Class Mobility, Migration, and Social Processes: Hong Kong Middle Classes in Canada

Saturday, 21 July 2018: 14:30
Oral Presentation
Lake LUI, Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong
Sara CURRAN, University of Washington, USA
Migration involves a change of social field, in which the rules of games in achieving social status vary. Past studies find that immigrants face de-professionalization as they move to a more developed country. Yet others argue that as migration is a highly selective process in that migrants are positively selected in terms of quality, they are likely to climb up socially. Based on in-depth interviews with 30 Hong Kong professionals/managers/administrators who have moved to Canada since 1990s, this study takes the Bourdieusien perspective to examine mobility processes. We found two pathways for movers who do not return to Hong Kong despite institutional exclusions in Canada from entering their original professions: 1) Some experienced initial downward mobility in terms of occupation, but they conformed with the tacit rules by accumulating sufficient cultural resources espoused by the host country, which buffers the fall; 2) Some sought alternative paths by creatively utilizing their ethnic cultural capital and social capital they have from Hong Kong to regenerate their middle class status. While these two pathways sustain their middle-class status occupationally, Hong Kong movers, facilitated by migration intermediaries, reconstruct a new definition of middle class status by devaluing “work” and upholding “quality of life” as a superior distinction of themselves from “middle class” stayers in Hong Kong. Such construction, however, is constantly contested because of the middle-class Hong Kongers’ habitat to compete in order to achieve upward mobility; and partly because of their indecisiveness to actually settle in Canada. Their struggles have unintentionally and partially modified some immanent rules of class formation in Canada. This study contributes to the understanding of the transnational nature of social mobility and class-in-struggles as the field changes.