marczak (with an introduction by the artist himself)


2.suiilogoThis event is part of the
Linking Northern Communities

supported by the SUII


Newcomers and Hometowns

Linking local and migrant communities in Scotlandscreen-shot-2015-03-09-at-16-40-54

16 February 2015, 4.00-6.30pm

Scottish Universities Insight Institute
Strathclyde Campus, Collins Building, 22 Richmond Street,
Glasgow G1 1XQ,
Email: info@scottishinsight.ac.u, Tel: 0141 548 4051/5930

Link to the Blog

Polish and Scottish migration, in both directions, as discussed in a previous roundtable and a seminar, has a long tradition going back to the sixteenth century. A large Polonia settled during and after the Second World War, and again after Poland's EU accession in 2004. Other migrant groups, such as Lithuanians, Latvians and Russians, have come to Scotland due to a demand for specific professions, such as in mining and fishing. More recently, Hungarians, Romanians, Slovaks, Bulgarians and Czechs have also moved to Scotland, albeit in much lower numbers than the Poles. In contrast to the Poles who came after the war and did not feel any motivation to return to their countries under communist rule, the post-2004/2007 new migrant generations can return to their native countries and often take that option, making this partly a temporary migration. However, many who come with their families settle permanently. Negative press and political pressures that whip up resentment against migrants risk alienating people who have contributed to the Scottish economy, boosted the number of young people in this country, and enriched culture, the food industry, churches and education both locally and nationally. But there are tensions that should not be ignored. Pressure on schools, the NHS, loneliness and psychological problems of migrants who feel excluded by language and tradition, competition for low-paid or part-time jobs among students and locals, conflict on council estates where migrants are sometimes assigned housing (although most rent privately) – none of these subjects should remain taboo. How can mutual understanding and peaceful living together in linked communities be best promoted? Knowledge about the "other", their traditions, customs, food, holidays, and the discussion of key events in history can help to overcome prejudices.

Evidence shows that the story has generally been a successful one: Poles and migrants from other new EU member states have been readily absorbed into Britain's labour market. They are tolerated, even welcomed, locally. Several cities and regions have gone from being ageing, with declining skills to being young, with great aspirations. Areas with many east European migrants have seen a drop in property crime. Britain got younger and better-educated Poles than Germany or America. Many are overqualified for their jobs, and ought to move into more appropriate ones as their social networks become stronger. Ilona Korzeniowska, editor of the Polish Express, a London-based newspaper, suggests Bulgarians and Romanians may fill jobs no longer of interest to Poles (source: The Economist, 14/12/2013). This raises not only economic considerations:

  • To what extent is the Polish model appropriate for other East European migrants' experience of settlement, cohabitation and integration?
  • Should the example of the largest migrant community, the Poles, be replicated and usefully applied to other migrant communities and across Scottish localities?
  • How are approaches to integration reflected in the specific regions and localities in Scotland that have experienced migrant influx? Does the heritage of other EE migrant groups make integration in Scotland less or more likely, and is it discussed at all?
  • How do the Scottish regions and urban centres benefit from East Central European migrants?
  • Where do cultural clashes and misunderstandings originate, and how do they reflect practices of settlement?
  • What role does the local economy and its oportunities play for the way that migrants are accepted/integrated, and how may cultural expressions be translated into economic resources?

Speakers and discussants were representatives from migrant communities and organisations, as well as Scottish public bodies, charities, political institutions and academics, including:

  • Prof. Vytis Čiubrinskas (Social Anthropology, Vytautas Magnus University Kaunas, LT)
  • Dr Neringa Lubininienė (Vytautas Magnus University Kaunas/European Commission)
  • Lorraine Cook (COSLA's Migration, Population and Diversity Team, Aberdeen)
  • Anna Ruszel (Director Polish Professionals Forum in Europe C.I.C., Edinburgh)
  • Dr Emilia Piętka (University of the West of Scotland, Mental Health and Psychosocial Support Network)Martin Fell (owner of Tchai-ovna, Glasgow, business opportunities and food)
  • Martin Fell (owner of Tchai-ovna, Glasgow, business opportunities and food)

The event was chaired by Prof. Karin Friedrich (University of Aberdeen). Her blog on the event is now live.

2.suiilogoThis event is part of the
Linking Northern Communities

supported by the SUII


IRC Seminars 2014/15

Semester 1

8 October 2014, 4.30pm, (MBG20)

Andreas Hackl
Journalist and Researcher, School for Social and Political Sciences, University of Edinburgh 
Culture and Power among Palestinians in Tel Aviv: Intercultural Perspectives


22 October 2014, 4.30 pm (MBG20)

Alison Phipps
Professor of Languages and Intercultural Studies, University of Glasgow
Are Languages Intangible Cultural Heritage? Perspectives fromTourism, Migration and Family Reunion


19 November 2014, 4.30 pm (MBG14)

Katherine Lloyd
Research Associate, International Centre for Cultural and Heritage Studies, Newcastle University
Fostering an inclusive sense of place? Rethinking the Impact of Museums in Scotland in an Age of Migrations


10 December 2014, 2.00 pm (BEC)

Ethnographers' Gathering (2)


IRC Seminars 2014/15 Semester 2

All welcome!
Attendance is free, but places may be limited.
Please register in advance, using the links below.

17 February 2015 – 4.30 pm [MBG20]
Dr Neringa Liubinienė
Center of Social Anthropology, Vytautas Magnus University Kaunas, Lithuania
Being a Transmigrant in the Contemporary World: Lithuanian Migrants' Quests for Identity

18 February 2015 – 3.30 pm [EM336]
Dr Kathryn Burnett
School of Media, Culture and Society, University of the West of Scotland
"Muddying the pristine waters": reflecting on Scotland's remote island enterprise as cultural production texts
Registration closed

11 March 2015 – 4.30 pm [MBG20]
Prof. Ian Baxter
Suffolk Business School, University Campus Suffolk
Global versus local - Understanding the Role of Management in Heritage Tourism
Registration closed

18 March 2015 – 3.30 pm [MBG20]
Prof. Thomas Hoerber
ESSCA, École de Management, Angers, France
The Development of a European Environmental Conscience
Registration closed


Joint events with CTISS

Prof. Brian James Baer Kent State University, USA

23 March 2015 - 12.15 pm [Postgraduate Centre, 201]
Introduction to Academic Publishing

24 March 2015 - 4.15 pm [Postgraduate Centre, 201]
Framed: Translating the Life of Charlotte von Mahlsdorf

For further details, click here.


22 April 2015 – 3.30 pm [BEC – Esmee Fairbairn building]
Dr Angeliki Monnier
Département Métiers du Multimédia et de l'Internet, Université de Haute Alsace, France
Understanding National Identity: Between Culture and Institutions

6 May - 12.15 pm [BEC – Esmee Fairbairn building]
Dr Philip McDermott
School of Sociology and Applied Social Studies, University of Ulster
Language Rights, Migrants and the Council of Europe: A Failed Response to a Multilingual Continent? 

Registration closed

6 May – 2.00 pm [BEC – Esmee Fairbairn building]
Prof. Tim Ingold
Department of Anthropology, University of Aberdeen
Registration closed
More details

For further details, please contact Prof. Ullrich Kockel

Waterscape Heritages

A one-day workshop entitled "Waterscape Heritages" was held in Edinburgh on Thursday, 3 July 2014, organised jointly by the IRC, the University of Ulster's Irish and Celtic Studies Research Institute, and Learning for Sustainability Scotland. Taking the idea of waterscapes (rivers, lakes, seas and so on) as a conceptual basis, and diverse heritages (natural / cultural, tangible / intangible, and so on) as thematic threads to explore, the workshop wove together different disciplinary and artistic approaches to, and insights into, the wisdom that "sits in places" (Basso 1996). The meeting brought together researchers from the "Stories of the Sea" project at the University of Ulster, covering the coastal areas in the North of Ireland and the West of Scotland; participants of last year's "Source to Sea" workshop on the heritage of the Clyde in Glasgow; participants of the IRC's recent "Doing Things Differently" workshop, organized by Heriot-Watt University's Intercultural Research Centre jointly with Learning for Sustainability Scotland; and others interested in exploring the idea of "Waterscape Heritages".

For further details, please contact Prof. Ullrich Kockel.

"Doing Things Differently"

Intercultural Research and Learning for Sustainability

9 April 2014

14:00-18:00 Heriot-Watt University (Riccarton Campus)

Keynote Thinker: Alastair McIntosh

'Sustainability' is commonly perceived as environmental issues by another name – an unhelpful editing of a concept where environmental and social issues are inextricably linked. At the root of every environmental issue you will find issues of justice, equality and power relationships. Culture and ecology are mutually dependent and inseparable in achieving sustainability.

Our perception of what we can or cannot do is shaped by deeply held cultural attitudes, dependent to a large extent on how we think collectively – as a social class , a circle of friends, an ethnic group or an academic discipline. Cultural discourse is as much a part of our collective journey towards sustainability as the natural sciences and technological innovation.

This interdisciplinary colloquium was organised by Heriot-Watt University's Intercultural Research Centre in collaboration with Learning for Sustainability Scotland, a United Nations recognised Regional Centre of Expertise. Together we looked at challenges arising from different cultural perspectives on sustainability. The seminar explored areas where intercultural research – research that takes place between and across different cultures – can support learning for sustainability in a wide range of spheres: from the natural and built environment to social and economic issues.

Alastair McIntosh is an independent scholar, activist, writer, speaker and broadcaster from the Isle of Lewis with a wide range of academic connections that have included a visiting professorship and fellowship at the universities of Strathclyde and Ulster, and he is currently an Honorary Senior Fellow in the College of Social Sciences at the University of Glasgow, a Fellow of the Schumacher Society and a Research Fellow at the School of Divinity (New College), University of Edinburgh. Other roles include serving as a founding director of the GalGael Trust in Govan and special advisor to the Board of the Centre for Human Ecology (CHE) of which he was once the director. 

 Read the report in the Heriot-Watt News Archive.


Seminar Series 2013-14


Venue: Heriot Watt University: Mary Burton Building, room 20 (MB.G20 - Map)

John Joseph, Edinburgh University

Naturalised Natives: Interpreting Identities and Face in Linguistic Interaction
Wed., 23 Oct. 2013, 4.30-6.00pm

James Costa, University of Oslo

Language Standards and Standard Language in Scotland: the Predicament of Introducing the Scots Language in a Primary School
Wed., 20 Nov. 2013,4.30-6.00pm

Kerstin Pfeiffer, Heriot-Watt University

Just Anger? Violence and Vengeance on the Medieval Civic Stage
Wed., 27 Nov. 2013, 4.30-6.00pm

Orvar Löfgren, Lund University

The Messiness of Research: Everyday Routines and Rituals of Academic Work
Wed., 4 Dec. 2013, 4.30-6.00pm

Alexandre Duchêne, University of Fribourg

Unrewarded Language Work: Exploiting Linguistic Resources and Speakers in the Contemporary Workplace
Wed., 22 Jan. 2014, 4.30-6.00pm

Dawn Archer, Lancaster University

Using Corpus Linguistics as a Way in to Historical (Courtroom) Texts
Wed., 19 Feb. 2014, 4.30-6.00pm

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