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Flows of fortune:the economy of chinese migration to Portugal

By Irene Rodrigues

Abstract

Tese de doutoramento, Antropologia (Antropologia da Religião e do Simbólico), Universidade de Lisboa, Instituto de Ciências Sociais, 2013In the end of the 1970s Chinese people, mostly from the region of Wenzhou (Zhejiang province, Southeast China) recovered previous migratory chains to Europe that dated back to the late nineteenth century. These new migratory flows started at a time when China was precisely making the first steps towards the ‘opening and reform’ politics (gaige kaifang) and when the promise of a new Chinese ‘modernity’, away from collectivism and closer to market, was the silver lining every cloud must have. The changes brought about by this program created throughout China, particularly in places such as Wenzhou, an atmosphere that became highly favourable to competition for wealth and social prestige. While this new political and economical framework meant more economic development and opportunities, it also implied the growth of inequalities and the increase of emigration. This dissertation argues that aspirations of wealth and the social recognition triggered by the wealth of some, together with the perceived lack of social mobility opportunities, induced emigration from China. It describes and analyses migrants’ trajectories from China to Portugal as a ‘rite of passage’ to a (hopefully) wealthy future, and ethnographically analyses the migrants’ main strategies to raise money, namely their saving habits, business strategies and the religious practices employed to putatively attract fortunes. It also discusses how money and material things are used as an investment not only towards social prestige, but also towards the reinforcement of emotional ties with relatives and friends in a logic of exchange. Throughout the dissertation the notion of a ‘Chinese modernity’, influenced by Chinese folk beliefs and practices and long-term ethics, is gradually unveiled. Contemporary migration appears, in this deeply historical and widely geographical picture, as part of a Chinese strategy of ‘indigenization of modernity’.No final da década de 1970, chineses provenientes na sua maioria da região de Wenzhou (província de Zhejiang, sudeste da China) recuperaram antigas correntes migratórias para a Europa, que remontavam ao final do século XIX. Estes novos fluxos migratórios começaram no momento em que a China estava precisamente a dar os primeiros passos na política de reforma e abertura (gaige kaifang) na nova era pós-Mao, e em que se desenhava a promessa de uma nova “modernidade” chinesa, longe do coletivismo e mais perto do mercado. As mudanças provocadas por este programa implementado por Deng Xiaoping foram-se expandindo a partir das regiões costeiras do Sudeste da China, particularmente de locais como Wenzhou, onde o ambiente se tornou altamente favorável à competição por riqueza e prestígio social. Ao mesmo tempo que este novo quadro político e económico significou mais desenvolvimento económico e mais oportunidades, também implicou o crescimento das desigualdades sociais e económicas e o aumento da emigração. Esta dissertação argumenta que as aspirações de riqueza e reconhecimento social provocadas pela enriquecimento de alguns, juntamente com a perceção de falta de oportunidades de mobilidade social ascendente, deram origem a um forte fluxo de emigração. Esta dissertação parte da análise da relação teórica entre migração e aspirações materiais, nomeadamente dinheiro e consumo, para avaliar a importância de “fazer dinheiro” (zhuan qian), principal objectivo da migração tal como verbalizado pelos migrantes chineses em Portugal. Porém, a dissertação não se concentra apenas nos modos de conseguir acumular dinheiro, mas também nos propósitos dessa acumulação e no modo como esse dinheiro é gasto. Esta etnografia da migração chinesa entre Portugal e a China é baseada numa pesquisa etnográfica com trabalho de campo sobretudo em Lisboa, mas também em várias locais na China, principalmente no município de Wenzhou (Zhejiang), e também em Pequim e no Nordeste da China. Foram seguidas as trajetórias e os quotidianos de 12 famílias chinesas migrantes em Portugal e as redes familiares de algumas delas na China. O principal objectivo foi conhecer e descrever o quotidiano da migração chinesa para Portugal, bem como os meandros das suas motivações, expectativas e desencantos. O enfoque em Wenzhou deriva da sua posição proeminente como principal região de origem de migrantes chineses para Portugal, mas também pelo seu interessante posicionamento para entender o predicamento da modernidade China na atualidade. Wenzhou é uma cidade média que está entre as cidades mais ricas e modernas da China, que são em geral de população superior, mas está também entre as regiões que mais envia população para o exterior. A prosperidade de Wenzhou assenta numa produção industrial ligeira sustentada por trabalhadores migrantes provenientes de regiões pobres da China, que nas últimas décadas substituíram os trabalhadores locais que migram para a Europa e para outros locais do globo, motivados pela riqueza e ostentação locais, em busca das oportunidades de enriquecimento que não encontravam em Wenzhou. Esta dissertação evidencia porém o modo como, deslumbrados com uma ideia de Europa como um lugar de “modernidade” imaginada a partir da China, muitos migrantes chineses experimentam um desencantamento pelas condições de vida que encontram na migração e reorientam o seu quotidiano de vida árdua (chiku) e as suas “aspirações” de “modernidade” para o futuro e para modelos emanados da nova China moderna e cosmopolita. Estas contradições entre expectativas, quotidiano, e tempos e lugares “imaginados” é evidenciada pelas contradições entre as condições de vida e de trabalho na Europa, sobretudo em bairros antigos e em parte degradados como o Martim Moniz, e os arranha-céus espelhados do município natal de Wenzhou que deixam para trás. Esta dissertação descreve e analisa as trajetórias da migração da China para Portugal, as suas dificuldades e as suas aspirações, e propõe analisar parte destas trajectórias como um “rito de passagem”. Na verdade argumenta-se que a migração é um processo de transformação em que, depois de passarem por uma fase de liminaridade, os migrantes esperam alcançar um futuro de prosperidade e reconhecimento social. Esta fase liminal é aceite como um momento necessário em nome de um futuro radioso, o que permite entender a disposição com que muitos migrantes chineses encaram o trabalho árduo e o sofrimento durante os primeiros anos da migração. Ainda neste âmbito são analisadas etnograficamente as principais estratégias dos migrantes para “fazer dinheiro” (zhuan qian), ou seja, os seus hábitos de poupança, as suas estratégias de negócios, as estratégias de enriquecimento rápido e algumas práticas religiosas empregues para supostamente atrair sorte e riqueza. A riqueza, a prosperidade e a possibilidade de serem alcançadas são ainda analisadas no contexto das práticas da religião popular chinesa, através da ideia de destino. Neste aspeto demonstra-se de que modo as aspirações de riqueza e bens materiais associadas à modernidade chinesa, e também à migração proveniente da China, se entrelaçam com práticas populares relacionadas com o jogo e a adivinhação. Assim, a migração pode ser ela própria entendida como uma forma de testar o destino e a sorte com vista a alcançar a prosperidade. A própria ideia de prosperidade vem dar conteúdo à ideia de “ser moderno” como estando ligados à posse e ao consumo de bens materiais. A dissertação aborda o modo como o dinheiro e os bens materiais são usados como formas de demonstração do sucesso da migração, mas sobretudo a forma como constituem uma parte importante das relações sociais. O dinheiro e os bens materiais permitem não apenas investir em termos de prestígio social, mas também são fundamentais para o reforço dos laços emocionais com parentes e amigos numa lógica de troca e de reciprocidade. A impossibilidade de cumprir com obrigações de dinheiro e presentes implica o afastamento de redes sociais e familiares, redes que são inclusivamente desenhadas a partir da circulação de dinheiro e de presentes. O próprio consumo conspícuo ritual é aqui entendido não apenas como uma forma hedonista de destruição de bens. Gastos excessivos e transferências avultadas de dinheiro são parte de uma forma de estabelecimento e sustentação das relações sociais na medida em que são entendidos como demonstrações de afeto. A migração é então uma forma de se conseguir responder às exigências materiais das relações sociais e familiares, e o consumo emerge como uma forma de manifestação da lógica cultural chinesa que recentemente incorpora a ideia de luxo associando-a aos gastos rituais conspícuos e à reciprocidade nas relações sociais. Ao longo do texto vão ainda sendo identificados alguns focos de mudança na migração chinesa em Portugal que são evidenciados não apenas pela crise financeira e económica, mas também pelo crescente papel da China ao nível global. Ao longo da dissertação, é gradualmente revelada uma noção de “modernidade chinesa” influenciada por crenças e práticas populares chinesas e por uma ética de longo prazo na China. A migração chinesa contemporânea surge neste quadro como profundamente histórica e geograficamente ampla, e como parte de uma estratégia chinesa de “indigenização da modernidade”.Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia (FCT, SFRH/BD/38887/2007

Topics: Teses de doutoramento - 2013
Year: 2013
OAI identifier: oai:repositorio.ul.pt:10451/8257
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