Ethnicity

A few themes kept standing out for me in the readings this week. Both Soysal and Schiller point out the limitations of using the (often arbitrary) borders of the nation state as meaningful territories that enclose a culture or ethnicity “as one cohesive identity.” Instead, they argue, the framework of the nation state “collapse[s] all useful categorical and historical distinctions between place, nation (ethnicity) and culture” (Soysal), with each ethnic group “assumed to have a uniform mode of incorporation throughout the national space” (Schiller). Using an overly simplified category of ‘ethnicity’ this way “homogenizes the differentiated opportunities, processes, and forms of migrant incorporation within the national territory” (Schiller) by failing to take into account the greatly differentiated experiences of class (and gender) difference that Schiller touches on in his discussion on “double polarization” in the globalized neoliberal context. The readings seem to argue for a more nuanced understanding of migrant experience than the singular category of ‘ethnicity’ can provide, and locate the empowered and multiethnic youth culture of ‘the second generation’ as a potential site where this complexity is highly visible and being actively re imagined.

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‘Berlin Wall’: Street artist blu in Kreuzberg

In watching the film and in Soysal’s discussion of the vivid ‘second generation’ youth culture of Kreuzberg, I kept thinking back to our previous discussions on C-it and the youth of the Paris suburbs who identify more with an area code as their community than any one ethnicity. In their shared German neighbourhood, the Greek and Turkish families in Kebab Connection appear to have more in common than what sets them apart. The film makers use food as a theme to highlight this, poking fun at the similarity of Greek and Turkish cuisine through the rogue Greek son’s ‘Islamic restaurant’ and the final scene where the feuding restaurant owners exchange yaprak sarma/dolma in a peace offering. Speaking to the “dislocations of wealth, hegemony, and spatial hierarchies” (Schiller), it would seem that one’s address in a city might reveal more about potential shared experiences with their neighbours (and the potential for the creation of a cohesive community) than a homogenous reading of their nationality or ethnicity would. In this context, the implications of community gentrification programs on migrant and ‘second generation’ identities seem all the more violent.

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Photos from Rena Effendi: Last Dance of Tarlabaşı

On Tarlabaşı: http://www.tarlabasiistanbul.com/history/

 

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