Equality and Cultural Capital for Migrant Farm Workers

  • Iqbal Md Mostafa

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Community Learning and Development


    Drawing on a qualitative approach, this research investigates Scotland’s migrant farm workers’ experiences not only in employment but also around their social and cultural transitions. The study shows how those experiences resonate with keys themes and concepts in contemporary migration literature that greatly contribute to the equality claims from cultural capital. I address claims of resources and possessions such as language, knowledge, experiences, skills, understanding, abilities, values, customs, talents, attributes, practices, taste, and background or skin colour, which individuals attach to their cultural capital. I refer to these as claims from cultural capital. I use Walzer’s complex equality model (principle of distributive justice) and a Bourdieu’s theory of cultural capital in order to regulate such claims and understand how cultural capital affects equality. I develop a conception of equality introduced as `equality of cultural capital’ which is conveyed through the principle of substantive equality.

    Equality of cultural capital is important not only for the on-going interaction between members of different cultural groups but also for the distribution of other spheres of migrants’ lives on their sphere of cultural capital in order to achieve distributive social justice. It is, however, in the sphere of cultural capital that all groups in the population may achieve an overarching equality provided people are given equal opportunity to fulfil the need for recognition of their knowledge, understanding, attributes, practices, taste, and background that are considered to be forms of cultural capital.

    Unlike majority members of a population, migrant farm workers often give up their cultural capital and take up low skilled jobs in order to gain opportunities for success in other spheres in their lives. Critiquing such a trade-off approach, if the sphere of migrants’ cultural capital is invaded and the cultural capital of local workers (native) is acknowledged, migrants are in a vulnerable position. I also argue although migrants’ achievements are devalued and their substantive equality remains unprotected, their claim from cultural capital is relatively strong and valid to manage. The more vulnerable a migrant’s cultural capital is in terms of recognition and protection, the stronger his or her claim from cultural capital will be.

    The theoretical framework responds to this argument by offering a regulative principle so that migrants’ substantive equality cannot be harmed and the dominance of economic or any other sphere over the sphere of cultural capital can be as minimal and negligible as possible. Under the framework, I argue that if equal recognitions of cultural capital are not actively ensured, this is highly likely to produce increased claims to equality. The framework is also used to examine to what extent citizenship status of members of the majority is applied to migrant farm workers, to what degree social capital has contributed to equality of cultural capital for them and to what extent appropriate practice or instruments apply to the design of resource distribution to accommodate their cultural capital.
    Date of Award2016
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorMurray Simpson (Supervisor) & Fernando Fernandes (Supervisor)


    • Immigration
    • Equality
    • Cultural and social capital
    • Citizenship
    • Accommodation

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