CH 8: The new city confronts the old world

Neukölln Streetlife” by cyzen is licensed under CC BY 2.0

EsraEsra Kücük is Director of the Junge Islam Konferenz, an organization dealing with the role of Islam and Muslims in Germany’s transforming society. Before Esra developed the Junge Islam Konferenz in 2011, she studied Social Sciences and European Studies in Germany, France, and the Netherlands. Currently, she is also working on her doctoral thesis on living environments of young Muslims and non-Muslims in Germany between normalization and exclusion. Read more about Esra here.


Robin Laumann​ started working at the Junge Islam Konferenz in 2013 and has since been responsible for the fields of political communication, advocacy, and research. Prior to joining the Junge Islam Konferenz, Robin studied Islamic Studies, History, and Near and Middle Eastern Studies in Germany, Egypt, and the United Kingdom. Read more about Robin here.


Esra Kücük and Robin Laumann on Arrival City Chapter 8: The new city confronts the old world

Beyond Arrival: Germany still in search for new answers to old questions

In recent years, German arrival cities have undergone a process of structural change, and Berlin exemplifies this transformation vividly. As Doug Sanders describes, Kreuzberg and Neukölln have turned into bustling neighborhoods, home to a diverse set of people including immigrants and their descendants, ecologists, pacifists, and – the most recent addition – newcomers who are disproportionately often associated with the German cliché of the “Swabian hipster”. As a result, Kreuzberg and Neukölln, which embody the urban spirit of Berlin, are among the most popular neighborhoods in the capital.

And still, “citizenship in both the legal and the cultural sense” – as Sanders insightfully remarks – is a crucial factor for arrival in Germany, and sadly, still missing to a large extent. However, albeit late, some changes have finally been implemented this year. The grand coalition of CDU and SPD reformed the country’s citizenship legislation after a contested political and public debate. The new bill, while barring the former “guest workers” of German nationality, equips their descendants who were born and raised in Germany with German citizenship with the option to hold that of another country. While this might sound trivial, the concept of dual citizenship has evoked suspicion and outright aversion for many years, particularly in the ranks of more conservative schools of thought. Sadly, this suspicion is why the first generation of “guest workers” won’t benefit from the reform, even though they made a significant impact on Germany’s economic upswing after World War II.

Yet, while Germany made progress in the field of legal citizenship, it still lags behind when it comes to ideas of cultural citizenship. The willingness of the mainstream society to embrace diversity and inclusion with respect to issues of narratives, belonging and privileges is particularly limited. While the concept of diversity is widely appreciated in society, vocal opposition against the practical ramifications of said diversity stirs against the surface. Currently, this opposition is directed especially against the Muslim communities of the country.

As in many other European countries, the degradation of Muslims makes strange bedfellows: A variety of actors including the populist party Alternative for Germany, the “Hooligans against Salafism” group (to a considerable extent made up of former Neonazi cadres), or the fairly new Dresden-based phenomenon PEGIDA (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West) ride the wave of anti-Muslim stereotypes while venting their dissatisfaction with and fears of current transformations. Alarmingly albeit unsurprisingly, this wave encourages other players to join the fray. After repeated bursts of populism throughout the past year, the Bavarian CSU, sister party of Angela Merkel’s CDU, came up with the suggestion “to urge” migrants to speak exclusively German in their households. And despite the mindset that newcomers have to adapt to an allegedly homogeneous German culture to be accepted as “truly” German, a study by the Berlin Institute for Integration and Migration Research reveals that approximately forty percent of the population consider a German blood line and the capacity to speak German without any accent as integral factors of “Germanness”.

Recent developments like the vociferous PEGIDA movement, which peaked in January when rallying 25,000 people against the alleged Islamization of Germany, suggest that we haven’t drawn the right decisions from past errors and omissions. Integration policies are exclusively directed at migrants and their descendants while neglecting the social responsibility of the mainstream society to do its part in adapting to demographic and cultural transformations. The sense that migrants should assimilate to mainstream culture and give up their own cultural identities is still widespread. This is reminiscent of the mindset of the 1960s when Germany called for “workers” and only realized too late that it were people who came.

However, the sense that belonging to the German people is an exclusive category linked to ethnicity, origin and culture grossly conflicts with daily realities – particularly in urban spaces like Berlin. Again unsurprisingly, the readiness to accept diversity and inclusion is a lot more pronounced among the younger urban generations who grew up with cultural diversity as a constant and natural factor of their lives. Civic engagement in particular is a pathway for younger generations to voice their perspectives on society and to actually formulate recommendations for the political process. The Junge Islam Konferenz (JIK), initiated by the Mercator Foundation and the Humboldt University Berlin, is such a project, bringing together young Muslims and non-Muslims to discuss the role of Islam and Muslims, as well as majority-minority relations in Germany. The members of the JIK, like many other civic activists, confidently participate in the public debate and contribute to the political process. It is remarkable that this new generation made in Germany has put away with false self-restraint despite the neglect and barriers they have been confronted with for decades. It will be them, it will be us, those parts of society who consider diversity and inclusion as our biggest asset, who turn cities where people arrive into cities that make people feel at home.

By Robin Laumann and Esra Kücük


5 Comments Add yours

  1. Rizwan Desai says:

    In this chapter of the book, Doug Saunders explains the history and current state of three arrival cities. Firstly, Saunders explains the arrival city of Les Pyramides in Evry, France. Saunders explains that the French government wrongly assumed that these arrivals would automatically integrate into French society. These individuals were integrated in terms of citizenship status but no support systems or investments were made to ensure that their transition would be successful. The second arrival city discussed is Kreuzberg in Germany. Saunders states that in this case, the German government deemed arrivals to be non-citizens and ignored their needs explicitly. In essence, their permanent temporariness gave them no incentive to integrate as they had no goal of residency or transition.

    The third arrival city examined in this chapter is Parla in Spain. The Spanish government took note of the struggling arrival cities in France and Germany and implemented policy that would ensure a more successful arrival city. The arrivals were given the opportunity to become Spanish citizens and support systems were put in place to ensure that their citizenship would be utilised for the betterment of the Spanish society as a whole.

    The example of Parla really encompasses the advice that Saunders has preached up until this point. First and foremost is that with the obtainment of citizenship, arrivals become invested and established in their arrival city. These arrivals can own property and establish businesses, thus creating an avenue and hope for upward mobility. Second, is that the Spanish government invested heavily in programs to ensure the success of arrivals with the knowledge that “They [arrivals] are the financial foundation of our country’s welfare programs, so we need to make sure that in return, they have the same rights and livelihoods as other Spaniards.” (Zapatero government’s immigration spokesperson) This statement encompasses what Saunders talks about throughout the book of arrivals’ value to the arrival city’s country. This quote states that the relationship between the arrivals and the country of arrival is of mutual benefit – the country needs the arrivals as much as the arrivals need the country. So, the arrival city government should invest to ensure that the transition of arrivals is successful.

  2. Michelle says:

    In Chapter 8, The New City Confronts the Old World, Saunders identifies three cities, in France, Germany and Spain, which are flooded with immigrants stuck in the rural-urban transition. In the instance of France, Saunders meets Aziz Foon, a shop owner in Les Pyramides who had his car burned by rioters he deemed to be “immigrants”. What is interesting about Foon’s reference, an African immigrant himself, is that the individuals he had referred to weren’t immigrants at all, but were instead born in France and fluent in the language. They were rather described as immigrants due to the fact that they had been rural migrants making their first trek into urban spaces, and living in arrival cities. This is where the theme of the chapter becomes prevalent; a battle of acceptance.

    As the chapter outlines, both France and Germany had implemented some form of restriction on immigration which resulted in a blocking of the path forward to the city and backwards to the village. In France this resulted in outrage and increasing criminal activity, however, what both countries shared in common is the fact that what they demanded was not based on diversity or ethnicity, but was rather socially based. They longed for equal treatment, especially with regards to access to employment. However, the restrictions halted individuals in the culture of transition, preventing them from acquiring permanency in the nation and hindering their ability to contribute either economically or culturally. This resulted in many “putting one foot in the village and one foot in the city” (p.235), in an effort to hold down basic jobs as well as support their families, barred from taking the next step to network with the larger urban community. This information leads Saunders to the conclusion of the importance of social networks in terms of attaining employment and getting an education, something he notes is lacking primarily in the cities.

    Due to the dependency of the villages on an individual’s remittances, it makes it difficult for one to return to the village. In the case of Spain, it was realized that networks were important to better the productivity of workers, therefore, the nation allowed immigrants, who had their work permits extended beyond a year, to bring their family over as well. It is made evident the importance of not only the aforementioned, but additionally that of citizenship. In allowing entire families to migrate and become citizens, as Spain had done, the overarching problem of single parenting and self-raising children is somewhat remedied. This issue of citizenship however remains controversial as evidenced in the three case studies, producing networks either for benefit and productivity or for the banding together to form a rebellion. The chapter overall identifies the complexity of the rural-urban transition and in turn, the massive role it plays in the manifestation of the arrival city.

  3. Sharmila Uruthiranandasivam says:

    In this chapter, Saunders outlines areas of cities in which urban upward mobility has failed solely due to the lack of space and the lack of citizenship. The two areas that Saunders examines failure of urban upward mobility are Les Pyramides, Evry, France and Kreuzberg, Berlin, Germany. Towards the end of this chapter, Saunders examines Parla, Spain in which space and citizenship have helped immigrants to grow and make the rural-to-urban transition smoothly.
    Saunders points out Les Pyramides as an area that lacks shops, small business, lack of connection and describes the place to be of low density. Without these connections to help urban upward mobility, many residents are stuck in the rural mind set and cannot adapt to an urban mindset. Saunders points out that there are no extended families in these areas to take care of the younger generation while their parents are at work. There are no social networks present to connect these residents to the French culture and therefore these residents feel like outcasts. Social unrest has polluted this area in which violence from the younger generation is used to express anger. People are not able to own their own shops or businesses in order to move to the next step of urban transition. So here we see a stop of rural-to-urban transition.
    The second area that Saunders examine is Kreuzberg which is plagued with the lack of citizenship provided by the German government. Without a German Citizenship, immigrants are not able to adapt to the German culture and are stuck with their rural identity. At one point, Saunders explains that Turkish women in arrival cities in Turkey are much more successful than women in Kreuzberg. The reason for this is that Turkish immigrants are not adapting to German culture, not learning the language and are caught up in a ‘time wrap’ as Saunders explains. Partly, this can be blamed on the history of immigration that the German government has practiced. According to the German government, the idea behind ‘guest workers’ is that they would leave soon and therefore aid was not given for the transition from rural to urban/European life. Those that stayed did not receive any help from the German government and therefore could not establish their our businesses or shops to make their transition smooth. This also affected the children of immigrants who would have a Turkish citizenship despite never visiting Turkey. The lack of citizenship stunts the growth for residents to make a smooth transition.
    Saunders describes Parla, Spain as an arrival city which provides citizenship rights and space to immigrants to make a smooth transition. Compared to Les Pyramides, the streets are different and are not empty. Streets are lined up with shops, cafes and young people are energized to work/study. The government of Spain recognized early on that changes must be made in order to make a smooth transition. Unlike Germany, Spain’s government made investments into areas like Parla which contributed a safety net in times of crisis. Several amnesty programs were launched in which many illegal immigrants came forward to obtain citizenship status and underground economies began to shrink along with violence. So in this case, we can examine Parla to be much different than the previous areas discussed because the government helped residents and simply does not ignore them. This chapter aims to prove that governments in arrival cities must take a stance to provide space and citizenship to immigrants who need to make transitions. This allows urban upward mobility to be established and continued.

  4. Betina says:

    Les Pyramides and Kreuzberg are microcosms used to elucidate the problems of physical design and citizenship, respectively. While Parla demonstrates that specialized provisions can cultivate a sense of belonging.

    Though aesthetically pleasing, Les Pyramides entraps its residents somewhere between the village and the city. The great heterogeneity prevents any sense of community and precludes the building of social capital that is important for upward social mobility. This experience of isolation is expressed through the words of Alima when she states that “in the village, when you’re raising your children, even if you have to work, you’re surrounded by extended family members who can help you. When you get into trouble, there are people who know and who help you out.” This solidarity is non-existent in Les Pyramides. Moreover, it is the product of its low-population density where residents are prevented from starting shops or small businesses which in turn impedes the fostering of community bonding.

    This can be juxtaposed with the Turkish enclave of Kreuzberg that is located in the centre of the city of Berlin. Although the area has none of the physical problems of Les Pyramides, Kreuzberg residents have high rates of marriage-breakdowns, alcoholism, and violent crimes when compared to any other place in Germany. The problem here is the lack of citizenship, in the legal and cultural sense. Rather than feeling trapped between the village and the city, residents are forced into more primitive conditions (especially Turkish women whose lives are heavily regulated). As a result, the deplorable circumstances are made tolerable with the hope of returning to Turkey and thus there is a disincentive to adapt.

    Enter Parla: a place where its denizens feel as if they have arrived. I argue that what needs to be made explicit here are the economic provisions that are specialized to fit the needs of immigrants. There is an active engagement on Spain’s part: the amnesty program that allowed undocumented immigrants to attain Spanish citizenship; work permits and family reunification; immigrant targeted education, employment assistance, and healthcare; as well as the integration of women.

    The post has focused on the advancements in Germany when it comes to legal citizenship and the limitations of cultural citizenship (that is, an unwillingness to accept diversity). These are important aspects to understand. However, I would be interested in an evaluation of the social services that Germany provides to its immigrants. Saunders has stated that Turkish arrival cities across the country are “generously provided with social services,” yet, there is no further elaboration on what services are made up of. Is it simply about getting Germans to accept that cultural diversity is something that is positive? It would be worthwhile to understand how social services can aid in that process. But first we need to ascertain whether or not these services take Turkish immigrants into consideration.

  5. Austin says:

    Chapter 8 was just as I expected. Like every previous chapter, this chapter even further dissects and defines what an arrival city is. There are so many variations. Saunders has once again provided wonderful examples of scenarios that go very in depth. He makes it very easy to understand his points. The first couple examples of arrival city’s he gave were failures. And then towards the end, Saunders shows us a success story of an arrival city.
    A recurring topic in this book and again in this chapter is the idea of arrested rural-urban transition. In chapter 7, Saunders’ examples help clarify the fact that it is up to the urban city to allow the arrival cities to flourish. His first example with Les Pyramides he tells us that the arrival city was not seen as a part of the urban life, nor was it connected. There is no work in Les Pyramides, no room for markets, and no catalysts to start urban life and the inhabitants didn’t feel like they belonged as citizens.  Parents can’t make as good a living as they did in the village, and their children can’t make a living like the French should be. There is no social network to allow a transition into solid urban lifestyle. Networking is a huge part of integration. Saunders goes on to explain that Les Pyramides was not made in anticipation of people in a lifestyle transition. Over and over, Saunders proves that the urbanized areas have a huge role to play in accepting migrants if arrival cities are to provide a proper transition from rural to urban. It is up to all parties to participate. Saunders speaks about Parla, Spain’s success with arrival cities. He says there was success because the government realized early on what was happening; that they needed to be involved. What is intriguing is how they realized. What tools did they have set out? If they could teach other growing cities how to anticipate rural migration, perhaps things would move more smoothly. Spain did a great job investing into their rural-to-urban migrants. They even incorporated transitioning into the employment system. It makes you wonder if there might be a routine template that could be developed that cities could use to help nearby arrival cities flourish. Though on the other hand, every city and arrival city is different. Perhaps we will find more common ground between them as we read on.

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