Eating bitterness for making money: Chinese migrants hard road to wealth and social recognition, from China to Portugal
Irene Rodrigues (ISCSP, Orient Institute, Universidade de Lisboa)
Paper short abstract:
Based on ethnographic fieldwork conducted in Portugal and China, this paper explores Chinese migrant's modernity aspirations and "eating bitterness" experiences. It argues that initial suffering experiences are crucial to the emergence of migrants as moral persons before their community and family.
Paper long abstract:
This paper explores the motivations behind the movements of Chinese migrants from China to Portugal. It argues that Wenzhou migratory projects - focused on making money (zhuan qian) - are a result of modernity aspirations and desires for material modernization articulated with core Chinese values such as filial piety, which is so fundamental in the regulation of relationships between individuals in the family (Rodrigues 2018). However this road to wealth and social recognition - Chinese migrants idea of 'good life' (Gardner 2015) - is mediated by experiences of "eating bitterness" (chiku). The paper analyzes the importance of this initial period of migration in the achievement of the objectives of migration and argues that experiences of suffering and privation, together with mixed sentiments of injustice and gratefulness, optimism and dismay, are common among migrants during this time. The period is also crucial to the emergence of migrants as moral persons that will later assure them a position in Chinese ethnic business networks in Lisbon and in Europe. The paper will also consider cases of people that remain at the margins of success and modernity. The evidence used in this paper is part of a larger PhD research project on Chinese migration based on ethnographic fieldwork conducted in Lisbon (Portugal) with a two months fieldtrip to Wenzhou (China) (a total of 21 months during 2008-2010).
Migration and the imaginaries of 'good life' [ANTHROMOB]