The problem with 'Rich Refugees' sponsorship, capital, and the informal economy of Tibetan refugees

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ABSTRACT This article examines issues pertaining to the growth of ‘informal’ economic exchanges and relationships of patronage in the Tibetan refugee community of Dharamsala (H-P), India. I firstly review the theoretical and methodological challenges posed by investigations of Tibetan refugee modernity, then focus on one particular form of exchange in the informal economy of exiles: rogs ram, or the sponsorship of Tibetans by foreigners. The article argues that symbolic capital comes to play a particularly important role in communities where economic capital is scarce, acting in fact as a proviso to economic capital. The highly unstable character of symbolic capital means that, for Tibetan refugees as for other communities, its conversion into economic capital is arduous and engenders a tense field of negotiations between sponsors and beneficiaries.

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  • Audrey Prost

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