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Book Sections Year : 2023

Survival during the Pandemic and Coping with Risk: an Ethnography of Vulnerable Chinese Migrants Receiving Food Assistance

Abstract

This chapter examines how Chinese migrants in precarious conditions living in France cope with multiple physical, mental, social, and economic risks caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. This chapter is based on an ethnographic study of an ethnically based food assistance system between March and May 2021 set up by entrepreneurs of Chinese origin to help vulnerable Chinese people, mainly undocumented migrants. The chapter shows that migrants living in great precarity have to choose between the risk of potential infection and the need to find the resources for survival. This trade-off was particularly stark, as they perceive the virus as extremely dangerous but, at the same time, have few resources with which to protect themselves, avoid infection, and seek treatment. Authors highlight the multiple strategies employed by these migrants to find the resources for daily survival. In this context, the ethnic food assistance system was a key tool in helping them deal with the multiple sources of precarity driven by the pandemic. The entrepreneurs who organized the food distribution and most of the volunteers had originally come from Wenzhou (in Zhejiang) and were wealthy, whereas the beneficiaries were almost all from Northeast China. In the literature, the relationships and the interactions between these two groups in France (wealthy Chinese entrepreneurs versus vulnerable Chinese workers, or migrants from Wenzhou versus those from Northeast China) are often viewed through the lens of labor tensions and exploitation at work. However, this study sheds new light on the relationship between tension and emerging solidarity of these two groups in a crisis. The pandemic may well have had a silver lining for the Chinese communities in France by creating conditions in which these regional and class-oriented boundaries were crossed and reconfigured.
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hal-04313000 , version 1 (30-11-2023)

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Francesco Madrisotti, Ran Yan, Simeng Wang. Survival during the Pandemic and Coping with Risk: an Ethnography of Vulnerable Chinese Migrants Receiving Food Assistance. Chinese in France amid the Covid-19 Pandemic. Daily Lives, Racial Struggles and Transnational Citizenship of Migrants and Descendants, BRILL, pp.223-255, 2023, 9789004678606. ⟨10.1163/9789004678606_010⟩. ⟨hal-04313000⟩
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