Michaela Benson, Reader, Department of Sociology, Goldsmiths, University of London

From relative privilege to relative precarity: tracing Brexit’s differential impacts on Britons living in the EU-27

Brexit – a predominantly legal process – changes the terms by which the estimated 900,000* British citizens living in the EU-27 live their lives, and the structures that have, until now supported their migration and settlement. This paper argues that Brexit makes visible the hetereogeneity of this British population and in particular, how the structural privileges that they hold as British citizens are reframed through this moment of contemporary social, economic and political transformation. As I argue, Brexit brings to light the relative precarity of some overseas British citizens as the differential impacts of their shifting legal status are felt. In bringing together relative privilege and relative precarity, and identifying how these variously scale in respect to one another, this paper turns back on the question of who are the British who live in the EU-27 and what might Brexit variously mean for their lives?

*While these are the official estimated provided by the Office for National Statistics, and as Karen O’Reilly (2018) has argued, the numbers of British citizens living and/or working in the EU-27 are likely much higher than this.

Dr. Michaela Benson received a PhD in sociology and social anthropology from the University of Hull. Her thesis was the first ethnographic study of UK citizens living in rural France, and focused on migration, identity, and belonging. Michaela joined Goldsmiths in 2013 after working at the universities of York and Bristol. She is internationally renowned for her contributions to the sociology of migration, and her research on the class, home, identity and belonging. Michaela is currently a research leader for the project BrExpats: freedom of movement, citizenship and Brexit in the lives of Britons resident in the European Union funded by the UK in a Changing EU. This project examines the implications of Brexit for Britons resident in other European Union member states and their lived experiences as it unfolds.

All seminars in the series.

See also Program för Forum för forskning om transnationell migration och CEIFO-seminarier höstterminen 2018.