The purpose of this paper is twofold. First it offers an innovative conceptual framework for exploring how whiteness shapes ethnic privilege and disadvantage at work. Second it offers empirical evidence of the complexity of ethnic privilege and disadvantage explored through experiences of migrant workers from post-socialist Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) on the UK labour market.
Using a Bourdieuian conceptual framework the paper begins from the historical and macro socio-economic context of EU enlargement eastwards in order to explore whiteness and the complexity of ethnic privilege at work through semi-structured in-depth interviews with 35 Polish and Slovenian migrant workers in the UK.
The findings highlight racial segmentation of the UK labour market, expose various shades of whiteness that affect CEE workers’ position and their agency and point to relational and transnational workings of whiteness and their effects on diverse workforce.
Research has implications for diversity policies within organisations and wider social implications for building solidarity amongst diverse labour. Future research could increase generalisation of findings and further illuminate the complexity of ethnic privilege.
The paper contributes to management and organisational literature by offering a Bourdieuian conceptual framework for analysing whiteness and the complexity of ethnic privilege at work. It uncovers intersectional, transnational and relational workings of whiteness that shape ethnic privilege and disadvantage at work and speak of ongoing colonising and racialising processes that are part of contemporary capitalism.
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