This research examined everyday landscapes of belonging and responses of local population to recent immigrants in one of the new urban areas of immigrant settlement in Germany, namely neighborhoods of eastern Berlin, Marzahn. Once the largest socialist-era housing estate in the former East Germany, now severely socio-economically marginalized, central and northern Marzahn has over the past 15 years become home of the largest concentration of post-Soviet immigrants of German ancestry (so-called Aussiedler) in the former East Germany, the second largest migrant group by now in Germany. The project focused first, on what I call integration practices, that is practices through which local integration projects and policies seek to enable greater social inclusion of recent immigrants as well as acceptance of immigrants by the local society. And second, I sought to understand how such projects as well as immigrants and local residents themselves understand what "integration" - a vague but increasingly ubiquitous and contested term - entails and how they construct belonging in everyday urban contexts. The study is more broadly situated within the context of Germany's new regime of immigrant integration, which promotes neoliberalized, work-based understanding of belonging. These research questions were approached through a mixed-method qualitative case study, which entailed ethnographic work focused on northern and central Marzahn, including volunteering in two integration projects, focus groups conducted with local residents and Aussiedler immigrants, semi-structured expert interviews with local integration practitioners and experts, as well as document analysis. Findings point out in the first place to the myth of an integrated national society that immigrants encounter and in which they strive for belonging. Namely, I show that local practices through which Marzahner Other Aussiedler immigrants in everyday spaces as Russians hailing from backwards East and thus non-belonging in Marzahn and in Germany, are strongly entangled with and embedded in the national landscape of citizenship, in which Marzahn and Marzahner themselves occupy a very precarious position. Second, this project finds that while local integration projects in Marzahn play an important role in supporting immigrants' process of settlement through creating linguistically and socially familiar social spaces, crucial for regaining social confidence in a new environment, they often fail in achieving their goal of providing spaces of increased contact between immigrants and local residents. Rather, such sustained encounters are enabled within the spaces of larger community centers housing integration projects, mostly because they employ often significant numbers of otherwise unemployed residents through workfare programs. While such engagements do tend to increase empathy and more positive attitudes of local residents towards individual Aussiedler, I have cautioned against overoptimistic expectations for increased contact to also bring about reduced stereotyping and prejudice against the Aussiedler as a whole group and category. And finally, this dissertation shows that, quite in line with Germany's neoliberalized norms of belonging as based on employment and work contributions, especially middle-aged and older Aussiedler perceive their long-term exclusion from labor market as an obstacle to their feeling integrated in Germany. As I show, their insistence on the centrality of work for their feelings of belonging in a society is less a result of an influence of local integration practitioners or community leaders - for whom the importance of work for Aussiedler integration is instrumental rather than ideological - or from Marzahn's residents, many of whom do not see steady employment as a precondition for immigrant integration, in part also because of their own strong experiences with long-term unemployment. Rather, as I argue, this centrality of work draws primarily on the persistence of dividual conceptions of personhood and self as deeply socially embedded and emerging through a practice and experience of work, that these subjects internalized during their Soviet-era socialization.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. February 2011. Major: Geography. Advisor: Professor Helga Leitner, Ph.D. 1 computer file (PDF); x, 163 pages.
Everyday landscapes of immgrant integration in post-socialist Berlin: integration projects, othering and meanings of work..
Retrieved from the University of Minnesota Digital Conservancy,
Content distributed via the University of Minnesota's Digital Conservancy may be subject to additional license and use restrictions applied by the depositor.