At: 11/05/2023 2:00pm, in cooperation with: UK Arts & Humanities Research Council


Dimitra Gkitsa
Charlotte Galpin
Maren Rohe
Špela Drnovšek Zorko

dMSA Series of Webinars: Migrants in Post-socialist Britain, hosted by: Professor Sara Jones

Join us for the dMSA series of Webinars: Post-Socialism, Migration and Memory in Britain and Beyond 

What happens to memories of state-socialism and of post-communist transition when its carriers move across borders? How do individuals and communities grapple with the legacies of regimes in host societies with different kinds of legacies? As a culmination point of the research project “Post-Socialist Britain?: Memory, Representation and Political Identity amongst German, Polish and Ukrainian Immigrants in the UK (, funded by the UK Arts & Humanities Research Council and led by Professor Sara Jones (University of Birmingham), we are organising a series of virtual webinars in May and June 2023.


Dimitra Gkitsa is a cultural practitioner and an interdisciplinary scholar working in the intersection of memory studies and the post-socialist visual and material cultures. She is currently the Alexander Nash Research Fellow in Albanian Studies at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies (SSEES), University College London (UCL), where she examines the legacy of post-industrialism in Albania and the complex memories embedded in the post-industrial empty towns and villages, including issues of labour and migration that was a direct result of the closure of factories. Holding degrees in Media & Communication and Cultural Management, in 2020, she completed a PhD in Visual Cultures at Goldsmiths University London. Her doctoral thesis analysed art collectives in Southeast Europe and curatorial projects that reclaim spaces associated with difficult pasts. She is currently working on producing a monograph based on this research. She has held academic positions at Goldsmiths University of London and at the University of Hertfordshire. Prior to joining academia, she managed numerous art and cultural projects in non-for-profit organisations, including the British Council in Athens and the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London.

Charlotte Galpin is Associate Professor in German and European Politics in the Department of Political Science at the University of Birmingham. Her research focuses on European identities, EU citizenship, Euroscepticism and the European public sphere, with a particular focus on the UK and Germany and, in her recent work, she applies gender and feminist approaches to these issues. She has published in journals including Politics and Governance, Citizenship Studies, Comparative European Politics, Journal of Common Market Studies, Social Movement Studies, and the British Journal of Politics and International Relations. Her monograph, The Euro Crisis and European Identities: Political and Media Discourse in Germany, Ireland and Poland, was published in 2017 with Palgrave Macmillan. She currently holds a Leverhulme Research Fellowship for her book project ‘Gendering Europe: British national identity from EEC accession to EU secession’.

Maren Rohe is a postdoctoral Research Fellow on the project “Post-Socialist Britain: Memory, Representation and Political Identity amongst German and Polish Immigrants in the UK”. Her research analyses national and transnational identities in contexts of migration, intercultural contacts and Othering. Her regional focus is on Central and Eastern Europe; she has conducted research on Germany, Poland, Belarus, Ukraine and Russia.

Špela Drnovšek Zorko is a JSPS International Research Fellow at the Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies, Waseda University, where her research centres on questions of travelling memory, global/local racialisations, and East-West imaginaries, as well as an incoming Henriette Herz Fellow in the KU Center for Advanced Studies “Dialogical Cultures” at the Catholic University Eichstätt-Ingolstadt. After obtaining her PhD in Anthropology at SOAS University of London, she held a Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellowship at the University of Warwick, researching postsocialist and postcolonial encounters through the lens of Central and Eastern European migration to the UK. Her work on intergenerational post-Yugoslav narratives and postsocialist migrants’ articulations of race and geopolitical coevalness has appeared in journals including Ethnic and Racial Studies, Comparative Migration Studies, and The Sociological Review.


Belonging in Kurbet? A comparative analysis of constructing the “Albanian immigrant” in British and Greek media – Dimitra Gkitsa

After the collapse of socialist regime in Albania in 1990, thousands of Albanians were forced to find new homes in “migrant places”, or in kurbet, to use the Albanian word for migration. In Greece, Albanian immigrants constitute the largest migrant community (approximately 5% of the total population). More than thirty years after the first flow of Albanian migrants, Albanians are still victims of discrimination in Greece. Mass media has played its peculiar role in producing and re-producing racist narratives. Growing up as a child of Albanian migrants in Greece, I experienced first hand how those media narratives affect not only the construction of the “Albanian immigrant”, but also the ways in which Albanians themselves are forced to remember their past and to assess their identities in the public space.

Recently, there has been an increase of xenophobia directed to the Albanian immigrants in the United Kingdom, with many researchers arguing that this is a direct outcome of Brexit politics (Lea Ypi, 2022; Andi Hoxhaj, 2022). Interestingly, and although the context is different, the narrative followed by British media is very similar to that of Greek media (for instance, the socialist past approached in terms of backwardness and “uncivilised” identity, criminalisation, references to remittances that Albanians send to relatives in their home country).

Albanian migration is haunted by an accumulation of multiple traumas—surviving an authoritarian regime, witnessing the collapse of communism and the sudden shift to a neoliberal reality, feeling “unwelcomed” in other countries, desiring an EU citizenship. How is the sense of identity and belonging developed in migration? More crucially, what is the role of mass media in this process? This paper proposes to build a comparative analysis between the representation of the “Albanian immigrant” in Greek and the post-Brexit British media to examine the ways in which media narratives intertwine with issues related to identity, belonging, and collective memory in migrant communities.

Hierarchies of EUropeans: Memory and Migration in British Media Representations of Germany and Poland – Charlotte Galpin and Maren Rohe

In this paper, we use narrative analysis to analyse how representations of history and migration interact to create very different images of Poland and Germany that are shaped by post-socialist and post-war memory. Polish migrants are constructed as a mass of manual workers, as victims, or as an ethnic minority. By contrast, German migrants are typically portrayed as highly skilled and easily integrated, except for black or minority ethnic German migrants who appear as problematic. It has been argued, however, that media coverage has divorced Polish migration from the driving force of post-communist transition (Drzewiecka et al., 2014, p. 416). Similarly, German migrants are portrayed primarily as Western European and rendering invisible those from the former East. We show how “memory” narratives of German and Polish history are told separately from the migration narratives. Both German and Polish history is narrated with a heavy focus on World War II: Germany is portrayed as perpetrator, while Poland is portrayed as victim. Narratives of the Cold War partly portray Poles as victims who had to be freed by the Western world, this time with Russia as the aggressor, while GDR history is used to explain the rise of the radical right in eastern Germany. We argue that by considering narratives of different kinds of EU migrants alongside narratives of memory, we see how personal and collective memories are excluded from the narrative, robbing migrants of agency and important parts of their identity.

Towards a Postsocialist Politics of Presences  – Špela Drnovšek Zorko

In 2010, then-British Prime Minister Gordon Brown famously got himself into trouble following his interaction with an indignant voter, who demanded: “these Eastern Europeans what are coming in, where are they flocking from?” (Veličković 2019). In the intervening years, “Bigotgate” has become part of British political history, and the question of “Eastern European migrants” a commonsensical if partial explanation for increasingly hostile migration policies and sentiments, including Brexit. The question itself, however, remains curiously unaddressed. While the powerful cry “we are here because you were there” (Patel 2022) has come to symbolise a postcolonial politics of presence, there is no comparable historicity assumed in the contemporary presence of postsocialist migrants from the East of Europe – in contrast even to the experiences of Irish immigrants, whose presumed whiteness and racialised invisibility from the unmarked norm has otherwise offered a point of comparison (Hickman and Ryan 2020).

Drawing on long-term qualitative research with Central-East Europeans living in the UK, the paper challenges this omission by engaging with migrants’ own sense of “postness” (Drnovšek Zorko 2021). Based on my interlocutors’ narratives, I argue that a lack of knowledge (and presumed lack of interest) about the places where postsocialist Europeans are “flocking from” is in fact central to the often-fraught question of their relative position in postcolonial Britain. In this presentation, I put forth two principal ways in which “postsocialist” becomes a significant category of analysis for migrants from the region when making sense of their lives in the UK: in the use of “postsocialist” and “postcolonial” comparisons, and their boundaries; and in a growing generational awareness and mediated memory of “postsocialist” migrant children.