This is my individual portion of the research proposal, updated and improved.
In Germany, historically, citizenship was not based on the jus soli principle, but rather on jus sanguinis. Until 2000, the children of immigrants were not automatically eligible for citizenship, even if they were born in Germany. The 2000 reform of the nationality law allowed for the principle of jus soli for “foreign” children born in Germany, and changed the regulations for adult foreigners. The sojourn time was reduced from fifteen to eight years, however, there was also the addition of a multiple-choice test about the legal, social, and living conditions in Germany. However, even with this reformed law, there exists a reluctance in Germany to admit that the nation is one of immigrants. A discrepancy between who is considered a citizen and who is considered a “national” exists: an individual can be a German citizen, but not included in German concepts of nationalism.
The case of individuals who are not considered culturally German, but are German citizens, illustrates how “notions of belonging are often based on an inside/outside dichotomy.” Urban art has been one mechanism that these individuals attempt to break that dichotomy and bring issues facing immigrant communities to the forefront. Urban art, “increasingly being used as an instrument to collectively re-appropriate the urban space,” allows the issues and questions surrounding identity and culture to be posed to the public, literally out in the open. In Madrid, for example, “interventions in public spaces” serve to “sensitize for and resist against social exclusion.” Additionally, urban art serves as a forum for social commentary on issues like the inequalities associated with capitalism (“culture jamming”) (Youkhana 172-174).
I particularly liked the author’s description of urban art transforming a street into a “laboratory and a playground for creative acts,” as it addressed the core of what urban art stands for: an expression of emotion and opinion that may not be explicitly planned (Youkhana 174). Authentic urban art can arise spontaneously as individuals feel a calling or a need to put an issue out into the public, often anonymously. This notion of ‘authentic’ urban art that I just brought up was actually a question posed by Natalie earlier this quarter. She wondered what factors distinguished ‘true’ urban art from inauthentic versions. This article touches upon that matter with its discussion of how street art has been appropriated for tourism: public urban art is often commissioned to connect cities to things with positive connotations attached to them—vivid colors, beautiful murals, cleanliness. These commissioned urban art pieces, then, act as a façade—urban governments who utilize them are attempting to force a certain characterization upon their cities, one that may not be entirely true.
Within the realm of urban art, it appears that a tension exists between ‘original’ and ‘appropriated’ notions of street art. These tensions could be interpreted as a de-legitimization of urban art as expressions of ethnic discontent. Commissioned, city-sanctioned street art could be a deliberate counter against street art that exposes the ‘wrongs’ of society. In effect, commissioned street art potentially undermines the importance of spontaneous, authentic street art by its official nature, frustrating the efforts of minority groups for whom street art is one of limited options available to resist the status quo.
A preliminary list of some sources I have been looking at:
1) "Foreign Labour Migration and the Economic Crisis in the EU: Ongoing and Remaining Issues of the Migrant Workforce in Germany," Anna Mhyngee Kim (http://ftp.iza.org/dp5134.pdf)
2) "Wage and Employment Effects of Immigration to Germany: Evidence from a Skill Group Approach," Holger Bonin (http://ftp.iza.org/dp1875.pdf)
3) "Turkish Labour Migration to Germany: Impact on Both Economies," Gottfried E. Volker (http://www.jstor.org/stable/4282582?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents)
4) "The Impact of Immigration on Germany’s Society" (http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/home-affairs/what-we-do/networks/european_migration_network/reports/docs/emn-studies/illegally-resident/de-finalstudy-eng_en.pdf)
5) "A Comparative Study of Net Transfers for Different Immigrant Groups: Evidence from Germany," Christer Gerdes (http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1468-2435.2009.00573.x/epdf)
6) "Economic Impacts of Immigration: A Survey," Sari Pekkala Kerr & William R. Kerr (http://www.hbs.edu/faculty/Publication%20Files/09-013_15702a45-fbc3-44d7-be52-477123ee58d0.pdf)
7) " From Gastarbeiter to “Ausländische Mitbürger”: Postnational Citizenship and In-Between Identities in Berlin," Fayzi Baban (http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/13621020600633119)
8) "Unsung Heroes," Deborah Steinborn (http://wpj.sagepub.com/content/28/4/100.full.pdf+html)
9) "Survey: Which Turkey," The Economist (http://search.proquest.com/docview/224005916?accountid=14784)
10) Arab America: Gender, Cultural Politics, and Activism, Nadine Naber
11) "Identity and Poststructural Theory in SLA," Bonny Norton
I chose to sit at my desk in my dorm room and observe that environment. I heard birds chirping in patterns of four chirps; the chirps took on different notes, becoming higher and then lower within each repeating pattern. I heard trucks and cars and busses passing by underneath. The trucks had this low rumbling sound. The busses sometimes beeped. I noticed that I would automatically characterize these beeps as annoying. I heard my blinds slamming against the window during particularly strong gusts of wind.
I smelled fresh air from my window and something sweet, like traces of a cinnamon bun. I saw my computer screen in front of me, but around that central vision, I saw my desk area in the peripheral: a green fan and purple lamp to my left, blue sticky notes to my left and right. The light from the lamp illuminated the sticky notes on the left hand side, making them glow a little bit. The buttons on my keyboard were smooth and made little staccato noises as I typed.
I noticed that a lot of these sounds and smells I had just taken for granted because I was used to falling asleep with my window open. The cars and the birds were not things that I registered anymore because I was used to them. I think that is why it is so much easier to observe something for the first time, because you have not build “immunity” to the sights and sounds and smells associated with it.
Individual Number One: Non-white graduate student
Response: “I feel like, its, I don’t know if its much different from the political climate here. It depends on your immigration status. Here, its mostly Latin American. The African-American context is something they’ve been struggling with since slavery ended. Marginalized, overlooked population. Politics: tactics, easy to say that these people are the problems and issues. But in reality, it has to do with social, economic problems. Race is a mask. In the US, the media shows more poor blacks than poor whites.
Individual Number Two: White graduate student (Public administration with a focus on transportation)
Response: “The first word that comes to mind is divisive. Its very controversial, something that’s more of a popular consciousness through the mainstream news channels. The window to that is police brutality, but before that it was occupy, the financial, social inequality, class structure. Plays out in other areas in terms of education, the important of equal education. Bias, who has access. Access to political power as well.”
Reflection: We interviewed both of these individuals as they were studying in Mary Gates Hall—they appeared like they weren’t too busy and could spare a minute or two. Both were female graduate students. One was white; the other was not. They both had very keen insight into the matter. It felt a bit awkward to ask about minorities because race and ethnicity are things that as a society, we tend to shy away from discussing. I think they were a bit taken aback about being asked about minorities in such a straightforward manner—by two students who looked white. I think keeping in mind your own biases, and how you are perceived by others when interviewing, is important so that the people you are interviewing feel comfortable opening up to you.
I was pretty comfortable about this assignment having just interviewed eleven students about their Arab-American identity for my independent research project. But I did notice that there was a boundary in that I look white, and asking about minorities makes me look like some sort of “concerned white person” who really doesn’t understand what its like to be a minority, even though as an Arab-American I consider myself to be in the minority (I just happen to have very white skin). I think responses would have been different had I not looked white, but I don’t know how that would have been different if I was a non-white asking a white person vs. a non-white asking a non-white person. In general, my experiences interviewing people demonstrate that most people are willing to talk to you if you approach them correctly (with a sense of humility, understanding, and respect).
Gentrification: the process of renewal and rebuilding accompanying the influx of middle-class or affluent people into deteriorating areas that often displaces poorer residents. There are many social scholars who warn that the gap between the “haves” and the “have-nots” is widening at an alarming rate—and that the rift between the two groups I already quite massive. Gentrification is a process that corroborates these social scholars’ fears, as it a very real occurrence happening in major cities around the world. Certain “slummy” areas in New York, for example, have long been converted into posh hangouts for the newest generation of urban yuppies. Seattle is no different. The article we read this week, “Cultures Clash as Gentrification Engulfs Capitol Hill,” points out how the formerly tucked-away neighborhood of Seattle has emerged in the spotlight as a popular spot for nightlife. Residents of Capitol Hill who remember when it was a refuge for non-normative sexualities, lament how it is has been thrust into the limelight and subject to the zeal of urban developers.
Gentrification has surely and steadily pushed up rent prices in Seattle, and it affects those with the least amount of money to spare the most. The poor are pushed farther and farther away from the city center, in less and less desired areas, contributing to the growing rift between the haves and the have-nots. In addition, the skyrocketing rent prices affect university students as well. Housing prices increase when rent increases in the U-District—slower than normal, because of a form of subsidies, but they are rising. As the University of Washington becomes a more attractive university, in terms of academics and “brand” recognition, it will elevate the status of its surrounding neighborhood, catalyzing the process of gentrification.
As Manuela noted in the Skype conversation last Friday, gentrification has also affected Berlin, specifically in the creation of industrial/working-class neighborhoods and more affluent neighborhoods. Kreuzberg, where we will be staying, has a reputation for being a primarily immigrant, working-class neighborhood. Manuela discussed how Kreuzberg was not selected for remodeling by Berlin’s city government; as such, it remains one of the older parts of the city. In this case, the remodeling of other neighborhoods in Berlin, but not primarily working-class ones like Kreuzberg, contributes to the idea of a rift between those with money and power, and those without money and power. Ladd also mentions the question of gentrification in the satellite cities surrounding Berlin. According to Ladd, “Most Westerners find them ugly, and after reunification some demanded that they be demolished—a completely impractical idea in a city already suffering a housing shortage. Westerners made the false assumption that such complexes were slums inhabited by the dregs of society” (191). Gentrification in the areas surrounding Berlin suggests that gentrification within Berlin is already occurring.
I can testify to the existence of gentrification in Portland, Oregon. I have lived just across the river from Portland until I came to the University of Washington, and in that time, I have noticed insane amounts of gentrification. My mother works at a well-known hospital in NE Portland; the hospital is not in one of the best neighborhoods in Seattle. There is a lot of crime and poverty in the area immediately surrounding the hospital. Three years ago, developers rolled in and started building sleek apartment complexes and chic boutiques and cafés. New Seasons built a giant store (it is a local version of Whole Foods). Right near the hospital, right in the heart of this primarily blue-collar neighborhood. And then, doctors and surgeons who work at the hospital started to buy up land and houses nearby, displacing the former residents and reinforcing the forces of gentrification. Now, the area near the hospital is unrecognizable, having been pumped full of money and swarming with urban yuppies. This process is being played out in many other parts of Portland, pushing away the poor to more undesirable locations.
As I have noted, gentrification affects those with the least amount of money (and power) to spare the most. Immigrants, people of color, people marginalized or excluded from mainstream society for a variety of reasons. Regardless of the place—Seattle, Berlin, Portland—gentrification affects the same kinds of people: those without the resources to fight back. Gentrification therefore reinforces the immigrant/native binary, the schisms between the working class and the middle class. It creates strong local neighborhood identities: working class, immigrant, middle class, rich, etc. These classifications are arbitrary, but they are affected by the ways that the neighborhoods are perceived visually.
I am particularly interested in the theme of “refugee/migration movements in US and Germany related to identity politics and the view of the “refugee and “immigrant” as cultural tokens and foils (individual, family, and nation-state).” This theme relates to many of the topics I have been exploring this quarter in my independent research project, especially the topic of cultural tokenism. Many of the readings we have completed this quarter relate to this theme as well, in particularly “European Others” and “’What does it Mean to be German?’” Immigrants’ status in Germany is quite precarious, especially considering that their children are not guaranteed citizenship by virtue of being born in Germany. This corresponds to an idea I read in a research article for the purposes of my project: the concept of an ‘ethnic core.’ According to this idea, each nation contains a dominant ethnicity that lies at the core of that nation’s culture and conceptions of nationalism—for most Western nations, this ethnic core is comprised of white individuals. In “European Others,” El-Tayeb references “Not Looking German” and the story of a German girl of Chinese heritage, who felt excluded from mainstream German culture because of her biological looks. “European Others” also introduces the idea that in Europe, encounters with minorities are treated as novel occurrences each time. Furthermore, the minority population is constantly differentiated from ‘real European’ through references to “supposedly innate visible, unchangeable differences” (El-Tayeb). All of these themes strongly contribute to the idea that biology—how one looks—is a large factor in whether one is accepted by mainstream society or whether one’s attempts at integration go scorned or unrealized.
The treatment of minorities as ‘novel occurrences’ destroys the formation of minority ethnic identity within the larger ethnic core identity. In the United States, ethnic revival movements have been active since the 1960s, carving out ethnic identities such as African-American and Latino-American. In Europe, the predominant belief is that “there are only migrants, not minorities” due to a lack of focus on “the emergence of native minorities” (El-Tayeb). Native minorities are not encouraged to express their heritage, and instead fill the role of cultural tokens and foils to ‘real Europeans.’ The status of children born to immigrants in most European nations further complicates the formation of ethnic identification—these children are “somewhere in the middle,” not allowed to claim the nationality of the country they were born in, but similarly isolated from their supposed “home” nation (El-Tayeb). These individuals’ attempts at integration are frustrated by a lack of support from the ethnic core.
For the research project that I will be working on in Berlin, I thought about what broad themes interested me. The list was short: migration, identity, nationalism, and economics. The only problem with this list is that each theme encompasses a huge array of topics; each could be subdivided into concepts that gained specificity at each level. I made a web of all these ideas, linked them all together with arrows, and arrived at four comprehensive research questions. I then took these four questions and wove them into one all-encompassing question: How do economic growth and recession affect Germany nationalism and perceptions of minority groups? I believe that this question ties in nicely with the program topic mentioned above, as it deals with immigration, minority groups, and perceptions of immigrants within the sphere of economics. With this research question, I am hoping to explore how German nationalism fluctuates in relation to conceptions of European Union nationalism, how the perception of immigrants and minority groups fluctuates as the business cycle takes its course, how German nationalism itself changes in relation to the business cycle, and how nationalism is tied in with economic theories. These are all still broad and abstract topics, but I believe that a strong economy will be linked to the following ideas:
-A strengthening of German national identity at the expense of European identity
-Greater acceptance of immigrants and minority groups
-An expansion of who is included in conceptions of German nationalism
-German nationalism is influenced by both socialism and capitalism
This week our reading focused on the concept of language acquisition and post-structuralism. I understand the concept of post-structuralism as a reaction to structuralism, which posits that human thought can be categorized by connections between "big picture" elements and by distinct differences between different types of people. Post-structuralism seeks to clarify that human agency is a significant element of differences between individual thought patterns, which structuralism appears to downplay. It's still all very ambiguous, but I feel that I understand post-structuralism better in the context of multilingualism and identity with regards to language.
Language is, after all, a part of all of our identities. The languages we speak can demonstrate our cultural backgrounds and our goals--for instance, if I actively taught myself Finnish, that might speak to my desire to live in Finland one day. Language is one facet of identity, and I tended to focus on the bigger concept of identity while reading Norton's article, even thought it dealt specifically with language. I found Norton's explanation of identity fascinating: she writes that identity "signals the way in which a person understands her or his relationship to the world, how that relationship is constructed across time and space, and how the person understands possibilities for the future."
Language is one aspect of identity that fits into Norton's explanation. However, I zoomed in on this particular explanation because it reinforces the flexibility of identity, something that I am coming across in my current research project. I am attempting to understand the ways that young Arab-Americans identify themselves in the post-9/11 United States. What I have come to realize is that identity is such a fluid concept that asking someone how they identify themselves culturally is quite simply, a pointless question. I have had several respondents ask me what I mean by culture. The general attitude is that attempting to define "American" or "Arab" culture is impossible because it will always rely on incorrect stereotypes and unfounded assumptions. Identity is such a fluid concept that capturing a snapshot of it inherently leads to misrepresentation--individuals' identities constantly evolve over time and adapt to changing realities.
With the fluidity of identity in mind, then, I would like to turn back to Norton's explanation of identity and argue that the way in which a person understands their place in the world is constantly in flux. One particularly relevant example is how a college student understands their place in the university environment. The first year, their identity as a student may bounce around between different majors; over the course of four years, that academic identify solidifies with a particular discipline. After graduation, that former college student may visualize different possibilities for the future based on their experience in college--graduate school, a career, something else entirely. Where that student ends up after graduation depends on their experiences forming their identity during college, which depends on a host of interconnected factors: friend groups, course load, extracurricular activities. A student's identity during college is constantly in turmoil. And this fluidity of identity applies to life as a whole: our identities as individuals are based on an interplay between our immediate environments and our past environments, yet these identities transcend all of those things in the end.
Berlin is a city. Like all other cities, there are things in Berlin that are quite standard: more people, more buildings, more attractions. However, Berlin stands out in that its status as a city is tied to many different social and political contexts. Berlin is a city of walls, a global city, a city of the European Union, and a city of immigrants.
Berlin as a City of Walls: Berlin is defined by the Berlin Wall. Most people, however, simply call it “the Wall”—it is known to be a uniquely Berlin attraction. The Wall symbolizes the clash of two ideologies—Communism and democracy. It has been the site of highly politicized rhetoric (Reagan’s comment to Gorbachev: “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall,” Kennedy’s famous “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech). As Winston Churchill famously summarized, the Wall was an “iron curtain” that had “descended upon Europe.” The dichotomy between the East and the West was physically embodied in the Wall. However, the Berlin Wall is not the only significant wall in Berlin. As the capitol of many successive German regimes and governments, the walls of Berlin’s old buildings stand as a testament to the history of the city. In particular, the lack of walls in the area that used to be the royal palace for a significant period of time (for year and a half, the palace was represented by painted canvas) (Ladd 42).
Berlin as a Global City: Berlin is global not only in the fact that it is a cosmopolitan, demographically diverse city, but also global in the sense that it has been the site of many interesting turns in history. From medieval kingdom to the Prussian empire to the Third Reich to a divided German government to a modern, democratic republic, Berlin has seen history unfold at an astonishing pace. The succession of historic event that have occurred in Berlin have left interesting mark, both within the Berlin psyche and also in the architecture of the city (Ladd). Berlin serves as a global reminder that history is really never just in the past—it continues to shape reality every day.
Berlin as a City of the European Union: Germany is confronted with maintaining its national independence in a Europe that is characterized by interdependence within the EU. Berlin can therefore be viewed as a city of Germany and a city of the European Union, and Germany’s geographic position may contribute heavily to this dual function. Germany is at the heart of the European mainland; it is possible that in the future of the European Union, other EU countries will look to Germany for guidance because it has that central location. Berlin-as-a-city-of-the-EU and Berlin-as-a-city-in-Germany are two roles that may conflict, leading to a sense of stagnation between Germany’s goals as an individual country and Germany’s goals within the supranational EU.
Berlin as a City of Immigrants: Germany is an attractive destination for immigrants due to its strong economy; in particular, Germany’s guest worker policy has resulted in a large influx of Turkish immigrants, many of whom settle in Berlin. As with any other nation, the question of immigrant status is significant. Are immigrants expected to assimilate (completely cast off the cultural values of their homeland)? Or do they integrate into society, maintaining certain cultural practices and adopting others from their new nation? Somewhere in between? Immigration in Germany has been the subject of racist violence, especially after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 (“New Ethnic Minorities and Society” 239). A backlash against immigration in Berlin, and the rest of Germany, could be a product of social, economic, and political tensions. First and foremost, there is the matter of culture and nationalism: immigrants obviously are different from the rest of society. Racism, suspicion, and hostility can all be factors contributing to the lack of integration of immigrants in society. Furthermore, immigrants typically have a higher reproductive rate than the rest of society; Germany is currently experiencing negative population growth rate (-0.18 % in 2014), and its birth rate places it at number 219 (out of 224), according to the CIA World Factbook. A perception that Turkish immigrants are rapidly taking over due to higher fertility rates may serve as a catalyst for anti-immigration policies and attitudes. Downturns in the economy could also potentially place Turkish immigrants in the position of scape-goat. Politically, there is an interesting dynamic between Germany attempting to balance its own German nationalism in the midst of European Union participation: there is also the question of Turkish entry into the European Union. If Turkey is successful, there may be an even greater influx of Turkish immigrants into Germany (due to the EU’s open-border policy), exacerbating the issue of immigration.
After this week’s readings, I am interested in grounding my research in the question of immigration. My grandfather was a migrant worker in Germany for a period of twenty years; he lived in Cologne, Munich, Berlin, Hamburg, and a few other cities. Integrating into German society was difficult for my grandfather, but relatively easy when compared to other Arab immigrants. My grandfather had blue eyes and blond hair, and he picked up German very quickly—from the outside, he looked and acted quite German. However, there were recurring periods where his Arab heritage would become known, leading to backlash from other individuals. My grandfather’s life in Germany illustrates how immigrant status is highly contextual: an individual can be considered an immigrant in certain situations, and a ‘native’ in others.