TRANSNATIONAL CLUSTERS

Pick up one out of three clusters describing the everyday practice in the neighborhood...

Ethnic small business



The first incitement in developing the ethnic entrepreneurship by Albanians in Berlin is generally to provide homeland-like services for their own community, and other Balkan communities (mostly from the ex-Yugoslavia). This is mostly connected with the very strong bounds with the Homeland and everyday practices originating from Albanian culture. It is thus, quite clear that this group is building culture-specific services and in this way is also supporting mutually migrant co-nationals and homeland development, through remittances, cultural exchange (knowledge and experience sharing) and bridging economies between the places of being and belonging. There is also a specific character of the services provided by the Albanian migrants in Neukölln . And I may say, f ollowing Roger Waldinger (et al. 1990), and my own research, that 1 this particularity is performed by other ethnic groups of transmigrants, both in Western Europe. First entrepreneurial activities that appear in the migrant neighborhoods are services provided for the insiders (other Albanian migrants, or of closely related cultures that share same religion, or political experience of same place of origin — ex-Yugoslavia). Generally the first businesses that have developed among Albanians have connected place of stay (Germany) with place of origin (ex-Yugoslavia, Albania).

These are mostly culinary products, and later cultural products (newspapers, recordings, books, magazines, TV stations, clothes, jewelry). “The important point about both of activity is that they involve a direct connection with the immigrants’ homeland and knowledge of tastes and buying preferences — qualities unlikely to be shared by larger, native-owned competitors” (Aldrich, Cater, et al. 1985). The exigencies of everyday existence (legal and social) of Albanian community in Berlin determine another sphere of services present in both neighborhoods. Strains of settlement, assimilation, health support and legal and tax consulting, are the main branches of the ethnic entrepreneurship among the migrants, building the network of alternative social and economic structures facing the community’s needs. “Such businesses frequently perform myriad functions far beyond the simple provision of legal aid or travel information and reservation” (Ladbury 1984). Diversified functions of the ethnic entrepreneurship is particularly visible in the travel agencies in Nord-Neukölln, being a very popular business in Berlin among Albanians, and most of the migrant groups from Europe. They may appear unfamiliar and unintelligible for the other market groups — newcomers, or simply other actors of the neighborhood. “In some cases, they may impinge on the often dubious legal status of immigrants and their families” (Waldinger et al. 1990, 23). Trust is one of the most important components in the participation of this kinds of serviceability, and therefore the base of the costumers is usually originating from the common ethnic background. Moreover Albanian culture, as most of the cultures from the South, is based on the personalistic relationships and oral culture, that in turn is formed from the kinship networks. Taking the examples of the travel agencies in Nord-Neukölln in Berlin, expanding along Karl- Marx Strasse (in-between the three U-bahn stations: Hermannplatz, Rathaus Neukölln and Karl-Marx Strasse), run by Albanians from ex- Yugoslavia, I could explore the parallel structures standing behind and compare them with other case studies. Most of the Reisebüren named after places of origin or ethnonyms from North-Macedonia, Kosovo and Albania, share the myriad functions based on logistics and networks with the homeland. Albanian neighborhood in Neukölln represents a strong group identity expressed through visual elements defining the space (Albanian flags, double-head eagle, national heroes’ representations, etc.) and migration strategies: social solidarity, social networks andethnic sub-economy (parallel economy).


 

Religion(s)


My research refers to the urban margin and spatial boundaries of class, intersected with waves of international migration. Are the prospects for intercultural meeting as Sennett (1996) observed in the multicultural terrain of Greenwich Village, spaces where different individuals come together, but essentially remain apart? Urban frontier in the case study of Neukölln, as other similar neighbourhoods, both in the US and Western Europe, defines lines of separation or contact, and strengthens the identity of Us and the Other.

Even if the streetscape may be from the first glimpse dominated by Arabic presence, after more thorough observation, I could point out the symbolic frontiers or clusters dividing different communities yet merged by religious identity. Except for Arabic shops, appear Turkish and Albanian landmarks, among the other actors of migration background. Everyday interaction in the neighbourhood is based on social practice, more than religious practice; herby Muslim identity belongs more to the social, than confessional. Family structure, educational patterns, new modes of religious communication create challenges to the traditional religious patterns. In Neukölln traditional Muslim practice is replaced, by what is visible in the cityscape, by connections with social origins, dynamics of labour markets, schools, neighbourhoods, or family connections (Brubaker 2013, 1-8). Following the principles that Muhammad illustrated during his life, “everyday practices such as working and supporting one’s family constitute religious activity equal to observing the required rituals, connection between religious practice and labour through time and discipline. Islamic requirement to pray five times each day at predetermined hours” (Rudnyckyj 2010, 142-143).As Grillo observes – “though many are now long-term migrants and/or have been born and brought up in the countries of immigration, the relationship with the society of origin has not, however, diminished, on the contrary, and this is one way transnationalism enters” (Grillo 2004, 862; e.g., Ahmed 1992; Ahmed and Donnan 1994a). In these terms the interconnections between social Muslim practices and labour appear as a strong feature of the migrant communities. The Muslim infrastructure in the neighbourhoods, such as Neukölln, is not appearing at the first site, yet it is functioning through the financing of mosques and other Muslim organizations (see inter alia Allievi 1996; Cesari 1998; Kepel 1987; Nielsen 1999). Many of the mosques exist in the apartment houses and are not exposed to the public. As Gerholm (1994: 206) reminds us, “an authentic Muslim life demands an extensive ‘infrastructure’: mosques, schools, butchers, cemeteries”, and this has been widely achieved, often, as he also said, with considerable difficulty (see Grillo 2004, 863). Therefore, in my research, I lean toward the category of a ‘social Muslim’, taking into consideration other identifiers of Muslim communities besides a religious one (gender, class, ethnicity, age, nation, etc.) A key motif of Islam in Europe in the 1980s – as termed by Grillo (2004) – identified by anthropologists was encapsulated in Joly's phrase ‘making a place’ (1988, see also Metcalf 1996). Muslims sought room, figuratively and literally, for the rituals of Islam and Islamic practices, seeking to extend the boundary of recognition (Waardenburg 1988). Exploring everyday practice of transnational Muslim communities (such as Albanians) proves that these groups maintain particularly strong ties to a homeland and maintain these ties across generations. In that respect these transnational religious movements develop a migrant character in the form of representations and imaginations of a homeland (Bowen 2004, 880-881).

What brings an analytical value here is to refer to the Balkan (eg. Albanian) Muslims as a community that already had experience of being religious minority prior to their migration to Western Europe, and to conform that in the Balkans the increased visibility of Islam cannot be disassociated from its “nationalisation” (Bougarel 2005). National identity of the Albanian-speaking Muslims and the fight for autonomy, is more important than religious networks and so it is among Albanian migrants. During migration most of the Balkan Muslims go to Turkish or Arab mosques, or in case of Boshniaks, create džemati (gam’ats) – parishes or congregations, attended by Bosnian Muslims and Albanians from ex-Yugoslavia (Bougarel 2019, 63, In Susko). Currently, with a subsequent raise of the Albanian population in Germany, their ethnic religious associations and organizations have emerged. Yugoslav Muslims characterized by specific religious experience. Most of the examples of migrants living in the West are not very religious and they don’t attend the religious institutions regularly. Likewise, the Islam practiced by the Yugoslav Muslims in the West is not very visible in the public space and doesn’t make the substantial demands (Bougarel 2019, 67). As observed during fieldwork, most Albanian Muslims from Macedonia and Kosovo, focus on the private practices of individuals whose Muslim family background does not necessarily translate into active identification with the Muslim community or a particular religiosity (Bougarel, Mihaylova 2005, 60), but with a remix of regional and religious traditions of co-existence. The limitation of religion to the private sphere might be a derivative of a legacy of Yugoslav communism (see Bougarel, Mihaylova 2005, 61).

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