Have a look at the communities building up a migrantscape in the hood...


Albanian community is one of the most efficient actors in the interaction of space, production, and socio-cultural reproduction, that gains visibility and recognition in the neighborhood. The infrastructure of Albanian networks in Berlin, is growing in the particular areas, such as post-working-class quarters, with a majority of migrant communities, distinguished by various sub-economies based on formal and informal structures. The concept of an informal economy describes a process of income generating activity characterized by the lack of regulation, in a context where similar activities are regulated. How people are sitting in the bar / outside of the bar, close/ far away, around the counter, seating choices exercised by proximities and boundaries, posture, characters and behaviors, face-to-face forms of sociability serve to enroll membership through gesture, common codes of behavior.

The transnational sites created by Albanians are the extensions of homeland and bring sustainability among the community by regularity of participation in everyday practices for many months or years of dissociation from the place of origin, kin and friends. These places are far more than just a place to drop by and have a coffee among friendly customers, it is a form of institutionalized practice of collectivity and felt space that reminds of the acquaintance and exchange with co-ethnics.

The tradition of the physical and social aspects of building space which interact and create the proximity and locality of the group, is a significant and noteworthy component of the spatial identity among Albanian migrants. The idea of the neighborhood is deeply rooted in everyday practices and therefore transposed on the transmigrant experience by externalizing the heritage and homeland loyalties in new places. Therefore, the understanding of the neighborhood and place-making process in a new location by Albanian community derives from the traditional notions of the neighborhood planning, bringing us back to the Ottoman City structures. According to Ellis (2003), attention should be given to two very important elements of the categorization of local communities according to a confessional structure, which, in turn, had a very strong impact on the construction of new urban space. First, due to the urban nature of the presence of administrative, educational and confessional institutions, the specificity of the identity was constructed on the basis of the language, in this case Ottoman (Turkish), not only in the institutional sphere, but also on the streets and in quarters inhabited mostly by Muslims. Despite this, a type of co-existence developed between non-Muslim merchants, Muslim administrative officers of different ethnic origins, representatives of various religious communities, who transformed into a group defined as şehirliler. In this way the multi-ethnic model and the multilingualism generated a new urban structure — a physical space characteristic of the community constructed in this way. As a result of these religious divisions, residential zones divided in confessional terms were established. None of them, however, enjoyed a cultural monopoly. The urban space was therefore marked by Muslim and non-Muslim attributes. Although Muslims were concentrated mainly around the centre, every district was inhabited by a mixed society, making it possible to maintain religious and linguistic pluralism. Balkan cities constituted a uniform system based on a structure of small neighborhoods [mahalle]. A typical urban plan consisted of the centre accommodating the bazaar and a city administration connected through narrow and winding streets with a dead-end street [sokak] that led to the residential district. A dead-end street, an anomaly in modern urban planning, used to be the epicenter of social life in Turko-Balkan cities. Surrounded by dozens of residential buildings, it was a symbol of high social status due to its vicinity to the central part of the city. Houses were surrounded by a high wall in the back and by flower gardens from the side of the street, separating the private zone from the public zone. The whole system of narrow, winding streets, dead-end streets and high walls also protected the residents against the invigilation of the central administrators and Empire officials. The character of the buildings changed with increasing proximity to the central part of the city, an open square or a large bazaar usually enclosed by a mosque, a hammam and other public utility buildings. In the vicinity, as Ellis (2013) recalls, there were several smaller centers dominated by the functions imposed by the residents of the nearby neighborhoods [mahalle], where the focal point was a small square [mejdan] with a fountain and small boulevards, houses, a bazaar and a mosque or a church. The structure of the residential districts [mahalle] resembled the city centre’s spatial and social model and consisted of a centre with a place for prayer, a bakery and a public bath. The mahalles were inhabited by people from the same ethnicity. Privacy was respected within these residential neighborhoods, while all collective, public rituals and activities culminated around the market area [pazar]. The Ottomanization process in the conquered cities involved, in particular, two acts of spatial transformation: erecting a main mosque in the centre of the city and extending the commercial zone [pazar] in that area, and additionally, placing T-shaped community centers-complexes consisting of a mosque, a religious school [medrese], a hospital and other service facilities in the outskirts of the city with the purpose of facilitating urban growth of the city.Neighborhood designed by Albanian and other migrants’ communities main role is to re-establish social, cultural, political and economic capital and build the visual layers of their presence in a new place by bringing in homeland-like visuals and aesthetics into the new place, where a particular group, or diversified groups are (re) defining their identity. Neighborhood is understood in anthropological approach as a space of connectivity in daily experience of different users. It leverages the place, identity and daily life practices. It is a space, where different realities come together in terms of social relations and built environment. Naturally, migrants bring in to the new neighborhoods, what is familiar and practiced in the homeland. The cohesive Albanian communities formed by displaced groups of the working class have hierarchical, male-dominated, close social ties which had developed as a result of working and living together under intense pressure, coupled with lack of mobility (Madanipour 2001, 183). A big number of the Albanian migrants in Germany are guest workers, coming from ex-Yugoslavia since mid-60s. of the 20th century, in the frames of Yugoslav-West German agreement. The idea of this project was to strengthen Yugoslav economy through temporary migration. In the 1960s, institutes established in different Yugoslav republics (mostly Zagreb and Belgrade) began to investigate this topic, mainly internal migration. Observations made on the Yugoslav area can serve as a laboratory for important research questions in migration studies (Brunnbauer (2009: 9). The case studies covering the Western Balkans (Brunnbauer 2009, Bernard 2019) have allowed discussing essential migration-related issues, to name a few: the role of transnational links and longdistance nationalism, the effects of migration on sending societies, links between migration policies and nation-building, or changes in migration patterns and their long-term development (see Brunnbauer 2009). A big number of Albanians that came to West Berlin in 1960-1980s, decided to stay here on a permanent basis. They started to build their mental maps of the homeland in Berlin, through personal understanding and experience of the neighborhood, close-knit social processes, based on socially derived neighborhood, as they remembered from Kosovo and North Macedonia. Albanian neighborhood, in a similar way as other migrant-based neighborhoods, is built on social, physical, economic and visual components, which overlay an area into a single, identifiable unit. In this essay I carry in the practice of sociability and serviceability of migrant entrepreneurs (named also as entrepreneurs with migration background, or Albanian-German entrepreneurs). “Even if the population is qualified to belong to the category of “German” through citizenship, focus remains on the “migration background” or Herkunft (origin)” (Ülker 2018, 207). As Barış Ülker further explains — “on the one hand, the notion of ethnicity, based on the belief in ontological difference between cultures associated with particular spaces, provides for a distinctive business mentality. On the other hand , the family, understood as the core of this ontologically different culture, serves to cultivate the physical and mental welfare of its members (where the assessment of welfare is a form of calculation)” (Ülker 2018, 208). The strength of family and ethnic networks gives to the Albanian communities in Berlin the feeling of autonomy by creating the parallel socio-cultural and economic circumstances, resulting with refusal of the top-down/repressive integration policies and strengthening the position of a community by transnational and kin-based networks into freely acting agents.

During the research I analyze Albanian migration to Berlin, taking into account the spatial aspect of daily practice, its impact on the group’s visibility (neighborhood), and ethnic strategies expressed through the features of the group and network opportunities built between the place of origin and resettlement. The fieldwork conducted in 2019-2020, even in the first stage of the project, proved the connection between social and political situation of the migrants (migration patterns — circular migration, long-term migration and remigration to the homeland and aspirations/or goals - Albanian-German entrepreneurship/or temporary stay entrepreneurship), and ethnic resources (close ties with co-ethnics, transnational networks, kinship bounds).

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