Transits

material culture, migration and everyday life

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).

Total

Population that did not change municipality

Immigrants arriving from another municipality

Immigrants from another country

2,821,876

2,656,749

102,827

26,275

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 (www.expatica.com) 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 (www.internations.org). 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 (https://www.pordata.pt/).

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,
Vânia

 

Sources: 

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

State Library of NSW

The Museum of Sydney 

 

Notes from de field: Luanda #1, Observing the city of Luanda

Founded in 1576, Luanda is the most populated province in the country. At the time of independence, it had about 500,000 inhabitants (Colaço 1992, p. 5). In 2014, the INE/AO [1] estimated a population of around 6.5 million living in Luanda (INE/AO 2014, pp. 23, 27; INE/AO, 2016, p. 32), corresponding to 27% of the total population of the country and a density of 347 inhabitants per km².

The same source reports that 53% of the population of the territory is concentrated in only four provinces of the country: Luanda, Huíla, Benguela and Huambo (INE/AO 2015, p. 35). Furthermore, approximately 80% of the companies in Angola are located in four provinces (Luanda, Benguela, Huíla and Cuanza Sul). They employ about 53.5% of the workers. Benguela is the second province, after Luanda, with the highest concentration of companies (data referring to the period between 2003 and 2014) (INE/ AO, 2015, pp. 114-139).

The historical, political, economic and social impact of colonialism and the long periods of armed violence experienced in Angola – during the war for independence, under the process of decolonization and the civil war that broke out after independence – created organizational and developmental particularities in Angolan society, influencing group relations and individual attitudes.

Luanda is not only the capital of Angola but also a city constituted by a series of contrasts and realities, within which the structure of relations, networks and exchanges are shaped by the coexistence of distinct social conditions and multiple asymmetries and lifestyles.

With population growth and the effects of a prolonged war, several neighborhoods were expanded towards the periphery of Luanda. Characterized by precarious construction and lack of sanitation [2], these spaces of horizontal occupation and unplanned urban diffusion became sites of discrimination, standing in contrast to neighborhoods equipped with urban services and necessary infrastructure. These poor neighborhoods differ distinctly from the musseques of colonial times based on the forms of occupation of the spaces and the materials used for construction (especially cement). They cover more than 50% of the areas of the city (Colaço 1992) [3]. 

The stories in these neighborhoods do not describe only lifestyles of poverty, misery and improvisation (Carvalho 1992), unemployment and school failure of an undifferentiated, proletarian and low-income population (Monteiro 1973). Contrary to the characterization of Monteiro (1973), we find different groups in the so-called musseques. They are differentiated by countries of origin and distinct migratory trajectories, including by their origin in the different regions of the country, the time of arrival in Luanda, coming from both urban centers and rural areas, the ethnic composition and internal diversity of the groups themselves, different religious communities of belonging, and other different networks. The distribution and spatial concentrations within the neighborhoods show distinct forms of occupation: one area may be dominated by a particular ethnic group, another may have a more diverse population, others still would have new arrivals, and some parts may be more impoverished, and so on.

In a civil society which lacks local management able to provide basic means of social organization (housing, employment, etc.), the informal market enables many individuals and families to acquire financial support or livelihood. Practised by thousands of Angolans on a permanent or occasional basis [4], informal commerce makes the Angolan capital the city of “street vendors”: the zungueira [5] or quitandeira, the roboteiro [6], the walking vendor [7]. Areas with high pedestrian movement, markets and sales outlets are significant social microcosms, not independent realities, of the organizational processes of any peripheral neighborhood or specific zone. Many Angolans practice their main economic activity there, thus guaranteeing family subsistence.

For many Angolan families, economic management is through buying (usually small quantities due to lack of capital) and selling whilst functioning under an unstable economic structure that is unable to support capital investment for medium or long-term bases. However, its economy is not only “buy-and-sell”, but also a gender economy. In many families, it is mainly women who play a central role in raising economic means of family subsistence. They sell in the larger markets or use these to buy the products they sell door-to-door, in the surrounding neighborhoods, in the smaller markets or as zungueiras (at outlets or around the city). The small profit from the daily sale of the retail products guarantees their daily sustenance.

The informal market is not the only structural problem in the city of Luanda. Decades of armed conflict, the sharp population increase, lack of an urban program of conservation, construction, alteration, recovery and expansion of the city (streets, sanitation, buildings, etc.), caused great wear of urban equipment and services provided to citizens. The lack of schools, hospitals, housing, the degradation of buildings and public roads, a poor sanitation and garbage collection network, a poor energy and water supply network, a significant increase in anarchic construction, urban crime, juvenile delinquency, without forgetting the chaotic traffic and “gasosa” [8], incorporate and interconnect the complex housing and social problems of Luanda.

The agglomeration of urban garbage in the streets and neighborhoods of the city, along with the climatic conditions (especially in the “hot and rainy season”), make Luanda an area of a high incidence of endemic diseases like cholera, malaria, yellow fever, etc.

In response to urban criminality and juvenile delinquency, two salient realities in the recent post-war context guards armed with Kalashnikovs are often stationed at various commercial spaces, companies, banks, properties, etc.

The chaotic traffic [9], as well as the candongueiros [10] and their famous blue and white Toyota Hiace, are part of the daily agitations of city life. Candongueiros represent the most popular passenger transport in Luanda (equivalent to collective taxis) [11] and appeared via private initiative as public transport was deteriorating without being replaced. Many private car and motorcycles owners [12] also carry passengers, in addition to the recent, oversized and overly expensive (for ordinary citizens) formal taxis network.

Likewise, ever present in various acts of citizens’ daily life is the payment of “gasosa”. A bribery mechanism used as a means of expediting a process, purchased favour, avoiding a traffic ticket (with or without fault), lowering the cost of a service provided/bought (with profit for both parties), etc.

Marked by urbanization patterns of colonial times and Marxist housing policies of the 1980s and 1990s, Luanda is now a city under construction and in transformation. Urban planning is in open confrontation with real estate development, with accelerated growth. 

It is the real estate explosion (modern buildings, luxury hotels, head office, restaurants, leisure spaces, etc.) alongside poorer neighborhoods where many thousands of Angolans live under the stigma of suburban marginality, violence, unemployment, school failure, to name a few (Viegas 2011, 2012, Croese 2012, Robson 2001).

A trip through the new expressway to South Luanda/Talatona shows a city of contrasts. On the one hand, the musseques and enormous precariousness, on the other, luxury condominiums, expensive houses and the Belas shopping Center [13].

Around Luanda, there are several cities and municipalities (Quilamba, Zango, Viana, Belas, Cacuaco) destined for an emerging middle class, built by Chinese, Portuguese, Brazilian and Angolan companies. New centralities as they call it. Providing various types of services (schools, nurseries, supermarkets, pharmacies, etc.), emerged from the need to reduce population concentration from the densely populated city centre to the periphery.

Similarly, noble areas of the city are being recovered. The promenade was recovered by the Portuguese construction companies Soares da Costa and Mota-Engil and the Luanda island by the Brazilian Odebrecht.

Along with real estate development and accelerated construction, schools and hospitals have also been built. However, there are still teachers and doctors missing. In some municipalities, it is difficult to find suitable schools and stable teaching staff. Public health presents many failures despite the strengthening of these professionals through agreements with Cuba, South Korea and Vietnam, as well as the private sector, in this case, at very high prices.

The differential coexistence of distinct social conditions and multiple asymmetries and lifestyles still stands out through forms of conviviality and consumption (such as imported luxury cars, branded luxury stores, leisure in fashionable restaurants and bars of Luanda Island, escapes to Mussulo Island, Cabo Ledo or Sangano, etc.). That includes not only the elite and middle-class Angolan, wealthy or emerging but also members of diplomatic corps and several expatriates, including Portuguese. Among Angolans and Portuguese, the term “tugolândia” is used to describe how some of the Portuguese migrants organize taxonomies of difference and distinction, selecting and attending leisure spaces in the Angolan capital, especially among peers.

[1] Nation Institute of Statistics – Angola.
[2] Neighborhoods born in colonial times and commonly known as “musseques”. The word musseque means “sand place” (mu = place, seke = sand) in Kimbundo, in reference to the sandy soil with reddish colour characteristic of Luanda.
[3] The author distributes the occupation of the spaces of the city of Luanda through four zones: the modern area (the downtown of Luanda), a transition area (former musseques in the process of urbanization), the periphery (musseques side by side with new neighborhoods), and an expanding area (new centralities as they currently call it), which is part of the project Luanda Sul.

[4] As a way to get money in times of “tightening”: illness of a family member, unemployment, etc.

[5] Women who walk the streets carrying merchandise on their heads or fixing themselves in specific points of the city of Luanda (markets, public squares, neighborhoods, entrances of supermarkets, arcades, street corner, crossings, etc.). They sell different products: fruit, fresh fish, dried fish, jinguba (peanut), homemade yogurt, cooked meals or meals cooked at the point of sale, industrialized products, cards with balance for mobile phone, etc. Some women, known as the “kinguilas“, are dedicated exclusively to the business of buying and selling foreign exchange on the street.
[6] Transporters of goods in hand pushed wheel carts, manufactured with wooden planks.
[7] Young people who circulate in the traffic and sell an almost unimaginable variety of products: fresh drinks (water, juices, beer), newspapers, magazines, tobacco, batteries, mobile phone chargers, but also hairbrushes, toilet brushes, hangers, toothbrushes, clothing, tools, appliances, etc.
[8] The act or effect of bribing (in cash or kind) someone who provides or facilitates a lucrative agreement. Although many of those who are confronted with “gasosa” requests in traffic, public services, etc., try to resist, most give in to the fact that it is more economical and practical to pay for “gasosa” than to follow the legal route.
[9] Many companies and entrepreneurs based in Luanda choose to hire experienced drivers in local traffic. To drive in Luanda, it is necessary to consider three fundamental rules: “circulate as far left as possible; the priority belongs to those who arrive first or with more speed; the larger vehicle is always right”.
[10] The term derives from the word candonga, used since the colonial period to refer to activities of smuggling and illegal trade.
[11] There is an extensive network of candongueiros throughout the city. The cost of a trip is around 150 Kwanzas (between € 0.40 to € 0.80 depending on the exchange rate), but the amount can go up taking into account the time of day or the weight of the passenger.
[12] Without specific designation of passenger transport service, nor taximeter, they call their customers by waving their arms.
[13] The first Shopping Center built in Angola, inaugurated on March 27, 2007.

Notes from the field – Berlin #2, Sardinhada in Berlin

Last weekend I attended the baby shower of one of our participating families in Berlin. There, I learned that the following weekend there would be a Portuguese party at Monbijou Park in central Berlin. No more information was given to me at the time, but a quick google search guided me to the facebook event.  The event was in effect a sardinhada (sardine barbecue), which is a very seasonal event particular to this time of the year. The sardine fishing season started just a couple of weeks ago and June is the month in which  street festivities are held in honour of Saint Anthony, Saint John or Saint Peter (popular saints or santos populares) in many locations across the country.The festivities include bonfires being held and barbecued sardines on bread sold in crowded streets to the sound of loudly playing pimba music

A view of the picnic at Monbijou park, with the grilling station at the back.

But the sardinhada in Monbijou didn’t seem to want to mimic the saints’ festivities from back home. For one thing, there was no loud music. The event looked more like a big picnic, the barbecue station selling the food and beverages and the partygoers  sitting in groups on the blankets they brought from home. Barbecues are permitted in most parks in Berlin, with special signs indicating the areas where they are permitted. This is one of the many uses of parks amongst Berliners. Other uses include sunbathing (often in swimwear), sitting on their own folding chairs and having drinks, hanging their own hammocks in trees, play ball games, etc. The parks seem to define Berlin public life and its inhabitants’ lifestyles, and if this is true, then it couldn’t be truer than in this very hot month of June.

As I park my bike and walk through the crowd, Portuguese, German, Italian and Spanish can be heard. There are people of all ages. I enter the line to buy food. Behind me, two middle-aged women speak Brazilian Portuguese, ahead of me in line, two women in their 20s use youtube on their smartphones to show an English speaking friend, what pimba music sounds like. 

Sardines and German sausages. Portuguese rock salt.

Beer ans soft drinks on ice.

Apron.

From the grilling stand, not only the usual sardines and bifanas (grilled pork steak sandwich) were sold, but here we could also find sausages, which are not traditionally found in sardinhadas I know from home. Is this another Berliner adaptation? I order two sardines on wheat bread, although cornbread is also available. I also order a pineapple Sumol from the ice-bucket holding Portuguese brand beers and soft drinks. Red and white Portuguese whine is also available.

The lady who was slicing the bread stops her task to greet a friend who hands out to her an appron which reads Portugal. This provokes a reaction from her colleagues: they jokingly demand one too.  The drinks and food are provided by a Portuguese supermarket in Berlin, and the bread by a Portuguese-Greek bakery, both publicized. I am told that pastel de nata was available in previous edition, but to my disappointment they are not being sold this year.

The organizers are holding constant 10 minute workshops of bass drums, so soon there is a soundtrack to the event! Later, the rancho (folklore dance) also performs at a near tarmac crossing inside the park. The members of the rancho seem to be all Portuguese or Portuguese descent, and ages seem to go from twenty to sixty-something. Two small girls who look under five, also participate at times, guided by the older performers. The performers are not wearing performing clothes, but their own summer clothes. A gentleman dancer, is wearing a Cristiano Ronaldo Portuguese national football jersey. A lady dancer wears filigree heart earrings from the north of Portugal.

It is seven o’clock but the sun is still shining and the threat of drizzle was just a threat and didn’t spoil the picnic. The sardines seem to be over as only steaks and sausages can be seen in the grill. The last loaves of bread are being sold to the public. I get mine before I leave!

Bass drums workshop.

Notes from the Field: Lisbon #2, Observing meals

It’s always a bit strange to ask someone about their eating habits and then requesting them to let you observe them. Sometimes it feels a bit cheeky as you would eventually be invited to eat; if you’ve warned them in advance, you’re potentially going to be in for an elaborately prepared treat! Alongside this is the more spontaneous, honest, everyday cooking. That isn’t to deny the honesty and normality of elaborate cooking. Wanting to prepare a whole meal is also very much an everyday practice. However, catching someone off guard offers a different side to this.

In the end, they have all had one commonality: they are ‘homely’. I could not find another way to describe it. As someone who has lived alone, I can relate to batch-cooking, making a quick soup or frying an egg as a meal. It is very familiar and no less ceremonial than the elaborate meals. Indeed, one seems more everyday than the other. Yet, the other also presents a type of ceremoniality (‘doing a ceremony’) and indeed becomes part of the everyday, routine nature of self-care and preservation through food.

On this note of the ceremony, I wish to present three instances in which food consumption was part of the meeting. Based on the variation in information provided, the nature of the meal changed, as one would expect. This variation in information provided related to the intended planning of the meetings. For example, in case 2 it was not intended that I observe meal preparation that day. Similarly, in case 3 shopping and preparation were not intended to be presented to me.

Participant No.

Shopping

Informed about need to observe a meal

Meal cooked by participant

Spontaneous?

1

Yes

Yes

Yes

Pre-meditated

2

Yes

No

Yes

Spontaneous, out of need

3

No

Yes

No

Part of weekly routine

In case 1, the meal was particularly prepared with me in mind, alongside an overlap of their own consumption practice. The shopping too was tailored to the meal. In the preceding meeting with the participant, when I asked what the individual was going to cook after our meeting, they said it was a dal (South Asian lentil dish). This was a practice picked up by the participant’s husband’s experience of living in South Asia. The Participant then offered to cook some for me as I said I had not had it in a long time. I am Luso-Indian/South Asian.

Image by author, Sinead D’Silva

In case 2, the meeting itself was organized around the need to observe the shopping process. As the participant must organize their shopping days carefully to incorporate personal mobility requirements, the shopping incorporated items needed on a longer-term basis. There was no list involved, and the individual had the types of food they wanted to buy in mind. This included staples (like pasta), snacks, and fruit and veg. One of the items purchased was because I expressed surprise when looking at the products on display – it was a different type of bread. When we got back, we continued to talk and eventually it was lunch time and we were both hungry, so we tried the bread with egg and a spread from their country of origin. 

Image by author, Sinead D’Silva

Finally, in case 3, I was invited to observe a meal-focused weekly practice in which the participant wished to present their everyday routine. It was also a revelation of the embeddedness of this participant in the local culture brought about in part by conjugal ties (the individual had married a Portuguese person). The food was therefore Portuguese, arroz do pato, as this included the participant’s extended family. It was not cooked by the participant. On a personal, regular basis, the participant cooks more simple food, with more vegetables. They also mentioned cooking curries often as their husband liked such food.

Image by author, Sinead D’Silva

The topic is the same: food consumption practice. They were all also women, accounting for gender. Yet, the ways in which individuals go about deliberating not just what to eat, but also what to present as their eating practices is telling of a social process of food involving a sense of symbolism as a medium of interaction.

Alongside these different ways in which individuals choose to present themselves or find themselves responding to a situation spontaneously, is a commonality in presenting the self and a sense of hospitality which cuts across cultures. As a result, I always left fed with food and stories.

Kathy Burrell at ICS this month

Letters from the field – Berlin, week 1

12 April 2019

It has become common place to say that the ethnographer’s self is very much a part of ethnography and ethnographic writing. I argue that this statement is truer for the ethnographer who has to move from her country into a new country and city in order to do research, here about migrants… specially if those migrants have moved from that same country and into that same new city, albeit for different reasons.
The ethnographer in question is me. I was born and raised in Portugal and moved to Berlin last week in order to do ethnography with Portuguese families living in Berlin. If we exclude the personal variables of motivations, objectives and, off course, length of stay, I, as an ethnographer am following the steps of the migrants who will participate in the research.
Furthermore, when your intention as an ethnographer is to understand material culture and consumption, a dimension of your subjects’ life which is probably present in a similar way in your own life, putting yourself in your subject’s shoes becomes a fairly easy exercise. Just like the migrants I am about to meet, I too had to pack; I had to select what I wanted to take and, upon my arrival I had to find the things that I cannot envisage myself living without on my everyday life.
Thus, for the purpose of this blog post, I am going to write about myself and the choices I have made regarding my traveling to and settling in Berlin.

Moabit

Upon arrival at Tegel airport, I took the TXL bus. Direction: Alexander Platz. The destination: my neighborhood, Moabit. As I approached the end of my ride, the bus entered Turmstraße, a very densely commercial street, filled with burger, pizza and doner kebab restaurants, Turkish coffee shops, small supermarkets with fresh vegetable street stands. I could also spot some organic/natural/biologic trendy supermarkets.

Turmstraße, a main street in Moabit.

A quick online search had already taught me that Moabit is a neighborhood of Mitte, located in the west side of the central district, bordering Charlotteburg district, and was adjacent to the former Berlin Wall. For this reason, Moabit has always had a peripheral status, whether because it was where unified Central Berlin ends or West Berlin ended. The internet also told me that Moabit has historical working-class roots, which combined with its peripheral yet central location makes it affordable and attractive for newcomers. Statistically, Moabit is Berlin’s neighborhood with the largest first and second generation migrant population.
As I hopped off the bus and followed the path suggested to me by google maps to get to my new home, I entered an area in Moabit known as Westfälisches Viertel (or Westphalian district), a more bourgeois residential area, south of Turmstraße, bordering the Spree river and Tiergarten. Shops became more scarce and more expensive: bistros and bakeries mostly.

A view over the Spree river to Westfälisches Viertel in south Moabit.

I arrived at my destination and met my landlady in whose elegant house I will be renting a large and very comfortable bedroom for an affordable price. “I know how researchers struggle” my landlady points out. Indeed.

My things

In my bag, I had packed, of course, some clothes, shoes and personal hygiene and beauty products, but I decided to buy some hygiene and beauty products in Germany because I was told that they are cheaper here. For example, I had packed some rose water, which I can get for a cheap price at home and I wasn’t sure whether I was going to find some here. However, I discovered they are a very common item in Turkish shops. I also brought many packs of carob-porridge, which I was sure I wasn’t going to find here. Although this porridge is sold under an international brand, the production and selling are exclusive to Portugal. I also packed a bottle of wine to present to my landlady. With wine being a usually appreciated national product, I felt I couldn’t go wrong. I chose from my own collection of favorite wines a bottle from the region of Alentejo, a region known for its please-all wines. I didn’t pack olive oil, which I wanted to do but wasn’t sure about the correct way to store it to avoid spillage. I wish I had dedicated the time to find a way because olive oil (good quality like the one that is produced where I live) is much more expensive here!

Bags of carob porridge, rose water and a bottle of wine.

The day I arrived, my landlady was kind enough to take me around her favorite places to shop in Turmstraße. So on that first outing I bought the essential hygiene products I had purposely not brought: toothpaste, soap, shampoo, conditioner and night cream. I bought them in a DM shop, which is a chain with many shops across Berlim that sell hygiene and beauty products, household items, healthcare items, healthy food and so on… Then, in a Turkish shop which my landlady recommended for their fresh vegetables and fruit street stand, I shopped for food essentials: eggs, milk and flat bread. I also looked for instant coffee, which I later found out is as scarce product, specially in a Turkish shop, since Turkey is known for their particular method of coffee preparation. I instantly regretted not packing some instant coffee as well.

Fruit and vegetable street stand of a “turkish supermarket”.

Despite these minor glitches in my anticipation of the type of products available and their pricing, I was happy to be returning home from my first outing with enough products to have a shower and cook some eggs for breakfast on my first morning in Berlin.

A bar of soap, shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste and face cream.

Eggs and milk.

 

Mobility

My next priority for my days in Berlin: mobility. I had done some online scouting for information about public transport in Berlin and had been told about how efficient it was, with its integrated system of U-bahn, S-bahn, trams and buses. However I couldn’t help but notice the amount of bikes circulating at all times, as well as how cycling infrastructure seems to be a priority in the city. There are bike lanes and bike-parking places everywhere I look; my own building has a bike garage! Bikes are allowed inside public transport without charge, and meters away from my door are two shops that sell new and second hand bikes, and also do bike maintenance.

Bicycle parking.

A bicycle “garage” of an apartment building.

On my first days in Berlin, the weather was almost20ºC. There was an atmosphere of spring celebration in the air, the trees blooming in small pink and white cherry blossom flowers, kids playing in the parks and adults simply sitting down on benches or on the grass, enjoying the sun. I walked around my district, and went further to adjoining districts. When the time came to using public transport to reach more distant areas, I found myself wondering why so many people cycle in Berlin. I spoke with my landlady about it, and she said that using a bike is easy in Berlin, since the city is flat. Furthermore, I could observe that even on weekdays and peak hours, cars are at a minimum, which could only make cycling in Berlin safe. On considering that I would need to move around the city to get to know it and to meet participants in the research with more distant districts being at least a twenty-minute ride away, I decided to enter one of the shops near my house to investigate the price range for bikes. On my second visit, I was happy to leave the shop with a second-hand bike in mint condition for the price of 3 months of the BVG monthly pass. Hopefully the bike will make it easier to get to know this huge city.
Until next time,
Diana

Letters from the field: Lisbon #1, Cityscapes

Image of a stylised map of central Lisbon; Source unknown

In my previous 2 blog posts on Lisbon, I introduced migration in relation to tourism, and in relation to colonialism. In this post, I will introduce you to Lisbon as a city as I undertake the ethnographic fieldwork as part of this research project, TRANSITS. Being new to the city and indeed the country, having moved here late last year, I offer the personal impressions of a migrant.

Lisbon is the capital of Portugal, though perhaps not as busy as many capitals around the world. In fact, life here moves at a slow pace, a pace at which having a coffee is perhaps more important than being on time for a scheduled meeting. This can be beautiful, while simultaneously baffling for an outsider. One gets used to it, and learns to appreciate these mundane aspects of everyday life in this growing city.

The city itself is part of a broader region or district, and appears to grow out from a small ‘downtown’ area as the River Tagus kinks inward. This downtown area is replete with leg-aching slopes and beautiful views from which one can appreciate the cityscape. This area itself is hardly lived-in, save for the tourists replacing each other in drones, and the numerous new upmarket (‘hipster’) cafes and eateries. Here, there is much shopping to do, and many pictures to take.

  

Images by author (Sinead D’Silva)

Along the coast, inward, the officescapes of ‘Expo’, or Parque de Nações, reflects a different commercial area of Lisbon – it is not as dedicated to tourism, but reflects some amount of the hustle and bustle expected of a capital city. As the city sprawls outward to the Atlantic Ocean, residential buildings become more commonplace. A mix of purposeful houses built during the Estado Novo and new developments greet you, a shift from downtown’s quaint old iconic buildings.

Further out on the train within ‘Greater Lisbon’, residential landscapes become more visible, sometimes in need of upkeep; and the hustle and bustle of the city fades away. Further on still, you notice a change in landscape telling of class differences. If you go North from here you are greeted by quintas (farms) and mountains. You are in Sintra. If you continue along the coast, you find yourself in Cascais, a trendy seaside location. From my perspective, you also spot a hint more money in the air, sometimes observable through attire and accents. It is also interesting to note how ethnically diverse the city as a whole appears to be, which for European cities does seem surprising. Though when the city rests, the different places people call home hint at a class-race disparity.

Images by author (Sinead D’Silva)

This is the cityscape of Lisbon, and already I have found that others have navigated it differently.

Media, Context and the Shaping of Contemporary Movements across the Atlantic – Marta Vilar Rosales, University of Lisbon

This presentation explores the present-day circulations between Portugal and Brazil. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork carried out over four years on both Atlantic coasts, the presentation examines a particular aspect of a broad and complex field of research in contemporary mobility studies – how and to what extent migrants interact with and make use of media contents to feed imaginaries and expectations, design positioning strategies, manage belonging and handle exclusion and inclusion in the different spatial, cultural and political contexts that comprise their migration experiences. The presentation examines print content published by the Portuguese media during the time frame of analysis (2011-15). The discussion will focus on three topics: Portugal as a hospitable and inclusive context to foreign middle classes; the attractiveness of diverse migration destinations to the Portuguese population; and the particular social, economic and political framework at play at the time, which promoted the simultaneous exploration of pull and push factors for migration in Portugal and Brazil, by the Portuguese media.

Date and Time

Fri., 5 April 2019

3:00 pm – 4:30 pm

Location

MECO Seminar Room, S226, John Woolley Building A20, University of Sydney

https://www.eventbrite.com.au/e/media-context-and-the-shaping-of-contemporary-movements-across-the-atlantic-marta-vilar-rosales-tickets-57953475405

Migration and migrants in the media

The farewell of Portuguese migrants (DN); Protests in favor of refugees in Germany (Reuters/Fabrizio Bensch); Immigrant detention center in the Manus Island, Australia (Reuters)

The analysis of the media is a contextualization task, the objective of which is to help us understand the prevalent representations of migrants and migration issues, as well as the prevalent representations of the contexts covered by our project (Portugal, Angola, Australia and Germany).

Written press sources from each of the countries were selected according to their representativeness in terms of circulation, influence on public opinion and tendency to reproduce the content of other national publications. The news pieces were collected via the newspapers’ websites. The period covered is January 2017 to June 2018.

The task is ongoing, however, we have finalized the collection and preliminary analysis of the Portuguese newspapers Público e Diário de Notícias, from which a total of 818 journalistic pieces have been collected.

Relating to migration, the themes most covered by these two newspapers were, firstly, the restrictive migratory policies in countries like the USA,  Italy and Hungary; followed by the Mediterranean migratory flow. In terms of national themes, those most written about were  Golden Visas and the naturalisation of migrants. Within emigration, the bulk of the focus was about demography and specific professions.

Australia appears mainly in pieces about terrorism and pedophilia. Migration here appears in relation to the illegal detention of refugeesThe news about Portuguese in Australia are overwhelmingly concerning surf events. There are no pieces about Australians in Portugal.

The pieces concerning Angola report mainly the economic crisisthe power transition between presidents Santos and Lourenço and operation Fizz. As for migration, the news reports on migratory policies. News about Portuguese-Angolan relations focuses on diplomatic and economic relations. The news coverage about Angolans in Portugal is very small, with a focus on the number of Angolans who live in Portugal, and Angolan students’ difficulties in receiving money from Angola.

Germany is portrayed as a  strong economy that influences Europe and Portugal. News about migration focus on crimes against immigrants and immigration advocatesmigration policies and refugees. Portuguese migrants appear in news about nurses and Portuguese companies in trade fairs.  News about Germans in Portugal focus on German companies.

We will continue to share our findings as they emerge.

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