Unpacking friendship: the impact of friendship practices on Polish migrants’ senses of belonging in Cork City, Ireland
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Friendships do not just inherently exist, they must be performed and maintained over time. It is from this performance of friendship, that migrants come to experience both culture(s) and place(s) in the host-country, which can have profound effects upon how they negotiate belongingness across borders. Attention to migrants’ friendship practices across borders and cultures helps to shed further light upon the highly-nuanced processes from which migrants’ belonging(s) are (re)produced. Often, migrants’ social relations across borders can lead to pluri-local notions of belonging, resulting in a feeling of not truly belonging to any locale. This phenomenon of being ‘in-between’ is especially relevant for ethno-culturally similar migrants, such as Poles in Ireland, who in comparison to visible minorities, do not experience racism as a prominent feature of everyday life. Drawing on twenty-three semi- structured interviews with Polish migrants in Cork City, Ireland, I analyze Poles’ manifestations of both home-making and the politics of belonging in relation to their friendship practices. I show how friendship practices play a key role in where people negotiate their most emotionally significant home as being. However, this was not the case for engagements in the politics of belonging, as despite having been granted belonging through friendships with Irish people, through an exercise of their own agency, Poles often positioned themselves as neither included or excluded from an Irish national collective, but instead, in a middle ground of acceptance.