"Multi-culti“ vs. ”another cell phone store“ – Changing ethnic, social, and commercial diversities in Berlin-Neukölln.

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Abstract

Based on an extensive ethnography of the economic and social life in Berlin-Neukölln, the paper asks how a changing demographic and social structure affects the social life but also the urban renewal on two iconic but contested streets - “the Arab street” Sonnenallee and adjacent Karl-Marx-Straße. The effects of migration - and particularly of the more recent refugee migration - to Berlin are explored through the reshaping and diversification processes of the physical and social spaces of the two streets and their businesses.


In detail, the paper illuminates the changing ordinary everyday interactions and social and spatial practices in and around local shops and gastronomic facilities and argues that it is the interactions in and around certain shops and businesses that contribute to the everyday practice of urban diversity. The paper further reveals that regardless of the place-and community-making of the local store owners and staff therein, the local urban renewal and regeneration actors have a very different understanding of these spaces and their operators and also aim for a different kind of new “diversity”. The paper thus concludes by also showing how these actors frame and depict the increasingly ethnically diverse businesses on the two streets in the course of urban renewal, including a critical discussion of their perceptions and concrete practices as in contrast to the ethnically diverse business peoples’ perceptions and placemaking practices that often also represent homemaking practices.

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