he image of the industrial economy as a great machine oiled by the sweat and blood of its workers has been a common trope for Marxist and anti-capitalist writers. Much has changed since the industrial revolution inspired such metaphors, but the costs of lubricating social processes remains a relevant issue in these post-industrial, accelerated, and uncertain times. Based on the last two decades of social and cultural studies, one could gather that the world we live in is becoming increasingly fluid (Bauman) and mobile (Urry). But what enables social and cultural “matter” to flow at increasing rates?
Nothing makes you feel quite as alien and precarious as waiting in an immigration office, especially as you wait for a Beamter/in (clerk, officer) to make a decision about your future in Germany—based, it seems, primarily on their current mood and digestive health. And yet, one of my interviewees once claimed that she never felt more at home in Berlin than when she was at the Ausländerbehörde (immigration office), the Bürgeramt (citizen’s registration office), or the Finanzamt (finance and revenue office). And she has a point: when the process is successful, there is a sense of satisfaction and membership that you can get from interfacing with the behemoth that is German bureaucracy. But, as a foreigner in a foreign land, you remain at the mercy of this bureaucracy and the many people that work in it, and that sometimes means that your experience is far more alienating than welcoming.
Much of my research here on so-called “techno tourism” and music-related migration to Berlin has revealed the ways in which recently-arrived people manage to feel at home here, even before they have spent enough time to “integrate” culturally. But my recent experiences with Germany’s Ausländerbehörde has reminded me of how fragile this sense of being “at home” can be (more…)
y Berlin research files are organized under a number of folders, including one for “Tourism Debates” and another one for “Gentrification Debates.” These days, I’m thinking I need to merge these two folders, since the debates have become increasingly intertwined (and often hopelessly confused). In a recent opinion article in Die Zeit online, entitled, “Burn the Tourists” (“Touristen anzünden”), David Hugendick complains that left-political anti-gentrification discourse has taken an ironically xenophobic turn by harnessing anti-tourist (and, more broadly, anti-foreigner) sentiment. Of course, this article is almost interchangeable with a wide range of opinion pieces that have been appearing in mainstream German-language newspapers in the last while, part of a larger (and older) pattern in Berlin of countering critical voices from the left by associating them with violent tactics and contrarian positions.
In any case, although it is debatable whether (more…)
ast Sunday, Süddeutsche Zeitung’s bloggy online stepchild Jetzt.de published a brief article entitled, “Everything is so wonderfully different here!” (Alles so schön anders hier!), which sketches out a semi-serious/semi-satirical typology of the kinds of vacation photos you’ll find on your friends’ Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram feeds (oh, and Google+ too, I suppose). Lately, I’ve been been up to here (*points to neck*) with work, preparing articles for publication and getting a book proposal ready and preparing for the job market and figuring out how to renew my visa and my passport at the same time and entertaining a constant stream of house-guests and AAAGH TOO MUCH. So, following the example of my post last month where I translated part of a German-language article on negative stereotypes about tourists, I thought I’d do the same with this article. Like that earlier post, I’m only translating a small portion of a longer article. If you can read German, I encourage you to check out the original article here; if you like what you read and wish you could read it in English, send ’em an email and suggest that they hire a brilliant and attractive freelance translator (*ahem*) so that you can read the whole thing.
1. The Ethnic Picture (Das Ethno-Bild) (more…)
couple of months ago, the magazine Zitty Berlin posted an online article entitled, “Berlin, deine Feindbilder.” Feindbild literally means something like “villan-image,” but the meaning here is more like “bogeyman” or “negative stereotype.” And so, Zitty, which is a supplementary magazine to the newspaper Der Tagesspiegel, offered a surprisingly long list of stereotypes of Berlin’s denizens. While not as funny as caricatures, these Feindbilder capture something essential about the debates and tensions that are alive in Berlin right now. None of these images are entirely true or false, but they represent the way Berliners imagine each other when they’re fighting about something.
Naturally, the original article was in German. But, since there are a lot of English-speaking ex-pats in Berlin and since there are a lot of people outside of Berlin who would be interested in learning more about these stereotypes, I’ve translated a handful of them here. Out of respect for the authors of the original article, I’ve only translated 5 of the 24 profiles. I also haven’t re-used the cute caricature drawings that accompanied each profile in the original article.
ecently, there’s been some more news on the Holzmarkt/Mörchenpark project. The city has changed its plans for the property that’s up for sale, and this might benefit the bid and development proposal put forward by the Holzmart/Mörchenpark team. In a recent article in the Berliner Zeitung (from which I’m getting most of my information for this update), the author Karin Schmidl summarizes the changes thusly: “No high-rises, no office-building monolith, no hotel blocks.” Whose development proposal was already free of all these things? That’s right: Holzmarkt.
As you might recall (more…)
usicboard is a cultural policy and funding initiative created by Berlin’s municipal government, with the stated goals of supporting the city’s music industry, presumably in a way similar to Berlin’s Medienboard for film and media industries. According to its official website, the project is supposed to “make Berlin more attractive as a site for popular music.” Starting in 2013, the city of Berlin will make 1 Million Euros available towards supporting these goals, but the debates have already started about how this money will be distributed, what the role of Musicboard should be, who should be running it, and even whether the project will improve or worsen the conditions of music-making in Berlin. (more…)