Labour migration

London is not only host to a superdiverse number of international migrants but also to the most diverse deaf community in Europe, if not in the world. This project focuses on deaf migrants who moved to London (from the global North and South) in the past five years, who are lowly-skilled or highly-skilled job-seekers, professionals or entrepreneurs, or moved in the context of marriage. Using the intersectionality lens, the project explores:

  • how deaf migrants seek the assistance of (deaf and migrant) organizations,
  • how they produce and/or engage in deaf spaces in London,
  • everyday encounters within the hearing neighbourhood, and
  • how deaf migrants experience intersections of multiple statuses in this context of superdiversity.

Using the translanguaging lens, the project investigates:

  • which linguistic strategies and resources deaf migrants employ when they communicate with deaf and hearing people in their everyday lives,
  • how they engage in, and experience language learning,
  • how they work with, and experience working with deaf and hearing sign language interpreters, and
  • their ideologies and discourses with regard to these strategies.

While Steve Emery focuses on the themes above in a broad cross-sectional study with a broad sample, Sanchayeeta Iyer focuses on these themes with a small sample of young deaf female Indian migrants in London, asking:

  • How do deaf women from India relate to
  • other deaf Indian migrant women who moved to the UK;
  • other deaf women/men from Indian heritage (but who were born in the UK), and
  • other deaf migrants and Londoners of various backgrounds?
  • What forms of gender-related constraints do these deaf Indian migrants experience as individuals as they move across various spaces?
  • How have their experiences shifted over time, especially during the COVID era?

Publications within this subproject:

Emery, S. D., & Iyer, S. (2021). Deaf migration through an intersectionality lens. Disability & Society, 1-22. LINK

Summary of initial findings by Steve Emery:

  • There are no clearly marked migrant-specific groups or organisations in London and migrants are dispersed throughout the capital, visiting deaf spaces and places in the city and attending deaf themed events.
  • Drawing on translocality we have found it useful to name these spaces locales and they are numerous and often precarious. Migrants frequently visit locales to socialise, learn BSL, share and exchange knowledge, build connections and learn the culture of the UK. These locales have been mapped to provide a visual representation of our research field.
  • Deaf migrants are in London for a wide range of reasons. Each migrant has a unique narrative regarding their journey to the UK. These vary, from escaping war to moving to be with a married partner to wanting adventure or to broaden their life experience.
  • Deaf migrants are from all classes. Many we met and who had been in the UK for several years tended to be working in professional positions supporting other deaf people: for example, as tutors, or working in pastoral services and mental health. Other migrants worked voluntarily, in unskilled and skilled occupations, had their own business, worked in the arts, were students or aspired to making wealth.
  • Process of cultural immersion: migrants found it challenging to adjust to the language (either/or BSL and English) and the culture of the UK. They tended to learn BSL by immersing themselves in the locales, although BSL classes and individual learning at a one-to-one level could be instrumental.
  • Strategies of communication used by migrants were rich in translanguaging, for example, mixing their native language signs (e.g. Somalian Sign Language, American Sign Language), International Sign and BSL; using spoken languages (native and English); and using different modalities such as pen and paper, typing text on mobile phones and using video relay services.
  • While migrants found the environment to be generally welcoming there were incidents of hostility. Interviews reported times when attitudes towards their presence were negative; however, there were also individuals, generally UK nationals, who were influential in assisting them in their stay and opening doors to their progress.