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Spaces and exchanges immigration

The concept of space and exchanges can be split in two phases: first, there is an idea of reciprocity when someone gives something to have something else in return. It might be linked to good, services, resources or people. Secondly, there is the space dimension: this exchange occurs in a specific area, which is affected by it. Its main representation stands in the very controversial issue of immigration. Indeed, in most cases, the population is divided between thinking that migrants are harmful to the economy and thinking that they help it by bringing in fresh blood. The United Kingdom being a great multicultural land, we may wonder to what extent the concept space and exchanges through immigration was perceived there. To answer this question, we will first see why it is difficult not to link space and exchanges with multiculturalism, before talking about what kind of exchanges, due to immigration, occurred in the United Kingdom.

I.Multiculturalism in space and exchanges

a.What is multiculturalism

Multiculturalism is the concept of distinct cultures living together in a restricted area and influencing each other. Originally, every culture was linked to a geographical domain, but due to the movements of people in space, it became very common throughout the years. For instance, United Kingdom was originally the result of multiculturalism between Saxons tribes but today, it is also the result of its colonial past. Indeed, when the country ruled East India, for instance, they got influenced by the local customs such as tea drinking and they developed this culture, until it was fully integrated to the common knowledge that British people loved tea. Here the space and exchange aspect is found in the idea that British moved to another continent to learn something they would get back to home, even if the exchange was not perfectly fair for Indians as they were subjected to the British authority.

b.Exchanges are not always fair

A new notion appears here: exchanges do not have to be fair to happen. Therefore, even if multiculturalism is very natural, given people tend to move, communicate and learn from their experiences, all the cultures are not in the same boat. Indeed, racism is very present in multiculturalism, some people thinking that what they could provide foreigners with is not compensated by what foreigners could provide them with. The most common example of this perspective is people claiming that foreigners come to their country only to receive benefits. By the way, that is one of the many reasons that convinced British people they needed the Brexit to prevent all this from happening. Indeed, getting out of the European Union would make it harder for people to cross the borders, to move through spaces. Here, even if the claim was not true, it opens a new dimension of space and exchanges, which is a desire of closing a space to stop or reduce exchanges.

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II.What type of cultural exchanges happened in the United Kingdom

a.Labor needed

Nonetheless, this taste for closing borders was not as popular when workers were needed to fulfill vacancies in menial jobs. I am referring to the British Nationality Act of 1948, which granted the British nationality to anyone from the British colonies and encouraged them to work and live in the United Kingdom. The campaign was not successful from the start, but it became more and more popular as the British economy grew stronger. This is explained by the fact that the situation turned into something fairer for the parties involved: people who would leave their homeland would have better prospects and a higher standard of living in the United Kingdom while British people would have the cheap labour force they were looking for. Though, it was not perfectly fair as migrants were not seen as equals by British native people, because of their skin color, of their accents or simply because of the kind of jobs they had.

b.Chicken Tikka Masala

Despite this, great exchanges did happen in the United Kingdom. The most famous example of such a successful exchange is a dish called “Chicken Tikka Masala”. It comes originally from South Asia, and has become more and more common in Europe. The most popular version of this dish, though, has been specifically elaborated to match the British taste buds. Robin Cook, a former government member, explains this very well: “Chicken Tikka Masala is now a true British national dish, not only because it is the most popular, but because it is a perfect illustration of the way Britain absorbs and adapts external influences. Chicken Tikka is an Indian dish. The Masala sauce was added to satisfy the desire of British people to have their meat served in gravy.” This exchange was fair to all the parties involved because it took into account the space in which the situation was located.


Space and exchanges is a very wide topic, even when restricted to a geographic area such as the United Kingdom. When linked to multiculturalism, it regards communication, acceptance and relationships between people, which are the key-elements for growing together. But the concept is also exposed to unfairness, with people taking advantage of others while proceeding to the exchanges. Therefore, it is possible for us to think space and exchanges as an enriching concept that bring people closer by giving them a new perspective on life and habits, but it is above all something to be monitored to avoid abuse. Also, embracing space and exchanges is the attitude that led to the creation of Europe, but it is also something that needs to be protected as limiting moves in space also limits exchanges. This is the new challenge faced by the United Kingdom since the Brexit vote, and it shows how deeply space and exchanges are linked to politics when it comes to immigration.

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Voici une fiche notionnelle pour vous aider à préparer votre oral du bac en anglais sur une notion centrale : Space and exchanges. En français, cela se traduit bien sûr par Espace et Échanges.


Space and exchanges – Definition

The notion of spaces and exchanges aims at questioning the geographical and symbolic areas shared by societies and the interaction between these societies. It raises several questions: what do societies exchange? how is the partition of space made between societies? are the exchanges economic, material or symbolic?


What you need to know about space and exchanges

This notion allows you to talk about a lot of different topics. Immigration, colonisation and globalization are the main three topics that you will be able to deal with. This notion wants you to question human relationships and the way societies function on their own or with their neighbours.


Relevant examples for space and exchanges

Ellis Island

General informations

Ellis Island is in New York, close to the Statue of Liberty. Built in 1892, it originally aimed at controlling the number of immigrants moving to the US. Because the United States had been presented as the land of the free, many Europeans continued to emigrate there long after the first European settlers. Jews came to escape religious persecution, Irish people fled hunger, and people from Eastern Europe tried to escape political persecution.


A compulsory border

Ellis Island was built as a kind of compulsory border for new immigrants arriving by boat. In this island, immigrants had to register and were examined by doctors. After this medical examination, they were told if they were allowed to enter the United States. Immigrants – especially men – needed to be in a good physical condition to enter the country as they needed to get work. The government did not want to accept immigrants that would not be able to find a job and that would consequently live in poverty. When it originally opened, Ellis Island was also a way to ensure that immigrants were in good health and would not contaminate Americans with foreign diseases.


Laws to limit immigration

However, as time passed and immigrants kept coming, the American government passed stricter laws to limit immigration. The main piece of legislation was the 1924 Quota act which limited people from certain origins to enter the country, which drastically curbed the immigration rate. Because those kinds of laws reduced immigration and as there was no use to screen (= trier, contrôler) immigrants as much, Ellis Island closed in 1954 and became the Ellis Island Museum of Immigration which is today open to visitors.

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Positive and negative aspects of the globalization

Globalization is essentially about spaces and exchanges. It is the opening of national economies and societies towards each other.

Positive aspects

At first glance, the interconnectedness (= le fait d’être interconnecté) of different countries seems very positive and seems to promote peace throughout the world. Indeed, it has several positive impacts such as the faster flow of information that ties people together and prevents any society from being excluded. Globalization also increased the quality of goods and services someone can have access to and people can now buy from any part of the world. Finally, it has brought different cultures to the front stage : for instance, fish and chips were replaced as the ultimate British dish in the 1970s by the chicken tikka massala thanks to the number of Indian immigrants living in Britain. There is no denying that globalization seem to bring people together and to make them exchange various elements from their own culture.


Negative aspects

However, it is far from being that simple. Globalization has brought new issues that no one had foreseen (= que personne n’avait prédit). Indeed, because the market is interconnected, Western companies tend to produce their goods in countries with weaker environmental laws and contribute to polluting the planet excessively. Globalization adds to global warming because of those kinds of behaviour, but also because it triggered a massive economic growth that resulted in more harm on the planet than ever before. Besides, the fact that people can buy from whatever country they want created a lot of competition between countries to be more attractive economically. This has resulted in the development of child labor, and the exploitation of the labour force to produce more goods more quickly. In the past few years, numerous retailer brands such as H&M and Zara have been accused of employing children and treating their employees in an inhumane way.


Useful vocabulary – Space and Exchanges

  • globalization : la mondialisation
  • interconnectedness : le fait d’être interconnecté
  • to share : partager
  • values : les valeurs
  • labour : le travail
  • to be accused of + ing : être accusé de
  • inhumane : inhumain
  • global warming : le réchauffement climatique
  • to trigger : déclencher, mener à
  • to keep doing something : continuer de
  • to ensure : s’assurer de / que
  • a border : une frontière
  • settlers : les colons
  • to cross : traverser
  • to move : déménager

As long as you justify your presentation, any example can fit into space and exchanges. Do not learn by heart what you have learned at school ! Try and question how the examples you worked on are actually linked to spaces and exchanges. Your oral will be great!

N’hésitez pas à consulter notre fiche sur la prononciation en anglais qui est très importante lors de l’oral !


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