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Sweet and Sour: Social Networks and Inequality in a Chinese Restaurant

Sweet and Sour: Social Networks and Inequality in a Chinese Restaurant The author examines how immigrant networks and labor segmentation by race and gender facilitate inequality in immigrant-owned restaurants. The author conducted three months of participant observation at an immigrant-owned restaurant and supplemental interviews with 18 workers and owners at similar restaurants in Austin, Texas. Labor segmentation by gender and race resulted in varied degrees of wage inequality, surveillance, and exposure to hazardous working conditions. Also, although ethnic networks among workers offer benefits, embedded in these networks are unwritten rules of obligation, gift giving, and repayment. Shared ethnicity or identity as immigrants did not prevent immigrant owners from exploiting workers of the same ethnicity and other immigrant workers. Ultimately, the author argues that ethnic networks are embedded in the larger economy and context of racial-ethnic hierarchies. This research sheds light on everyday interactions among Asian immigrant restaurant owners and workers. The author highlights how an uncritical focus on the benefits of ethnic networks obscures constraints in social networks. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Sociology of Race and Ethnicity SAGE

Sweet and Sour: Social Networks and Inequality in a Chinese Restaurant

Sociology of Race and Ethnicity , Volume 4 (1): 14 – Jan 1, 2018

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Publisher
SAGE
Copyright
© American Sociological Association 2017
ISSN
2332-6492
eISSN
2332-6506
DOI
10.1177/2332649217705673
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

The author examines how immigrant networks and labor segmentation by race and gender facilitate inequality in immigrant-owned restaurants. The author conducted three months of participant observation at an immigrant-owned restaurant and supplemental interviews with 18 workers and owners at similar restaurants in Austin, Texas. Labor segmentation by gender and race resulted in varied degrees of wage inequality, surveillance, and exposure to hazardous working conditions. Also, although ethnic networks among workers offer benefits, embedded in these networks are unwritten rules of obligation, gift giving, and repayment. Shared ethnicity or identity as immigrants did not prevent immigrant owners from exploiting workers of the same ethnicity and other immigrant workers. Ultimately, the author argues that ethnic networks are embedded in the larger economy and context of racial-ethnic hierarchies. This research sheds light on everyday interactions among Asian immigrant restaurant owners and workers. The author highlights how an uncritical focus on the benefits of ethnic networks obscures constraints in social networks.

Journal

Sociology of Race and EthnicitySAGE

Published: Jan 1, 2018

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