Migrants and City-Making: Dispossession, Displacement, and Urban Regeneration

Migrants and City-Making: Dispossession, Displacement, and Urban Regeneration


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In Migrants and City-Making Ayşe Çağlar and Nina Glick Schiller trace the participation of migrants in the unequal networks of power that connect their lives to regional, national, and global institutions. Grounding their work in comparative ethnographies of three cities struggling to regain their former standing—Mardin, Turkey; Manchester, New Hampshire; and Halle/Saale, Germany—Çağlar and Glick Schiller challenge common assumptions that migrants exist on society’s periphery, threaten social cohesion, and require integration. Instead Çağlar and Glick Schiller explore their multifaceted role as city-makers, including their relationships to municipal officials, urban developers, political leaders, business owners, community organizers, and social justice movements. In each city Çağlar and Glick Schiller met with migrants from around the world; attended cultural events, meetings, and religious services; and patronized migrant-owned businesses, allowing them to gain insights into the ways in which migrants build social relationships with non-migrants and participate in urban restoration and development. In exploring the changing historical contingencies within which migrants live and work, Çağlar and Glick Schiller highlight how city-making invariably involves engaging with the far-reaching forces that dispossess people of their land, jobs, resources, neighborhoods, and hope. 

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780822370567
Publisher: Duke University Press Books
Publication date: 09/10/2018
Pages: 296
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x (d)

About the Author

Ayşe Çağlar is Professor of Social and Cultural Anthropology at the University of Vienna and coeditor of Locating Migration: Rescaling Cities and Migrants.

Nina Glick Schiller is Professor Emeritus of Social Anthropology at the University of Manchester. She is coauthor of Georges Woke Up Laughing: Long-Distance Nationalism and the Search for Home, also published by Duke University Press, and most recently, coeditor of Whose Cosmopolitanism? Critical Perspectives, Relationalities, and Discontents.

Read an Excerpt


Introducing Three Cities


"Mardin," said the deputy district mayor in 2015, is a "city of Jews, Yazidis, Chechens, Hungarians, Kurds, Arabs, Syriacs, and Chaldeans." Sitting with Seda, a member of our research team, the deputy district mayor spoke about the historical significance of Mardin and its diverse population. In delineating this diversity, he clarified that he was not talking about a concept of tolerance, which would have cast populations such as the Kurds as outsiders whom Turks, defined as natives, could choose to include or exclude. The deputy district mayor's remarks reflected his own engagement in Kurdish/Turkish politics and commitment to his city's regeneration as a historical multifaith and multilingual city. This renewal involved forging a narrative that highlighted Mardin's past glories and civility. In this narrative, people of diverse backgrounds, rather than contributing "difference," constituted the local population of the city and region (interview March 23, 2015).

For the first fifteen years of the new millennium, Mardin rode a wave of urban regeneration. The reinvention of the city was the product of many intersecting networks of power — the Turkish state, the European Union, the United States, various governments in Europe and the Middle East, militaries, and commercial interests — at a historical conjuncture. These intersecting and contending forces all recognized that Syriac Christians — the city's ancient Christian community, most of whom had fled the area decades before and were beginning to return to claim their lands — were key to Mardin's rebirth as a multilingual city composed of many religious communities.

Nina began her interview in 2001 with Frau Haüssler, lord mayor of Halle/Saale, by explaining that she had previously studied migrants' relationships to institutions in New York and was now interested in the role of migrants "in a small city." New York City at the time numbered more than 8 million people, compared to the approximately 243,000 people in Halle (City of Halle 2016). The mayor's response was immediate and emphatic: Halle was not a small city, she told Nina. She also emphasized that "there were always foreigners in Halle" who "contribute to the development of the city" (interview H., November 22, 2001). Twelve years later, Nina interviewed the city's new lord mayor, who came from a different political background and a younger generation than Frau Haüssler. Their conversation touched upon Halle's urban regeneration progress and plans and the election of a Senegalese-born German citizen to represent Halle in the federal parliament. The mayor declared: "Every foreigner is part of Halle" (interview W., May 21, 2013).

In 2002, Nina made her way to the office of Mayor Baines in the city hall of Manchester, New Hampshire, in the United States. When asked about the role of migrants in Manchester, the mayor referred Nina to his second inaugural speech, delivered a few months earlier. As had the lord mayors of Halle and the deputy mayor of Mardin, Manchester's mayor had spoken of his city's regeneration by referencing its past significance and the integral role diverse populations played as city-makers, both past and present. He portrayed migrants in the past as important to making the city a global player and welcomed newcomers for their "profound and positive impact on the City's future." Moving beyond binaries of difference, Mayor Baines said: "They are us — or, it might be more appropriate to say that we were them — because we are all the offspring of immigrants" (Baines 2002).

Placing Urban Narratives: A Comparative Approach

City boosting is an age-old art. What is today called city branding can be read in archeological sites of the first cities and persistent tales of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Today, competitive city branding is the stuff of city websites and Facebook pages, of applications for government grants and loans, and of political leaders' speeches. The urban narratives we found within each city's cyberspaces and our interviews with city leaders and politicians sounded in many ways as if they came from a global playbook on city redevelopment within contemporary neoliberal restructuring (McCann and Ward 2011). However, when we compared the empowerment outcomes in our research cities to those of global cities such as New York, Berlin, or Istanbul, clear differences emerged that made Halle, Manchester, and Mar din more similar to each other than to more powerful cities within the same country.

Deploying the variation-finding strategies we outlined in the introduction, we delineate in this chapter the domains of contemporary structural similarities brought about by processes of disempowerment in Halle/Saale, Manchester, and Mardin. The three cities differ in terms of their historical trajectories and recent population sizes: Manchester, 110,229; Halle, 238,321; Mardin center, 163,725 (greater Mardin, 796,237) (US Census 2017a; City of Halle 2016; TÜRKSTAT 2016). However, by the turn of the twenty-first century the residents of each city, including their political and economic leaders, were confronting the same structural dilemma and seeking similar solutions. The similarities among the three cities that we identify in this chapter are not timeless but reflect their shared disempowered positioning within a particular historical conjuncture of neoliberal capital accumulation through urban regeneration. Within these similarities, the leaders and migrants of each city engaged in mutually constitutive processes of displacement and emplacement that contributed to the reshaping and repositioning of their city.

We compare the three cities according to five parameters that both reflect and form the core of our research methods. These parameters require a constant dialogue between our multiple forms of inquiry: interviews; participant observation; websites; and documents and statistics culled from local, national, supranational, and global sources. They also require a form of analysis that approached each city not as a bounded unit but as a multiscalar social field of interconnection.

The five comparative parameters are:

(1) Whether there are indicators of the city's relative declining positioning over time that can be operationalized in terms of objective and subjective factors. Objective factors include a decrease in the scope or potency of past or current multiscalar economic, political, and cultural social fields. Spaces of abandonment serve as one indicator of the loss of potency. Subjective factors include leaders' awareness of their city's past and its current relative loss of potency.

(2) Whether the city embarks on a strategy of rebranding and regeneration and the outcomes of such an effort in terms of private investment, public benefit, public debt, and the relative global positioning of the city at the end of our study.

(3) The way in which city leaders position migrants or minorities within their regeneration narratives.

(4) The degree and kind of resources and services the city provides for migrant settlement and migrant and minority access to services.

(5) Evidence of synergy between city regeneration narratives and policies, on the one hand, and the multiscalar modes of emplacement of migrants and minorities, on the other, including whether their transnational networks emerged as assets in city-making.

Comparing the Three Cities


(1) The city's relative declining positioning over time operationalized in terms of objective and subjective factors.

Just fifty-three miles north of Boston, Manchester, by the beginning of the twentieth century, had become the largest city in the US region known as northern New England (Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont). One hundred years later, it still held that distinction, although its population of 107,006 was relatively small (US Census 2000b). The city is centered in a city-region generally known as "greater Manchester," which at the turn of the twenty-first century numbered 198,378, and in Hillsborough County, which then had a population of 380,841 (US Census 2000b; In town Manchester 2005; New Hampshire Employment Security 2017). The city region and Hillsborough County contained both wealthy exclusive suburbs and working-class towns, with some industrial production and unused structures marking generations of industrial labor.

Named after Manchester, England, and aiming to rival its namesake's global reach, Manchester, New Hampshire, was economically important in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Its growth as an industrial powerhouse came about through a small circle of Boston capitalists who bought up the city's existing textile mills, incorporated them as the Amoskeag Company in 1831, and developed them into an industrial complex. They also bought land in the city center and laid out a planned company town, which directly influenced the character of the city and the growth of its paternalistic system of labor relations. At various times, the corporation also produced rifles, sewing machines, fire engines, and locomotives, augmenting Manchester's regional reputation for the manufacture of shoes and machine tools. But it was through its textile production that the city gained worldwide fame (Eaton 2015; Blood 1975).

In 1922, responding to dramatic wage reductions, Amoskeag workers struck. Unconstrained, since they were not local actors, the Boston-based company owners sought a more docile workforce who would be satisfied with lower wages during a conjuncture marked by both growing national and global competition, on the one hand, and depression and crisis, on the other. They sold the mills in 1936 and relocated their cotton manufacturing to newer textile mills in the nonunionized US South. From that point on, the people of Manchester faced ongoing deindustrialization. Smaller concerns took over some of the old mill buildings, but ultimately these proved unable to compete with cheaper labor and the more technologically advanced facilities located elsewhere (Hareven and Langenbach 1978).

Some discussions of deindustrialization in the United States date the end of "Fordism," unionized, large mass production, to the 1970s (Amin 1994). However, the disempowerment of cities and regions through the loss of industry began much earlier. As the history of Manchester illustrates, deindustrialization need not be equated with the total loss of industry: the process may include downsizing, loss of unions, and periodic reinvestment and disinvestment. Greater Manchester, with its mix of machine tool and electronics shops and weapons manufacturing, continued to provide industrial employment in the post–World War II period. But by the mid-twentieth century, most textile and shoe production had shut down and the city center had become a backwater of enormous abandoned mills. The city center business district and surrounding neighborhoods were left desolate by growing postwar suburbanization and the growth of shopping malls. Failed US urban renewal attempts during the 1960s to revive and modernize Manchester's city center were painfully evident after "some of the historic mill buildings" had been leveled, the strip mall that replaced them rapidly abandoned, and Manchester left "with the general reputation as a 'lost city'" (Langenbach 1969).

Downtown abandonment became even more apparent in 1991, when federal authorities closed seven New Hampshire banks, four of them headquartered in Manchester, on the same day as a consequence of overextension in real estate speculation (Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation nd). Peter Ramsey, an actor in the efforts to regenerate Manchester's city center around 2000, described the situation that city leaders had faced almost a decade earlier: "There were rumors about how people wouldn't come downtown anymore. There were empty businesses up and down the streets" (Broussard 2015).

However, despite this grim picture of Manchester's city center, deindustrialization, accompanied by the abandonment of industrial sites and depopulation, was not linear or uniform across the city-region. In the 1990s, after a severe economic downturn, as neoliberal economic restructuring took hold regionally and nationally, the city and its surrounding region experienced a brief manufacturing effervescence. Employers were attracted to the Manchester city-region by low nonunion wage labor, inexpensive industrial space, and proximity to the belt of high-tech industries developing around Boston. The greater Boston area experienced a growth of high-tech, defense, and knowledge industries, and the Manchester area was incorporated into new, complicated, and flexible supply chains fueled by foreign investment (Gittell 2001). Unemployment that in 1993 had approached 8 percent in Manchester fell to 2.4 percent in 1999 (US Bureau of Labor Statistics 2016).

However, at this point, the economy entered a sharp and punctuated decline, owing first to the "dot-com" downturn of 2000 and then to the financial shock waves in 2001 from the September 11 bombings that reverberated through the United States' and world economies. Unemployment climbed, and plant layoffs and closings resumed. Increasing numbers of manufacturing sites in the Manchester area reduced their workforce or closed. The percentage of Manchester's workforce employed in manufacturing declined. Between 2000 and 2005, when developers issued a new set of redevelopment plans, manufacturing dropped from 12.7 percent of the workforce to 9.3 percent (US Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics 2012).

Manchester was never the political capital of New Hampshire, nor were its leaders ever significant actors within regional centers of power, which remain in the neighboring city of Boston, Massachusetts. Boston has always been the residential and institutional site of a social, intellectual, and political elite who have been national actors. Yet amid the vicissitudes of ongoing economic restructuring, as regional, national, and global investors played major roles in the changing fortunes of their city, local leaders were aware that Manchester retained a peculiar national and even global prominence. New Hampshire hosts the first US presidential primary election. As the most populous city in the state, Manchester, every four years, is repeatedly visited by all aspiring presidential candidates, and city leaders and ordinary people are consistently featured in media coverage. As a local reporter emphasized in 2015 (Hayward 2015), "We're the crucible": "Yes, it's a statewide event, but ... Manchester becomes ... the focal point for the New Hampshire primary."

City boosters also harkened back to the city's former industrial glory. They claimed that by the beginning of the twentieth century, Manchester's Amoskeag mills, including mill number 11 with its four thousand looms and seventeen thousand workers, was "the world's largest textile mill complex" (Millyard Museum 2015; Intown Manchester 2005, 2). In Mayor Baines's second inaugural speech, one could hear both an acknowledgment of Manchester's lost global significance as a textile manufacturing hub and a desire to retrieve some of its past importance. The mayor looked forward to a time when, once again, "what Manchester, New Hampshire, says today, the rest of the world may indeed say tomorrow" (Baines 2002).

(2) Whether the city embarks on a strategy of rebranding and regeneration, and the outcomes of such an effort in terms of private investment, public benefit, public debt, and the relative global positioning of the city at the end of our study.

It was within an assessment of past glory and continuing episodic political importance that Manchester city leaders contemplated the possibilities of reinventing their city. In 1993, they developed a master plan through a series of projects that justified various forms of public investment. This strategy sought to convince regional, national, and international corporations to situate their production facilities and offices in Manchester. Five years later, city leaders endorsed and publicly funded 85 percent of the necessary land acquisition as well as the construction of the new civic and sports arena situated in the city center (Lincoln NE City Government 2008, 96). Investment in the arena was deemed the foundation for redevelopment. City leaders and developers saw the city's "downtown" as a "prime area for expansion and revitalization" (City of Manchester 2006).


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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations  ix
Acknowledgments  xi
Introduction. Multiscalar City-Making and Emplacement: Processes, Concepts, and Methods  1
1. Introducing Three Cities: Similarities despite Difference  33
2. Welcoming Narratives: Small Migrant Businesses within Multiscalar Restructuring  95
3. They Are Us: Urban Sociabillites with Multiscalar Power  121
4. Social Citizenship of the Dispossessed: Embracing Global Christianity  147
5. "Searching Its Future in Its Past": The Multiscalar Emplacement of Returnees  177
Conclusion. Time, Space, and Agency  209
Notes  227
References  239
Index  275

What People are Saying About This

Critique of Urbanization - Neil Brenner

“This book offers a brilliantly original analysis of how migrants have shaped contemporary strategies of urban regeneration—and their contestation—in three marginalized cities. In so doing, the authors also elaborate a pathbreaking approach to the multiscalar, fluidly mutating geographies of migration and a new methodological strategy for spatialized ethnography and comparative migration studies. Migrants and City-Making is a major work of migration studies, urban studies, and sociospatial theory.”

Expulsions: Brutality and Complexity in the Global Economy - Saskia Sassen

"This is a book that needed to be written for our present Western moment with its surge of refugees. It joins a very few other texts that show how immigrants are a positive economic and social presence in our cities at a time when negative interpretations are on the rise.”

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