EASA, 2006: EASA06: Europe and the world

Bristol, UK, 18/09/2006 – 21/09/2006


Super-diversity in European cities and its implications for anthropological research

Location Biol B75
Date and Start Time 20 Sep, 2006 at 11:30


Susanne Wessendorf (London School of Economics) email
Kristine Krause (University of Amsterdam) email
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Short Abstract

This workshop looks at the methodological, analytical and conceptual challenges that come with anthropological research in urban areas characterised by super-diversity in terms of class, ethnicities, religions and regions of origin.

Long Abstract

Anthropological studies on migrants in urban contexts have been characterised by a tension between two methodological strands: one approach has focused on migrant communities categorised on the grounds of region of origin, ethnicity and religion, while the other approach has focused on neighbourhoods, places and urban environments and the interaction between groups and individuals. The first approach is informed by a more 'traditional' anthropological focus on ethnic groups, and allows an in-depth ethnographic analysis of cultural and social practices of individuals with shared historical and cultural backgrounds. It has been prevalent in earlier studies of migration and the recent studies on transnationalism, but criticised for its tendency to essentialise groups and ignore overlapping networks. The second approach is influenced by longstanding interest in urban pluralism and sheds light on cross-cutting ties and negotiations of belonging in specific localities. However, it makes an in-depth analysis of migrants' cultural and historical backgrounds difficult. The proposed workshop aims to tackle the methodological, analytical and conceptual challenges that come with the possible tension between the two approaches. It invites papers based on research in 'super-diverse' urban contexts in Europe with people of non-migrant background, new and long established migrants, people of different regions of origin, ethnicity, religion, age, class, education and legal status. Of particular interest are papers which focus on localities of every-day encounter and social spaces, some of which are strongly shaped by translocal activities. Such spaces are, for example, religious groups, political, ethnic, and professional associations, ethnic businesses, community centres and youth clubs. Participants are invited to reflect on the challenges of research in super-diverse urban contexts in order to understand everyday diversity in European cities.Keynote: Steve Vertovec, University of Oxford.


The challenges of 'super diversity'

Author: Steven Vertovec (Max Planck Institute)  email
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Long Abstract

Diversity in Europe is not what it used to be. Some thirty years of government policies, social service practices and public perceptions have been framed by a particular understanding of immigration and multicultural diversity. For example, Britain 's immigrant and ethnic minority population has conventionally been characterised by large, well-organized African-Caribbean and South Asian communities of citizens originally from Commonwealth countries or formerly colonial territories. Policy frameworks and public understanding - and, indeed, many areas of social science - have not caught up with recently emergent demographic and social patterns. Britain and other European cities can now be characterised by 'super-diversity', a notion intended to underline a level and kind of complexity surpassing anything the country has previously experienced. Such a condition is distinguished by a dynamic interplay of variables among an increased number of new, small and scattered, multiple-origin, transnationally connected, socio-economically differentiated and legally stratified immigrants who have arrived over the last decade. In this paper, I will outline how new patterns of super-diversity pose significant challenges for both policy and research.

Multiculturalism from below: transversal crossings and working class cosmopolitans

Author: Amanda Wise (Macquarie University)  email
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Long Abstract

Multiculturalism From Below: Transversal Crossings and Working Class Cosmopolitans

Everyday in suburban neighbourhoods, communities, clubs, schools, parks and shopping centres, people from different backgrounds mix it together, whether by design or necessity. Not all of these relationships are characterised by racism and cross-cultural friction. The majority are negotiated if, not always comfortably, at least in a mostly amiable fashion. In this spirit, I have been doing 'anthropology at home' in a culturally diverse suburb of a 'super-diverse city' exploring the kinds of cultural practices which facilitate 'intercultural crossing' among working class and mostly elderly residents in the area. My research set out to explore what kinds of contexts facilitate interaction, are there points of relation and similarity unrelated to ethnicity, what kinds of techniques do people use to negotiate those 'sticky moments' in certain intercultural exchanges? Who is mixing with whom, how, when, where and why.

I put forward the concept of 'quotidian transversality' which signals the everyday intercultural modes and spaces which facilitate sociality across difference in a super-diverse suburban zone. These include forms of quotidian gift exchange and reciprocity, kinship, ways of talking such as gossip networks, actor networks, place orientation and 'crossing spaces'. I consider how individuals in quotidian suburban contexts use these modes of sociality in producing or smoothing interrelations with those from different cultural backgrounds, wether or not this difference is a conscious one. I use the term 'transversal' to highlight the fact that these interactions do not necessarily mean discarding original sources of belonging, but neither do they render participants incapable of movement, or quotidian connection 'Others'.

Through the lens of 'quotidian transversality' I reflect on two modes of inhabitance; diasporic and local and consider their interrelation in this particular suburban space.

Social networks and membership identities: everyday diversity in a small town in Switzerland

Author: Janine Dahinden (University of Neuchâtel)  email
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Long Abstract

What are the social networks of different types of habitants of a small Swiss town composed of, how are they structured and on the basis of what criteria are cultural and social membership categories constituted? In other terms, how can we best describe the conjunction between the forms of social networks and membership identities in an environment characterized by diversity? The paper presents preliminary results of an ongoing research who recorded the personal social networks of 300 habitants of a small Swiss town, Neuchâtel, networks of different types of migrants as well as of non-migrants. The egocentric social networks as well as the membership categories as they appear through a multigenerator instrument (a "name generator" and a "position generator") will be discussed. Through focusing the importance and role of social relations in the context of a specific urban and diverse space, the paper will contribute to the debate of the role of cross-cutting ties as well as of ethnicity/nationality on mechanisms of social exclusion and inclusion.

Positively diverse: theoretical and methodological implications of multiple belongings as researched through a liberal Jewish community in contemporary urban Germany

Author: Dani Kranz (Bergische University Wuppertal)  email
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Long Abstract

While the community at the focus of this paper is a liberal Jewish community - examined in regard to perceptions of being liberally Jewish of its individual members - this paper considers the implications on anthropological theory and methods that researching such a community poses. These arise as the time spent in the community setting by members is very limited, and boundaries exist mainly in members' imaginations. These boundaries are in turn influenced by the multiple belongings of the single persons (Simmel, 1890/Mecheril, 2003) and their constant movements. With its multiple options, the urban landscape of Cologne offers multiple possibilities of identification and belonging for each single member. Against this backdrop, neither traditional approaches on migration focusing on ethnicity, nor newer locality stressing approaches hold true. In order to gain an understanding how the multiple options of the city influence the individual members in their approaches to being Jewish, I centered my framework on the analysis of individual members' lived experience as the "concrete of anthropological research" (Augé, 1995), and looked at what unites them in this loosely defined community, and where the balance between overarching concepts of Jewishness and individual conceptions of agency comes into play. This analysis presents both an expansion of Augé's analytical framework as well as shedding light on the changing meanings of agency and determination of the self within translocal communities.

De-localising class and transnationalising superdiversity: Polish migrants in London

Author: Michal Garapich (University of Surrey)  email
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Long Abstract

Despite a perception of transnationalism and immigration in general as a paradigmatic feature of modern urban 'spaces of flows' (Castells) or global city (Sassen) or other places of power and meaning creation (Gupta&Ferguson, M.P Smith) there seems to be a prevailing assumption that 'cultural' or 'ethnic' is what defines an immigrant, alien, other. People moving across national spaces and allocations of state power are essentialized thought their ethnicity, culture, religion or skin colour - but very rarely by their class position, place in sending or receiving social stratification and migration patterns. It is assumed then that migrant are classless or that their class understandings results from their place on the host labour market. Migration is far too often constructed as a linear movement across 'cultures', states and bounded national entities than a temporary endeavour across stratification systems.

Anthropological research among Polish migrants in London has shown that the concept of 'superdiversity' cannot be confined to its cultural, linguistic or ethnic component. It has to take into account the temporal and processual aspect of migration. Patterns of migration, strategies of transnational activities, tactics in maintaining migration networks and building up migratory social capital and so on are also diverse and result in diverse forms of behaviour, cultural values creation, symbols reproduction and power relations negotiations. Temporary, circular, unpredictable, open-ended, strategically adaptive migration activities have flourished after full liberalization of migration regime due to EU enlargement on 1st May. To understand them fully brings - in my opinion - far more light into 'superdiverse' setting of London than overheated discourses about culture and ethnicity. 'Superdiversity' is presented then as an outcome of different migratory trajectories and meeting points where "the place where you come from" counts as much as "how long you're staying here".

From diversity to sociality: migrant club scenes and the search for community in urban spaces

Author: Kira Kosnick (Goethe University Frankfurt)  email
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Long Abstract

This paper argues that attention to social practices and forms of sociality in urban space can provide a productive focus for studies of migrants in urban contexts beyond the community paradigm. It is based on research that is carried out in the context of a project funded by the AHRC Diasporas, Identities and Migration Programme, focusing on cultural identifications and forms of sociality among 'queer' migrants participating in the diasporic club cultures of London and Berlin. Culturally marginal both on the basis of their sexual orientation/ gender expression and their ethnic minority belonging, queer migrants rely on club culture as an opportunity for socialising among themselves, developing positive identifications in protected spaces, and challenging the confines of dominant cultural labels. Problematizing the wide-spread use of the community concept to describe migrants and other minorities as social groups, the paper identifies a need to develop alternative conceptual tools to more adequately grasp a diversity of migrant cultural forms of identification and social practice. By focusing on urban cultural contexts that are interethnic 'contact zones', yet created and dominated by people of migrant background, it aims to offer a different approach to researching migrant cultural practices that can help to decentre ethnic community as a central explanatory device in dominant academic understandings.

The trials and tribulations of mosque-building in London: Ahmadiyya Muslims in the UK

Author: Marzia Balzani (New York University, Abu Dhabi)  email
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Long Abstract

Founded by a charismatic leader in late-19th century India, the Ahmadis are a small but economically and educationally significant diasporic Muslim minority, established today in numerous cities in the West, Asia and Africa. In many Islamic countries the Ahmadis have been defined as heretics and subjected to persecution and human rights abuses. Legislation in Pakistan in 1984 effectively criminalised the Ahmadis and compelled their religious leader, the Khalifa, to flee Pakistan. He took up residence in a quiet suburban street in South West London thereby transforming a local Ahmadi mosque into the global Ahmadi headquarters. The Khalifa's move to London led to increased activity at the mosque and resulted in considerable tension with the local residents. This tension only ended when the Ahmadis built another, state-of-the-art mosque, in nearby Morden.

This paper considers the Ahmadi mosques, their planning histories, the attitudes and actions towards the mosques by local residents both Muslim and non-Muslim and the Ahmadi mosque-building projects as, in part, local responses to the proscription and destruction of Ahmadi mosques in Pakistan. Data was collected from local council planning offices; by interview with Ahmadis and non-Ahmadi locals; at committee meetings held in the Morden Mosque and to which local residents, police representatives, elected councillors and others are invited; and in a range of formal and informal contexts.

The strategies adopted by the Ahmadis towards the local spaces in which they find themselves are inevitably shaped by national and international events beyond their control. However, Ahmadi responses to events such as the destruction of their mosques in Pakistan and the July 7th 2005 bombings in London are placed within the context of Ahmadi faith and the divine mission of their founder as played out in an urban and technologically advanced local mosque environment which includes Ahmadi global media networking facilities.

Diversity and social security in municipal housing: challenges for politics and anthropological research

Author: Elisabeth Strasser (University of Vienna)  email
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Long Abstract

Municipal housing in Vienna has increasingly been a focus of media and political attention during the last months in Austria: the implementation of the EU-Council Directive 2003/109/EC of 25 November 2003 concerning the status of third-country nationals who are long-term residents requesting the opening of municipal housing for non-Austrian-citizens, and the rising concern of an impending "ghettoisation" of social housing have been widely discussed.

Against the background of the specific Viennese situation of social housing politics and diversity politics, this paper deals with questions of belonging, multilocal relationships and social practices in a municipality housing complex, and its challenges for politics on one hand and anthropological research on the other hand.

Today in Vienna about 600,000 people live in so called "Gemeindebauten", public housing estates owned by the municipality. Up to now, besides "social needs", the eligibility for social housing in Vienna has been linked to Austrian citizenship and a minimum of two years main residence in Vienna by the time of application. Thus, inclusion and exclusion of certain social groups has been one of the major consequences of social housing politics in Vienna.

In Vienna about 300 housing estates were built during the "Red Vienna" era (the time of Social Democratic Administration of the Viennese municipality from 1918 to 1934) Besides providing affordable housing for working class residents, a fundamental idea of the social housing projects was to support a corporate feeling among the tenants, and thus to effect and to ensure solidarity and a sense of "lived community".

As for "Karl Marx-Hof", considered as the archetype and most outstanding example of Vienna's municipal housing of this period, this was supposed to be fostered on the one hand through the architecture of the complex, characterized by big interior courtyards with paths, squares and playgrounds. On the other hand, the complex accommodated several community and social facilities such as a counselling centre for mothers, a dental clinic, a library, a youth home, two kindergartens, two central washhouses and two public baths.

Since the opening of Karl Marx-Hof and its 1.400 apartments in 1930 the inhabitants' composition has diversified significantly regarding education, family structures, employment structures and region of origin; the latter especially due to the rising proportion of naturalized immigrants, who have moved in mainly during the past ten to 15 years.

The originally endorsed feeling of community has changed remarkably. The developments of the last decades, new neighbourhoods and a rising diversity have led to a deteriorating reputation of living in Karl Marx-Hof and are holding potential for conflicts among neighbours and tenants. These developments and the recent discussions around the opening of municipal housing also to non-Austrian citizens pose new challenges on the political and social level which need to be analysed and dealt with in the near future.

The paper offers a deeper insight into Austrian and especially Viennese social housing politics and its interrelatedness with exclusion and inclusion of different social groups and reflects upon the impact of urban diversity on social security.

Findings presented in the paper are based on ethnographic fieldwork carried out in Vienna's Karl Marx-Hof between May 2005 and March 2006, within the interdisciplinary project "KASS - Kinship And Social Security", funded by the European Union's Sixth Framework Programme. The project draws upon the importance of kinship networks and networks of "alternative" kinship (friendship, neighbourhood) as sources of security and mutual assistance. Fieldwork consisted of qualitative interviews, structured genealogical interviews, participant observation and informal conversations with inhabitants of the housing complex, as well as qualitative interviews with experts of social and local institutions.

Complicity and the construction of common ground: a Kreuzberg neighbourhood initiative and the impact of ethnographic practices

Author: Alexa Färber (University of Vienna)  email
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Long Abstract

This paper presents research conducted within a group of entrepreneurs planning to open an alternative shopping centre situated in the Berlin district of Kreuzberg. At the very heart of the symbolically highly charged neighbourhood (its images ranging from "eldorado of squatters" in the 1980s to "Klein Istanbul") the group saw an opportunity to bring together like-minded individuals interested in setting up business. These were meant to be all kinds of "creative ideas", presented in small-scale shops within the mall (based on Affleck's Palace in Manchester).

Starting fieldwork examining the cultural logic and "urban qualities" of this economic initiative the site transformed into a "neighbourhood initiative" concerned with the living conditions in a social housing complex: Trying to rent space for the mall there the entrepreneurs had discovered an economic scandal concerning the funding of the social housing complex. Thus, besides the initiators of the mall-project and the possible participant shop tenants (all relating to a kind fo alternative, creative culture) my fieldsite had diversified: now it consisted of tenants and local shop owners of all kinds who have lived there for a long time, neighbourhood organisations (representing the city governement and migrant organisations) as well as a growing number of academics all relating to what became understood as "the case" - the sdancal.

Although the participants of the "neighbourhood initiatve" were far from being politically "on the same side", they were situationally acting on the same ground. Thus, tenants and shop owners of different national or ethnic background, living within different trans-/national and local social networks regularly met with social workers, representatives of neighbourhood organisations, journalists, politicians and researchers and became informants about their everyday life. Doing so, they were creating a space that represented "the case" and not their individual life as such. They did so by complicity with respect to the case. Nevertheless, in certain situations they were acting with respect to their national, ethnic or religious background. Then the common ground built of complicity between members of the action group had to be rebuilt carefully.

The paper will argue that the term "complicity" may 1. point to the potentials (and limits) of constructing common grounds within socially diversified fields in urban space. 2. As an analytical tool the same term "complicity" as it was introduced by George E Marcus to reflect on methodological questions of ethnography (Marcus 1997: 102) points to the ambivalence of being related to the fieldsite through qualitative research methods like ethnography; it refers to the shared ground between research object and subject which may lie outside the fieldsite "as such". 3. This form of situational complicity known from ethnographic practice seems to correspond, in this specific case, to what might be called the "habitus" of urban space (see Lindner), e.g. Berlin Kreuzberg where I was conducting fieldwork. As such "complicity" may serve as an analytical tool that on the one hand accounts ethnographically for the (situational) construction of a social group and on the other for the specific conditions related to urban space and culture and helps to question the inclusiveness and exclusiveness of social interaction in diversified urban setting.

Begging as urban economic practice: beggars in St. Petersburg

Author: Maria Kudryavtseva (Humboldt University)  email
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Long Abstract

This paper examines the super-diverse urban context as expressed in terms of informal economic practices, in particular the practice of begging. I would like to discuss the phenomenon of begging as an economic and symbolic practice from an urban spatial perspective.

A person who begs reorganises the space through his or her physical appearance (posture, movement, gestures, language) and imbues the place with new symbolic meaning. As he or she appropriates the space, he or she forces the passers-by to interpret this space in its new significance. How does the begging person reorganise urban space? What effect does the appearance of a beggar in a city location have? This perspective helps to examine the other forces that shape places and which oppose the presence of beggars, filling the same spaces with competing symbolic meanings. Beggars are often expelled from certain locations. What contradictions and conflicts arise from the arrival of a symbolic figure such as the beggar? In other words, which social, political and economic meanings from a spatial perspective are called into question by the symbolic figure of the begging person? The anthropological observation of the spatial organisation of begging in the city makes it possible to illustrate the complexity and contestation of urban everyday life, which are part of super-diversity.

My analysis of these questions is based on ethnographic fieldwork in St. Petersburg in 1998-1999. This focused on various types of beggars and a range of different settings on the main street Nevski Prospekt, i.e. public space, as well as in a sacral space, an orthodox church on this street.

Kings of the city: bicycle messengers

Author: Ela Drazkiewicz (Maynooth University)  email
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Long Abstract

In this paper I want to introduce a specific international community which was born in a modern city, and became a source of identification namely: Bicycle Messengers. This professional group was based on an occupation that one does, but it would be impossible to understand some of the couriers' attitudes without placing them in a local context, the environment in which they work and live: the city. The city which is the best characterized by the fact of heterogeneity and a problem of social inequality and division of labor. Since most of the cities are constituted by the prestige and ceremonial functions found in a state society, the most powerful, superior, and the winners of the city are those that are most likely to fulfill this function. Placed in a such context, coming from very different backgrounds, very often out of town, or even a country in which they work, having relatively low economic and educational status, bicycle messengers are not the one to be on the top of the hierarchy and prestige ladder.

What more, in their work messengers are entering the world which is originally reserved only for those from the top of the hierarchy: expensive offices, places where the biggest money and political decisions are made. On the other hand most of their time, messengers spend on the streets; here there are often subjects of violence and aggression, they have to fight for their own space and rights with other road users: car drivers, pedestrians. Depending on the different city organization and policy, this might cause more or less tensions, and influences the local styles of the group. A style in which messengers describe themselves as modern spatial and symbolic transgressors, urban legend, Hermes' minion, the winged one, the guy who thinks he's the toughest, looniest cat around because he gets paid the fat bills to ride a bike fast through hell's nine circles delivering the important packages for the important clients.

In this paper I will present an ethnographic description, of two courier communities of Warsaw and Copenhagen, chosen from the many similar existing in Europe, USA, Australia, and even Japan. By using the example of those two, I want to identify specific local influences like different work and economic systems, and varying urban environments, that shape the particular styles of those groups.

I will show how this community fitted itself in a unfavorable environment of the city. I will show how with the use of their own community celebrations organized in a strict core of the city, both local and a international events like alleycats, critical masses, European and World Bicycle Messengers Championships: few days long parties, races and meetings, the group tamed public sphere, and deserved to call: The cities belong to us! We are the Kings of the Cities!

Finally, description of this hermetic community, created by the people who share the same occupation, its strong masculine character and ideology which is in opposition to establishment ideas, became a reason for the deeper study of the processes shaping social movements, communities and individual identity in the post modern era and urban environment. But also, for me as a young female ethnographer it was a great methodological challenge: getting into a male dominated group, and doing my fieldwork on a bicycle and racing in a city.