“Besides the Bread, Everyone Speaks Tibetan”: A Portrait of the Tibetan Occupational Link to Farmers Markets in New York City

Halberstadter, Nina

This paper explores farmers markets as significant sites of employment, language use, and cultural expression for Tibetan speakers living in New York City.  Farmers markets serve as a labor niche for the large Tibetan speaking migrant community in the city, yet this niche has been largely unnamed in discussions of Himalayan New York and in discussions of immigrant labor patterns in general.  Guided by ethnographic research and first-hand interviews, this paper seeks to investigate the occupational link between farmers markets and Tibetan speakers in NYC – how this niche developed and is sustained, how employee values and the employment environment inform and aid this connection, and how Tibetan language and tradition manifest within the farmers market sphere.  Ultimately, this paper conceptualizes farmers markets as spaces of community beyond labor.  A seemingly simple employment pattern is in fact an extensive microcosm of Tibetan community spanning five boroughs and over fifty farmers markets, aiding linguistic and cultural preservation as well as exchange for Tibetan speakers across New York City.


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Columbia Undergraduate Research Journal
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December 7, 2022