Gentrifiers in two ethnic diverse neighbourhoods: Between belonging and ‘being part of the problem’ - Sebastian Juhnke
|Dates:||11 November 2015|
|Times:||14:00 - 15:00|
|What is it:||Seminar|
|Organiser:||School of Social Sciences|
|Who is it for:||University staff, Adults, Current University students|
Dalston and Reuterkiez are two socially mixed and ethnically diverse neighbourhoods in London and Berlin that experience gentrification and are argued to play an iconic role for the creative industries. Until recently, these places have been seen to exemplify the alleged failure of multiculturalism, apparently evident in ‘parallel societies’, delinquent youth and, for example, the disintegration of the German educational system. Now these places have come to represent desired forms of diversity and multiculture in national media and politics, illustrating for instance the commodification of difference through London’s Olympic bid or so-called ‘ethnic’ restaurants and markets. They also are home to an increasing number of artists’ studios, galleries, co-working spaces, cafés and nightclubs, attracting would-be residents and visitors from beyond the boundaries of the city. As a result, more and more members of the middle-class chose to live in areas like Dalston and Reuterkiez, which leads to increasing rents and a change of the cultural and economic landscape of both neighbourhoods.
This paper is based on doctoral research which explores the dynamics between class, gentrification, and ‘race’ and multiculture. There will be a comparative exploration of data gathered among overwhelmingly white and middle-class ‘creative’ professionals, including ethnographic observations and 43 in-depth interviews with predominantly white and middle class ‘creatives’ such as artists, designers, filmmakers, cultural entrepreneurs, writers, restaurant and gallery managers, DJs and advertisers. Being considered part of a globally emerging, open-minded and tolerant creative class with an appetite for diversity, they have become a key demographic for processes of urban renewal and are commonly understood to be gentrifiers.
The findings to be presented will discuss how these middle-class incomers to ethnic diverse neighbourhoods understand gentrification in their everyday life, and which aspects of gentrification they judge to be positive or negative. The paper will then explore how respondents evaluate their own role in the gentrification process, describing the tensions and ambivalences that emerge from the positions of claiming belonging to the neighbourhood and “being part of the problem”, namely contributing to its gentrification. Some ‘creatives’ in Germany and the U.K. negotiate and try to easy such tensions through charitable engagements with local ‘disadvantaged’ youth or with an artistic/’creative’ engagement with the neighbourhood. Despite their positive intentions, such actions can include processes of racialization that are not unproblematic, for instance implicit claims to have knowledge about ‘race’ and how to interact with difference. Addressing the dynamics of diversity, ‘creativity’ and urban change can therefore be telling about the contemporary configuration of ‘race’.
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