Portrait of Dr Balihar Sanghera

Dr Balihar Sanghera

Senior Lecturer in Sociology
Director of Graduate Studies (Taught)


Dr Balihar Sanghera’s work on the moral economy goes beyond the disciplinary constraints of sociology, economics and ethics. His research has focused on two areas: a) post-socialist transition in Central Asia, where he has studied professions, families, illegal settlements, the judiciary, credit and global capitalism; and b) charitable giving, volunteering and grant-making in the UK. In both areas, Dr Sanghera draws on the same body of theory that emphasises the moral dimensions of economic and social life. 

Dr Sanghera has contributed to sociological debates on the nature of agency and morality, and has explored several important concepts (reflexivity, lay morality, emotions, social justice, contributive justice and rentier class) through his qualitative research projects. 

Prior to joining the School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Policy in 2004, Dr Sanghera worked at the American University – Central Asia, Novosibirsk State University and the University of Central England in Birmingham. He studied for a BA (Hons) in Economics from the University of Lancaster and an MSc in Agricultural Economics from the University of Oxford, before earning his PhD in Sociology from the University of Lancaster. 

Research interests

Dr Sanghera’s main interests are political economy, social theory and ethics. He is currently writing up four research projects:

  • Global capitalism and competing economic imaginaries in Central Asia (with Dr Elmira Satybaldieva, started in September 2017) – examines how the US, Russia and China compete to construe and shape Central Asia to secure capital accumulation. 
  • Rentier activities and morality in Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan (with Dr Elmira Satybaldieva, started in April 2015) – examines the moral claims of banks and property developers for extracting weath, and the economic effects on society. 
  • Justice, property and informal settlements in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan (started in August 2011) – investigates how the judiciary, state officials and poor groups morally construe and evaluate land and property. 
  • Social justice and philanthropy in the UK (with Dr Kate Bradley, started in January 2011) – explores how philanthropic foundations pursue social justice and change, drawing upon cultural and moral resources to make their judgements.

Dr Sanghera has completed other research projects: 

  • The moral economy of charitable giving and volunteering in the UK (completed in June 2018) - examined how working and middle class groups morally framed their donations and volunteering, and the implications for understanding class and morality. 
  • Family morality, emotions and poverty in Kyrgyzstan (with Mehrigiul Ablezova and Aisalkyn Botoeva, completed in December 2008) – investigated how poverty, emotions and morality shaped family responsibilities and household practices. 
  • Professional ethics in Kyrgyzstan (with Aibek Ilyasov, completed in May 2006) – explored the nature of professional practices, identity and ethics after the collapse of the Soviet Union. 
  • Kyrgyzstan’s political and moral economy (with Elmira Satybaldieva, completed in December 2004) – examined how people negotiated the shifting demands of the market, family, community and the state as they strived to achieve a dignified existence.

Prior to Dr Sanghera’s interests in post-communism and philanthropy, his research focused on the social embeddedness of economic institutions. He completed his doctoral thesis on fruit and vegetable marketplaces in the West Midlands. After his PhD, Dr Sanghera investigated ethnic minority restaurant businesses in Birmingham. 


Dr Sanghera teaches modules convering sociological perspectives and concepts, social ethics, politics and power and sociological research methods at undergraduate level. 

At postgraduate level he teaches on social change and political order and contemporary social theory.


Dr Sanghera is keen to supervise any PhD students whose interests relate to any of his research topics.


Professional activities 

  • Participated in the development of research skills and higher education in Central Asia through his collaboration with the Central Asian Research and Teaching Initiative (CARTI) programme, sponsored by the Open Society Institute, Budapest (2002-12) 
  • Involved with the Sociology Department at Novosibirsk State University, to further teaching and research in social identities in transforming societies (2005-07) 
  • Organised with Tatiana Yarkova and Mehrigiul Ablezova the International Sociology Conference in Bishkek, 17-21 June 2003 
  • Worked for four years as a Civic Education Project visiting fellow, teaching economics and sociology at universities in Novosibirsk and Bishkek (2000-04) 

Dr Sanghera has held several external examiner, journal referee and fellowships positions in the UK and abroad. The following are some of his most recent: 

  • January 2013 - June 2017, External Examiner for BSc Social Studies programme, South Essex College, Essex 
  • Journal Referee for Sociological Theory, Theory & Society, International Sociology, European Journal of Social Theory, Sociological Inquiry, American Journal of Political Science, Journal of Social Policy, Europe-Asia Studies, Central Asian Survey, Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, Social and Cultural Geography, Voluntary Sector Review, Australian Journal of Social Issues, Policy & Society, Families, Relationships and Societies, and Children & Society 
  • September-December 2017, Visiting Fellow, George F. Kennan Scholar, Kennan Institute, Woodrow Wilson Center, Washington, DC 

Recent national and international presentations 

  • 15 June 2018, ‘Justice and meaningful unpaid work,’ Re-imaging Civil Society Workshop, University of Kent 
  • 6-8 June 2018, ‘Global power and competing economic imaginaries in Central Asia,’ EISA European Workshops in International Studies, University of Groningen (with Elmira Satybaldieva) 
  • 22-23 March 2018, ‘Russia’s and China’s economic strategies in Central Asia,’ International Conference on One Belt and One Road, Laval University (invited, with Elmira Satybaldieva) 



  • Sanghera, B. (2019). Justice, power and informal settlements: understanding the juridical view of property rights in Central Asia. International Sociology.
    The article examines how judges and lawyers struggle to legitimise and normalise private property rights against attempts by poor and migrant groups to politicise housing and social needs in Central Asia. It will discuss the juridical understanding of justice and equality in relation to property rights violations on the outskirts of major cities in Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan. It will argue that the juridical system is central in construing property rights and obligations, and in so doing social inequalities are legitimised and naturalised in a neoliberalising post-Soviet space. The article uses the concepts of 'the moral economy' and 'the juridical field' to examine how judges and lawyers justify and normalise their ways of interpreting and ordering the social world.
  • Sanghera, B. and Satybaldieva, E. (2018). Economic development in Central Asia: neoliberal strategies and counter-hegemonic projects. in: Montgomery, D. ed. Central Asia in Context: A Thematic Introduction to the Region. University of Pittsburgh Press.
    The post-Soviet economic development has been predominantly explained through transition paradigm, where countries are assessed to what extent authoritarian and centralized economies have been liberalized and privatized towards a market economy. Its underlying normative assertion is that economic growth and development are achieved through market mechanisms, and poor economic performance and stagnation are outcomes of lack of political will for reforms and domestic conditions (Heatherhaw and Cooley 2015). This chapter examines the economic development trajectory of Central Asian countries, and argues that the 'economic transition' paradigm is flawed because it fails to discern the complexity of neoliberalism-led capitalism (see Soederberg 2012; Robison 2006). In particular, there is little scrutiny between 'market reforms' and high levels of indebtedness, socio-economic inequality, corruption and unsustainable development in the region. This chapter will examine how Western-led international financial institutions pursued two neoliberal economic strategies of extraction-based and debt-led growth in Central Asia, and their negative impact on society. It will also examine the emergence of two alternative economic imaginaries that counter the US neoliberal global hegemony.


  • Sanghera, B. (2018). Emotions as evaluative judgements: understanding volunteers’ evaluative feelings about things that matter to them. Voluntary Sector Review [Online] 9:273-291. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1332/204080518X15394189861962.
    This article examines people’s emotional experience of volunteering. It offers an account of emotions as first person evaluative judgements about things that are important to people. People’s relation to the world is one of concern, and they continually have to monitor and evaluate how the things they care about are faring, and decide what to do. The article moves away from accounts that either treat emotions as merely subjective, or as only a product of social conventions. It will discuss how volunteers’ emotions are evaluative feelings about the nature of their voluntary tasks and roles, their social relationships with fellow volunteers, and their orientation to the world. It will also explore how social positions can affect emotions.
  • Sanghera, B. (2018). Contributive injustice and unequal division of labour in the voluntary sector. Sociological Research Online [Online] 23:308-327. Available at: http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/1360780418754905.
    This article examines how the unequal division of unpaid labour within voluntary organisations can produce contributive injustice. Contributive injustice occurs when people are denied the opportunity to have meaningful work and the recognition associated with it. The unequal social division of labour affects people’s opportunities to access complex and routine tasks, shaping their capacity to develop their own abilities, respect and self-esteem, and hence the meaningfulness of their work. The study uses the moral economy of labour perspective to understand and evaluate how the unequal division of labour can shape people’s capabilities and well-being. While the article is sympathetic to Eliasoph’s symbolic interactionist approach to volunteering, which seeks to focus on the quality of civic engagement and public dialogue, it reveals this framework to have some shortcomings. This empirical study is based upon an analysis of 41 participants’ volunteering activities.
  • Sanghera, B. and Satybaldieva, E. (2018). Global capitalism in Central Asia and competing economic imaginaries. openDemocracy [Online]. Available at: https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/balihar-sanghera-and-elmira-satybaldieva/global-capitalism-in-central-asia.
    This article examines how the US, Russia and China have proposed different visions and strategies of economic development (including neoliberalism, economic union and trade corridors) for Central Asia. It will argue that these different economic imaginaries reflect the global powers’ imperative to manage contradictions and crises inherent in advanced and emerging capitalist economies. The global powers’ attempts to fix Central Asia are partly based on past failures to regulate their own economic problems and contradictions.
  • Sanghera, B. (2017). Charitable giving and reflexive individuals: how personal reflexivity mediates between structure and agency. Social Science Information [Online] 56:28-48. Available at: https://uk.sagepub.com/en-gb/eur/journal/social-science-information.
    This paper examines how individuals are reflexive beings, who interpret the world in relation to things that matter to them, and how charitable acts are evaluated and embedded in their lives with different degrees of meaning and importance. Rather than framing the discussion of charitable practices in terms of altruism/egoism binary or imputing motivations and values to social structures, the paper explains how reflexivity is an important and neglected dimension of social practices, and how it interacts with sympathy, sentiments and discourses to shape giving. The study also shows that there are different modes of reflexivity, which have varied effects on charity and volunteering.
  • Sanghera, B. (2016). Charitable giving and lay morality: understanding sympathy, moral evaluations and social positions. The Sociological Review [Online] 64:294-311. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/1467-954X.12332.
    Charitable giving and lay morality: understanding sympathy, moral evaluations and social positions

    This paper examines how charitable giving offers an example of lay morality, reflecting people’s capacity for fellow-feeling, moral sentiments, personal reflexivity, ethical dispositions, moral norms and moral discourses. Lay morality refers to how people should treat others and be treated by them, matters that are important for their subjective and objective well-being. It is a first person evaluative relation to the world (about things that matter to people). While the paper is sympathetic to the ‘moral boundaries’ approach, which seeks to address the neglect of moral evaluations in sociology, it reveals this approach to have some shortcomings. The paper argues that although morality is always mediated by cultural discourses and shaped by structural factors, it also has a universalising character because people have fellow-feelings, shared human conditions, and have reason to value.
  • Sanghera, B. (2015). Economic dystopia in Kyrgyzstan. openDemocracy [Online]. Available at: https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/balihar-sanghera/economic-dystopia-in-kyrgyzstan.
    Hailed as a success story for liberal market reforms, Kyrgyzstan in fact provides an example of how the rentier class have become an integral part of the economy, and how democracy has given way to plutocracy.
  • Sanghera, B. (2015). Unmasking Central Asia's neoliberal judges. openDemocracy [Online]. Available at: https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/balihar-sanghera/unmasking-central-asias-neoliberal-judges.
    Despite claims of impartiality, judges in Central Asia often incorporate neoliberal economic and moral values into their judgements on illegal settlements.
  • Sanghera, B., Ablezova, M. and Botoeva, A. (2012). Attachment, emotions and kinship caregiving: an investigation into separation distress and family relatedness in post-Soviet Kyrgyzstani households. Families, Relationships and Societies [Online] 1:379-396. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1332/204674312X656293.
    This article examines how children relate to birth parents after separation and reunion, which often produce negative emotions and distort family support in adolescence and adulthood. In Kyrgyzstan, large-scale migration to urban areas and overseas, widespread poverty and a weak welfare state have generated the practice of informal kinship caregiving that enables primary caregivers living in poverty to temporarily migrate, leaving their babies and young children in the care of grandparents or other close relatives. A prolonged period of time passes before birth parents and children are reunited. Attachment theory is employed to understand and explain how under informal kinship caregiving, children can have varying emotional bonds with birth parents that affect social relationships later in life. The article aims to contribute towards an understanding of the dynamics of emotions in family relationships.
  • Sanghera, B. and Satybaldieva, E. (2012). Ethics of Property, Illegal Settlements and the Right to Subsistence. International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy [Online] 32:96-114. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/01443331211201798.
    Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to examine how illegal settlers and poor families struggle for basic necessities through land invasions, covert practices and illegal sabotage, examining how fundamental rights to subsistence and dignity are superior to private property claims.

    Design/methodology/approach – The paper combines two qualitative research projects that examined property rights in Kyrgyzstan, conducting semi-structured interviews with poor groups, elites and state officials. One project was conducted between 2009-2010, examining two illegal settlements and a squatted building in the capital Bishkek, and the other project took place between 2007-2008 in four villages in Osh region.

    Findings – It was found that illegal settlers and poor families deliberate upon the moral aspects of land and property, though sometimes their judgements are distorted by nationalist feelings and racialised identities. Poor and propertyless groups struggle for basic necessities, lacking access to social rights and facing class contempt and state coercion.

    Research limitations/implications – The authors criticise de Soto's ideas on legalising squatters' holdings, suggesting that his property rights approach to land offers a flawed moral vision for society and a mis-understanding of illegal settlements.

    Practical implications – International donors need to re-think development strategies for increasing growth and reducing poverty, and for Kyrgyzstan to abandon the national residential registration system (propiska).

    Originality/value – The authors' moral responsibilities approach on property recognises the importance of land and valuable resources for human capabilities, the competing obligations of the state and the role of moral propriety and sentiments in shaping responsibilities towards vulnerable and poor groups.
  • Sanghera, B., Ablezova, M. and Botoeva, A. (2011). Everyday morality in families and a critique of social capital: an investigation into moral judgements, responsibilities and sentiments in Kyrgyzstani households. Theory and Society [Online] 40:167-190. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11186-011-9138-4.
    This article examines individuals’ lay understandings of moral responsibilities between adult kin members. Moral sentiments and practical judgments are important in shaping kinship responsibilities. The article discusses how judgments on requests of support can be reflexive and critical, taking into account many factors, including merit, social proximity, a history of personal encounters, overlapping commitments, and moral identity in the family. In so doing, we argue that moral responsibilities are contextual and relational. We also analyze how class, gender, and capabilities affect how individuals imagine, expect and discuss care responsibilities. We also offer a critique of social capital theory of families, suggesting that their versions of morality are instrumental, alienated, and restrictive. Although Bourdieu’s concept of habitus overlaps with our proposed moral sentiments approach, the former does not adequately address moral concerns, commitments, and evaluations. The article aims to contribute to a better understanding of everyday morality by drawing upon different literatures in sociology, moral philosophy, postcommunism, and development studies.
  • Sanghera, B. (2010). Why are Kyrgyzstan’s slum dwellers so angry? openDemocracy [Online]. Available at: https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/balihar-sanghera/why-are-kyrgyzstan’s-slum-dwellers-so-angry.
    If you want to understand what has motivated the uprising of Kyrgyzstan’s poor, you need look no further than the package of neo-liberal economic reforms imposed on the country by the International Monetary Fund, World Bank and World Trade Organisation
  • Sanghera, B. (2010). Simpatizar con los chabolistas y comprender la economia moral de la tierra(Having sympathy for slum dwellers and understanding the moral economy of land). Ecología Política [Online] 40:96-101. Available at: http://www.jstor.org/stable/41420385.
  • Sanghera, B. (2010). Wanted: Economic equality to mend Kyrgyzstan. openDemocracy [Online]. Available at: http://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/balihar-sanghera/wanted-economic-equality-to-mend-kyrgyzstan.
    Media reports of disturbances in Kyrgyzstan’s two main cities Bishkek and Osh focused on human rights and ethnicity. However, Balihar Sanghera suggests that the root cause lies in economic inequality.
  • Sanghera, B. and Satybaldieva, E. (2009). Moral sentiments and economic practices in Kyrgyzstan: the internal embeddedness of a moral economy. Cambridge Journal of Economics [Online] 33:921-935. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/cje/bem020.
    In The Theory of Moral Sentiments, Adam Smith notes that moral sentiments, emotions and feelings affect economic and social practices. In the literature on social embeddedness of the economy, sentiments and emotions are neglected, and more attention is given to rules, norms and institutions, which are seen as being instrumental in reducing transaction costs and creating social cohesion. By examining the transformation of Kyrgyzstan to a market economy, the authors show how emotions can motivate individuals to pursue ultimate concerns and commitments. Furthermore, it is argued that without moral emotions and institutional safeguards, economic practices and relationships can be distorted.
  • Sanghera, B., Olsen, W. and Lyon, F. (2009). Introduction (This article appears in:Special focus: Moral Economy and Development Economics). Cambridge Journal of Economics [Online] 33:871-873. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/cje/bep053.
    ‘Moral economy’ is a form of inquiry that examines how ordinary economic practices and relationships embody or affect moral dispositions, evaluations, rules, values, customs and norms. Although ethical concerns, responsibilities and encounters pervade our daily life, often political economists reduce them to personal tastes, fixed preferences, vested interests, social conventions or political ideologies, as if everyday practices were an unreflexive process (Sayer, 2000). The following three papers on moral economy challenge orthodox economics and are critical of disciplinary boundaries. We discuss what moral questions arise from the expansion and the structure of the commercial economy, and what counts as human well-being and development.The three papers on development economics and moral economy were presented at a conference on Perspectives on Moral Economy organised by Andrew Sayer at Lancaster University in 2005. The conference explored moral economy from different disciplinary and transdisciplinary points of view. Normativity is implicit in social sciences but requires better understanding and theorising, and we attempt this by undertaking a broad analytical and empirical inquiry into social practices and relationships in developing countries. The first paper by Olsen (2009) studies overlaps and linkages between schools of thought within economics. Olsen covers four main schools of thought ranging from neoclassical to feminist. She shows that all four have normative orientations, but that these vary from highly hidden to very explicit. Then she moves to looking at the reasoning strategies used for making normative judgements. Her work on Indian rural contexts suggests that rural transformation has been judged not only for its emancipatory content, or its growth impact, but also in terms other impacts on human well-being. In the paper, Olsen surveys land tenure in rural India to compare the moral reasoning strategies that are used there. The paper concludes that reasoning tends to imply value judgements even if it is attempting to be value neutral at a cognitive level. Orthodox economics make numerous broad value judgements, while heterodox economics make more explicit value judgements, and tend to weave into their work an appreciation of different standpoints. Most economists are interested in discussions about their normative orientations, whether or not they agree that their research could be normative in itself. In moral economy, the expectation is that the author of research is a normative agent and that economics has a role to play in spelling out the complexities of a moral scene (Ray and Sayer, 1999).
  • Sanghera, B. and Iliasov, A. (2008). Moral sentiments and professionalism in post-soviet Kyrgyzstan: understanding professional practices and ethics. International Sociology [Online] 23:447-467. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0268580908088900.
    The article focuses on sociological and ethical aspects of professional practices in post-Soviet Kyrgyzstan and offers three competing conceptual approaches to Soviet and post-Soviet professionalism: the moral consensus, the social control and the moral sentiments approaches. This article aims to contribute to the debate on how professional relationships are socially constructed, paying particular attention to their ethical content. We argue that the sociology of professions needs to engage with moral philosophy since moral reflexivity helps professionals to shape their responsibility to others. Were this not so, we would not care to judge others' actions, question their intentions or reason on how to live. Furthermore, as vulnerable and dependent human beings, we care for and have responsibilities to others. We suggest that the moral sentiments approach captures the tensions and conflicts of post-Soviet Kyrgyzstani professions, highlighting the importance of positive emotions and organizational capabilities to undertake good practices. This perspective argues that human beings are reflexive beings who are motivated by ultimate concerns and goals, pursue life projects, make commitments and act purposefully. The article shows how post-Soviet Kyrgyzstan professions operate in difficult political and economic conditions, and how far professionals possess positive sentiments for effective and good actions.
  • Sanghera, B. and Ilyasov, A. (2008). The social embeddedness of professions in Kyrgyzstan: an investigation into professionalism, institutions and emotions. Europe-Asia Studies [Online] 60:643-661. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09668130801999904.
    The article examines how professions are socially constructed in Kyrgyzstan, paying particular attention to the moral sentiments and organisational capabilities of people working in the professions. It is suggested that the moral sentiments approach captures the tensions and conflicts of post-Soviet Kyrgyzstani professions, and identifies how professional practices can become 'corrupt'. The article shows how professionals operate in difficult political and economic conditions, and how far they possess positive sentiments for effective action.
  • Sanghera, B., Ilyasov, A. and Satybaldieva, E. (2006). Understanding the moral economy of post-Soviet societies: an investigation into moral sentiments and material interests in Kyrgyzstan. International Social Science Journal [Online] 58:715-727. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-2451.2008.00664.x.
    The article offers three competing conceptual approaches to the moral economy in post-Soviet societies: the economic market, the socially embedded and the moral sentiments approaches. We aim to contribute to the debate on how post-Soviet economies are socially constituted, paying particular attention to their moral and ethical aspects, and arguing for a cross-disciplinary account of Kyrgyzstani market society that engages with political economy, post-communism and moral philosophy. We analyse how, as vulnerable and dependent human beings, we care for and have responsibilities for others, though it is a struggle to pursue these concerns and commitments and to have compassion in a harsh economic environment. We suggest that the moral sentiments approach reveals how moral emotions inform and motivate economic behaviour and affect human well-being. By analysing the transition in the public sector, social networks and real markets in Kyrgyzstan, this perspective explains how shame, frustration and anger dominate people's lives and how corruption emerges in the absence of both positive moral emotions and human capabilities.
  • Ram, M. et al. (2002). Ethnic Minority Enterprise in its Urban Context: South Asian Restaurants in Birmingham MacLachlan, I. and Syrontinsky, M. eds. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research [Online] 26:24-40. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/1468-2427.00361.
    The embeddedness of ethnic minority business activity is widely accepted, as researchers increasingly eschew ethno-culturalist explanations of the phenomenon. However, despite the importance of urban processes, studies of ethnic minority enterprise are often ‘spaceless’. This article uses Rekers and van Kempen’s urban spatial framework to assess the experiences of South Asian owners in Birmingham’s restaurant industry. One taken-for-granted but evidently important element to which this article draws attention is location, which emerges as one of the key points of differentiation within the ethnic business community. Location is seen to influence individual access to market potential, an unevenly distributed resource largely shaped by local social geography. At the same time, entry into more lucrative market niches is heavily dependent on the possession of other resources such as capital, information and in some instances management skills.
  • Sanghera, B. (2002). Microbusiness, household and class dynamics: the embedding of minority ethnic commerce MacLachlan, I. and Syrontinsky, M. eds. Sociological Review [Online] 50:241-257. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/1467-954X.00365.
    Microbusinesses are embedded in wider social processes, and it is the nature of this social embeddedness that is the principal focus of the article. In particular,‘domestic embedding’ of petty commerce is crucial, and involves a mixture of competition, domination, negotiation, and custom (Wheelock and Mariussen, 1997). Furthermore, as a socio-economic group, petty traders and producers occupy an ambivalent position in the class structure, as they are vulnerable both to upward and downward social mobility. While the petty capital class has the advantage of possessing property assets, many members lack significant symbolic and cultural assets. Nonetheless, property assets offer the most robust bases for class formation (Savage et al., 1992). In addition, the embedding of petty commerce can be both ‘identity-sensitive’ and ‘identity-neutral’(Sayer, 1995; 2000; Fraser, 1995). Extra-ethnic factors are significant in this process.

    The research uses formal interviews and ‘quasi-ethnographic’ methodology to explore the different contexts in which restaurateurs and market traders operated in Birmingham, UK. The article draws critically on several literatures on industrial organisation, economic sociology, family businesses and minority ethnic businesses. One aim is to give the rather indifferent concept of ‘embedding’ substantive content, and in this way to make an empirically informed contribution to ‘new economic sociology’.
  • Ram, M. et al. (2001). 'Apprentice Entrepreneurs’? Ethnic Minority Workers in the Independent Restaurant Sector MacLachlan, I. and Syrontinsky, M. eds. Work Employment & Society [Online] 15:353-372. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/09500170122118995.
    Ethnic minority business activity has often been presented as a vehicle for `upward mobility' for owners and workers alike. Much attention has focused upon the owners themselves. The co-ethnic labour that such employers usually rely upon has often been treated as unproblematic. This paper aims to illuminate the experiences of workers in ethnic minority owned restaurants. In particular, the widely held view that working in a co-ethnic firm serves as an `apprenticeship' for eventual self-employment is explored.

    Rather than co-ethnic ties, workers' labour market experiences highlight the importance of the `opportunity structure' in shaping employment choices. The evidence of the current research suggests that the goal of self-employment was not widely held; and although many workers did move around to acquire better paid work, this was not part of a strategic route to becoming a restaurateur. Some workers did cherish such ambitions, but were inhibited by major obstacles. These included intense competition, high start-up costs, and a lack of `know-how'. The labour market and social context of the firm often militated against the hazardous proposition of self-employment.
  • Ram, M. et al. (2001). Making the link: households and small business activity in a multi-ethnic context MacLachlan, I. and Syrontinsky, M. eds. Community, Work and Family [Online] 4:327-348. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/01405110120089378.
    The ‘family’ is frequently mentioned in assessments of the apparent distinctiveness
    of ethnic minority enterprise. Family involvement can account for the ‘success’ of some ethnic
    groups, and low rates of small business activity in others. Implicitly, such debates are recognition
    of the importance of the nature of the household and small business. However, few studies in
    Britain make explicit the link between household dynamics and ethnic minority business
    activity. This paper examines how households from a variety of ethnic communities impinge
    upon ‘family’ enterprise operating in the independent restaurant sector. In-depth interviews with
    family members from 37 micro-business households are drawn upon to illuminate three
    particular issues: the role of family members in the business; the impact of household dynamics
    on business activity; and the nature of ‘second-generation’ involvement in the family business.
    The ? ndings highlight the gendered nature of roles within the micro-business household, and the
    importance of extended family ties to small business activity. However, the involvement of
    predominantly second-generation family members could not be regarded as an example of
    uncomplicated family collectivities at work. Rather, their presence was more a product of limited
    labour market choices, socialisation, and power relations within the household.
  • Sanghera, B. et al. (2000). “Currying favour with the locals”: Balti owners and business enclaves. Journal of Entrepreneurial Behaviour & Research [Online] 6:41-55. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/13552550010323230.
    The often-dynamic presence of South Asians in particular economic activities has prompted ambivalent responses from policymakers. For some, there is encouragement to “break out” from ethnic niche businesses like lower-order retailing and catering. Another ploy is to promote a strategy of “‘ethnic advantage” by exploiting “cultural” features of a particular community. Examples include the marketing of what can be termed “ethnic enclaves” like “Chinatown” in Manchester and “Little Italy” in Boston (USA). This paper reports on an initiative to exploit the tourist potential of South Asian cuisine by developing a “Balti Quarter” in Birmingham. The results highlight a number of key issues involved in operationalising this increasingly popular strategy. First, the unitarist conceptualisation of the notion of an ethnic enclave obscures the harshly competitive environment that small ethnic minority firms like those in the “Balti Quarter” have to operate in. Second, the often ad hoc way in which such inner city areas are regulated (through planning guidelines) can intensify the competitive pressures facing many firms in the area. Finally, the “external” focus of the initiative runs the risk of masking chronic issues within the firm (e.g. poor working environments) which policymakers should be equally concerned with.
  • Sanghera, B. et al. (2000). Training and ethnic minority firms: the case of the independent restaurant sector. Education and Training [Online] 42:334-341. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/00400910010347803.
    Through the medium of a case study of Birmingham’s ethnic minority-owned independent restaurant sector, the nature of training in the firms, the reasons for informal training, and employees’ tolerance of harsh working conditions are examined. The reluctance of many small businesses to utilise formal programmes of training is confirmed. However, even in this sector, which is characterised by poor personnel practices, the importance of informal approaches to training and learning is noteworthy. Moreover, from the perspective of workers, employment in the ethnic minority business sector can be seen as a form of training in itself; it can constitute an “apprenticeship” for entrepreneurship rather than permanent entrapment in low-paid work. However, the capacity to realise this goal is contingent upon the availability of class resources. Further research is needed to explore approaches to training in other sectors that ethnic minorities are engaged in.
  • Sanghera, B. et al. (2000). Ethnic minority business in comparative perspective: The case of the independent restaurant sector. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies [Online] 26:495-510. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/713680492.
    British research on ethnic minority entrepreneurship has often endeavoured to account for the prominence or otherwise of ethnic minority groups in business. This trend towards explicating the diversity of ethnic minorities in business has intensified with recent attention to apparently significant variations within the South Asian community itself. But how 'different' is ethnic minority business activity from the wider small firm population? This question is addressed through a qualitative study of a variety of ethnic groups involved in Birmingham's independent restaurant sector. In this article we examine two processes that have been marked out for particular attention in debates on ethnic minority business activity: the role of the family in the process of business formation and management of the enterprise, and the dynamics of 'workforce construction'; that is, the 'qualities' that employers look for in recruiting workers. The results highlight the interplay of culture and economics at work. In so doing, they serve to bring into question 'solidaristic' notions of ethnicity, that attach primary importance to 'culturalist' explanations of ethnic minority business development. It is argued that accounts of the apparent distinctiveness of ethnic minority businesses need to be more carefully embedded in the sectoral context in which they operate. Further, qualitative approaches are more likely to capture the connection between culture and economics in action than quantitatively-based survey assessments.
  • Sanghera, B. Microbusiness, household and class dynamics: the embedding of minority ethnic petty commerce. Sociological Review.
  • Sanghera, B. Sociology, imperialism and educational capital: the need to become a social scientist. AUCA Academic Review (Bishkek).
  • Sanghera, B. A Critique of Neo-classical Theory of Consumption: some alternative institutional theories. Economic Education Journal (Novosibirsk, in Russian).

Book section

  • Sanghera, B. (2016). The moral economy of post-socialist capitalism: professionals, rentiers and fraud. in: Whyte, D. and Wiegratz, J. eds. Neoliberalism and the Moral Economy of Fraud. Routledge, pp. 57-71. Available at: https://www.routledge.com/products/9781138930377.
    This chapter examines the fraudulent nature of professional and financial elites’ practices in post-Soviet Kyrgyzstan, focusing on a range of actors from doctors and lecturers to bankers and property developers. It explains how neoliberalism can shape their moral judgements about what are legitimate and illegitimate economic practices, and discusses how their practices can produce negative social consequences. The marketisation and financialisation of the economy can normalise economic practices (such as usury and economic rent) that were previously deemed to be illegitimate, fraudulent and harmful.
  • Sanghera, B. and Bradley, K. (2015). Social justice, liberalism and philanthropy: the tensions and limitations of British foundations. in: Morvardi, B. ed. New Philanthropy and Social Justice: Debating the conceptual and policy discourse. Policy Press, pp. 175-190.
  • Sanghera, B. (2012). ‘Am I bothered?’ Everyday morality and moral concerns and their implications for charitable giving and the Big Society (Chapter 4). in: Steeds, A. ed. Philanthropy and a better society. London, pp.37-44: Alliance Publishing Trust, pp. 37-44. Available at: http://www.cgap.org.uk/uploads/PABS/PABS%20chpt%204%20BS.pdf.
  • Sanghera, B. and Ilyasov, A. (2007). Theorising Morality and Economic Behaviour in Kyrgyzstan: Some Issues of Professional Practices. in: Sanghera, B., Amsler, S. and Yarkova, T. eds. Theorising Social Change in Post-Soviet Countries: Critical Approaches. Pieterlen: Peter Lang, pp. 337-362.
  • Sanghera, B. and Amsler, S. (2007). Introduction: Post-Soviet Social Science - Reaching Beyond Neoliberalism and Neoconservatism. in: Sanghera, B., Amsler, S. and Yarkova, T. eds. Theorising Social Change in Post-Soviet Countries: Critical Approaches. Pieterlen: Verlag Peter Lang, pp. 11-19.
  • Sanghera, B. (2004). After the cultural turn, a return to the moral economy. in: Harrington, C., Salem, A. and Zurabishvili, T. eds. After Communism: Critical Perspectives on Society and Sociology. Pieterlen: Verlag Peter Lang, pp. 181-197.


  • Sanghera, B. et al. (2012). Illegal settlements and city registration in Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan: Implications for legal empowerment, politics and ethnic tensions. Open Society Foundations. Available at: http://www.opensocietyfoundations.org/reports/illegal-settlements-and-city-registration-kyrgyzstan-and-kazakhstan-implications-legal.
    This paper examines the scale and significance of illegal and unregistered residents in
    major cities in Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan, and then considers the implications for the
    strategy of legal empowerment of the poor. In the context of a shortage of urban housing,
    a fragile rural economy, an expanding urban population, and weak state capacity, land
    seizures and sales of illegal land plots have been seen as an economic necessity for many
    years and are likely to continue until structural conditions are addressed. City administrations
    have started to legalize settlements partly to defuse political and social tensions, and
    partly to respond to a depressed property market. Illegal and new settlements lack adequate
    physical and social infrastructure, making residents angry and frustrated and prompting
    them to block roads and to demonstrate outside government offices.Most poor internal
    migrants live in cramped and sparse housing conditions and have often responded by
    seizing farm land to raise their families. The negative results of these seizures are compounded
    by the fact that land often belongs to richer minority ethnic groups, resulting in
    an increase of ethnic tensions and clashes mostly in Kyrgyzstan. City administrations do
    not have the capacity to meet the protesters’ aspirational needs, often resorting to rhetorical
    promises to placate them. Empty rhetoric, however, has often only fuelled a cycle of
    further anger, resentment, distrust, and protests. Illegal and poor migrants also use the
    political opportunity of elections to extract promissory concessions from elected officials
  • Sanghera, B. (2011). Charitable giving, everyday morality and a critique of Bourdieusian theory: An investigation into disinterested judgements, moral concerns and reflexivity in the UK. Centre for Charitable Giving and Philanthropy.
    This paper aims to explain the nature of people’s moral judgements about
    charitable giving and volunteering. It identifies three positions on everyday
    morality: moral conventionalists, moral individualists and moral critics. In
    exploring these, it takes issue with Bourdieu’s view that giving is purely a means
    to an end, reinforcing the prestige, influence and economic power of the giver.

    Based on interviews with 41 people from different occupations and backgrounds,
    the research suggests this is wrong. First, it ignores the complexity of the motives
    for giving. Across all three categories, motives are seldom clear-cut, compassion
    mixing with self-interest. Second, where charitable activity is concerned, the
    benefits to the volunteer are as much about the satisfaction of being seen to
    perform a task well as about the social or material advantages that might accrue.
  • Sanghera, B. Neutrality of Markets, Microbusinesses and Ethnicity: a question of method. University of Central England in Birmingham.
  • Sanghera, B. Kyrgyz Political Economy: moral reflections on the transformations of the society. Organisation of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Bishkek.


  • Sanghera, B. (2017). ?????????? ?????????? ? ??????????? ????: ?????? «???????????» (Global Powers and Competing 'Fixes' in Central Asia). 2017 [website].

Edited book

  • Sanghera, B., Amsler, S. and Yarkova, T. eds. (2007). Theorising Social Change in Post-Soviet Countries: Critical Approaches. Verlag Peter Lang.
    The book traces three main approaches to the sociology of post-Soviet societies: studies guided by neoliberal theory and/or practice; work which may be termed neoconservative in orientation, and which is often a response to the first; and a third type of work that is considered both critical and reflexive, and which seeks to transcend the limitations of the other approaches. The book is divided into three parts, addressing polity, culture and economy. In each section, authors endeavour to transcend both neoliberalism and neoconservatism, and reach for a third approach, 'critical social science'. This is a broad movement, and the authors vary in their own explanatory and normative ideas as they carve out frameworks that will enable them to develop a more rigorous and at the same time more comprehensive and critical understanding of social change.

Internet publication

  • Sanghera, B. and Satybaldieva, E. (2018). Central Asia is the new economic battleground for the US, China and Russia [internet magazine]. Available at: https://theconversation.com/central-asia-is-the-new-economic-battleground-for-the-us-china-and-russia-98263.
    As the threat of a trade war escalates between the US and China, all the talk has centred on the tariffs that each side might impose on the other. But another important battleground is in Central Asia where both are fighting for strategic control.
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