Turkish Berlin: Integration Policy and Urban Space

By Küppers, Almut | International Journal of Turkish Studies, January 1, 2015 | Go to article overview

Turkish Berlin: Integration Policy and Urban Space


Küppers, Almut, International Journal of Turkish Studies


ANNIKA MARLEN HINZE, Turkish Berlin: Integration Policy and Urban Space (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2013). Pp. 240. $ 25.00 paper.

Diasporas are a consequence of migration that has been a feature of the world for thousands of years. However, the pull effects of today's dizzyingly globalizing speed of change have created huge urban areas around the globe that have developed characteristic ethnic identities, like South Asian London, Algerian-African Paris, Spanish Los Angeles, or Chinese New York, to name but a few, as have relatively smaller regional centers like Irish Boston, Pakistani-Indian Birmingham, Italian Wolfsburg or Portuguese Hamburg. The largest Turkish community outside Turkey lives in Berlin, and Angelika Hinze, assistant professor of political science at Fordham University, provides us with fascinating insights into immigrant life in her hometown Turkish Berlin. The largest city in Germany is not only one of the most vibrant and exciting cities in the world, but with 200,000 inhabitants of Turkish ancestry in a population of 2.5 million, Germany's capital is undoubtedly also the Turkish capital outside Turkey. Angela Hinze sets out to explore Berlin's Turkish identity by offering a colorful portrait of two of the most prominent Turkish neighborhoods in Berlin, Kreuzberg and Neukölln. Embedded in a critical appreciation of the public discourse on integration in Germany and based on rich qualitative data, this empirical close-up zooms in and depicts in detail the lives of second-generation Turkish immigrant women.

Hinze's qualitative study captures an abundance of ethnographic material by giving voice to some of the frequently unheard protagonists in the heated public debates on how integrating as an immigrant should be accomplished. Based on an analysis of the often hypocritical integration discourse in Germany and against the backdrop of a concise account of Germany's fifty-year history of labor migration from Turkey, the author depicts Berlin as a living organism created by "the marriage of place and identity" (p. xiv). In other words, Berlin's identity has been shaped by immigration as much as immigrant life is influenced by the city spaces in which cultural, ethnic and social differences are negotiated. Historically, national and local approaches to immigrant integration have been intrinsically connected to Germany's self-understanding as a nation, and like many other western European countries, Germany has taken a long time to realize that it transformed into an immigrant society after World War II. Until the turn of the millennium, Germany's predominant self-perception was still that of a nation-state with one people and one language in one fixed territory, so the question of who can be a German "hinges on the underlying question of what is acceptable as a mainstream German identity" (p. xv).

In comparing immigrant and policy perspectives on integration, Hinze takes a broader look at integration as both a political and a social concept in order to identify potential gaps between the way the German ruling elites understand integration and the way immigrants perceive and practice it. The result is an illuminating comparative sociopolitical analysis that make the different conceptions of integration visible "when the immigrant identity is contested through the lens of urban space: the neighborhood itself" (p. xvi).

Deep insights into the complexity of the so-called integration discourse is provided by numerous interviews with public officials, policy makers, party representatives, and such actors as the Turkish Union Berlin-Brandenburg (TBB), whose speakers represent Turkish immigrants-but first and foremost with immigrants themselves. Illustrating how extraordinarily complex the contestation really is, within the one governmental entity of the city of Berlin, there are twelve self-governing districts entitled to develop their own local policy approaches to integration, but there is no overall national consensus in Germany as to how to define integration. …

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