When I was asked to write a blog to accompany my Identities article, 'The most cosmopolitan European city: situating narratives and practices of diversity in Marseille', I was asked to provide a suitable image. This faced me with a dilemma that cuts to the heart of my argument: how to choose a picture that symbolises cosmopolitanism in Marseille without falling into stereotypical representations of what and where cosmopolitanism is, and who represents it?
Searching the Internet for images of 'cosmopolitan Marseille' in English and in French ('Marseille cosmopolite') brought up quite different results. In the English language search, the majority of photographs showed shots of Marseille intended for international tourists: terrace cafés, well-known landmarks and generic promotional images from restaurant chains, bars and rental apartments. There was just one picture of a busy multi-ethnic market street. In the French search, similar touristy images also came up, alongside images that felt both more everyday and more ‘local’: interiors from different shops displaying open bags of spices for sale and a photograph from the municipal website of local politicians receiving international delegations from Marrakesh and Dakar, accompanied by a title describing Marseille as coloré et cosmopolite ('colourful and cosmopolitan'). There were, in addition, several references to specific impoverished neighbourhoods in the city-centre that are often taken as the embodiment of Marseille’s ‘cosmopolitanism’ while at the same time are the target of local and national urban renewal programmes that seek to attract a different - less ethnically-marked - population into the city centre for many decades now.
In short, carrying out this search for images of cosmopolitanism in Marseille illustrates the extent to which cosmopolitanism is a slippery notion that can mean so many contrasting things, depending on who is doing the talking, with whom, where and when.
In my article, I draw on ethnographic fieldwork in a part of the city that is not usually included in narratives of Marseille’s cosmopolitanism. Over nine months, as Marseille was preparing for its year as European Capital of Culture, I took part in a neighbourhood cultural project with a group of people who could seem far removed from the image of well-travelled cosmopolitan jet-setters and common sense understandings of the ethnically-marked bodies generally taken as the embodiment of cosmopolitan spaces. And this is one part of the story I tell in my Identities article. Beginning with an arts project that was marginalised from mainstream cultural policies, I explore how different ways of framing of social and cultural relations in Marseille, including in terms of Marseille’s cosmopolitanism, have variously included or excluded individuals and groups from material and symbolic aspects of the city.
Drawing on the critical cosmopolitanism literature, the second aim of the article was to think about how to describe and analyse social relations relations in ways that move beyond top-down narratives and policies that attempt to describe and organise difference. The image that I have finally chosen was taken by the Finnish photographer Lena Malm, who came to visit to Marseille in 2017 as part of a project exploring how different places around the Mediterranean Sea were given meaning and value.
This photograph is taken near the busy market that was brought up in both the English anad French the Internet searches for Marseille’s cosmopolitanism. As mentioned, this largely impoverished area has been targeted for decades by political leaders, part of a campaign to ‘reconquer’ the city centre. Informal street traders and people begging are regularly moved on and the area is surveilled by closed-circuit television. The bollard in the centre of the image is a material sign of these efforts to clean up and eventually ‘gentrify’ this part of the city. Behind the corrugated, graffiti-tagged barrier, the city council has given the go-ahead for the conversion of an Haussmanian apartment block to be transformed into a luxury hotel. Who knows how the social relations of this part of the city will be changed as a result.
What I like about this photo, and what caught the attention of Lena, is the contact between the woman begging and the person who stops to talk to her, the smiling face and the friendly, open hand gesture. Despite the different social positions, there seems to a moment of shared humanity, beautifully emphasised by the triangle of light coming out from woman standing. It is this idea of shared humanity, a sort of fellow feeling, generosity and humaneness that can transcend – albeit fleetingly - perceived social or cultural differences that, it seems to me, is often elided within accounts of Marseille’s ‘cosmopolitanism’. My Identities article attempts to draw attention to some of these relations of openness that, along with often very violent forms of othering and displacement, participate in the shaping social interactions in and beyond the city; although of course, always in very unequal relations of power.
Blog post by Claire Bullen, University of Tübingen, Germany
Read the full article: Bullen, Claire. The most cosmopolitan European city: situating narratives and practices of cultural and social relations in Marseille. Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power. DOI: 10.1080/1070289X.2019.1688952
The Chernobyl nuclear disaster occurred on 26 April 1986 in the Soviet Union. Children born before and after 1986 were at risk of developing different health conditions. For example, instances of thyroid cancer increased 40 times due to release of radioactive iodine. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, borders opened and many Western charities offered recuperation to affected children in host families abroad during summer. The idea was to take children out of contaminated territories and provide them with an environment free from radiation. Belarus was the most affected, having 23.5% of its territory contaminated with radioactive cesium and strontium. Italy was the most active in these recuperation programmes; it has hosted more than half of all affected children from Belarus.
The goal of my Identities article, 'Kinning as intimate disaster response: from recuperation in host families to educational migration of the Chernobyl children from Belarus to Italy', was to uncover what happened to these children and their host families over time. I demonstrate that one of the unexpected outcomes of Chernobyl children’s recuperation in Italy was their educational migration to Italy for further education as they grew up (some went on to attend high school in Italy; the majority of these went on to do their Bachelor and/or Master’s degrees in Italy, as well). I argue that educational migration became possible due to kinning – strong emotional bonds developed between the Belarusian children and their Italian host families over their repeated encounters during the humanitarian programme of child recuperation abroad. The concept of kinning has been used in the studies of transnational adoption (by Signe Howell) and domestic and institutional care work (by Loretta Baldassar and colleagues). My article applies kinning to the studies of disasters, migration and humanitarianism.
Educational migration of Belarusian children to Italy was chosen over other unintended recuperation outcomes (e.g. being adopted by the Italian host family, meeting a life partner in Italy, changing religion from Orthodox to Catholic, choosing a profession related to Italy, or coming to Italy in adulthood with children of Chernobyl children), as it revealed how important a triad relationship between children, their biological families in Belarus, and their host families in Italy was in deciding to study in Italy as these youth came of age. I therefore argue that disaster migration occurred, not because of the damage done by the disaster, but due to the human relations formed between people involved in disaster response.
On the basis of ethnographic interviews I conducted with the grown-up Chernobyl children from Belarus, I examined the relational consensus and conflict between children, their biological parents in Belarus, and their Italian host families, which evolved around frequent contact, material and emotional support, family obligations, co-residence, over-parenting, etc. Educational migration of grown-up children as disaster survivors was not just about aspirations to improve their future career prospects and socio-economic statuses, but was also shaped by social relations with family members in both host and home countries in the negotiation of a simultaneous sense of belonging to different places.
In practical terms, formally recognising and supporting kinning in humanitarian assistance for disaster survivors would do great service to those who have already developed kinning and to those who are restraining themselves because of organisational rules. Kinning as a form of a long-term social support can be beneficial for children in overcoming prolonged consequences of a humanitarian crisis.
Blog post by Ekatherina Zhukova, Lund University, Sweden
Read the full article: Zhukova, Ekatherina. Kinning as intimate disaster response: from recuperation in host families to educational migration of the Chernobyl children from Belarus to Italy. Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power. DOI: 10.1080/1070289X.2019.1686877
Indonesian women victims of domestic violence commonly experience a sense of shame, however unreasonable that might seem to those outside the community. However, it is understandable for two reasons.
Firstly, most Indonesians consider marriage a sacred institution, the harmony of which must be maintained to support not just the marriage itself but broader social harmony. Secondly, to Indonesians the wife is seen as responsible for maintaining family harmony due to the values of nurturing and caring traditionally assigned to the female gender.
Hence, a failure to maintain marital or familial harmony is blamed on the wife who, should she decide to divorce, may be described as an ‘unfaithful wife’, ‘undutiful housewife’ and an ‘unloving mother’, with little or no basis for such accusations.
Even when domestic violence has occurred and the marriage cannot reasonably continue as there is threat of continued physical and emotional violence and other abuse of the women and their children, the women still feel shame. Having internalised societal values, women feel that they have failed to meet society’s and their own expectations.
These women must prepare themselves to have their status reduced, from that of a married woman (with the respect this traditionally commands) to that of unmarried woman, janda (widow or divorcee) in Bahasa Indonesia. This ‘shameful’ status is distinctly gendered; divorced men are not blamed for their ‘broken homes’ nor made the target of salacious gossip or of sexual harassment, and are not viewed as a threat to other marriages.
According to Richard O’Connor (2009, 75) shame is ‘[A] deep, pervasive experience of loathsomeness or disgust about who or what we are. [It] is about our core identity; the experience of seeing ourselves from another perspective, in the worst possible light; or of fearing that others see the secret self we keep hidden away and only remember when we are forced to’.
In the context of divorce and domestic violence, malu or shame becomes the emotional link between the failure of marriage and being a victim of domestic violence. Both involve gendered shame. Meanwhile, in Indonesia, creating and maintaining marital and familial harmony is not only demanded by the community, but also by the state under the Marriage Act 1974, redoubling the sense of shame.
Domestic violence brings complicated circumstances; women need to make a decision whether to leave or to stay in an abusive marriage. It is a decision that is not easy to make because of social, economic, legal and cultural considerations.
My Identities article, ‘Shame and Indonesian women victims of domestic violence in making the decision to divorce’, examines whether all respondents, regardless of their identities at the beginning of the violence, continued to hold tight the values and norms of their responsibility for ‘harmony’ within a family. It was found that when the violence continued to escalate or became intolerable, most of the respondents filed for divorce. Many no longer accepted the cultural expectation that the burden of familial harmony was solely theirs, and instead recognised the husband’s unacceptable behaviours as often beyond a wife’s control and clearly contributing to marital and familial breakdown. They ignored the feelings of shame that would be imposed upon them (because they would be janda) and realised the burden they would have to bear from economic, social, cultural and legal aspects.
O’Connor, R. 2009. ‘Shame: destructive or useful?’ Mental Health Matters.
O’Shaughnessy, K. 2009. Gender, state and social power in contemporary Indonesia: divorce and marriage law. Oxon: Routledge.
Parker, L. & Creese, H. 2016. The stigmatisation of widows and divorcees (Janda) in Indonesian society. Indonesia and the Malay World 44: 1-6.
Blog post by Rika Saraswati, Soegijapranata Catholic University, Indonesia
Read the full article: Saraswati, Rika. Shame and Indonesian women victims of domestic violence in making the decision to divorce. Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power. DOI: 10.1080/1070289X.2019.1600313
Contested and interdependent appropriation of space in a multicultural commercial neighbourhood of Santiago, Chile
Patronato is a well-known commercial neighbourhood in Santiago, Chile with a tradition of migrants’ settlement and entrepreneurship that dates back to the nineteenth century. Today, the area is branded as a textile and vibrant ‘multicultural commercial neighbourhood’, as read in several street signs. Traders and workers’ ancestries include Chilean, Korean, Chinese, Indian, Peruvian, Palestinian, Syrian, Haitian, Colombia and Venezuelan, among many others. Yet, despite its growing diversity, Patronato is often described (in the media, films and popular narratives) as a Palestinian-Korean neighbourhood.
In our Identities article, ‘Contested and interdependent appropriation of space in a multicultural commercial neighbourhood of Santiago, Chile’, we analyse memories, images and uses of space by entrepreneurs of Korean and Palestinian ancestry, as well as their competing and reciprocal appropriation of space. Through processes of social production and construction of space (Low 2017), we examine their experiences of making, inhabiting and appropriating space, in relation to the transformations of the political economy.
During fieldwork, we were surprised to see that a pervasive narrative of social replacement – depicted as a displacement of Palestinians generated by Koreans’ settlement – somehow concealed their visibly persistent coexistence in the daily life of the neighbourhood and, at the same time, omitted emerging processes of commercial interdependency. From here, firstly, our Identities article shows how processes of ethnicisation of space – popularly explained as given by ethnic differences and, as such, generating tensions among Palestinians and Koreans – respond to historical, economic and political shifts happening at a global and local level. Koreans and Palestinians were incorporated into the local economy and settled in Patronato (to then move to live in other areas of the city) in two crucial moments of the political economy:
Palestinians established themselves as textile entrepreneurs in the import substitution stage that begun in the 1930s. During this era, as happened in different countries worldwide, the State aimed to strengthen the local industry in the aftermath of the 1930s' Great Depression. By their side, Koreans settled in Patronato mostly in the 1980s. Since then, the importations started as part of a new stage in the political economy that, diminishing the presence of the State and facilitating the entry of overseas investors, pushed traders to compete in the global market. From here, a narrative of displacement and social ‘replacement’ from one period to the other predominates in Patronato. What emerges is a problematic narrative about the disruption of a previous (idyllic) way of living and golden age – a narrative that questions Koreans’ legitimate appropriation of the space. Patronato becomes invested with meanings and ethnically encoded via social practices, which are also economic, contextual and not necessarily cultural.
Secondly, challenging the prism of inter-ethnic socioeconomic conflict and separation among migrant entrepreneurs, our Identities article also shows emerging dynamics of social interdependence and adjustment taking place alongside the reorganisation of ethnic boundaries. It shows that narratives that highlight contestation over space overlook new adjustments and interdependencies, and that forms of material attachment to a place can change. During our fieldwork, real-estate agents in the neighbourhood stated that properties were still mostly owned by people with a Palestinian background, with Koreans acting as their tenants. In this case, the common-sense idea that Palestinians had sold the place and that, after facing bankruptcy with the beginning of importations, had been displaced by Koreans, was not that accurate. Ownership and (un)availability of properties have reconfigured the relation among Palestinian and Koreans and their descendants, moving from competency in the textile industry to interdependency in the real-estate market.
Beyond this particular case, illuminating the relationship between contestations and interdependencies, and unsettling the prism of ‘cultural differences’, is important. This is because the sole focus on tensions and differences, rather than on what migrant trajectories have in common, can mitigate potential solidarities and promote the persistence of prejudices. In this context, it is important to illuminate how inter-ethnic contestation is connected to the aggressive imposition of governmental programmes, which socially displace or unsettle some social groups in particular fields. Moreover, changes in business relations and in the local economy can arise, along with new interdependencies and the reorganisation of ethnic borders, and the re-ethnicisation of space. Crucially, this, rather than involving actual separation, allows individuals to organise their narratives of space and create a sense of continuity in a changing neoliberal city.
Blog post by Carolina Ramírez, Universidad de Chile, Chile and Carolina Stefoni, Universidad de Alberto Hurtado, Chile
Read the full article: Ramírez, Carolina & Stefoni, Carolina. Contested and interdependent appropriation of space in a multicultural commercial neighbourhood of Santiago, Chile. Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power. DOI: 10.1080/1070289X.2019.1658394