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UCL School of Slavonic and East European Studies (SSEES)

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Lenka Kast

Lenka Kast

Name: Lenka Kast

Supervisor: Dr Sue Walters (IOE) and Dr Katarzyna Zechenter (SSEES)

Present Status: MPhil/PhD Research student

Working title of thesis: Exploring the trajectories of Slovak migrants in the UK: Towards a linguistic ethnography of negotiated identities

Research: My PhD project investigates the self-perceptions of Slovak migrants in the UK in relation to their sense of belonging and negotiated identities, and the central role language plays in these processes.

First, I shall look at the spectrum of past, present and future motivations which have informed Slovak migrants’ mobility. I look at the adaptation processes and practices as well as how they have negotiated their identities in the new socio-cultural environment. Whether their mobility is ‘upward’ or ‘downward’ in society, and whether it is perceived as one or the other by the migrants, is crucial to their sense of self-worth and identity.  

Second, I shall also explore the concept of belonging. Deconstructing this concept will be core to my research as I collect data on migrants’ maintenance of links with traditions they perceive as ‘Slovak’, and the values associated with these practices. Furthermore, I shall explore ways in which individuals experience the transition from traditional / conservative Slovak society to the multicultural and multilingual space of Britain.

Finally, I shall 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 and social media—e.g. through ‘translating’ typically Slovak expressions—but also how they express sarcasm, make hints, and reinterpret metaphors.