Accepted paper:

Social and Economic Strategies to overcome rampant poverty among south Asian ethnic enclaves in Catalonia. Ethnographic fieldwork accounts on evasive communities.


Hugo Valenzuela Garcia (Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona)
Berta Güell (University of Barcelona)

Paper short abstract:

Poverty effects are being particularly virulent among immigrant communities in Spain. Ethnic enclaves are strategies to overcome both the effects of poverty and labor marginalization among south Asian communities. However, access to these realities are difficult to attain due to a constant feeling of mistrust, which in turn may be also explained through ethnographic insights.

Paper long abstract:

Poverty effects are being particularly pervasive among immigrant communities in Spain. Self-employment, ethnic entrepreneurship or the creation of enclaves are strategies widely employed to overcome marginalization in the main urban labor market. This contribution is based on ethnographic research on two South Asian urban ethnic enclaves (Portes et al, 1985) located in Catalonia: on the one hand, the Muslim Pakistani community, with a long tradition of trade in the old center of Barcelona. On the other hand, the Indian community settled in coastal and touristic destinations in Girona, specialised in the souvenirs trade sector. Both groups have been more resistant to the ravages of the economic crisis than other immigrant groups, although poverty has been also noticed. This is due to particular social, ethnic and economic strategies employed, which provide them with a higher competitive advantage and resistance in a highly competive trade market. Both communities share similar strategies and register similar high economic success rates, though internally present crucial differences in terms of religion, geograhic origin, social organization or class/socioeconomic background. Ethnographic approach to both South Asian communities, however, has been revealed particularly difficult for local ethnographers: feelings of suspicion, mistrust and disavowal are not uncommon towards the strange. Deeper ethnographic analysis focusing on local context, Diasporic past, Islamophobia and increasing police surveillance open up new ethnograhic insights. This paper will address the local context of both communities, exposing and comparing their main socio-economic and cultural traits, and will address the difficulties, limitations and specificities of the ethnographic encounter.

panel G10
Comparing urban poverty from an ethnographic perspective