Transits

material culture, migration and everyday life

Month: July 2019

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 

 

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