ConfReport: The Economy of Urban Diversity, 13. – 15.01.2011, Essen

Working group “Economy” der Global Young Faculty
13.01.2011-15.01.2011, Essen

Report by:David Passig, Historisches Institut der Universität Duisburg-Essen

“The economy of urban diversity” – this was the main topic dealt with by
an international symposium in Essen from January 13th to 15th, 2011. It
was arranged by the members of the working group “Economy” of the
“Global Young Faculty”, an interdisciplinary research group promoted by
the Stiftung Mercator, in collaboration with the Institute for Advanced
Study in the Humanities, Essen (KWI).What does urban diversity mean in the present and what did it mean in
the past? How is diversity communicated? Does it have a certain impact
on urban development? And, is diversity in urban spaces only a challenge
to be dealt with or is there also economic potential that can be taken
advantage of? These were the main questions the academics of the working
group wanted to consider with their international guests, as Steffen
Brinckmann (Bochum), chairman of the group, stated in his opening
speech. In an effort to find answers to them, two metropolitan areas,
which have been quite strongly affected by the phenomenon “diversity”,
were analyzed as case studies: the Ruhr area and Istanbul. Past and
present of these two metropolises, both of which were European Capital
of Culture in 2010, cannot be taken into consideration without including
their diverse ethnic and religious minorities.

In her paper, MARIA CHRISTINA CHATZIIOANNOU (Athens) proved, that in the
case of the metropolis Istanbul, diversity has already been influencing
the urban space and its economic development since the 19th century,
when Istanbul was part of the Ottoman Empire. In this regard, Ottoman
Istanbul can be seen as an example for the impacts of diversity and
governmental behavior towards them. Giving the example of the district
of Galata, where a sizable community of wealthy non-Muslim merchants,
diplomats and bankers concentrated, Chatziioannou demonstrated the
extensive economic networks of parts of the non-Muslim population of
Istanbul. For instance, the bankers of Galata financed both commercial
and private activities, even beyond the area of Istanbul. She argued
that since the independence of Greece in 1830, the Greek Orthodox
bankers in particular had participated successfully in a number of
projects in the emerging markets of the young state. Chatziioannou
stated further that in consequence in this period a new non-Muslim
bourgeoisie was emerging in Galata: Especially the Greek Orthodox
population began to build a novel middle class stratum that was to have
a strong impact on both urban economy and architecture.

EDHEM ELDEM (Istanbul) defined the Constantinopolitan cosmopolitism as a
kind of Levantine identity, which was influenced perceptibly by such
Greek merchant communities in the Mediterranean. It disappeared in the
19th century, at the same time as the flourishing city´s bourgeoisie,
which lost its access to power due to growing nationalism.

Another example for minority entrepreneurship and its influences on
urban development was given by RENÉ LEICHT (Mannheim) and SABINE WECK
(Dortmund), who focused on migrant business in the present-day Ruhr
area. Leicht stated that both the rates of creation and of liquidation
of migrant businesses were notably higher than those of the indigenous
Germans. Thereby ethnic background seems to have a strong influence on
the predilection to self-employment: Leicht suggested that more than 50%
of the self-employed migrants were not members of the “classical”
migration groups, such as Turks, Russians or Italians. Altogether, he
detected a strong relation between education, ethnic group and
self-employment. The often quoted process of “ghettoisation” was
overrated. More than half of migrant businesses were not settled in
areas of co-ethnic segregation.

Weck pointed to the strong North-South-divide in nearly all of the
cities in the Ruhr area and to the fact that districts of low prosperity
generally had a higher percentage of migrants than wealthier districts.
She argued further that two aspects of migrant business were remarkable.
First, there was still a strong concentration on traditional business
fields among migrant groups. Secondly, in districts with a high
percentage of migrants, such as Dortmund Nordstadt, the supply structure
was mostly occupied by those migrants. To exhaust the economic potential
of migrant groups, both Leicht and Weck demanded better access to
education and the extension of specific consulting services for
migrants. Huge, established institutions like the Chamber of Industry
and Commerce lacked such offers, especially for small-scale businesses.

But what exactly is the impact of such commercial activities of
minorities on the urban development? According to KORINNA SCHÖNHÄRL
(Essen), the raising prosperity of the Greek Orthodox bankers of Galata
in the 19th century was strongly linked to the so-called process of
gentrification, which means the social upgrading of an urban area or
quarter by acquisition of the buildings by wealthier people, thereby
driving out low-income groups. In the district of Galata, the low-income
population, mostly Muslim, was affected by displacement and crowding-out
from the 1850s onwards. This effect, she argued, became even stronger
when, in 1856, the Sultan allowed the residents to found a municipal,
western-styled self-administration. Schönhärl explained that the fact
that this council recruited its members mostly from the Christian
community of the district led to a one-sided style of clientele politics
without consideration of other social groups.

Against the background of this historical perspective the gentrification
processes in present-day Istanbul, as described by DARJA REUSCHKE
(Trier), seem to be a new application of an old practice. The paper
showed that since the 1980s, a new wave of crowding-out of low-income
groups has taken place in several districts of the city, labeled as
governmental efforts to conserve and renovate historical architecture.
Reuschke exemplified this with the eviction of 3,500 Roma people from
their houses in Sulukule and their resettlement 45 kilometers away in
2009, or the displacement of several minorities from the district of

CEMILE NIL UZUN (Ankara) explained the way in which such a state-led
gentrification has taken place during the last three decades in the
city. According to her, since the 1980s it has become common practice
for the administration to initiate social housing in the peripheral
areas of Istanbul and thereby to move low-income groups out of the
central districts. Those central, historic areas were then upgraded and
rebuilt in public and private partnerships. The consequence was a
distinctive segregation depending on income level. DENIZ YONUCU (Ithaca,
NY) added that in order to make the city attractive for foreign capital,
the administration was acting extremely intolerantly towards the
low-income stratum.

With the help of these examples it has become clear that diversity has
notably influenced the urban development of the examined metropolises.
But how is diversity perceived and communicated? Is it part of a kind of
urban identity?

Considering the long history of migration in Germany – not just limited
to the foreign workers – one could ask why there is still no migration
museum. DIETMAR OSSES (Bochum) stated that all previous efforts to
establish a permanent exhibition about migration in Germany have failed
due to the lack of financing opportunities, the cliché of museums
persisting in the past without giving any answers to recent questions,
and the sometimes ideological current discourses about topics like
Islamism, fundamentalism and integration. Nonetheless, Osses argued, a
German migration museum is still possible. Examples of successful
projects like the emigrant museums in Bremerhaven and Hamburg
Ballinstedt confirmed this. From his point of view, the concept of
presenting different “migration vitae” and thus showing the impact of
migration on the economy, as it has been sampled in a number of projects
in the past, might also be a leading idea for a migration museum.

In present-time Istanbul, diversity has repeatedly been pictured as a
problem, as Yonucu demonstrated by pointing to the discrimination of the
lower strata of the city. Sometimes called “the other Turkey”, in terms
of an uncivilized, underdeveloped group, the working class which
consists to a large extent of Kurds and other minorities was heavily
stigmatized today. The media images of working class quarters as no-go
areas or “bombs about to explode” was linked to “ideological phantasies”
of a unified Istanbul, excluding “the other Turkey”. The eviction of
informal settlements of the low-income groups called “Gecekondus” by
police forces became virtually media events. She argued that the
criminalization of the working class had thus become part of the
gentrification of Istanbul.

These processes entail the question about the legal status of minority
groups. Although they were privileged in matters of self-administration,
AYSE OZIL (Istanbul) pointed to the legal difficulties non-Muslim
minorities had to deal with in Ottoman Istanbul. Ozil argued that even
in the second half of the 19th century, when non-Muslim entrepreneurs
were still welcome, there were various problems and a degree of
vagueness in matters relating to the legal status of the communal
institutions of the minorities. Although several attempts were made to
reform the legal framework for such institutions during the 19th and
20th century, their legal corporate status remained imprecisely defined,
and, as Ozil suggested, this is still the case today.

The situation of the non-Muslim minorities changed rapidly during the
final stage of the Ottoman Empire from 1912, as DIMITRIS KAMOUZIS
(Athens) explicated. He argued that due to the emergence of Turkish
nationalism and ideas of a Turkish national economy, the non-Muslim
entrepreneurs were affected by several boycotts, discrimination and
intimidation campaigns. These tendencies grew even stronger during the
1920s and 1930s after the founding of Turkey, when the trend towards
economic nationalism intensified. Kamouzis explained that in order to
create a new Turkish middle class, the Turkish administration enacted a
number of regulations and restrictions that openly disadvantaged the
non-Muslim body of entrepreneurs and caused many of the Greeks to leave

One of the main questions of the symposium – and also in the discussions
of its participants – was whether the Ruhr area and Istanbul could be
compared at all in terms of the past and present of diversity. The
results seem to prove that a comparison is at least problematic. Both
the historical and the actual processes seem to differ too much. Maybe,
as Maria Chatziioannou stated, it is rather the confrontation of
phenomena than the comparison from which one can benefit.

In addition, YUNUS ULUSOY (Essen) indicated that Istanbul and the Ruhr
area might not be seen in isolation from each other. Diversity in both
Istanbul and the Ruhr area was strongly affected by the migration
streams between these two metropolitan areas, he explained. Brisk
movement between Istanbul and the Ruhr area had not only be seen during
the period of foreign workers, but continued today. However, the
migration streams seemed to have become far more complex over time. The
current image of more and more Turks moving from Turkey to Germany had
to be reconsidered. He argued that although there were legal
opportunities, the number of Turks moving to Germany was falling
rapidly, whereas the number of those leaving Germany increased

In a final analysis, one may conclude that Istanbul and the Ruhr area
are entirely different and thus incomparable. However, they are linked
by the phenomenon of diversity. In both cases there are several examples
of certain economic potentials of diversity being utilized, while others
remain unrecognized. In the Ruhr area as well as in Istanbul, diversity
seems to have been a major challenge for a long time, right up to the
present day. But in both regions, it has also always been and continues
to be an opportunity. Maybe, in some ways, the metropolises can learn
from each other. But the symposium showed that various questions need
first to be solved. The researchers will, in fact, have to reconsider
some of their theses and categories. They will have to modify their
images of groups in order to destroy existing stereotypes whereby class
issues often count for more than ethnical or religious disparities in
urban development. And, finally, they will have to attain a
transnational point of view in order to discover both a common past and
a common future.

Conference overview:

Opening Event
Chair: Steffen Brinckmann (Ruhr-University Bochum)

Steffen Brinckmann (Ruhr-University Bochum)
Presentation of the Working Group “Economy” of the “Global Young

Korinna Schönhärl (University of Duisburg-Essen), Darja Reuschke (Trier
University), represented by Jörg Plöger (Research Institute for Regional
and Urban Development, Dortmund)
The Interchange of Economy and Urban Diversity – a Case Study of
Metropolis Istanbul

Session: Chances and Risks of Integrating Economic Perspectives in
Migration Museums
Chair: Jens Kroh (Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities,

Dietmar Osses (Westphalian Industrial Museum “Hannover Colliery”,
Bochum; Working Group “Migration” of the German Museums Association)
A Migration Museum for Germany. Concepts, Efforts, Alternatives

Yasemin Yadigaroglu (ESTA Bildungswerk gGmbH)

Udo Gößwald (Director Museum Neukölln, Berlin; Chairman ICOM Europe)

Session: The Cross under the Crescent: Christians in Istanbul in the
19th Century
Chair: Korinna Schönhärl (University of Duisburg-Essen)

Ayse Ozil (Bogaziçi University, Istanbul)
The Legal Framework of Greek Orthodox Communal Institutions in the Late
Ottoman Empire

Maria Christina Chatziioannou (Institute for Neohellenic Research,
Athens), Dimitris Kamouzis (Centre for Asia Minor Studies, Athens)
From Great Empires to National States: The Economic Activities of the
Greek Orthodox in Istanbul, ca.1870-1939

Edhem Eldem (Bogaziçi University, Istanbul)

Session: Self-employed with Migrant Background: Economic Potential of
the Metropolis Ruhr?
Chair: Sabine Weck (Research Institute for Regional and Urban
Development, Dortmund)

René Leicht (Institut für Mittelstandsforschung, University Mannheim)
Self-employed with Migrant Background: Characteristics and Determinants
of an Economic Potential

Sabine Weck
Self-employed with Migrant Background in the Ruhr Area – Overrated
Resource or Underestimated Potential?

Session: Handling of Cultural Diversity in Contemporary Urban Planning
and the European Capital of Culture 2010 in Istanbul
Chair: Darja Reuschke (Trier University)

Deniz Yonucu (Cornell University, Ithaca/NY)
The Middle Class Takeover of Istanbul: Commodification of the City and
Re-Marginalization of Poverty

Cemile Nil Uzun (Middle East Technical University, Ankara)
Urban Space and Gentrification in Istanbul in the 20th Century

Session: Human Streams and Interrelations between the Ruhr Area and
Chair: Jörg Plöger (Research Institute for Regional and Urban
Development, Dortmund)

Yunus Ulusoy (Centre for Studies on Turkey, Essen)
Migration from Turkey to the Ruhr Area up to the Present Day

Final Discussion
Chair: Monika Salzbrunn (University of Lausanne)

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