Academic journal article Canadian Ethnic Studies Journal

'I Fit the Description': Experiences of Social and Spatial Exclusion among Ghanaian Immigrant Youth in the Jane and Finch Neighbourhood of Toronto

Academic journal article Canadian Ethnic Studies Journal

'I Fit the Description': Experiences of Social and Spatial Exclusion among Ghanaian Immigrant Youth in the Jane and Finch Neighbourhood of Toronto

Article excerpt


Public interest in the influence of neighbourhoods on immigrant integration in Canadian society has been growing in recent years; yet, there are few studies that explain the effect of neighbourhoods on immigrant experiences of exclusion in Canada. Drawing on in-depth interviews (12 males and 13 females) and a focus group discussion (five females and three males) conducted with Ghanaian immigrant youth between the ages of 18 to 30 from the Ghanaian community in the Jane and Finch neighbourhood of Toronto in May to June, 2011, this paper discusses the experiences of social and spatial exclusion among Ghanaian immigrant youth. Drawing on socio-spatial dialectics, the findings suggest that Ghanaian immigrant youth experiences of socio-spatial exclusion are intertwined in a dialectical process involving the Jane and Finch neighbourhood and the general public. In particular, the youth negotiate access to employment opportunities, shopping malls and counter exclusion through reformulation of resumes, and masking of their actual neighbourhoods. This paper fills an important gap in our knowledge of the lived experiences of African immigrant youth and contributes to our understanding of the dynamics of neighbourhood stigmatization and its impact on residents' integration into the larger society.


Au moment ou le public s'interesse davantage a l'impact des quartiers de residence sur l'integration des immigrants a la societe canadienne, peu d'etudes explorent l'influence qua le voisinage sur les experiences d'inclusion et d'exclusion des immigrants au Canada. Pour cette raison, cet article traite des experiences d'exclusion spatiale et sociale chez des jeunes immigrants Ghaneens ages de 18 a 30 qui habitent le quartier de Jane et Finch a Toronto. Nous basant sur des entrevues semi-dirigees approfondies menees aupres de 12 hommes et 13 femmes ainsi que un groupe de discussion organise avec trois hommes et cinq femmes, nous montrons que l'exclusion sociospatiale que ces jeunes subissent est situee dans un processus dialectique qui englobe a la fois les jeunes et le public. La dialectique socio-spatiale nous permet egalement a conclure que les jeunes resistent a l'exclusion en question et negocient leur acces a l'emploi et aux centres commerciaux par le biais de la reformulation du CV et le masquage du nom de quartier. De cette facon, cet article cet article comble les lacunes en matiere de vecu des jeunes immigrants africains et nous permet de mieux comprendre les dynamiques de la stigmatisation basee sur le lieu de residence et l'impact que celle-ci a sur l'integration des immigrants au sein de la societe canadienne.


Over the years, neighbourhood effects literature has reported on the influence of educational achievement, social exclusion of visible minorities, health, transition rates from welfare to work, school drop outs and deviant behaviour (Ellen and Turner 1997; Galster 2002) on immigrants. Scholarship has also shown that living in a deprived neighbourhood has negative effects on residents' life chances beyond the impacts of their individual characteristic (Bauder 2002). The study of neighbourhood effects has been driven by Wilson's (1987) work The Truly Disadvantaged: The Inner city, the Underclass and Public Policy. Wilson's (1987) ethnographic research revealed that the effects of living in concentrations of poverty in Chicago cannot be explained from a single perspective, leading him to conclude that the "local conditions and the social practices of residents of poor areas cannot be understood independently of the macro social and economic forces which shape them" (van Ham and Manley 2010, 3).

One fundamental question neighbourhood effects studies seek to answer relate to the causal effects of the neighbourhood in which residents live (Bauder 2002). There is, therefore, limited knowledge of how neighbourhood exclusions feed into the processes of everyday lived experiences, the manifestations of everyday exclusions, and why they occur. …

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