material culture, migration and everyday life

Month: August 2019

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 


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