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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Indo-Canadian residential construction entrepreneurs in Vancouver : an examination of the interface between culture and economy Walton-Roberts, Margaret


The prevalence of ethnically bounded economic enterprises and economies in western industrial nations has encouraged scholars and planners alike to examine the particular factors that encourage minorities and immigrants to enter self-employment. Typically the resulting claims fall into two camps: the first stresses the positive attributes, both economic and socio-cultural, that immigrants bring with them that facilitate and encourage self reliant forms of economic organization, while the second emphasizes negative structural influences that coerce immigrants and minorities into engaging with exploitative capitalist methods of organization. The debate becomes highly polarized due to these opposing interpretations, and other methods and levels of analysis, such as social construction theory and issues of racialization and discrimination, are neglected. In the case of Indo-Canadian construction related entrepreneurs, I attempt to overcome the dualistic tendencies of this debate by investigating the often subtle intersection of cultural and economic factors involved in minority enterprise through an ethnographic inquiry. This approach reveals how seemingly economic mechanisms such as; labour relations, client contact and contracting processes, are in fact culturally informed. My results suggests that co-ethnic labour, more so than co-ethnic clients, play an essential role in the operation of these enterprises, whether entrepreneurs are immigrants or native born. These connections are imbued with cultural as well as economic significance and exhibit the importance, and potential problems, of kin and co-ethnic support in economic organization. Whilst my results indicate processes of change are ongoing within immigrant/ethnic economic groupings, they also point to the resilience of ethnic connection through enterprise.

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