Who is invited: super-diversity and ethnic citizenship in South Tel Aviv
(Vytautas Magnus University // VU University Amsterdam)
Paper short abstract:
This paper, based on ten months of fieldwork, looks into practical and symbolic enactments of citizenship and belonging in urban spaces of 'super-diversity' in South Tel Aviv. The are became a contested space for anti-refugee demonstrations, struggles and competition for scarce housing and jobs.
Paper long abstract:
Parts of Tel Aviv have become localities of 'super-diversity' (Vertovec 2007), where native Israelis, large numbers of Russian-speakers, guest-workers from the Philippines and other Asian countries, and African asylum-seekers live in coexistence and various urban tensions. Whereas various public actors present the state of South Tel Aviv (it being poor and unsafe) as a result of the presence of migrant groups, it is clear that South Tel Aviv is a classical semi-peripheral area, trapped between touristy, business and industrial areas, ambitions of property owners, and economic pressures. Socio-economic tensions relating to housing in Tel Aviv exploded in mass protests for social justice, but they subsided as another committee to investigate the situation was established, and the potential to build solidarities across citizenship and ethnic lines. In my fieldwork, I explored how inhabitants and workers in these spaces construct belonging and difference from other groups. Their ideas of belonging were detached from urban space, but firmly attached to the country, and on the basis of that they were able to argue for more privileged belonging than the more disadvantaged groups. On the other hand, my informants did not buy into simplistic nationalist narratives, spread during right-wing demonstrations in South Tel Aviv and in right-wing Israeli media. Several of them took pride in their 'diversity management' skills. It is precisely 'minoritization' they experienced in their ethnic state as Russian-speakers that fueled their grievances rather than exposure to the more disadvantaged migrant groups.
Urban space under (re)construction: affective and economic geographies under rapid social change