The Unbearable Closeness of the East

Embodied Micro-Economies of Difference, Belonging and Intersecting Marginalities in Post-Socialist Berlin

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Abstract

This article examines the micro-politics of belonging in the post-socialist outskirts of Berlin, in Marzahn, one of many new urban immigrant settlement areas in Europe. More specifically, it focuses on what locals perceive as an acceptance-precluding conspicuous presence of nominally white immigrants of German ancestry from the former Soviet Union, the Aussiedler (resettlers). Long-term residents read and interpret these immigrants’ everyday embodiments by constructing what I call micro-economies of embodied difference in order to mark immigrants as non-belonging Eastern-European. In order to make sense of such practices and local antipa- thy towards the Aussiedler, I analyze the embeddedness of this suburban locality in the regional politics of belonging, showing how Marzahn and its long-time residents have themselves become post-wall Berlin’s (and Germany’s) internal Others, saturated with uncommodifiable traces of now-denigrated state-socialist Easternness. I suggest that in such a context these residents’ practice of ascribing the unwanted Easternness to recent immigrants works to deflect it in order to buttress their own claims to full membership citizenship in the unified Germany from which they have long been excluded.
Original languageEnglish
JournalUrban Geography
Volume34
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)30-52
ISSN0272-3638
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes

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