This paper aims to examine the migrant dilemma about operating extensively in migrant enclaves vs integration in host communities.
The paper is a critical literature review contrasting views and perspectives of the role of migrant enclaves in migrant integration and contribution in new societies. Research in the area of ethnic enclaves has been polarised: on the one hand, the optimists argue the critical benefits of migrant and ethnic community networks, thus downplaying potential drawbacks of such networks and the disadvantage externally imposed on migrants; on the other hand, the pessimists overemphasise the disadvantages of ethnic enclaves, portraying them as ghettos of alienation.
Based on the social solidarity integration model and immigrant-host and social interaction theory, the paper posits that migrant community networks could intentionally or unintentionally engender cultural alienation, worsening an already precarious educational, cultural and economic exclusion. Thus, migrants could remain in lower societal roles and experience limited upward social mobility if they operate exclusively within migrant and ethnic networks. However, ethnic enclaves, at the same time, offer the initial psychological nurturing on which future successful socialisation work with migrant communities can be built.
From a research angle, the theorisation of migrant enclave requires a new approach, which identifies dynamism and contextualisation as central to the debate.
From a policy perspective, the research suggests the rethinking of the role of community support systems (and the wider enclave debate). The organisational implications the research suggests a shift of the organisational paradigm in the way migrant organisations manage themselves and support members in the enclave.
This paper’s contribution is to take a duality approach to studying the ethnic enclave and posits that this will engender effective social policy that helps reduce economic inequality.
Hack-Polay, D. (2019), "Migrant enclaves: disempowering economic ghettos or sanctuaries of opportunities for migrants? A double lens dialectic analysis", Journal of Enterprising Communities: People and Places in the Global Economy, Vol. 13 No. 4, pp. 418-437. https://doi.org/10.1108/JEC-01-2019-0008Download as .RIS
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Many studies addressing the issues associated with socio-cultural identities of migrants in host countries have examined the degree to which ethnicity and diversity impact on people’s attitudes (Laurence and Bentley, 2015). Other such investigations have attempted to explain how individual and national type mobility affect identity (Curtis, 2015; Lindemann, 2013) or the extent to which the gender mix of a group affects immigrants’ basic human rights (Kokkonen et al., 2015) or the possibilities to integrate (Gerhards and Lengfeld, 2011). Research found that immigrant communities could exhibit the propensity to settle in particular institutionally and culturally-favourable spaces (Anggadwita et al., 2017; Dinesen, 2011; Bloch, 2002). This helps strengthen ties between themselves and fight against acculturation and acculturative stress. Generations of immigrants between the World Wars established foundations for later generations to preserve the home narrative and culture. The propensity to stick with one culture predominantly has key social implications for the individuals.
Numbers of immigrants become successful citizens in host countries (Robinson, 2000) fulfil citizenship responsibilities and demonstrate their worthiness as contributing and fully fledged citizens (Bäckman and Nilsson, 2010). Migrant communities in the USA and the UK, in general, can be credited with a degree of success (Refugee Council, 2002; Hack-Polay, 2006). However, the socio-situational factors that contribute to the exclusion of some communities of migrants are under-studied. In spite of their efforts, some of the immigrants lag behind because of difficulties associated with language acquisition and ethnicity (Lindemann, 2013) as well as exploitation and the availability of social networks (Bäckman and Nilsson, 2010), which hamper their ability to live inter-culturally and engage with the other culture as asserted by Berry (2003). Recently, alternative models have been developed (Waters et al., 2010; Chiswick and Miller, 2012). Waters et al., for instance, found three types of acculturation: dissonant, consonant and selective assimilation. The latter two types are more favourable to integration as they are receptive to the norms of the host society. The authors contend that dissonant acculturation, which is not the norm among the population studied, happens when the children of migrants learn the host culture faster than they internalise the native culture. However, Waters et al.’s (2010) study did not uncover significant evidence that dissonant acculturation disadvantaged those involved, thus confirming the association between types acculturation and socio-economic benefits.
Our study takes a public social science perspective. Public social science is engaged research which entails that the researcher meaningfully connects with various stakeholders at all stages of the process of inquiring into a range of socially-related and complex issues through the research process, which recognises the role that researchers and participants play in contributing to new knowledge. Wright-Mills (1959) recognises this inter-relationship in his work especially in “The Sociological Imagination” which makes use of “public social science” and its characteristics. Although some may opine that pragmatists are inclined towards a different type of knowledge geared towards more realistic action or potential action-oriented outcomes. The more helpful a guide-to-action a piece of social research is to those who read it, the better it might be deemed by its users (Watson, 2010). However, Wright-Mills advocates for greater innovation and inventiveness in our theory and method generation process and the outcomes that these may promise. The authors propose the use of the collaboration model as one of such potential avenue. Other researchers have used a social constructivist approach to study related phenomena (Vulliamy and Webb, 2001). In this discussion paper, the terms migrant enclave and ethnic enclave are used interchangeably because ethnic enclaves are constructed by early migrants and new migrants feed into those existing structures (Elo et al., 2019).This article makes a contribution to the literature by re-interrogating the notion of migrant enclaves, using a duality approach to studying the ethnic enclave. This contribution takes a more compelling meaning in the context of changing patterns of migrant settlement destinations (with more migrants choosing rural areas) that have limited migrant organisations (Munkejord (2017). Elo et al. (2019) also found that some Jewish communities are leaving areas in which they are established to venture in atypical locations. This mutation commands the search for alternative theorisation that explores the potential strategic position of diaspora organisations (Zahra et al., 2014; Brinkerhoff, 2011; Waldinger, 1993) and widen Berry’s (2011) notion of social solidarity model. The article focuses on the lens of the actual newcomer actors (the migrant-diasporic cohorts).
Our theoretical framework rests on the Berry (2011) social solidarity integration model. Berry argues that individuals:
[…] living inter-culturally who engage in and become competent in the two cultures usually adapt better than those who are primarily oriented to one or the other culture, and much better than those who engage in neither culture.
Such theoretical perspectives help our understanding of the social success of immigrants. The literature on ethnic embeddedness and social integration is well developed (Constant, Gataullina and Zimmermann, 2009; Kushnirovich, 2015; Portes and Jensen, 1992; Sanders and Nee, 1992). Sometimes the group’s size and competition from others (Schneider, 2008) and the lack of competence could pose as disabling factors. In addition, some sociolinguistics researchers highlighted major socio-psychological factors impacting on successful integration. For Mitchell and Myles (2004), cognitive factors – intelligence, language aptitude and language-learning strategies and affective factors – e.g. language attitudes, motivation and language anxiety – have important effects on the performance and contribution of social actors. In addition to race-related issues, poor educational foundations (Schaeffer et al., 2015), economic conditions (Curtis, 2015), spatial segregation (Lindemann, 2013; Dinesen, 2011) and gender (Anggadwita et al., 2017) pose important impediments to integration. Research to date has focused on intermediate variables such as language, educational and other socio-economic factors. To explore what is missing in earlier studies, we consider the degree to which the availability of large community networks could have negative impacts on the interactions between migrants and hosts. The article investigates the strategies adopted by migrant communities to ensure language and cultural survival. The paper, thus, considers the degree to which cultural and linguistic conservatism impacts on economic opportunities. Social and cultural conservatism could be described as the relatively successful retention of particular social and cultural attributes by a minority community within a dominant group. By exploring various models of cultural conservatism we develop a typology of social exclusion among migrants as part of our theoretical contribution to this area of research.
The article uses several secondary data sources, including the academic literature, governmental policy papers and non-government organisation (NGO) reports to examine the potency of the arguments for and against migrant enclaves. This departs from “traditional hypothetico-deductive approach” to exploit the potency of qualitative methodology in sense-making (Dana and Dana, 2005). The first step in our approach was to locate key literature which addresses theoretical perspectives on migrant integration in host societies and ascertain it importance as a psychological construct. Secondly, we sought to specifically categorise the part of the literature that conceptualise migrants’ approach integrating their new societies, including the use of coethnicity (Asante, 2018) which is linked to the development of enclaves; this second step was important to evidence the impact of enclaves on successful embeddedness in the host country. As the investigation purports to probe the linkage between the formation and continued existence of migrant enclaves and the nature of the interaction with the new socio-cultural milieu, we sourced both theoretical texts and practice-based reports, e.g. government policy frameworks and migrant-assisting organisations. The two-step approach drew a picture of migrant integration within and without the enclave and cogitate on the degree to which enclaves foster or hinder the development of migrant groups and individual in the new locality. This review of the literature then catalogued theoretical issues to be resolved so as to ensure a balanced debate (Burke, 2003; Espinoza-Herold and Contini, 2017). Our two-way approach attempts to “expand the exploration of plausible rival hypotheses, process tracing and counterfactual reasoning” (Dana, 2015) in the debate surrounding migrant integration and enclaves.
Situating migrant enclaves
Ethnic and migrant organisations play an important role in migrants’ settlement in a host community (Gerhards and Lengfeld, 2011; Laurence and Bentley, 2015; Kokkonen et al., 2014; Lindemann, 2013; Schneider, 2008). Such organisations help maintain norms and values within a population of newcomers that share similar characteristics. They are important components in the integration or sometimes lack of integration of migrants. Omi and Winant (1986:22) explain, in a study of American society, that “the key factors in explaining the success that an ethnic group will have in becoming incorporated into a majority society are the values or norms it possesses”. The assumption in Omi and Winant’s research is that a group is incorporable only if they have particular values and norms although this has been refuted by others (Laurence and Bentley, 2015). Such a claim is arguable. In fact, the context of migration can inhibit the opportunity for many migrants to be affiliated with a group close to their original culture but through individual struggle and the desire to contribute becomes a possibility (Viruell-Fuentes et al., 2013; Gerhards and Lengfeld, 2011).
Furthermore, research suggests some racial and discriminatory barriers that impact on the integration of minorities in a host society. Guo’s (2013) research into the economic integration of Chinese immigrants in Canada found that the establishment of the glass ceiling for migrants has linkages with their ethnicity and race. However, it has also been observed that the capability to erect themselves as a distinct category and operate within an ethnic enclave has perpetuated such exclusion (Schneider, 2008). Studies carried out on the Indian and the Somali communities in Britain resonate with such observations.
However, the success of some non-white migrants in the USA, e.g. the Vietnamese, mitigates the race and disadvantage of the ethnic enclave arguments, though not discarding it altogether. Viruell-Fuentes et al. (2013) arrived at similar conclusions in a study of Latino migrants to the US. This perspective calls for an alternative view of issues of integration for ethnic migrants to consider the possibility of the endogenous factors within those communities. Waldinger (1993, p. 444) is particularly well-honed on this standpoint when he argues that “assimilation theory no longer shapes the direction of current work on immigration”. In the same angle, Oskamp (2008) discusses the notions of realistic threats and symbolic threats which are critical theoretical constructions to express the degree to which in-groups’ belief about disadvantage could exacerbates the groups’ own conservatism and self-segregation through protectionism. Realistic threats are threats posed to the in-group physical or social space, its welfare, etc. Such perceived realistic threats can lead the in-group to develop defence mechanisms which lead to the construction of social, cultural and physical fences of which exemplifications are strong community groups, religious centres and physical segregation from host communities (Oskamp, 2008). The significance of this debate is the acknowledgement that migrants and diasporans are mobile and that migrant enclaves mutate in their nature and shift social and geographical places (Elo et al., 2019).
Debate has emerged around whether migrant support groups and self-help initiatives support economic prosperity and social integration. These do not necessarily strive to perpetuate identifiable and distinctive norms in spite of the individual and group difficulties encountered (Schaeffer et al., 2015; Curtis, 2015). It can, thus, be established that migrant organisations may have two different aims: either to perpetuate particular norms and values or act as a brokerage for socio-economic success and integration of its members. Wagner and Obermiller (2004) found four types of functions fulfilled by migrant ethnic organisations among American immigrants. These four types comprised organisations founded for social purposes, “to affirm their identity, to remain connected to their roots, and preserve their heritage”. Some studies found that the migrant enclaves were not necessarily associated with economic disadvantage (Berry, 2003; Waters et al., 2010; Portes, 1987). However, it could mobilise ethnic resources (financial or non-financial) through ethnic networks and dealing with ethnic business enclaves may increase economic advantage for migrants by providing them with employment opportunities. However, as we argue later in the discussions section, this advantage is often mitigated by lower status, lower income and exploitation of migrants by other migrant entrepreneurs.
Hack-Polay (2006) developed a typology of migrant community organisations that identified socio-cultural and political functions within which migrant groups could fall. However, the extent to which they fall within one or more of these three categories differs in terms of their degree of involvement in a particular typology. The models followed by many migrant communities aligns with the Immigrant-Host framework of which Patterson (1965) is a strong advocate although others propound different perspectives and models (Laurence and Bentley, 2015; Henz and Mills, 2014). She argues that the process of integration of an immigrant community involves both the host community and the newcomers to adapt to and accommodate a changing social and racial demography in relation to gender, income and other constraints faced (Anggadwita et al., 2017; Kokkonen et al., 2014; Kotabe et al., 2013; Schaeffer et al., 2015).
The role of migrant organisations could be viewed from a different perspective which may not always align with the inclusion discourse. In fact, instead of liberating the individual for effective social action, the community organisation could alienate them, confining them to a restrictive socio-cultural space (Lindemann, 2013). Much evidence suggests that found that migrants who had friends among the indigenous population gained language competence social promotion quicker by exploiting their “alien” contacts (Kindler et al., 2015; Farchy and Liebig, 2014; Boyd, 1989) Additionally, Elo et al. (2019), Storm (2014) and Dana (2009) noted the role of religion while Anggadwita et al. (2015) and Kokkonen et al. (2014) identified the crucial role of group gender mix.
This finding highlights the alienation that community or ethnic based groups could subject members to. Stein (1986) and Johnson (2000) see contradiction in the role of the ethnic organisation and even the impact of ethnicity itself (Lindemann, 2013); while, it may smoothen the transition between homeland citizenship and becoming migrant, community organisations can be “dysfunctional and a barrier that keeps migrants in an ambivalent position – midway to nowhere between the lost homeland and the new society” (Stein, 1986, p. 17). Such practices help maintain the status of a divided society. The host social architecture is not always solely responsible for migrants’ lack of integration as other factors such as labour, housing, education and discrimination among minorities themselves play a massive role (Schaeffer et al., 2015; Kokkonen et al., 2014; Lindemann, 2013). Usually, the first generations, and perhaps second generations too, would almost be confined to similar micro-social groupings and only later generations would see openings through education, work and leisure attendance alongside indigenous young people.
The literature review establishes that the larger the community of migrants from a specific culture, the more the abilities they have to develop mechanisms for cultural conservatism or competition (Schneider, 2008). These are invaluable ingredients that may help to heal the social and psychological disruptions caused by migration or cause further disruptions (Bäckman and Nilsson, 2010; Storm, 2014). At the same time, in the long term, extensively sustained community paternalism could alienate more vulnerable community members and hinder social and economic integration, thus, necessitating a strategic shift on the part of community groups and voluntary sector organisations involved in the field of migration. The possible impact of social and cultural protectionism on the socio-professional promotion among migrant communities has not always attracted balanced literature and debate commensurate with the magnitude of the issue because as Stahl and Tung (2015) argue, “the cultural distance construct focuses on the negative consequences associated with cultural differences”; thus the migrants’ cultural credentials have not always been viewed as social capital (Bourdieu, 1986) – though this is changing in recent literature. This article sheds some light on the integration blockage and opportunities that can emanate from migrant communities themselves.
It is a natural instinct to find comfort and reassurance in a community or ethnic group that one can associate with as a new migrant, particularly in the face of discrimination and hostility (Orton, 2012). This instinctive search for social and psychological support helps strengthen the migrant community organisation as a solid standing in the policy formulation as well as in social science theoretical debate about migrant integration. For example, the limited failure of UK policy of dispersing asylum seekers around the country is often attributed to hostility in host communities outside London and major cities (Kindler et al., 2015). We theorise about the instruments used by migrant organisations to provide social and psychological relief to their members. While such strategies are needed infrastructural support in the early period of migration, its continued provision appears to disable the migrant’s integration and social mobility (Orton, 2012).
Migrants’ frameworks for inclusion and exclusion
This section uses the literature to establish two main frameworks that migrant organisations adopt for socio-cultural conservatism: community social and welfare infrastructures and economic infrastructures. Majka and Mullan (2002) migrants and ethnic mutual assistance associations (MAAs) have cultural, religious, educational, professional, social and economic purposes. The support that they provide for co-ethnic groups ranges from informal socio-cultural and recreational events to sophisticated socio-economic structures such as particularistic financial services and labour markets, which seek to conserve the social fabric of the country of origin. Therefore we coin the term socio-cultural conservatism along similar lines with Bhugra and Becker (2005) as exemplified in Table I.
Bhugra and Becker (2005) propose that cultural conservatism develops with the ethnic density which exacerbates the need for cultural identity, particularly in the face of the perceived threat from diverse communities including competing migrant groups, which may cause distress. That gives rise to a certain orientation towards coethnicity (Asante, 2018), with a sense of identity and attachment to a specific cultural group. The establishment of the migrant community group develops “feelings of a sense of belonging and comfort” (Bhugra and Becker, 2005, p. 22). The nature of the original culture may present fertile opportunities for developing ethnic identity more rapidly. For instance, as Bhugra and Becker (2005, p. 22) argue, “collectivistic societies stress cohesiveness, strong ties between individuals, group solidarity, emotional inter-dependence, traditionalism and a collective identity”. However, it is important to note that, even migrants from individualistic cultures could embrace collectivistic attitudes in the host country for reasons of comfort, belonging and psychological safety.
The resistance of the host country to embrace newcomers can act as an added ingredient that stimulates group identity development and socio-cultural conservatism among migrants; this becomes more pronounced with migrant population density. Majka and Mullan (2002:75) evoke the critics of ethnic enclaves who propose that the ethnic solidarity school overlooks “many of the negative consequences of migrants’ involvement in ethnic groups and institutions”. In fact, critics such as Desbarats (1986), Sanders and Nee (1987), and Zhou and Logan (1989) argue that socio-cultural conservatism in the form of ethnic economic enclaves can disadvantage many migrant community members in terms of cultural integration and economic self-sufficiency; this then counters the possible economic benefits of the enclave as advocated by Berry (2003), Waters et al. (2010) and Chiswick and Miller (2012).
In the next sections we consider some critical instruments that migrant community deploy to ensure socio-cultural conservatism, causing self-exclusion. The discussion nuances the argument that issues in the host country, e.g. racism, are responsible for the disadvantage suffered by migrants. The discussion should not be seen as overtly falling into the integrationist approach where the responsibility for the lack of integration and the burden of change is almost exclusively with the migrants that are in some literature considered as a monolithic entity with a fixed and conservative culture attached to them. What the next section aims to present is the other side of a dialectic view of migrant integration issues in host societies such as the USA and the UK, and engage communities (hosts and newcomers) in seeing various perspectives that could help each change.
Inclusionary and exclusionary role of migrant enclaves
Migrant communities use a diversity of strategies to maintain key social and cultural characteristics that form part of their identity. The most significant of those are provisions community services and activities such as worship service, ethnic weekend school for children, socio-cultural activities at community centres and community newspapers (Hack-Polay, 2016). The significance of these strategies is extrapolated and their characteristics can be framed around five dimensions as shown in the typology in Table I.
Migrant community centres
According to the literature, ethnic community centres have existed for a long time and represent a critical part of the functioning of migrant lives and networks (Martin-Achard, 2016). Generations labour to maintain within community centres various activities geared at promoting the language, culture and native identity. The community centre is set up via collection and donations from the founders. Many of the original members offer weeks of wages to purchase buildings that house migrant community centres. The complex arrangement and working of the community centre attest to the degree of meticulous organisation by migrant groups, striving to protect their core cultural architecture. The community buildings then are physical representations and frameworks where the native narrative can live on.
The community centre’s physical presence is also an effective source to publicise the group and recruit members. Recent migrant crises in the Middle-East and Africa have furnished increased membership to many migrant groups in the USA and the UK, e.g. Iraqis, Syrians and Somalis. The number of Eastern and Central European migrants has increased significantly since 16 new members joined the European Union between 2004 and 2010. The growing migrant communities mean that more research is required to understand the full contours of the debate about whether community organisations are enabling or disabling migrant integration. Putnam (2007) found that high levels of diversity undermine social capital and lead to withdrawal from “collective life”. However, further studies’ conclusions have been split; some support and others reject Putnam’s findings. For example, Kindler et al. (2015) maintain that migrant community organisations play an important role in the settlement process. This perspective is also supported by Challenor et al. (2005); Phillimore et al. (2009). However, other researchers found evidence that migrant organisations entrench the development of members and hinder integration (Wessendorf, 2013; Fleischmann et al., 2011). In support of this more pessimistic view of migrant community organisations are Berger et al. (2004) who contend that ethnic community members who were well educated and associated with cross-ethnic networks enjoyed greater integration. A further less optimistic view of the role of the community organisation is put forward by Majka and Mullan (2002), in their research on Southeast Asian in the USA, found that these “community organisations did not transfer their compatriots from a position of dependence to a state of self-reliance” (p. 86). This suggests that migrant and ethnic organisations have a degree of dysfunctionality with regards to the integration of members in the wider social architecture.
Religion and culture
Migrant religious institutions include churches, mosques and temples, etc. These are open most days and members come for communal services or private prayers. Where religious leaders reside on the premises, they can often be contacted whenever needed. The services are conducted in the native language and following the rites practised in the country of origin (Elo et al., 2019; Hack-Polay, 2016). Old-timers provide initiation and support newcomers. The community hall is opened for members for socialising and networking.
The significance of the religious instrument in cultural maintenance is not arguable (Dana, 2009). It brings alive what Wiley (2001) called “connections to past traditions and the maintenance of ancestral languages”. These connections are so strong that they could only be expressed in the native tongue and social context. The use of the native language in the context of religious activities is a tool for social and cultural action. Invitees to major migrant religious events are those from a specific community, though a few people from different socio-cultural groups attend; but those visitors are mostly accompanying spouses. Regular cultural events include history and culture exhibitions and competitions, balls and ceremonies (Hack-Polay, 2016). These events attest to the power of culture as an instrument of identity maintenance and self-segregation of migrant communities (Orton, 2012; Kindler et al., 2015; Durkheim, 1961).
Migrant enclave education
Education is a powerful instrument for socialisation. It constitutes a significant element of integration or exclusion in society. Reay and Mirza (2001) who research Black supplementary schools in USA characterise them as “spaces of radical blackness” to emphasise the exclusionary nature of some of these educational structures. Many migrant communities use the education instrument to perpetuate values from the home country. It is common to observe the operation of migrant supplementary schools for the children of their communities. These are attended by generations of migrants’ children whom the first generations of migrants are keen to have them connected with home culturally but also in terms of kinship left back home. Migrant schools operate within community centres or migrant religious institutions, e.g. churches and mosques. Migrant and ethnic schools are open to all children of migrants from a particular culture, regardless of whether their parents attend the religious and community organisations. The accent is placed on widening the community base that will serve as a core in the cultural maintenance project. The more participants to the ethnic educational project there are the more extensive and stronger the community would be, providing more prospect for socio-cultural and linguistic survival or revival. Within the migrant schools, language is “both the medium and message of education” (Vygotsky, 1978). Migrant supplementary schools develop children’s ability to speak the native language and understand the culture. The curriculum mirrors the school curriculum in the native country.
The migrant educational project is not limited to “cultivating” children but extends to adults. Informal sessions offering educational guidance and employment advice run regularly to offer community support to newcomers (Patacchini and Zenou, 2012) to enable them to settle smoothly. In addition to referring some of their refugee-migrants to other members who might find employment for them, the person offering such assistance ensures that the new arrival is adequately looked after. What is not surfaced is the philosophical and moral positioning that might influence the helper’s intentions. Although initially well-intentioned (Majka and Mullan, 2002) these types of developments may hinder the extent to which a community of migrants are integrated into the receiving entity (Damm, 2014). Kepel (2016) argues that in the case of the Muslim communities, it could lead to the alienation of their children.
Some unstructured help in language proficiency as a vehicle towards integration is also provided. Assumptions are made that such assistance triggers language proficiency although we are reminded that staying within the ethnic enclave could pose additional limitations in this regard (Norton, 2000). Additional assistance includes classes and cultural activities to enhance migrants’ educational and social standing.
Migrant social networks as instruments of inclusion and self-exclusion
Nkongolo-Bakenda and Chrysostome (2013) argue that diaspora networks often operate as a catalyst for necessary social capital. In this perspective the migrant community can use its networks for the accomplishment of the cultural maintenance project. In several communities, people rely on intergroup network support through forums such as mother and toddler groups and dating platforms which are geared at developing friendship among community members as well as finding “love” or culturally supportive relationships because such networks embody favourable insider knowledge (Dekker and Engbersen, 2014). Xie and Gough’s (2011) research into the impact of immigrant networks concluded that community organisations and enclaves could disadvantage the migrant. Migrants frequent ethnic community centre networks where they are rid of the sense of feeling foreigners and embarrassment, which support part of the ethnic solidarity perspective (Portes, 1995). This attachment to the community centre is to avoid social shame because some could not speak the host language (Xie and Gough, 2011).
Migrant information structures
The informational instruments sit in the significant arena of cultural protectionism. Information is a source of dissemination of valuable community news and networking opportunities the role minority ethnic media could be viewed as instruments used in the construction of a visible domain (Husband, 2006). In that sense, the use of migrant and ethnic media by migrant organisations bears an ideological dimension. This is used as social control and exclusion mechanism (Johnson, 2000). Much sociological evidence suggests that “participation in mainstream communication channels was necessary for acculturation [or integration] to the host culture” (Johnson, 2000; Gordon, 1964). For instance, in the Polish community in South London, newsletters such as “Cooltura” and “Nowy Czas” in Polish language are circulated free of charge through the church and the community hall to provide comprehensive news to the community. While the informational sources are essential elements to build the community spirit, they lead members who are not literate in English to sit out linguistic and cultural integration in the host country Viswanath and Arora (2009, p. 41), thus, see “the primary role” of migrant and ethnic media as one of social control. Shi (2009) puts this perspective in eloquent terms when the author argues that “media discourses draw individuals to interpret their daily actualities with the alienated constructs of power and to subordinate their experienced world to the categories of ruling”.
In dating and marriage for instance, evidence suggests that difference migrant and ethnic communities have ethnic preferences, usually towards their own ethnicity (Fisman et al., 2006). This racial preference is perpetuated by the proliferation of ethnic dating websites and various forums. The sections of various ethnic newsletters are dedicated to dating postings, which are often responded to by people from the specific community given the publication of the postings in the foreign language. This perspective is supported by Viswanath and Arora (2009, p. 39) who argue that “ethnic groups have grown active and have established institutions to sustain their ethnicity”. The use of ethnic media to promote the ethnic conservatism project is pertinently explicated by Johnson (2000) who investigated Latina media in the USA. Similarly, Park (1970) observed that migrant media preserve old memories and propagate news about opportunities (abroad). We conclude that the instrumental involvement of migrant media in enticing new members abroad is propaganda for increasing the diaspora numbers to ensure the viability and sustainability of socio-cultural conservatism.
Migrant economic enclaves and inclusion and self-exclusion
Having appropriate community assistance is not a guarantor that migrants will necessarily integrate socio-culturally and educationally. We opine that language is crucial as part of this overall process. Mercer (2000), for example, argues that second language acquisition helps people deal with many situations, solve problems and get things done successfully. However, various migrant communities perceive language and culture acquisition as an unnecessary endeavour particularly because they can complete the social action (Mercer, 2000) without having recourse to host language. They relegate linguistic and cultural integration to the bottom of the priority list, in sharp contrast with Vygotsky’s (1978) acclaimed theoretical perspective which places language high on the hierarchy of necessary socio-cultural processes. This attitude towards learning the host culture and language was not isolated among some migrant communities. The existence of a strong migrant community with religious establishments, shops, newspapers and community centres, play groups, school for children, and even medical practices could all be the adverse ingredients of social integration. This renders the “community thing” disempowering, which is linked to Putnam’s (2007, p. 137) argument that “in the short run immigration and ethnic diversity tend to reduce social solidarity and social capital”. Community members may experience bad feelings about their inability to fully engage with the host community members at individual and group levels but the opportunity for community support for their immediate needs for affiliation and socialising supersedes the perceived psychological and cultural benefits of seeking integration to the host society.
Migrant financial services
In many areas of economic life, in the case of migrants in the UK, the existence of ethnic banks and financial services is a pull factor with regards to cultural conservatism. In the case of Muslim communities, the existence of Islamic banks and financial institutions remove the need for some members to be serviced by host country institutions (Haniffa and Hudaib, 2007). The authors found that six in seven Islamic banks they survey had ethical identity index below average and “suffer from disparity between the communicated and ideal ethical identities” (p. 98). They further found that a critical “incongruence” concerned the limited “commitments to society” in those organisations. Though it is claimed that Islam encourages people to develop enterprises (Ramadani et al., 2015), the complexity of Islamic financing and its removal of wider opportunities for some Muslim community members has led Hamoudi (2007) to proclaim the failure of Islamic finance.
In spite of the fact that ethnic and migrant institutions may be located a distance from some communities, the advent of internet banking exacerbates the disconnection of migrant communities from host financial institutions because community members could access such services in their own language at a distance, thus, creating a dual financial market that keeps communities apart. Additionally, as the number of migrants from a specific cultural milieu increase, some major British Banks such as Barclays and NatWest offer bank account in the medium of the foreign language. Estates agents have followed this trend. In addition, a number of money transfer agencies have emerged, which provide services exclusively to the migrants in their native language and locality, transferring funds to designated countries. At the same time, migrant communities have set up mortgage lending services to assist members. In essence, while these practices appear to remove barriers to access financial services, their permanency creates a state of dependency of the migrant on the ethnic organisation and exclusion in the long term because they contribute to perpetuate the existence of the ethnic enclave. This was found to be pertinent in the case of ethnic Chinese in the USA in Sanders and Nee’s (1987) study. Xie and Gough (2011) equally found that economic structures in the ethnic enclave create complex subclass structures within the enclave. In this case, some migrants exploit others away from public oversight, using the cover of religion.
Migrant commodity and employment marketplace
The migrant commodity markets play a critical role in socio-cultural conservatism. Numerous shops, supermarkets, beauty salons, etc., are set up for the migrant community. These economic instruments are often operated by members of the community. Traditional Asian and other corner shops around London, for instance, offer a wide range of ethnic products such as food, meat, drinks, sweets, etc., from the migrants’ home countries. Frequenting these economic units is not limited to newcomers, but it becomes a way of life as the migrants grow stronger roots in these cultural islands. Desbarats (1986) and Sanders and Nee (1987), for example, found that the ethnic economic enclave was a liability for migrant Chinese groups who faced more integration difficulties and therefore remained for longer confined to the enclave or what we term cultural islands. The ethnic solidarity school’s main argument is that economic units created by migrants within the economic enclave supports ethnic employment and generate economic wealth. However, Xie and Gough (2011) and Walks and Bourne (2006) found that the enclave economy profited more the capable ethnic entrepreneurs and disadvantaged the average ethnic member employed. This disadvantage takes the form of low wages, poor working conditions, unregulated production and lack of training (Mussida and Parisi, 2018).
These sophisticated socio-economic infrastructures built around the community leads to certain self-sufficiency (Gans, 2015). Members of the migrant community are able to operate in the new society with little knowledge of cultural norms and the language. We recognise social actors’ desires to protect their cultural heritage and these structures are important as support mechanisms but acknowledgement of some less positive elements is an imperative. New patterns of migrant settlement destinations are challenging this perspectives, with more migrant choosing the countryside and rural location with limited migrant and ethnic networks available (Munkejord, 2017). This metamorphosis of the migrant patterns of settlement leads to the exploration of alternative explanations (Waldinger, 1993, see also Brinkerhoff, 2011).
Hybridity and dynamism
Based on an exploration of the literature, we advocate that integration initiatives need to be set in multicultural and bilingual context to create frameworks for connecting newcomers and host communities as they live in negotiated and shared spaces (Brinkerhoff, 2011), creating dynamism and developing dynamic capabilities. The notion of hybridity is an interdisciplinary concept which, according to Kraidy (2002), is one of the most debated concepts in the post-colonial era. This denotes its significance in integration and globalisation literatures. It has attracted as much support as criticism. The main argument of the critiques centres on the view that hybridity serves neo-colonialist intents (Acheraïou, 2011; Spivak, 1999). However, from an ontological perspective, Kraidy (2002) argues that hybridity should be understood as “a clear product of global and local interactions” and “a communicative practice constitutive of, and constituted by, socio-political and economic arrangements” (p. 318). This viewpoint was supported in recent studies by Yousfi (2014) who contends that hybridisation should encapsulate “historical and cultural contexts from which hybridity emerges and helps to identify the elements that change and those that persist when western [management] practices are imported into developing countries”. Waldinger’s (1993) influential article on “the ethnic enclave revisited”, supports this thesis when he contends that the idea of fixed enclaves is erroneous because enclaves experience spatial and temporal shifts.
Our perspective, therefore, is that hybridity answers some practical and socio-psychological demands of modern societies and serves as a notion to capture the varying theoretical postulations. Our perspective draws from Blumer’s (1969) symbolic interactionist viewpoint which establishes that self and society are situational because society is in perpetual change occurring as a result of the fluctuating positioning of social actors depending on contexts. This argument is also made by Sonderegger and Taube. We recognise the psychological importance of identities and the centrality of migrant organisations. However, identity is closely connected with broader social structures and historical processes (Hack-Polay, 2016; Rasool, 2000; Blumer, 1969). Globalisation since Roman times has been rendering the mixture and transformation of identities inevitable, particularly as migrants increasingly settle beyond the boundaries of urban areas that traditionally absorbed them (Munkejord, 2017). This inevitability of changing identities is reinforced by media and political discourses and propagandas about democratic ideals and what modern civilisation encompasses. For migrants, the purpose of coming to the USA, UK, Germany, The Netherlands, Sweden, etc., whether this is economic or safety, could not be reconcilable with the “wasting” of time on other “secondary” things such as second language and cultural acquisition.
Drifting into stronger socio-cultural conservatism inadvertently leads to social isolation and risks depriving its members of intellectual, professional and multicultural developments on its doorstep. This would reinforce boundaries that Anthias and Yuval-Davis (1995) qualified as racialized, thus, by ricochet, hinder social solidarity. Norton (2000) has argued that in such cases, the community of immigrants could face economic disadvantage, thus confining them to lower social expectations. Bucholz (2003), in her study of “nerd girls”, coined the concepts of negative identity practice and positive identity practice. The former refers to situations where individuals attempt to distance themselves from a rejected identity while in positive identity practice individuals seek to construct a chosen identity. However, involvement in negative identity practice may not be advantageous for migrant communities because sometimes hybridity (Figure 1) is a more viable alternative (Huynh et al., 2011; Gutierrez et al., 2003) especially if groups are situated between conflict and collaboration.
Hybridity for us does not entail espousing all aspects of host cultures; but hybridity is about awareness and understanding of host cultures in sufficient depth to articulate the symbolic world of the host community in order that it, in turn, can understand newcomers. Burke (2003) argues that that people embody multiple identities, which in recognition of the inevitability of hybridity. For Burke, it is essential to understand how these multiples identities are effectively articulated for social action. This sets hybridity as a lived pervasive social experience. Espinoza-Herold and Contini (2017) argue that integration is not a one-sided exercise but demands effort from both sides.
Conclusion, implications and future research
The analysis has some of the significant socio-conservatism strategies adopted by migrant communities to preserve their native identities. There is significant evidence in support of the thesis that ethnic enclaves, though having been found to have economic, social and psychological benefits in several studies, can cause self-exclusion and disadvantage migrants. This article extends the existing literature through a systematic re-interrogation of migrant enclaves and, for that purpose, the proposition of the use of a duality approach to studying the ethnic enclave. A significant underlying contribution of this paper is also explicate that social solidarity is broadly framed as bi-dimensional: internal social solidarity and external social solidarity, with the first concerned with intra-ethnic solidarity and the second about inter-ethnic solidarity; this leads to suggest that in the context contemporary societies fuelled largely by migratory movement, hybridity and dynamism may be intertwined. This is the very conclusion that renders the binary approach to migrant enclaves (either […] or) a questionable argument that requires revisiting. It is important to enrich the dichotomy of enclave thinking into a fully-fledged real dynamic constellation, not a curse or a blessing but a mix of that with various workings.
The study presents several implications for society, research and practice. First, the opaque social infrastructure built around the ethnic enclave can be unintentionally isolating and even perhaps, alienate some of the enclave’s members. Boal (2005) believes that ethnic concentration can enhance migrant cultural goals and group identity. However, Xie and Gough (2011) found limited support for the ethnic enclave but rather a catalogue of disadvantages and negative economic outcomes for migrants. In multicultural spaces, e.g. the UK, USA, Sweden, The Netherlands and Germany, migrant enclave members are increasingly being confined into small spaces that we referred to as cultural islands, which could have unintended negative socio-economic ramifications by denying social opportunities to vulnerable members because of the limited ability to engage in a dialogue with other communities and negotiate a strategic positioning.
Second, socio-cultural and linguistic isolation has been found as a negative impact in cementing migrant enclaves’ social integration. This inadvertently has the unintended consequence of making migrant enclaves’ contributions less-appreciated and embraced by the wider host society within their socio-economic fabric. There is much evidence supporting the view that ethnic minorities and migrants can display social and economic confidence within a specific enclave but exhibit less confidence in the competitive macro-social sphere where ethnic cultures meet the dominant culture. Though this argument remains prevalent in the migrant integration literature, in a gender and rural context, Munkejord (2017) argues that “rural immigrant entrepreneurship cannot be conceived in terms of ‘ethnic resources’ or ‘enclave economy’ that are often central explanatory dimensions in megacity studies”. This argument supports the view of the changing spatial destination of migrants in host countries; thus, with increasing numbers of migrants settling outside urban areas – their traditionally favoured destinations – the theorisation of migrant enclave requires a new approach, which identifies dynamism and contextualisation as central to the debate (Zahra et al., 2014).
Third, there is a learning point for host and newcomer communities they need to engage in a reflective exercise so as to establish whether where and when their interests are better served in the wider society. Such a development calls for a more proactive community role in trying to establish practical mechanisms that promote independence and opportunities for all members outside of the enclave as a potential way forward for migrant host communities in an era of massive immigration globally. This is where public social science can play a significant role practically and theoretically. Practically, engaging in research within the enclaves produces sociological reports and research that makes sense to enclave members and leaders in these contexts. Research of this nature has the added benefit of raising awareness of critical social and managerial issues with those who could effectively and culturally act on the findings. Theoretically, Gans (2015, p. 2) argues that “Whatever form the product takes, it [public social science research] must be presented in clear and parsimonious language, with as little technical vocabulary as possible.”
At policy level, although many migrants do well economically and socially and demonstrate strong labour market participation (Hack-Polay, 2006), those who find it difficult to adjust to social and economic life in a foreign country deserve much help from host authorities and community organisations alike. The UK Home Office’s plans to coerce migrants to learn English before qualifying for citizenship may work only if migrant organisations are placed at the centre of the strategy and are sensitised to work with members. This research highlights the need to shift the organisational paradigm in the way migrant organisations manage themselves in the host country.
Limitations and future research
A limitation of this paper centres on the fact that only theoretical perspectives have been considered; some case studies would perhaps exemplify the key themes and set them in a stricter public social science standpoint. Taking a more global approach will also enhance the analysis because the migration crisis is a worldwide phenomenon,
Further research is needed to establish whether a change in current community-based practices to help with migrant integration might help alleviate the tensions between hosts and migrants or resolve the issues highlighted by social and self-exclusion. The debate regarding whether ethnic enclaves disadvantage or create opportunities may never be settled owing to the complexities in human social integration. However, future research on both sides of the argument could work within the framework of public social science and emerging discourses to enlighten migrant and host communities about the benefits and insufficiencies of the ethnic solidarity school and the pessimistic view of the integrative role of the migrant organisation. Public social science will expose the arguments in ways that are intelligible to collectivities and assist decision-making. A number of books deal with the role of NGOs and migrant community organisations in resettlement and integration, cultural continuance across generations, facilitating access to work and language but also in creating dependency. This duality should be probed further in this intensely charged area of investigation as the human tragedies, globalisation and search for economic opportunities, etc. that cause migratory movements evolve. With the surge of migrants in Europe in the unfolding decade, it is opportune to refocus the research agenda in view to assist social policy.
Typology of socio-cultural conservatism
|Framework for socio-cultural conservatism||Instruments||Activities|
|(1) Community social welfare structures||Community centre||Purchase of buildings|
|Religious and cultural||Worships service|
|Parties and festivals|
|Education||Saturday schools in native language|
|Adult education classes|
|Preparation for communions|
|Social networks||Web-based social networks|
|Community information boards|
|(2) Economic structures||Migrant financial services||Migrant banking services|
|Language services in host financial institutions|
|Ethnic commodity and employment markets|
|Shops and supermarkets|
|Home to home sales|
|Jobs in migrants family units or companies|
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