Localized Migrant Communities in the Absence of Ethnic Neighbourhoods: A Glimpse into Moscow’s Ethnic Cafés

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Varshaver, E., Rocheva A. (2018). Localized Migrant Communities in the Absence of Ethnic Neighbourhoods: A Glimpse into Moscow’s Ethnic Cafés. Urbanities - Journal of Urban Ethnography, 8(2), 42-58.

 

This article addresses the question of whether one can speak of localized migrant communities in contexts without ethnic neighbourhoods. While recognizing that space plays an important role for the emergence and sustenance of migrant communities, we argue that the conventional neighbourhood-based understanding of localized migrant communities limits the research’s potential and instead suggest shifting the focus to prevalent elements of migrant infrastructure; in particular, to ethnic cafés and restaurants. In an attempt to elucidate the vague term of a migrant community, we conceptualize it as densely tied fragments of social networks. The discussion draws on fieldwork in Moscow, a city that attracts significant migration flows from post-soviet republics, as well as from other regions of Russia, but has no ethnic neighbourhoods. The ethnographic study of migrant communities in ethnic cafés demonstrates how such localized migrant communities function and maintain themselves and what implications this spatial boundedness has for social relations. The article thus returns to a spatial understanding of migrant communities, but offers ways to avoid the ‘dead-end’ of neighbourhood-based research and strives to lay out ways through which to combine spatial and network-centred approaches. In so doing, and together with addressing an under-researched post-soviet context, the discussion contributes to current debates within urban anthropology and migration studies.

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