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Journal Article

Tentative friendships among low-income migrants in São Paulo’s commercial districts


Amrith,  Megha       
Research Group Ageing in a Time of Mobility, MPI for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity, Max Planck Society;

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Amrith, M. (2018). Tentative friendships among low-income migrants in São Paulo’s commercial districts. Urban Studies, 55(3), 522-537. doi:10.1177/0042098016631907.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0000-7498-2
The city of São Paulo, historically important as a destination for migrants from across the world, has experienced newer waves of immigration in the past few decades. As Brazilian national legislation and municipal policies have been ill prepared to handle these recent flows, migrants find themselves without much institutional support and rely instead on other networks to find their way in the city. This article is based on ethnographic research among low-income migrants in São Paulo, many of whom are employed as tailors and garment vendors in the city’s thriving central commercial neighbourhoods. Migrants from Bolivia, Peru, China, Pakistan and Nepal co-exist alongside working-class Brazilians. This article traces the everyday forms of conviviality among these migrants who find themselves in precarious conditions in São Paulo. It will consider the lines along which friendships and networks of support and sociability are built and the depth of such relationships. It also considers the points of tension which divide people and strain potential friendships, for instance, when migrants compete to sell their goods and are exploited by ‘fellow migrants’ to survive in the city. What we see is an ambivalent field of interaction that is convivial yet competitive and distrustful.