The political participation of migrants: a study of the Italian communities in London
This thesis deals with the historical evolution, social networks, and – above all – the political participation of Italian citizens who are resident in London. The value of my research stems from an increasing interest – evident in the literature – in migrant transnational identities and\ud in the political participation of migrant groups both in their home and host countries. Also relevant is the growing importance of London as a destination for Italian migrants.\ud \ud The study adopts a theoretical framework based on political opportunity structure and on the construction of social and community identity. It deploys a mix of methods that involve a questionnaire, ethnographic methods such as open and semi-structured interviews and participant observation, and some elements of discourse analysis, in order to analyse the social and political activity of three components of the Italian communities who are resident in\ud London: the “old” migrants who arrived in the UK between the end of World War Two and the late 1970s; their descendants, the British-born Italians; and the “new” migrants, who have moved to London since the mid-1980s. Comparison across these three waves produces important insights into the development of Italian identity in London over more than half a century.\ud \ud In the three main empirical chapters the thesis examines (1) what characterises the Italian presence, in terms of socio-economic characteristics and identification; (2) how an Italian institutional and associational network, active in London, influences the building of a collective\ud identity in the Italian communities and helps mobilise them; and (3) to what degree and how London Italians think they may contribute to political, social, and cultural change in their home and host countries.\ud \ud The primary data that I present show that belonging to one of the three generational groups outlined above has a great impact on the ties with both the UK and Italy and, in particular, with the Italian institutional and associational network in London; that this network plays an\ud important role in the emergence of a new discourse on “Italianness” among recently arrived Italian migrants; that different forms of Italian identity are constructed and performed by Italians from the three different groups in their interaction with the social and political\ud opportunity structure they experience in London; and finally that all this affects local and transnational political loyalties and behaviour.