Leveraging symbolic capital:The use of ‘blat’ networks across transnational spaces

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Rodgers, Peter ; Vershinina, Natalia ; Williams, Colin C. ; Theodorakopoulos, Nicholas (2018)

This article contributes to debates on how social networks sustain migrants’ entrepreneurial activities. Reporting on thirty-one interviews with Eastern European migrants in the UK, this article provides a critical lens on the tendency to assume that migrants have ready-made social networks within the host country embedded within co-ethnic communities. We extend this limited perspective by demonstrating how ‘blat’ social networks, which were formulated within the cultural and political contours of Soviet society are being transformed within the everyday lived experiences of Eastern European migrants working in the UK. Our findings highlight not only the monetarization of such networks but also the continuing embedded nature of trust existing within these networks, which cut across transnational spaces. We show how forms of social capital based around Russian language use and legacies of a shared Soviet past, are just as important as the role of ‘co-ethnics’ and ‘co-migrants’ in facilitating business development. In doing so, we present a more nuanced understanding of the role that symbolic capital plays in migrant entrepreneurial journeys and its multifaceted nature.
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