Reframing Sociologies of Ethnicity & Migration in Encounters with Chinese London

Knowles, Caroline. 2017. Reframing Sociologies of Ethnicity & Migration in Encounters with Chinese London. British Journal of Sociology, 68(3), pp. 454-473. ISSN 0007-1315 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

In this paper I argue that the intersecting sociologies of ethnicity and migration work from a series of interconnected blind spots hindering effective analysis of the current UK situation. Both operate analytically within the limitations of an ‘immigrant problem’ framework; are overinvested in state agendas; privilege a nation state analysis; are narrowly focussed on distributions of migrant bodies, and on receiving, at the expense of sending, contexts. Exploring these limitations with data derived from a modest small-scale qualitative study of young Chinese migrants in London 2 I argue for a reframing along four dimensions. Firstly, in an era of elite migration, sociology could reach beyond its immigrant problem framework and open up to a broader range of UK migrant ethnicities and circumstances. Secondly, a stronger focus on cities as the scale on which lives are lived, and through which diverse streams of translocal activity are routed, would open new avenues of sociological exploration. Thirdly, including translocal activities connected with distributions of ethnic migrant bodies, such as capital transfers, would broaden its focus, taking migration and ethnicity more centrally into the analysis of globalisation as one of its constituting practices. Finally, paying attention to sending, as well as arrival cities, reveals migrants’ thinking and shapes the ways in which they live, as my data shows. The Chinese are both one of the UK’s neglected minorities, and one of its fastest growing populations. They are a good example of new UK migrants and they bring globalisation’s realignment with the rising significance of China to the UK.

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Identification Number (DOI):


Chinese, London, migration, ethnicity and urbanism

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Sociology > Centre for Urban and Community Research (CUCR)


4 September 2017Published
13 June 2017Published Online
1 April 2016Accepted

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Date Deposited:

04 May 2016 08:43

Last Modified:

18 Dec 2019 16:29

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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