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‘I'm not like all these Ecuadorians’. Promises and dilemmas of immigrants’ selective ethnicity appropriation

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This article revisits my translocal ethnography of Ecuadorian immigration to Italy, building on the notions of ethnicization and selective ethnicity appropriation. The salience of an ethnic dimension, in the daily lives of the migrants I met, is explored with regard to collective identification, alignment with co-nationals and interactions with natives. By de-constructing migrants’ ethnicity from within, a range of expectations and strategies towards the receiving society emerges. While processes of ethnicization affect them in cognitive, discursive and practical terms, immigrants selectively draw from their ethnicity patterns, as their previous identities and lifestyles interact with the mainstream overseas. Their ethnicity – as a shared repertoire of habits, ways of life and common sense ideas, supported by a communal identity and background – can be purposefully negotiated in several respects, as they strive to negotiate better life conditions overseas. Why this occurs, under what conditions, and producing what effects, are the questions to be approached in this article. As I shall argue, ethnicity-related attitudes and behaviours raise opportunities and dilemmas both for migrants’ incorporation overseas and for their transnational connections.
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Keywords: Ecuadorian migration; ethnic boundary; ethnicity appropriation; ethnicization; self-identification

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Sociology and Social Research, University of Trento, Trento, Italy

Publication date: January 2, 2014

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