Social (Im)Mobility and Subjective Mobility: Peruvian Migrants in Sao Paulo, Brazil

Monday, 11 July 2016: 14:45
Location: Seminarraum Geschichte 1 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Lorena IZAGUIRRE, Universite Catholique de Louvain, Belgium
Understanding social mobility has been the focus of economic migrations studies, but the attention has been on material conditions of migrants’ incorporation. There is little on how individuals interpret their experience and their social mobility in the country of reception. This article analyzes how Peruvian migrants interpret their experience and social mobility in Brazil. Using the intersectionality framework for analysis and relying on ethnographic fieldwork and biographical-narratives, this article states that despite precarious work conditions, uncertainty and objectively immobile trajectories, migrants can perceive their experiences as successful cases of social mobility.

Brazil has become the core of South America’s migration system as a result of multiple intra-regional migration flows, caused by the significant demand of labor that has accompanied Brazil’s economic growth in recent years. In this context, Sao Paulo, the most important urban center in South America, is now a magnet for international migrants. Over the past 30 years, a particular transnational circuit emerged between the Peruvian Andes and Sao Paulo. The majority of Peruvian migrants, from rural areas and peasant families, face a paradox situation: they embody a regular migratory status and high economic precarity. Although they easily have a regular residency status in the context of MERCOSUR arrangements, they incorporate to the labor market mainly through the informal sector. Starting as street vendors, workers in the garment sector or employed by other Peruvians under a debt bondage regime, the pathway to a secure job may take years.

However, I argue that even immobile trajectories can subjectively be perceived as successful. Peruvian migrants emphasize narratives of entrepreneurships and see as temporary conjunctures their day-to-day struggles. In fact, social mobility perceptions lays not only in the socio-economical determinants of reception context, but also into the capacity of re-signifying social class, ethnicity and status from origin.