Political Inclusion

Do Internal Migrants Divide or Unite Across Ethnic Lines? Ethnographic and Experimental Evidence from Urban India

Author : Tariq Thachil | 2014
Published By: Social Science Research Network

Despite rapid internal migration to cities across the developing world, little is known about identity formation within poor urban migrant communities. When will ethnic differences socially and politically divide poor migrants in the city? And when will ascriptive differences be obscured by shared class identities? I study these crucial questions through six months of ethnographic fieldwork and a large-scale vignette-experiment (N=3018) conducted among internal migrants in urban India. Intra-class ethnic divisions prove highly salient in interactions exclusively between poor migrants, but irrelevant in interactions that also include urban elites. I introduce a new mechanism to explain this variation: a solidarity effect produced by city elites who perceive and treat migrants of different ethnicities in shared class terms. Elite behavior stems from the concentration of poor migrants into ethnically heterogeneous, economically homogeneous urban worksites and settlements. Such concentration reverses the visibility advantage ethnicity enjoys over class in villages structured along ethnic lines.

URL : http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2455564

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