Academic journal article Canadian Ethnic Studies Journal

The Role of Ethno-Cultural Organizations in Immigrant Integration: A Case Study of the Bulgarian Society in Western Canada

Academic journal article Canadian Ethnic Studies Journal

The Role of Ethno-Cultural Organizations in Immigrant Integration: A Case Study of the Bulgarian Society in Western Canada

Article excerpt

Abstract

A major debate in international migration research is focused around the question of whether immigrants receive benefits from their attachment to ethnic organizations. This study aims to make a contribution to this debate by exploring the nature, goals and functions of an ethno-cultural organization in a Western Canadian city--the Bulgarian Society. Drawing from theoretical concepts regarding ethnic organization as a source of social capital, this research examines the economic, socio-cultural experience and ethnic attachments of members/non-members of an ethnic organization, how they interact with the organization, and their perception of how it affected their integration into Canadian society. Utilizing semi-structured face to face interviews, the results shed light on how immigrants use ethno-cultural organizations to nurture and express their identity and values, gain social acceptance, achieve their personal goals and affect their sense of belonging. The present research also addresses the role and function of small ethnic communities such as Bulgarians in an urban setting. The findings suggest that Bulgarians from recent waves of immigration are experiencing a period of adaptation as members or non-members of the ethnic society. They integrate at all levels in a parallel fashion, being valuable actors on both social and economic stages, however, their sense of ethnic collectivity and organizational belonging is more symbolic and emotional. Members and non-members acknowledge the Society as a source of networking and cultural retention rather than as a main factor for their integration.

Resume

La recherche sur les migrations internationales vit un grand debat autour de la question de savoir si les immigrants /immigres beneficient de leur attachement a des organisations ethniques. Cette etude vise a contribuer a ce debat en explorant la nature, les buts et les fonctions d'une telle association ethno-culturelle dans une ville de l'Ouest canadien--la Bulgarian Society. A partir de concepts theoriques qui voient une source de capital social dans ces organisations, nous etudions chez leurs membres et non-membres, d'une part, leur experience economique et socio-culturelle et leur attachement ethnique, et, d'autre part, comment les immigres y ont recours pour nourrir et exprimer leur identite et leurs valeurs, obtenir de se faire accepter socialement, atteindre leurs buts personnels et influer sur leur sens d'appartenance. La recherche actuelle prend aussi en compte le role et la fonction de petites communautes ethniques telles que celle des Bulgares dans un environnement urbain. Les resultats donnent a penser que ceux qui sont arrives dans les vagues recentes d'immigration passent par une periode d'adaptation, qu'ils soient ou non membres de leur societe. Ils s'integrent parallclement a tous les niveaux en devenant des acteurs insignes dans le domaine economique ainsi que social. Cependant, leur appreciation d'une collectivite ethnique et du fait d'appartenir a son organisation est surtout symbolique et emotionnelle. Qu'ils en soient membres ou non, ils voient leur Societe comme une source de reseautage et de memoire culturelle, plutot que comme un facteur essentiel de leur integration.

INTRODUCTION

When immigrants are transplanted from one country to another, they have to satisfy their immediate needs: finding a place to stay, making a living, learning the new language, participating in social life, finding a new community network and personal affiliation. To satisfy these needs, the newcomer uses the existing institutional settlement policies and introduces him/herself into a social group. Which one? The receiving community, his/her own ethnic community, or another immigrant community? Breton (2005) considers these communities as relevant where integration is taking place. An immigrant can establish a network of social affiliation in any of these communities and their connections may go beyond the boundaries of any one community or be only with members of certain ethnic groups. …

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