UCL School of Slavonic and East European Studies (SSEES)


(Be)longing — exploring the negotiated identities of Slovak migrants in the UK

09 May 2019, 6:00 pm–8:00 pm


This event is part of the SSEES Research Student Seminar Series. Join us to hear SSEES research students discuss their projects.

This event is free.

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Engineering Front Executive Suite 103
Engineering Front Building

What are Slovak migrants’ experiences of acculturation and sense of belonging? What role does language play and how has it informed the initial construction and continuing negotiation of identity in their lives in the UK?

My PhD project investigates the self-perceptions of Slovak migrants in the UK in relation to their initial motivations for relocation, and the central role language plays in reshaping their identities. I see language, identity and culture as inseparable from each other and will investigate them together. I draw on poststructuralist theories of language and identity, where the emphasis is on viewing both these concepts as dynamic rather than stable phenomena.

I will examine the vital role of language; migrants’ knowledge of English and their willingness to learn it; and their attitudes towards maintaining Slovak. I will analyse language and its functions in their new life: how and why users switch and mix codes and play with words in conversation—e.g. through ‘translating’ typically Slovak expressions—but also how they express sarcasm, make hints, and reinterpret metaphors. In exploring Slovak migrants’ changing identity, I conceptualize identity as a dynamic set of processes and practices (e.g. De Fina, 2016), which are ‘constructed in and through discourse’ (Bamberg et al., 2011, p. 177), i.e. both in interaction and as a narrative construction.

The adaptation processes which Slovak migrants must negotiate linguistically and culturally when trying to fit into their host society need to be analyzed through discourses reflecting the range not only of the linguistic but also the social and cultural practices they are involved in. Their sense of belonging is a process through which they acquire membership in the host communities in order to make meaning of themselves and the environment around them. As I collect data on the extent of Slovak migrants’ cultural adaptability, I will explore the implications this adaptability might have for their maintenance of links with traditions they perceive as ‘Slovak’ and the values they associate with these practices.

About the Speaker

Lenka Kast

PhD Candidate at UCL SSEES

Lenka Kast is a CEELBAS-funded research student at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies (SSEES), University College London (UCL). Her doctoral research focuses on Slovak migrants’ linguistic, social and cultural discourses, negotiation of their identities and developing a sense of belonging in the UK. When not working on her PhD, she is involved in teaching EAP to international students and enjoys reading and rambling.