- Nigerian Immigrants in Greece: Low-Status Work, Community, and Decollectivization by Theodoros Fouskas
How do immigrant identities emerge? How is identity affected by the social and economic conditions that immigrants experience in host societies? And how do immigrants find their places in the new social and economic contexts they confront? Theodoros Fouskas’s study on Nigerian immigrants in Greece focuses on such questions by bringing to our attention their work arrangements and their participation in immigrant community associations and labor unions. Based on extensive sociological and ethnographic research conducted on Nigerian immigrants in Athens over the course of four years (2010–2014), Fouskas convincingly argues that the low-status and precarious employment of immigrants are conditions that define not only their working lives but their social lives, as well. Low wages combined with precarity seem to function in this context as factors that stymie Nigerian immigrants’ efforts to solve the problems they face with documents, work, and other issues. At the same time, among Nigerian immigrants there is a lack of trust for the Nigerian Community in Greece, the main association of Nigerian immigrants, which they consider unable or unwilling to assist in solving such problems. [End Page 407]
Several aspects of Fouskas’s study are already well documented in the existing scholarly literature, as one can see in the extended bibliography that supplements the book. Nevertheless, this study is distinguished by its novel combination of sociological theory with social anthropology methodology. Fouskas investigates the construction of the social identity of immigrants, the role of unions and associations, and the impact of low wages and precarity by using both quantitative and qualitative research methods.
The book consists of three parts. Part 1 (Chapters 1–3) provides the theoretical and scholarly background of the study. The first chapter, “Theoretical Clarifications,” is devoted to a thorough overview of scholarly literature on the analytical concepts and notions that compose the backbone of the book: migration, community, labor, precarity, immigrant associations, agents and agencies of inclusion in host societies. The second chapter focuses on previous studies on Nigerian immigrants, providing an overview and a discussion of their findings. Fouskas argues that Nigerian immigrants are an underresearched group, especially as far as their labor is concerned, and additional research on this group is needed to broaden our understanding of the complex interrelationship between the lives of immigrant Nigerians and the way they are incorporated into host societies. The third chapter focuses on immigrant community associations in Greece and claims that such associations after the 1990s present a new form of collectivity that requires a fresh approach and analysis, especially when informal and low-paid work activities are the focus of the research.
Part 2 (Chapters 4–5) is devoted to the sociological research conducted by the author and is the most interesting and innovative section of the book. In the fourth chapter, Fouskas elaborates on the methodological tools he used to conduct the research. The findings are based on qualitative methods: the researcher conducted 429 life story interviews with Nigerian immigrants in Greece over the course of four years. His interviews were organized according to an interview guide that includes questions about the immigrants’ social and work conditions in Greece and Nigeria, their emigration background, their relations with the Nigerian community in Greece and Greek trade unions, and the way they envisage the future. The fifth chapter covers the findings of the research. It vividly reconstructs the way Nigerian immigrants conceptualize their immigration experience from the time they leave their country of origin through their slow adaptation to Greek society. The book follows these immigrants’ journey from the push factors (social, demographic, and economic conditions in Nigeria) to the conditions that Nigerian immigrants face in Greece. Their experiences of migration—from [End Page 408] their decision to leave their homeland to the routes they follow, to their social and working lives in Greece, to the demographic and economic context in which they function, to their agency in forming groups and associations—all become parts of a narrative that sheds...