The Making of “Status at the Mercy of Language”

by Matthew Luck

It’s quite interesting to look back on a project like this, which has been cooking for half a year now. My unrecognisable abstract started off this process, and the final article now stands as a fully realised expression of those ideas. Writing this article has offered the opportunity to combine my academic research with my personal experience of the challenges that have come about due to the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union. While I won’t overly lengthen this piece with the details of the bureaucracy that I and those close to me have dealt with this year over nationality and residency documentation, just know that it has offered a look into the hurdles faced by the groups that I cover in my article, and an understanding of the continual failings of the UK government in supporting those much more disadvantaged than myself. In addition, this article owes a huge deal to the recent coverage of the Windrush generation within media and literature, namely Steve McQueen’s Small Axe series of films and the work of historian David Olusoga. Their work, coupled with the novels of twentieth-century Caribbean authors such as Sam Selvon and George Lamming has opened my eyes to the overlooked contribution and place of Caribbean Britons in the UK.

The early draft abstract for this article shows my initial intention to also examine the movement of people from Indonesia to the Netherlands in the decades following Indonesian independence. Perhaps this would’ve invited a comparison between decolonisation in the empires of various European nations, and the effects on their transnational populations. Yet, the confluence of academic and personal interests that I mentioned previously may have been slightly out of hand at this point in the planning. I can see now that the article has benefitted hugely from a tighter focus and unique approach. That approach being the attention paid to the specific language and terminology that came with legislation covered in the article. My academic background is that of Literary Studies. Therefore, to operate within the fields of linguistics and law was a challenge, but always engaging due to its unfamiliarity. The interdisciplinary nature of this journal’s creation has also allowed me to improve my writing, editing, and presentational skills. It was a means of bridging the gap between the work I had done for university and the work I look to do in future, as well as an opportunity to learn from and get to know people across the boundaries of my degree specialisation.

The reoccurrence of this crisis, namely the removal of transnational connections to the UK, has struck a chord with myself and many others. Academics and journalists have rightly identified that concessions are not being made to prevent the reoccurrence of Windrush generation’s treatment as illegal immigrants, as the 30th June 2021 deadline for EU citizens to gain settled status is a mere week and a half away. However, my article also analyses the reoccurrence of the UK’s original formation of and severance from transnational systems. It could be argued that the now fully-realised consequences for UK citizens and foreign nationals alike raises the question as to whether the disconnection from a transnational system such as the EU should ever have been determined by such a tight referendum result when the composition of our modern world is so dependent on the delicate balance of the status quo. How can a crisis ever be avoided when such huge decisions act to upheave the operations of an entire country and jeopardise the jobs and rights of its people?

Thinking back on my reasons for taking on this opportunity, it was this idea of crisis and its broad definition that inspired me. I can’t imagine that in face of such an enticing topic, that I would’ve latched on to a selection of novels as I’ve done with my MA thesis. I felt I had to step away from the crises foretold or replicated from reality in the fiction of an author. Rather, I looked to a reoccurring and developing crisis; a crisis that threatens the transnational connections that have put me on this earth as a dual national, and betrayed so many who believed in an identity and a home that has disregarded them.

If you are yet to read the article, you can find it on the “Issue 1, 2021” page. I hope it proves to be a thought-provoking read.

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