material culture, migration and everyday life

Contextualising Sydney: 3# The coming of the car and homes for the people

The motor car introduced a level of mobility never before imagined and, in the process, changed the shape and character of Sydney. Housing, work and social life were affected by this transport revolution.

Until car ownership became widespread in the prosperous 1950s, most houses were built within walking distance of a rail or tram line. Public transport was used to go to work, attend church or school, or “go to town” to shop. The car made a new kind of development possible. Suburbs of detached houses, with garages or carports, began to fill the spaces between the main transport lines. The postwar influx of migrants and the “baby boom” fuelled demand. Sydney spread out as town planners answered the demand for a backyard for every family. Only the national parks to the north, south, and west of the city stopped Sydney becoming one of the most sprawling cities in the world.

The car and the truck revolutionized movement within the city. Commerce and industry no longer had to locate near a rail train line, and new suburban worksites provided car parks for their workers. The dominance of central city shopping faded with the rise of new car-based suburban shopping centers as North Ryde (1957), Warringah Mall (1963), Miranda Fair (1964) and Roselands (1965).

Roselands Shopping Centre in 1965. Source: dailytelegraph.

In the 1920s and 30s, most drivers were middle-class makes who could afford a car, or men who had access to a car or a truck for work. When mass car ownership arrived in 1950s, male drivers still predominated, but by the 1970s many women had licenses. Two-car households were common. The number of trips taken by each family quadrupled as cars were used for almost every outgoing.

“Sunday drives”, a family favourite of the 1950s and ’60s, soon lost their novelty. Instead, more and more households escaped the ever-growing city for a weekend away, particularly at the coast, either camping or staying in modest holiday houses. Motels, literally “motor hotels”, spread rapidly across both the rural and urban landscapes. Recreation and the car became inseparable.

As car ownership increased so did traffic congestion.  Transport engineers recommended a series of freeways and ring roads for Sydney, which were often hotly contested, especially by people whose houses and suburbs were likely to be affected by the insatiable demand for new road space. Some freeways were built, some were not, but Sydney drivers persist in their love affair with the car.

Until the 1870s most houses in Sydney had been built in rows of terraces, not unlike the housing in many British cities. by the 1880s, with the arrival of fast public transport in the form of trains and trams, the detached suburban house became the ideal. higher density housing was also in demand, and in the building boom after World War I, blocks of flats, unusually three-storey brick structures, proliferated in the inner east, harbourside and beachside suburbs.

During the Great Depression of the 1930s Australia suffered unemployment rates averaging 30 per cent. in some of the inner suburbs of Sydney over 50 per cent of workers were unemployed. overcrowding was rife, and most terrace houses had their balconies filled in to create extra accommodation. Many of the houses did not have adequate cooking and sanitary facilities.

Restrictions on building materials meant that very few houses were built during or immediately after World War II. the labor state government, which had created a housing commission during the war, begun to demolish some of the “slums” of 19th century terrace. in their place they built high-rise and low-rise blocks of flats in the inner city and detached houses in the suburbs for families who could not afford a mortgage.

Terrace houses, Sydney, 1940’s by Frank Hurley. Source: National Library of Australia

Australia had long held out the promise that all its residents, specially incoming migrants, could aspire to live in a home of their own. At the 1947 census, 60 per cent of Sydney householders rented and 40 per cent we’re buying or owned their homes. Twenty years later the proportion of owners and buyers had risen to over two-thirds.

Such a phenomenal rise in home ownership required tens of thousands of houses to be built. most of the new subdivisions, whether in the hinterland of the northern beaches or in the South and West, waited many years for infrastructure and transport services.

With the introduction of the first strata title legislation in Australian in 1961 it became much easier to buy a flat or home unit. blocks of flats fanned out along the major rail and bus routes. over a third of Sydney’s population now live in apartments or other attached dwellings, a much higher proportion then in any other Australian city.

Aspirations for home ownership continue unabated despite Sydney having the most expensive housing in Australia. Because of high prices the proportion of homeowners is now under 70 per cent and gradually failing. Sydney is home for some of Australia’s wealthiest and poorest citizens.

Until next time,


Scott, Ernest. 2002. A Short History of Australia.  Available online

State Library of NSW

The Museum of Sydney 

A city of remembrance

In Memories of a Nation, the author Neil MacGregor argues that “German history is a composite of different, sometimes conflicting, local narratives”. He goes on to give the example of Frederick the Great of Prussia – the kingdom of which Berlin was the capital from 1701 until the unification in 1871 -, whose war and territorial gains were often won at the expenses of other German states. He goes on to say that if Frederick the Great could be considered something of a national hero in Berlin, in Dresden he would be considered a villain for having destroyed and captured the city during the Seven Years War.

In contemporary History, conflicting narratives become very local to Berlin. In the III Reich, the city became capital and headquarters of the Nazi Regime. Hitler had plans to completely demolish and rebuild the city, transforming it in the megalomaniacal capital of the Nazi Empire after the intended victory in WWII. However, much of the city ended up destroyed, not by Nazi bulldozers, but by Allied heavy bombing. By the end of the war, an estimated forty per cent of the population of Berlin had been forced by persecution or deprivation to resettle elsewhere; many thousands were forcefully deported and killed by Germany under the Nazi regime.

Today, silent reminders of the devastating consequences of war can be seen everywhere in Berlin. I am not speaking about the dozens of erected memorials, but of the buildings that were intentionally left destroyed by the war, like Kaiser Wilhelm Church or other public interventions which were made more recently like the thousands of Stumbling Stones spread across the city’s pavements.

The Stumbling Stones are brass stones engraved with the name and the fate of individual victims of Nazi Germany, placed in the pavement in front of their residence. This ongoing project by a German conceptual artist has been adopted by several cities in Germany and other countries in central Europe, albeit not without controversy: some argue that it is disrespectful to place the small memorials under our feet and doubt the stumble effect, questioning how many people stop to consider and pay respect to individual victims; others argue that it brings closure and power to the survivors and communities involved in the process and that the passer-by shoes have a polishing effect on the copper giving it shine throughout the years.

Five Stolpersteine (stumbling stones) outside one apartment building in the district of Mitte.
The former Anhalter Station bunker now houses the Berlin Story Museum.

From war to division

In 1945, Berlin became spoils of war and was divided between the winning Allies. The city became permanently occupied by the Soviets in the East, and by the English, French, and American in the West. With the advent of the cold war, the division of the city became not just ideological but physical as well, with the erection of the Berlin Wall in 1961. Neighbours, friends and families remained separated for almost 30 years by a 100 metres ‘death strip’.

The fall of the wall in 1989 became a symbol of the triumph of western freedom over eastern totalitarianism. In the nineties, parts of East Berlin were seen as uncharted territory by Western squatters and vanguard artistic movements. However, for Eastern Berliners, the fall of the wall meant mass unemployment, salary inequality and overall discrimination by the wining West.

Today, squatters are in the forefront of protest against capitalism and sky-rocketing property prices; and the founders of the Love Parade – a techno event born from the pacifist motto “peace, joy and pancakes”, which stood for disarmament, happiness and end of hunger – have dissociated themselves from it, disillusioned with the commercialization of the event.

When I visited the Berlin Story Museum, I was very unimpressed by the building: a concrete dilapidated square which was built as to be an air-raid shelter during WWII. Over the entrance to the bunker-turned-museum, there is an even less attractive graffito, translating “those who build bunkers, throw bombs”, very likely done during the eighties when the area, in the district of Kreuzberg, stood on the west margin of the Wall and was home to Turkish and Kurdish exiles, Punk and Hip-hop communities. These more politically aware and subversive communities  are in the genesis of the bohemian spirit of today’s Kreuzberg.

The 1940s bunker and the 1980s graffito have thus been preserved throughout the decades as a testimony of History. I see the ensemble today as the perfect expression of the paradoxes of war and division in Berlin. Whether due to their size, location or because they seem to be displaced or dissonant from the surroundings, these kind of monuments  – the Bunker as well as the Stumbling Stones – confront even the most distracted passer-by, away from the frenzy of the touristification of History.

As Neil MacGregor puts it, in Berlin as in Germany, monuments don’t have the purpose of celebrating national victories but are “uncomfortable reminders of failure and guilt [which] proclaim a moral message: that the past offers lessons which must be used to shape the future”.

Interview with Tiago Pais: «The Portuguese immigration in Berlin is much younger and much more qualified, but much less united»

Tiago Pais is a name that quickly becomes familiar to anyone coming to Berlin today and looking for a Portuguese presence in the city. President of the association Berlinda and director of the only Portuguese-language newspaper in the country, the Portugal Post, Tiago agreed to sit down with me and talk about his migratory experience and to share his impressions of Berlin and the Portuguese community.

The engagement with the community was not an end in itself. With a young but consolidated career in public sector management, Tiago Pais decided to move from Lisbon to Berlin in 2010 to pursue postgraduate studies in his field.

«In the first year of the Masters, I had no contact with Portuguese people and I think this is very much the experience of the Portuguese who come to Berlin, there is no contact with other Portuguese. […] Berlin, in contrast to the rest of Germany, did not have a Portuguese immigration wave in the 60s and 70s, because it was a divided city and had no great job opportunities. It was a city with poor economic development, which attracted only a handful of Portuguese for essentially ideological reasons. In this sense, Portuguese immigration in Berlin is much younger and much more qualified, but much less united because there was no need to create mutual support systems like the ones needed in the first and second generations, which came at times when contact was more difficult because of the language barrier, because making ties was more difficult, leaving the country was more difficult, and because the worldview was narrower. […] Still, Berlin had some Portuguese association in the 70’s and 80’s, and a soccer team, but it was short-lived. Today there are two, more modern, associations: Berlinda and 2314, which organize projects more around culture, not so much about socialization and conviviality »

Tiago also considers that the dispersion of the Portuguese in Berlin is somehow related to the geography of the city.

The city is geographically very dispersed. There is not a” city center “, as in smaller towns and villages, where there is a different centrality.»

Tiago’s first major exposure to the Portuguese community was through his employment at Caixa Geral de Depósitos’ representation office. At the Portuguese bank, he worked with Portuguese clients who resided not just in Berlin, but throughout Germany, and who were mostly from these early generations.

In the meantime, he became involved in Berlinda’s activities, and through the association, he began to contact those who, like him, had recently come to Berlin. Due to Berlinda’s more focused orientation towards cultural dissemination, the public was made of artists, designers, musicians… the kind of occupations that Tiago considers are still dominant among those who arrive in the city.

«As a city, Berlin has an athmosphere and a philosophy that is very appealing to more alternative and creative folks. It is a space for experimentation.»

When, in 2016, Berlinda’s founder and first president left to return to Portugal, Tiago took over the presidency of the association. Shortly thereafter, he would also take over the Portugal Post, founded in 1993 in Dortmund. According to Tiago, although they appeal to different sections of the Portuguese immigration, there is a complementarity in the work of the two organizations.

«Berlinda is not just about the Portuguese community, but about culture in the Portuguese language. Therefore, it blurs borders between Portugal, Brazil, and the Portuguese-speaking countries in Africa, Asia and Oceania. Berlinda has an online magazine with mostly cultural content, and that is where I saw a synergy between Berlinda and Portugal Post. If we think about the transversality of the projects today, I end up having a much broader contact with the Portuguese community than I had before, because the newspaper is much more aligned with the Portuguese community I was contacting with at CGD and which is much more traditional and scattered immigration across the country, a much larger audience outside Berlin, which is the newspaper’s subscribing audience»

Portugal Post is distributed by post to its approximately one thousand subscribers, and it is sold at three hundred outlets located all over Germany, mainly at train station kiosks. The newspaper is also distributed to consulates.

«The newspaper has a role as a company element, especially in relation to older immigration in Germany, to whom it is a point of contact with the language. The newspaper has undergone a major editorial change from the moment I took over and is it is perhaps a little more demanding than previously both in the content and language used. But even so, people have not abandoned reading. One thing that is also highly valued in the newspaper is the fact that there is a social information section, where information about life in Germany is explained, such as pension systems, support for disease … very practical things that people like to read for information. Access to this type of information is often difficult because it is accessible only in German through official channels. In this sense, the newspaper is a very relevant point of information.Berlinda also has a practical information section – how to live in Berlin, how to look for a home, a list of Portuguese-speaking doctors, Portuguese-speaking accountants … Then there’s a promotion of Portuguese culture that I think attracts people who like to see good things being done in Portuguese. There are interviews with painters, musicians, sculptors … »

The wine business

Prior to Berlinda and the Portugal Post, Tiago Pais is interested in Portuguese wine. He owns 7 Mares, a shop and wine bar located in the cosmopolitan district of Kreuzberg, where this interview took place. Although most of the clients are German, Tiago also sees the business as a way of getting Portuguese immigrants – who do not fit into an “old Portuguese community” – to make themselves known and share their culture in the more international environment within which they move.

«My first venture is the wine business. This has to do with a Portuguese sociocultural tradition, clearly, and I think there is a lack of knowledge about Portuguese wine, so I think it is a mission to increase the notoriety of Portuguese wine. The wine business attracts the younger, more qualified, more interested and more independent sections of the community. The interest of this audience is to show off their culture to their friends who may be German, Chinese, Italian… to make Portuguese wine known, because we also have wine tasting and cultural events. »

Berlin and the return to Lisbon

As an entrepreneur with work and business experience both in Portugal and Germany, Tiago feels that it is easier to manage a business in Portugal, where it is possible to make many contacts with the public administration through email or online forms and applications. He tells me this is an important factor in his long-term future prospects and in considering a return to Portugal, which is however not yet scheduled. However, Tiago is quick to list what makes Berlin a good city to live in:

«In Berlin the transport system is well designed, and the green spaces are brutal and everywhere, by the way, I think the visitor is always perplexed because they think Germany is gray, but Berlin is much greener than most Portuguese cities: there are trees on almost every street, there are parks everywhere and people enjoy the street more, they “live” the street more than in Portugal. There is also an important neighborhood life, however this also has to do with how the city grew – it was by annexation, it was not by organic growth, so the areas that were annexed were already central and that centrality remains until today, as there was no convergence to a single center. This leads people to live more in their neighbourhood, to shop more locally and there is less consumerism in terms of going to a big shopping centre and make big purchases for the month; you buy more on a daily or weekly basis at the corner store when you return from work. This turns out to be nicer. »


«Lisbon has great things, is nearer the coast, has a brighter light … and Portugal has an extraordinary cuisine. I have these things here in another form: it is much more enjoyable to ride a bike, there are lakes that allow swimming, there is a different Nature experience. But for those born in Portugal there is another affinity with the beach and the cuisine, there is no way around it … »


Notes from the field: Luanda #3 Angolan Media analysis

The preliminary analysis for the Angolan media that I present below, in continuation of the previous post (Luanda #2), will focus on the items conjuncture in Portugal and Angola and general migration flows in the world. For each item, I just give a brief description of the kind of news that each newspaper focuses more.

The daily life (civic participation, reception networks, residential insertion, professional, leisure practices, etc.) of Portuguese immigrants in Angola, little or nothing is highlighted in the news of the two newspapers. Only the heading “plates and cutlery” of the “weekend” supplement of Jornal de Angola, where information is given and information is provided about the restoration spaces of the Angolan capital, highlights some Portuguese restaurants established in Luanda (e.g. “O Madeirense”, “Tia Maria”). Here, the Portuguese wines, cheeses … as well as the gastronomy of certain regions of Portugal, gain revelation.

Similarly, the daily life of the Angolan emigration in Portugal is little highlighted in the news of the two newspapers. The exception is related to news that speaks about pleasant manifestations of appreciation regarding the investiture of the new president of Angola. And with the effects of the Angolan economic crisis on the lives of Angolan students in Portugal, marked by the difficulty in transferring money out of Angola. On the other hand, there is a lot of news about the conjuncture in Portugal and Angola. These describe various aspects of political, diplomatic, economic, judicial and socio-cultural relations involving Portugal and Angola and the situation in Portugal.

Conjuncture in Portugal and Angola – main themes

Political economy – Political, diplomatic and economic relations between Angola and Portugal.

Operation Fizz – Process developments and the “irritant”.

Arts and culture – Portuguese and Angolan artists between Angola and Portugal.

Sports – The Portuguese soccer league, Portuguese international players and coaches, Angolan international players to play in Portugal, the training and the friendly games of the selections of Basketball, Handball and Hockey of Angola in Portugal.

This news mainly focuses on aspects related to political economy:
Investments in areas of common interest
Entrepreneur and Portuguese companies in Angola
Exports and imports between Angola and Portugal
Support, funding and multi-sectoral cooperation protocols
Remittances of the Portuguese in Angola and the Angolans in Portugal
Tourism of Angola and tourism of Portugal
The investments of the Angolan entrepreneur Isabel dos Santos in Portugal
Portuguese and Angolan banking (banks, investors, markets, accounts, customers)
Portuguese Public Debt, etc.

As in the Portuguese newspapers, the Operation Fizz[1], or the Manuel Vicente case, has a strong spotlight in Angolan newspapers. A lot of news collected show how the process has pique diplomatic relations between Portugal and Angola, the messages from the Angolan government to Portugal, and the pacification of the “irritant” when the Manuel Vicente case was separated from the rest of the case and handed over to the Angolan authorities.

The “People” and “Culture” sections of Jornal de Angola highlight the successes and contributions of Angolan and Portuguese artists in the fields of arts, music, literature and theater, and their transit (mainly) between Angola and Portugal.

The “Culture” section of the newspaper O País still gives a strong emphasis to the influence that Brazilian music has in Portugal, announcing several performances by Brazilian artists, such as Caetano Veloso, Gal Costa, Gilberto Gil, Nando Reis and Chico Buarque in Lisbon and in Porto.

The concerts of the Cape Verdean musicians Grace Évora and Cremilda Medina in Portugal, the European tour of the Colombian Shakira, with passage through Lisbon, the 26th edition of the international competition “Operalia”, held for the first time in Portugal, just to mention some examples, are also highlighted in the culture section of the newspaper O País.

In the “Sport” section the Portuguese soccer league (Sporting, Porto and Benfica) and the Portuguese international players and coaches (Cristiano Ronaldo and Mourinho), as well as the Angolan international players playing in Portugal (Gelson Dala) receive great prominence in the Jornal de Angola news.

The 2018 World Cup, which took place in Russia between June 14 and July 15, with regard to the Portuguese side’s elimination, only the first game of Portugal, against Spain, was highlighted in the Jornal de Angola. Newspaper o País, in turn, gave prominence to all the games of the Portuguese National Team.

General migration flows in the worldmain themes

Political Agendas (global pact, and geopolitics of migration and refugees) – USA, Europe, European Union, Brexit, Strait of Gibraltar, West Africa, Tunisian Coast, Mediterranean route, growth of migration and global warming.

The news collected they talk mainly:

Some of the specificities that mark the mediatization of migrations in Europe, Africa, North America, South America… With a particular focus on the African refugee crisis and human trafficking and modern slavery on the Mediterranean route.

The economic repercussions of migratory phenomena and the specificities and tensions of immigration at the borders.

Mediterranean route (illegal immigration, refugees, shelter, anti-immigration attitudes, human trafficking, modern slavery, ransom, death).

The need for border control and the formulation of immigration policies within the European Union.

US/Trump anti-immigration policy and internal and external political opposition.

Advancement of right-wing in Italy, Hungary, Israel and Germany.

[1] The name was given to the judicial process involving the former vice president of Angola, Manuel Vicente, accused of active corruption in Portugal. It was in late 2017, after a meeting between António Costa and João Lourenço in Ivory Coast, that the tension between Portugal and Angola gained one more name – the “irritant”.

Letters from the field, Berlin #4: neighborhood life and shopping

On an evening spent at home, at the beginning of my stay in Berlin, I felt like eating something sweet. As I had nothing decadent enough at home, I decided to pop to the nearest Späti to buy a chocolate bar. The Späti, or in its complete formulation, Die Spätkauf, is a kind of convenience store in Berlin that stays open out of hours.

On the way there, I took the time to make a phone call. I entered Späti while still on the phone and was taking time to choose the chocolate I wanted. At one point the gentleman behind the counter started to speak at me angerly, and with gestures seemed to send me out and finish the call on the street. I interrupted the call and exchanged a few unsavoury words with him, before leaving the shop with my chocolate because I had no alternative place to buy it at that time in the evening.

When I got home and told my German co-inhabitants what happened, the answer I got from them was that my attitude had been disrespectful, as “in Germany, people behind the counter want to be treated as people” and not ignored, as was the case. I realized that even though I said a distracted and perhaps barely audible hallo! when I entered the shop, having been on the phone all the time without trying to make a casual conversation with the Späti’s attendant, had been an attitude that was beyond impolite, too impersonal for what would be expected in this context. My idea that anonymity and impersonality would be normal in a city the size of Berlin turned out to be unmistakably wrong.

The Späti is a convenience store where we can buy newspapers and magazines, the lottery, the occasional soda or beer, a packaged snack, or collect our DHL parcels. Both the store itself, and the person behind the counter – who usually owns the store -,  are viewed as a neighbourhood institution.

Going back to that night, as I continued my account about the unpleasant exchange of words between the Späti and myself, one of my interlocutors stared at me with some shock and disbelief, as if I had committed heresy and said “oh no, you don’t want to mess with the Späti”, further proving the symbolic power of this institution in Berlin society.

The outside of a Späti (which is also a DHL parcel shop) in my neighbourhood.

I have observed that, despite being a big city, Berlin has in its neighbourhoods the centre of the daily life of its inhabitants. One of the things that stands out when strolling through the various districts of Berlin is that there is no clear separation between residential, work, shopping and leisure areas. I have also been observing in the neighbourhood where I live that the street remains dynamic throughout the day, animated whether by traditional commerce and small businesses or by the infrastructure that enables people not to have to move far from building where they live to carry on with daily life in all of its dimensions.

A focal point in my neighbourhood, with the fenced playground and ping-pong table in the background and a sitting area in front of the pharmacy.

The interaction between neighbours in public space is constant. The green spaces mark the urban landscape. In gardens and parks, people sit and talk while sipping a beer bottle or sharing a bottle of wine; birthday parties and barbecues take place on the lawns among larger and noisier groups. Playgrounds with swings and a sand area, spot every corner, and are the meeting place for parents and young children: children play barefoot with shovels and buckets in the sand while parents sitting on benches or the floor talk to each other while watching over the children. The pavement outside the ice cream parlours are also popular places for parents and children to hang out.

Geladaria em Prenzlauer Berg.

Another traditional area of ​​the neighbourhood is the bakery, in German Bäckerei. This is where one buys bread and rolls daily. The bakery also sells a variety of cakes – slices or the entire thing -, serves coffee, juices, and quick meals for breakfast, such as eggs and sausage. Essential goods that a Berlin home cannot miss, such as eggs, milk or butter are also available. There are less traditional, more gourmet bakeries in more affluent or gentrified neighbourhoods, which announce the sale of the fashionable sourdough bread, the use of organic ingredients, and offer the same kind of small meals as traditional bakeries, but made with rarer and more expensive ingredients such as avocado

The neighbourhood shopping network also includes the pharmacy, pubs selling drinks and the occasional schnitzel, cafés where small groups can be found enjoying their Kaffee und Kuchen, small restaurants and hairdressers… This network seems to be highly valued by both older and younger residents, both Germans and foreigners. The attendants, who often own the business, exchange greetings and short but friendly conversations with customers. These exchanges are a good source of neighbourhood news.

The inside of a bakery in Lichtenberg. All rights reserved.

Leaving the heart of the neighbourhood, in only a few minutes we can reach one of the main arteries of the district, whatever is the district, where commerce gains another dimension. These busiest streets and avenues are what the British call the high street. There we find the drugstore, a reference in everyday shopping in Berlin. DM and Rossman are the most well-known drugstore chains. There is at least one – oftentimes more – in every main street. There, toiletries and household items can be bought. There is also the make-up section, photo development section, an area for baby clothing and other baby articles, and a section with some organic packaged goods such as biscuit, cereals spices, teas and sauces, usually cheaper than in organic supermarkets.

The supermarkets are also located on the high street. With or without car parking facilities, the truth is that walking or cycling is privileged in Berlin, because in this continuity between residential and shopping areas, the distances are never long. The types of supermarkets are varied: from discounters like Netto, Penny, Aldi or Lidl, to the more regular ones like Edeka, Rewe or Kaufland. With hygiene products purchased at the drugstore, grocery shopping in supermarkets is usually limited to food items.

The already traditional Turkish supermarkets, located in both residential and main arteries, usually have a colourfull and attractive fruit and vegetable stand outside. Inside, products from the Middle East, fresh bread spreads, and thick Turkish yoghurt, along with fruits and vegetables, attract non-Arab clients.

The outside of a Turkish supermarket in Treptow.

Organic supermarkets can also be of a smaller size in the heart of neighbourhoods, or they may belong to a chain, and these are usually located in the high street. The best-known chains are Bio Company, Denn’s, Alnatura or LPG. In these supermarkets, fruits and vegetables are privileged by buyers, as well as dairy products and eggs, not only because they are of biological origin, but also because there are regional and local options available.

Regional tomatoes in a bio supermarket.

It has been interesting to observe and talk with our participants about how this neighbourhood and shopping culture and dynamics influence the consumption habits of Portuguese migrants in Berlin. So, to learn more about this, stay tuned to TRANSITS.

Until next time!


Contextualising Sydney: 2# On the move

By the 1870s Sydney had grown beyond a walking-distance city. Only its wealthier citizens could afford private carriages or horse- buses to the more salubrious suburbs on the fringes of the increasingly crowded inner city. The population continued to expand with alarming speed, almost tripling in the 20 years from 1871. Luckily, this coincided with the development of new forms of transport technology: the railway and the tramway.

First train leaving from the new  Central Station, 1906.  Source: Activity 154 Railway and Tramway construction

Although Sydney’s rail system was first designed for industrial and rural freight linking Sydney with its hinterland, it soon proved its worth in carrying people. By the 1880s rail lines were being planted and built to cater for the new suburban dwellers. With land cheap and plentiful, The Australian penchant for detached suburban houses became a reality for many.

While the railway serviced the far-flung suburbs, tram serviced suburbs closer to the city center. Steam trams were put into service for the International Exhibition of 1879 and proved so popular that they were retained and extended. The trams were electrified from 1898 and by 1910 Sydney had one of the world’s most comprehensive tramway networks, bigger than Melbourne and rivaling even Glasgow.

The railway and the tramway became the arteries of Sydney. Real estate developers rush to subdivide large blocks of land and small farms, from the northern line up to Hornsby to the southern line beyond Como. As the population grew, housing developments began to reach out from the city in every direction. Most houses were built within a kilometer or two of a rail or train line, with little development between the main transport routes. 

Trams running through Railway Square in the 1920s. Source: Sydney Tramway Museum

More dwellings were built in Sydney in the 1920s than in any previous decade. By this time, Sydney had expanded along the northern beaches (a tram line to Narrabeen), the north shore train line, and along the western, south-western and southern lines. Parramatta, Windsor, and the other Macquarie era towns all remained as separate settlements, as did Manly. All major beach and Harbour resorts were served by ferry or tram. Ferry companies promoted weekend outgoings to Sydney’s pleasure destinations around the Harbour. The railways catered to picnickers and hikers by providing a station at the Royal National Park to the south of the city and regular weekend excursions to the Blue Mountains. Sydneysiders began their love affair with the outdoors and the endless delights of its harbour.

Melbourne, with its riches from gold, surpassed Sydney in population, wealth and political importance from the 1860s. “Marvellous Melbourne” grew much faster than Sydney, especially in the 1880s boom.  To demonstrate its achievements, Melbourne held two huge international exhibitions in the 1880s, bringing it world attention. Both Sydney and Melbourn suffered in the 1890s depression, but Sydney recovered more quickly than Melbourne. 

Such was the competition between Sydney and Melbourne that when Britain’s six Australian colonies joined to become the Commonwealth of Australia on 1 January 1901 the Constitution stated that the new national capital must be at least 100 miles from Sydney. the federal authorities chose a sheep station not far from Yass, which could be served with a rail spur off the main Sydney to Melbourne line. The site was proclaimed in 1911 and named Canberra in 1913.

While Melbourne hosted the federal parliament from 1901 to 1927 and, more importantly, the growing federal government bureaucracies, Sydney outstripped its southern rival in population. By the early 1920s, Sydney became the first Australian city to pass the one million mark.  

Observers had begun to see Melbourne as the more traditional, more European city and Sydney as the brasher, more American city. Melbourne boasted Edwardian bayside resorts while the surf clubs of Bronte and Bondi made Sydney the center of the Australian surf movement.

Sydney Harbour Bridge under construction, 1930. Source: National Museum of Australia

Australia’s first underground railway opened in Sydney in 1926, but the real triumph came in 1932 with the opening of Sydney’s Harbour Bridge. The event received worldwide press coverage, not only because of the bridge’s size and harbour setting but because of images of a paramilitary horseman beating Labor Premier Jack Lang to the opening ribbon were wired around the world. The bridge became, overnight, the dominant international symbol for Australia.  Melbourne never recovered from this image coup, although it did successfully stage the 1956 Olympics. 

More rivalry was to come. After height restrictions were lifted in 1957, a building frenzy reshaped downtown Sydney into a “mini Manhattan”. Its ascendancy as the financial capital of Australia matched the rising skyline.   The completion of the spectacular Opera House in 1973 inspired a new era of Sydney pride and a dramatic new focus for the city and harbour. As a final blow, Melbourne lost its bid to stage the 1996 Olympic Games and Sydney won gloriously 2000. 

Until next time,


Scott, Ernest. 2002. A Short History of Australia.  Available online

State Library of NSW

The Museum of Sydney 


Notes from the field: Luanda #2 Angolan Media analysis

Within the scope of the project Transits, we have decided to conduct a media content analysis, considering the online available written press, between January 2017 and June 2018. It will focus on the production of media representations about “migrants”, “emigrants”, “immigrants”, “expatriates” and other related terms.

Focusing on the flows from and to Berlin, Luanda, Lisbon and Sydney, this analysis will explore the way migrants and migrations are represented in the public sphere, as well as the type and degree of acceptation/hostility these populations are facing in the contexts of analysis. The type of news that is being privileged by the selected press will also be an object of study.

The survey in the Angolan press focus on two daily newspapers: Jornal de Angola and O País.

The preliminary analysis for the Angolan media is divided into three items: general migration flows to Angola, conjuncture in Portugal and Angola, general migration flows in the world. In the first and second items, brief content analysis will be carried out, in the item general migration flows in the world will only be described as the kind of news that each newspaper focuses more.

This post, in addition to the brief biographical reference of the newspapers, contemplates a brief content analysis regarding the item general migration flows to Angola, taking into account the more focused themes in the different sections of the respective newspapers. In the next post about Luanda#3, the analysis will focus on the items conjuncture in Portugal and Angola and general migration flows in the world.

Jornal de Angola

At the time of Angolan Independence on 11th November 1975, the newspaper Província de Angola, founded on August 16th 1923 by Adolfo Pina, owned by Companhia Gráfica de Angola, S.A., changed its name to Jornal de Angola. In June 1976, Agostinho Neto, then President of the Republic, nationalized the journal under the Decree-Law nº 51/76 (Supplement of the Jornal de Angola, 26th June 2016, pp. 2,4).

The journal’s headquarters are located in Empresa Gráfica de Angola, S.A., where it started to operate and continues to do so through the publishing company Edições Novembro, E.P. Its current editions include:

Jornal de Angola (;

Jornal dos Desportos;

Jornal Angolano de Arte e Letras (;

Economia & Finanças (

Jornal de Angola is a daily newspaper, controlled by the Angolan State. It celebrated 43 years in June of 2019.

Distributed in the country’s 18 provinces, it has a daily average distribution of 12,934 copies, through direct sales and by subscription. Luanda, Moxico and Benguela are the provinces where the largest number of sales is reported (Supplement of the Jornal de Angola, 26th June 2016, p.3).

The online publication of news is distributed in the following sections: “Politics”, “Reports”, “Opinion”, “World”, “Economy”, “Provinces”, “Society”, “People”, “Culture” and “Sport”.

 At the weekend Jornal de Angola also publishes notebooks and supplements. The selection of themes and news is varied. It can fall on a determined theme – fashion, technology and management, etc.  – or focus more on the social, cultural and economic field of one of the provinces of Angola.

O País

The newspaper O País, founded in November 2008 by the Medianova group, recently celebrated its 10-year anniversary. The online publication of news is distributed by the sections: “Politics”, “Society”, “Economy”, “Opinion”, “Culture”, “World” and “Sport”.

The Grupo Medianova, the largest private communication group in Angola, is the owner of Zimbo TV, Rádio Mais, the newspapers O País and Semanário Económico, the Revista Vida and Revista Exame.

Angolan press – preliminary analysis / General migration flows to Angola [1]

Jornal de Angola O País
Section Number of news Section Number of news
Policy 208 Policy 52
World 154 Culture 35
Sport 137 Economy 20
Economy 111 Society 18
Society 52 Opinion 12
People 49 Sport 12
Culture 49 World 5
Provinces 19 Grand total 154
Opinion 8    
Report 5    
Notebooks and supplements    
Suplemento fim-de-semana 5    
Jornal Metropolitano da Capital Angolana 2    
Grand total 799    

The more focused topics in the two newspapers news about general migratory flows to Angola are:

Migration policies

Visa waiver program, flow regulation, expulsion and repatriation of illegal immigrants, detention.


Trade, security and control, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Namibia, Republic of Congo, and Zambia.


Exodus, borders, welcoming, census, biometric registration, support and financing, repatriation (voluntary/involuntary), return, detention.

Political economy

Foreign investment, foreign workers, national production, import-export, The new Regime for Foreign Nationals, The New Foreign Investment Law.

United Nations data showed that there were 106,845 immigrants in Angola for the year 2015, which is equivalent to only 0.4% of the population of the country. The three most represented nationalities were Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) (40%/), Portugal (15%/) and Cape Verde (10%/).

When talking about migrant populations, Angolan newspapers appear to only report on citizens of DRC and Portugal in Angola, but not Cape Verdeans. These papers also report a strong presence of “Chinese” and “West African” immigration (Malians, Senegalese, Guineans, Gambians, Mauritanians, etc.) to Angola. However, “Chinese” immigration to Angola is rarely identified in official statistical sources.

As we will see, daily life (civic participation, reception networks, residential insertion, professional, leisure practices, etc.) of Portuguese immigrants in Angola, little or nothing is highlighted in the news of the two newspapers (as regards the period under review). On the other hand, there are several reports that talk about immigrants and refugees of the Democratic Republic of Congo in Angola. The influx of immigrants and refugees from the DRC coincides with political turmoil within eastern DRC.

This is most relevant in seven of the 18 provinces of Angola (Cabinda, Zaire, Malanje, Uíge, Lunda Norte, Lunda Sul and Moxico) which share a border with the DRC. The Jornal de Angola has called this shared border ‘the gateway for many illegal immigrants’, mainly from the DRC and West Africa. The lack of resources and border control mechanisms and the formation of migration networks to aid immigration also appear as factors that support and encourage “illegal” immigration into Angola.

As one would expect, the news reports grossly overestimate migrants’ incidence of participation in illegal immigration and crime. These news articles are most often presented through essentialist, deterministic and descriptive perspectives of the complexity of migratory flows to Angola. The centrality of the issue is so great that several pieces describe in detail the number of illegal immigrants registered, as well as the number, degree and type of offenses or crimes committed.

News reports on the experiences of migrants from a perspective of illegality and criminality mainly describe crimes of – quoted and translated from reports – smuggling (of various types of goods) or financial crime, falsification of documents, sale of narcotics (“liamba”), illegal logging and diamond smuggling, poaching, forest devastation (for logging), and the involvement of nationals (ordinary citizens and sobas/“traditional authorities”) and foreigners in networks of aid to illegal immigration.

There are some reports of homicide and abduction of immigrants in Angola. Chinese entrepreneurs based in Angola appear to suffer the most from this type of violence.

As I mentioned earlier, the centrality of the issue of migration from the point of view of illegal immigration and crime is so great that several pieces describe in detail the number of illegal immigrants, the degree and type of crimes, etc. The dissemination of these numbers wins emphasis through official figures called on to talk about migration (police, provincial governors, other politicians), much to the detriment of the voices of the immigrants or of another approach to migration.

Officials called to talk about migration have included: National Police, Angolan Armed Forces, Angola Border Guard Police, Migration and Foreigners Service, Criminal Investigation Service, Detention Center for Illegal Foreigners, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Anibal de Melo Press Center, etc.

There is a systematic convergence of the news articles on the need to adopt policies for security and border control and regulation of migration flows. The news does not contemplate any form of policy formulation for the socio-cultural integration of immigrants and granting nationality.

Needless to say, officials called to speak about migration present the public with several controversial speeches. In several reports, it is argued that the presence of “illegal immigrants” puts “the country’s sovereignty and the economy at risk”, namely: “national unity”, “territorial integrity of the country”, “peace” and “stability in the construction of the nation”.

The repeated representation propagated about the condition of migrants through notions such as “emigrant”, “immigrant”, “foreigner”, “expatriate” (and others…), regardless of your legal background (“illegal”, “legal”, “resident”, “non-resident”, etc.), suggest a confused notion of its meaning.

Described as “transgressors”, “undocumented”, “irregular”, “clandestine”, (but also) “citizens”, the illegal “immigrants”, “foreigners”, “refugees”, “expatriate”…, are often the target of negative narratives that include violence, prejudice, informal market (poverty/ unemployment/social problems/forms of survival), bribery, corruption, convictions, surveillance, repatriation, expulsion and detention.

However, the notions of “foreigner” and “expatriate” also appear in some parts concerning certain labour flows (“Portuguese entrepreneurs”, “Chinese entrepreneurs”, “foreign worker”, etc.) and certain types of consumption, such as real estate demand.

Homogenized ethnic categories and status of nationality are used to serve as generic names about the status of migrant: “citizens of the DRC”, “DRC foreigners”, “foreigners from the Republic of Congo”, “citizens of Congolese nationality”, “citizens of West African countries”, “citizens of the Central African Republic” the “foreigners of Congo Brazzaville”, “citizens of Asian origin”, “Cameroon”, “Malian”, “Chinese”, etc.

Poor profiling of migrants in terms of their migration objectives, education, employment, age, resources, family dynamics, etc. does not mean that there aren’t sometimes references to gender, age (“men”, “women”, “children”) and/or regions of origin migrants or refugees (“Kaisai refugees”).

1] The difference in the number of news between the two newspapers is due to the fact that the online version (not paid) of the newspaper O PAÍS, unlike Jornal de Angola, only provides a limited number of news by section. As new news comes in, others are no longer available. Faced with this limitation, the collected of news in the newspaper O País (started in March 2018) only covers the period from November 14th 2017 to June 30th 2018, for each section. The World section of the newspaper O País contemplates only news about Africa (this also explains the difference in the number of news between the two newspapers, to the world section). And the Sports Section (of the newspaper O País) although it refers to soccer news only, some publications cover other modalities. It was in the policy section where we collected more news.

Letters from the field, Berlin #3 – A Portuguese supermarket in Berlin

Very near the Portuguese Embassy in Berlin, there is a Portuguese Supermarket which everyone has been telling me about ever since I arrived. The Portuguese families I have met, very rarely shop there, but they all have visited the supermarket at least once. They may go there looking for specific items for a special occasion like when they want to showcase Portuguese cuisine to friends or to get something for themselves as a “cure” for homesickness.

The supermarket displays many of the familiar food brands, bearing packages and tastes that remind us of home. Foods from Spain and South America can also be found. The corner café at the entrance serves coffee (including the Portuguese espresso, bica) and Portuguese pastries, but also homemade food cooked more to the taste of what is commonly served in other German cafés and restaurants. Indeed, the cashier informs me, most of the costumes are German who either live or work around the area, but also tourists staying in the next door hostel.

Cinnamon, a classic ingredient of patry cooking.



Fried potatoes chips cut in the form of match sticks are an ingredient of one of our favourite salted cod recipes: bacalhau à Brás

Frozen salted cod fish.

One of the better-known rice brands.

One of the better-known pasta brands.

Soft drinks.

Water and beer.


Olive oil.

International brands like Nestle, own national brands with which we have a longstanding familiarity.

Wheat and corn flours.

The two better-known breakfast oats for children.

In the café, I had a bica (espresso) and a pão de ló cake.

More pastries in display at the café.

Petiscos including cold meats and seasoned olives.



Notes from the field: Lisbon #3 – Housing

Today I want to write about something that is rather basic in that it is relevant to everyone.

When talking about migration, being in a city (or ‘everyday life’), and material possessions, storage is an important aspect. This includes the storage of things and the body, but can also be the storage of memories, of challenges. As the title of the blog gives away, I am referring to houses and housing.

As a sociologist-cum-geographer (pretending to blend in with anthropologist for this project), location is a very important aspect to consider in people’s decision-making. In terms of statistics, Greater Lisbon boasts the following figures about mobility within the city (Portuguese Census, 2011).


Population that did not change municipality

Immigrants arriving from another municipality

Immigrants from another country





Visually, the distribution of ‘immigrants from other countries’ can be seen in the maps generated through the Pordata website, and compared to that of the total population.

As is evident, the bulk of the population has been recorded as living in Greater Lisbon (and interestingly disproportionately on the main island of Madeira too).

When first looking into the daily life in Lisbon on my arrival in the city, I learnt of the stress on housing caused by over-tourism, the financial crisis, and a lack of public investment in housing. Housing inequality was (and is) rife in Lisbon. In an earlier blog, I spoke about this status of Lisbon as a tourist destination and some of the reasons as well as concerns regarding the same. This was the reason that in 2017, the Caravana pelo direito à habitação (Caravan for the right to housing) undertook it’s journey in Portugal and revealed a number of delipidated and hazardous living situations in which people are forced to live by virtue of being excluded from dialogue about the same, with 5 of 10 sites being in or around Greater Lisbon. It is often found that these sections of society feed the city in terms of being the labour that is unseen, or are unemployed, having been pushed to the fringes of the city. I must flag here that such housing is inhabited by migrants (internal and external) and Lisboetas (Lisboners) alike (as also seen in the maps above).

It is fascinating that paradoxically, on the other hand, ‘expat’ information websites present the very city from which the aforementioned people are expelled as an ideal location for any migrant. Evidently, the key is in the term ‘expat’, which appears to only relate to wealthy, usually white immigrants. With a range of anglicised names and an identification of “good neighbourhoods”, these websites inform you where you can go to ensure you don’t have to confront the ‘problems’ of being unsafe in this capital city.

One such description provided by Expatica ( can be found in the image below. The description and image are telling of the type of migrants intended for the regions.

The website goes on to list neighbourhoods they suggest expats could live. The text is quoted below:

  • Alfama & Graca – Lisbon’s oldest neighbourhood, with winding streets and a great sense of both tradition and community
  • Avenidas New & Alvalade – Home to large expensive apartments and good amenities, but can suffer from a lack of atmosphere
  • Bairro Alto – A popular place to enjoy Lisbon’s nightlife, popular with young people and hipsters
  • Lower Town (Baixa) – A big draw for with property investors in search of apartments
  • Belem – A riverside neighbourhood with some of the city’s most famous museums
  • Restelo – Boasts a tranquil and laid back lifestyle, albeit with property prices to match
  • Campo de Ourique – Popular with middle-class families, but lacks a Metro station
  • Nations Park – A little further from the centre, boasts more contemporary architecture and a pleasant waterfront location
  • Prince Real – Within walking distance of the centre, property here can be expensive
  • Santos & Lapa – Popular with middle class locals and well-off retirees

It is interesting that all the descriptions seem to suggest some sort of wealth or capital (‘expensive apartments’, ‘popular’ – relating to gentrified areas, ‘famous museums’) and lifestyles that if spoken about deprived sections of society would not be considered positive (‘laidback’, ‘enjoy Lisbon’s nightlife’, ‘tradition and community’). In addition, when suggesting where to stay, they list areas along the linha (the train line along the coast of the River Tejo) specifically Cascais, Birre and Sintra. These neighbourhoods too are rather wealthy historically and currently.

Another such website with information for people who call themselves ‘expats’ is InterNations ( I will dwell on this further, but I mention this as a potential source of information and route to socialising for incoming migrants (expats/immigrants). The description on the landing page for Lisbon is telling on how Lisbon is ‘sold’ as a city to live in as (wealthy, white) expats.

While I am not arguing that suggested areas for living be primarily deprived neighbourhoods, I do wish to highlight this disparity that may be reinforced by such communication, sidelining certain types of migrants through virtue-signalling.

This is relevant as all my participants (Australians and Germans) for this research thus far live within or very close to the areas identified as desirable by these ‘expat’ websites. Three owned their house (all outside of Lisbon municipality) while two were renting (one within and one outside of the Lisbon municipality). This has a deep impact on how the city is experienced by them as a different class-group of migrants. It makes for an interesting understanding of goods and services and resources to which they have access, and how they structure their lives as migrants.

For more information on Portuguese census figures, visit Pordata (

Contextualising Sydney: 1# Port city

As I undertake the ethnographic fieldwork in Sydney as part of this research project, after reading some books, articles, visiting some museums and exploring the city I want to share my impressions and learnings with you.  In this post, I will start with the first of four posts which aim to contextualize the city of Sydney from it’s beginning until present days. 

In 1786 the British government cast its eyes southward to New South Wales with the intention of relieving its overcrowded jails and establishing a strategic presence in the southern hemisphere. In May 1787, under the competent command of Captain Arthur Philip, the First Fleet of 11 ships carrying over 700 convicts and over 600 officers, marines and seamen set sail from England.

The fleet anchored in Sydney Cove on 26 January 1788 and Phillip founded a penal settlement on the banks of the Tank Stream. Government House, the first substantial building in the colony was the focus of social and political power from 1788 to 1845.

View of Sydney, c.1811, John Eyre; State Library of New South

In search of more fertile land, the settlement soon spread inland to Parramatta, where a town was laid out in 1790. Settlers also took up land near Bankstown and at Ryde, and along the rich alluvial plains of the Hawkesbury and Nepean rivers.

The European invasion of Australia had a devastating effect on the Indigenous people. As the settlement grew, their traditional food sources declined and European diseases brought dramatic loss of life. The conflict quickly followed, despite resistance by Aboriginal warriors.

Map of Sydney, 16 April 1788; Source: Unkown

When Lachlan Macquarie arrived to replace the deposed Governor William Bligh in 1810, he described Sydney as a town “in a most ruinous state of decay”. He began a major building program and established a substantial road system, with convict Francis Greenway as his favoured architect. Macquarie’s willingness to provide opportunities for ex-convicts offended many free settlers. Yet his legacy today includes Hyde Park Barracks, the Conservatorium of Music (built as Government House stables), Parliament House and The Mint (wings of the “Rum” Hospital).

By the time Macquarie left the colony in February 1822, Sydney had grown in size and sophistication from a penal settlement to a major trading port. It boasted a range of small businesses, a newspaper, a bank, a hospital, and lunatic and benevolent asylums. The census of 1828, which did not include Indigenous people, recorded a population of 10 800. Free immigrants, who had tricked into the colony from as early as 1793, comprised 13 percent of the non- Indigenous population.

Image from the Museum of Sydney by author, Vânia Pereira Machado

Sydney with its deep harbour and strategic position began its maritime life as Australia’s grandest port and remains so to this day, although most port activity has now shifted to Port Botany. Sealing and whaling provided most exports from the early colony. The wool industry soon eclipsed both, faltering only during the depression of the 1840s. Agriculture and mineral exports expanded while most imports came from other parts of the British Empire. Port facilities reminded concentrated around Circular Quay until the boom years of the 1880s and the development of huge wool stores at Darling Harbour.

The chaotic inner city quickly outgrew Macquarie’s street layout, and the maze of slums around the wharf areas became a focus of fear and division. The outbreak of bubonic plague in 1900 and a continuing death toll from typhoid led to a huge government clean-up of The Rocks and the building of new wharves from Woolloomooloo to Pyrmont.

Map of the town of Sydney 1837; Engraved by John Carmichael of Sydney

The Woolloomooloo finger wharf, hailed on its opening in 1912 as a “cathedral of commerce”, served the wool trade. The Walsh Bay finger wharves, built between 1905 and the 1920s after the plague clean-up, were also monuments to a new age.

Sydney grew rapidly after the discovery of gold near Bathurst in 1851. Although attention soon shifted to be more lucrative Victorian goldfields, Sydney’s economy had already benefited. Migrants poured into New South Wales from Britain and Ireland, lured by the promise of cheap land and agriculture opportunities. most settled in Sydney, where their labour was needed.

The inner southern and western suburbs were soon dotted with tanneries, breweries, bakehouses, clothing and boot factories, and a huge abattoir at Glebe Island. the foreshores of the harbour were fouled by industrial effluent and the skies polluted by smoke.

Gas gradually replaced coal and wood-fires stoves and also lit the city until the coming of electricity in the early 1990s. New dams were built to provide a reliable water supply for Sydney’s growing suburbs and sewage disposal was improved with ocean outfalls at Bondi and Manly.  Sydney had all the necessities of a growing city, thousands of kilometers from the great imperial ports of Britain, Europe, Asia, and the United States.

Until next time,



Scott, Ernest. 2002. A Short History of Australia.  Available online

State Library of NSW

The Museum of Sydney 


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