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Class, race and ethnicity : Chinese Canadian entrepreneurs in Vancouver James, Aaron Jerome West

Abstract

In research on immigrant enterprise, scholars argue that entrepreneurs mobilize informal support and resources from ethnic affiliations to overcome barriers associated with their immigrant or 'racial' status. The presumed relationship between ethnicity and entrepreneurship is relatively straight forward: immigrant entrepreneurs facing cultural or economic barriers use ethnic resources to propel their economic strategies. This assumption is brought under scrutiny in a study of Chinese Canadian immigrant entrepreneurs in Vancouver, Canada who arrived after 1967, many of whom are skilled professionals, affluent investors, and experienced entrepreneurs. Some have formed corporate ethnic enterprises and many maintain extensive social and commercial ties abroad. What relationship exists between ethnicity and entrepreneurship in this setting? Do these conditions necessitate new approaches or concepts? These questions are explored in the course of the study. Using ethnographic methods, this study examines the changing patterns and composition of Chinese Canadian rmmigrant entrepreneurship and the role of ethnic ties in this process. Consideration is given to the historical precedents and class and cultural politics surrounding the immigration and participation of Chinese Canadian entrepreneurs and workers in the Vancouver economy. The study concludes that existing theory on immigrant enterprise needs move beyond a narrow focus on ethnicity to consider the historical and cultural context of immigrant entrepreneurship.

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