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This paper explores relations between Portuguese-speakers living in London. It takes the experience of Lusophones as a case study in illuminating how intragroup diversity is negotiated and transnational, multi-ethnic identities constructed and performed in everyday life. Through critical ethnography and interviewing, I provide an account of the varied experience of ‘belonging’ in Europe, for citizens and migrants who connect through similar language and cultural affinities and a shared, albeit contentious, history. By exploring daily rituals in workplaces, bars, cafes, and shops owned, operated, and patronized by Lusophones, I unpack postcolonial reconfigurations of citizens and migrants in their everyday experience of ‘open’ Europe and provide insight into the discursive processes of emergent and complex diasporic identities. The study found that while Portuguese and Brazilian individuals connect in daily ritual, often to consume similar goods and/or work together in similar roles, language ideology plays a central role in mediating interaction and relations remain superficial and often contentious. For Portuguese, narratives of their own ‘rightness’ – when it comes to stories of migration, doing business, and conducting everyday life – along with the privilege of European citizenship, are tropes employed to distinguish themselves from other Lusophones, especially Brazilians, with whom they are often compared to by other groups. Luso Africans share less connection in every day life with both Portuguese and Brazilians despite living in close proximity, and express more affinity with migrants from other African points of origin than fellow Lusophones. The study suggests that for Portuguese and Brazilians especially, language, identity politics and the citizen-migrant distinction play a central role in mitigating meaningful interaction around shared concern and social issues impacting both groups as ‘non-native’ to the UK. Furthermore, important questions of race – which since colonial times have been at the very core of determining social privilege - are sidestepped by the drawing of moral boundaries of ‘right versus wrong’ and the ‘European vs. non-European’.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.