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Title: Afterlives of Welcome: Encounter, Contact, and Refugee Incorporation in Berlin
Authors: Sohail, Jagat
Advisors: BornemanOushakine, JohnSerguei
Contributors: Anthropology Department
Keywords: Germany
Political Economy
Subjects: Cultural anthropology
Issue Date: 2023
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: In the fall of 2015, Germany captured global imagination with its unexpected welcome of asylum seekers in the aftermath of the Syrian refugee crisis. Yet this atmosphere soon evaporated, leaving in its place a divided German body politic that outlined new ethnic and religious tensions between newcomers and locals in almost every aspect of public life. This dissertation is based on over two years of ethnographic field research I conducted between 2017 and 2022 with groups of asylum seekers that arrived in Berlin in 2015. It traces the complex and contradictory afterlives of German Willkommenskultur (Welcome Culture), examining the way it became a certain turning point for German society, Berlin, and my interlocutors. I argue that two approaches to newcomers haunted practices of refugee reception and incorporation. The first sees newcomers as threats, moral, physical, cultural and sexual, to the German body politic. The second sees them as potential labour to be selectively and hierarchically absorbed into Germany’s ageing working population. I show how the trajectories of my interlocutors dovetail in and out of these two fields, symbolic and material, as they look to establish interpersonal, local, and national modes of belonging in Berlin. Over the course of six chapters distributed into three sections, I show how this played out in multiple, and often contradictory ways. Practices of hospitality were constantly contrasted with hostility and hierarchy. Encounters and relationships between refugees and locals were full of instability, erotic tensions, volatility, and inexplicable closures. If the desire to change and be changed by city life pulled my interlocutors in one direction, the expectations of German economy, and the proliferation of precarious legal statuses began a process of boundary formation that ever worked to marginalise and sequester refugees into spaces that isolated them from the pleasures of the city. These insights address the emergent contradictions that need to be reckoned with, if at all incorporation is to provide a tool in the management of diversity and contact in post-migrant societies.
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Anthropology

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