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Accepted Paper:

Fragrant Desires, Perfume and the ‘Smelly Immigrant Trope’ in Berlin  
Claudia Liebelt (FU Berlin)

Paper short abstract:

This paper looks at olfactory encounters in a multi-ethnic neighbourhood in Berlin, ‘ethnic’ perfume shops as embodied contact zones and fragrant practices in relation to processes of racialization, distinction and homemaking.

Paper long abstract:

Fleeting and emphemeral in their materiality, smells and fragrances are affect-laden and transgressive in the way that they intrude on embodied boundaries. Olfactory othering plays an important part in the emergence and history of European racism (Kettler 2020) and ‘smelly immigrant tropes’ (Manalansan 2006) continue to cast aspersions on racial and ethnic minorities in postmigrant urban settings. Similar to what Martin Manalansan describes for Asian Americans in New York City, Turkish immigrants and their children in Berlin may compromise their food preferences or impose upon themselves olfactory self-regulation out of the anxiety of being (mis-)recognized as ‘smelly’. On the other hand, fragrant practices are commonly tied to processes of distinction and homemaking and are part of a person’s self-fashioning as moral, proper and beautiful. Drawing on archival research and ethnographic research in a multi-ethnic neighbourhood in Berlin (and, to a lesser extent, Istanbul), this paper looks at olfactory urban encounters, ‘ethnic’ perfume shops as embodied contact zones and fragrant practices in relation to processes of racialization, distinction and homemaking. By doing so, it investigates a neglected field in the study of postcolonial cultural encounters, bringing together debates from sensory history, critical race studies and the anthropology of migration, gender, and the body.

Panel P054a
Sensing the Postcolonial Migrant Body I
  Session 1 Wednesday 27 July, 2022, -