Agenda Nov 21 – Chinese Sellers: A story of globalization as told by an informal market in downtown São Paulo by Douglas Piza

Here a summary about Douglas’s great work:

This paper shares the premise that globalization is a set of complex transnational phenomena that take place at specific sites, and seconds the proposition that an important part of contemporary globalization is the intersection of two international fluxes, namely those of people and goods. It seeks to explore migration from a mobility paradigm perspective, and takes the case under study as a strategic research site for the investigation of how globalization shapes spaces.

Based in an ethnography made between 2009 and 2012, it seeks to answer how was possible a mass of Chinese migrants to become the majority of sellers in downtown São Paulo’s popular market in the last two decades. I argue that the recent massive arrival of Chinese migrants in that area was possible due to emergence of popular shopping malls whose majority of proprietors is comprised of Chinese migrants arrived at Brazil in the 1950s and 1960s. It is true that significant recent flow of migration occurs at a time of reactivation of the Chinese diaspora around the world in the wake of the effects of Chinese industrialization, economic and political reforms. However, it was the Chinese migrants of the previous flow that could become importers of products made in China, which abound in downtown São Paulo markets, partially displacing the supply chain of products that previously passed through Paraguay. There are more recently arrived Chinese sellers than importers and owners of galleries, but only the latter two types had a “transnational condition” that allowed them to legally open their businesses and, through social networks, connect themselves to the other side of the globe. Therefore they alter the scale of the trade practiced by engendering a new kind of sales: popular shopping malls full of Chinese merchants who sell products directly from the Asian country.

The paper discusses the role of social networks in transnational migration in two different ways. First, it reveals the tensions of the interaction between two distinctive flows of Chinese (1950s-60s and 90s-00s) in a spectrum that ranges from full ethnic solidarity to quasi-slavery. Second, it pays special attention to the connections between Chinese in São Paulo and in their country, interpreting the juxtaposition and singularities of diaspora and mercantile circuits.

As always we meet on Fridays for lunch (it is on us) from 1-3pm in 65W 11th Street, Room 102!!


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