Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Nancy Foner

Subject Categories



Immigration, Labor, Migration, Social Boundaries


Tribeca, a small, affluent neighborhood in the lower west side of Manhattan, is a microcosm of the service-and-information-based economic structure that characterizes many communities in other American cities today, and thus provides an opportunity to study the effects of this system. Tribeca residents are predominantly wealthy and work in high-end service-oriented professions, so they consume low-end personal services produced locally. Many of the people who provide these personal services in the neighborhood are foreign born. Although they share space and have regular interactions, conventional assumptions might suggest that Tribeca residents and immigrant service workers lack much in common, and have little meaningful interpersonal contact with one another. This study explores the actual nature of intergroup contact and how the people in Tribeca navigate the symbolic and social boundaries between them.

In order to understand these processes of contact and boundary navigation, I collected extensive ethnographic and interview data from 66 participants. The perspectives of both immigrant workers and Tribeca residents--as well as Tribeca's local history, identity, and culture--are taken into account to clarify how their perceptions of the neighborhood and of one another influence their interactions, their feelings of belonging, and their criteria for inclusion in the community.

Although intergroup contact between residents and immigrants fails to alter the host of boundaries that separate them, they are still able to interpersonally connect in ways that are meaningful to them. They do this by bridging, or overlooking, the significance of symbolic and social boundaries. Because of these interpersonal interactions that go beyond service transactions, the local community is defined in a way that incorporates the immigrants who work in the neighborhood in a social way. Tribeca has become an inclusive and unexpected community--to borrow a term from Hochschild (1973)--one in which residents and workers from varying backgrounds are considered an integral and social part.

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