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Strange neighbors: Politics of ‘living together’ in Antwerp


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This book offers an ethnographic inquiry into the notion of ‘living together’ [samenleven], investigating its historical emergence and role in ‘culturalist’ and secularist politics in Flanders, as well as how it shapes everyday life in diverse urban neighborhoods. The term culturalism was coined to denote the exclusionary discourses that have emerged in postcolonial Europe positing migrants as cultural ‘strangers’ from which the nation and the perceived original, ‘autochthonous’ population need to be safeguarded. This book reveals how culturalism resulted in a new political project to ‘heal’ an assumed deficit of fellow feeling in multi-ethnic urban neighborhoods and a new political-ethical injunction for denizens to ‘live together’ with their ‘strange’ neighbors.
The book focuses on two Antwerpean neighborhoods - Oud-Borgerhout and the ‘Jewish Neighborhood’ – and follows the neighborhood engagements of white Belgian, Moroccan-Belgian, and Jewish Belgian denizens. Due to the politics of ‘living together’, everyday neighborhood life has become a stage, on which denizens are confronted with ethical and philosophical questions to which secure or comfortable answers are never found: about the nature and ethics of ‘objective’ perception; the diagnostics of strangeness; and the nature of fulfilled subject-hood and ‘true’ sociability. Denizens try to position themselves in relation to these questions through largely internal performative contestations - between so-called ‘old’ and ‘new Belgians’, ‘modern’ and ‘pious Jews’, ‘decent’ and ‘bad Moroccans’. Tracing these negotiations, this book pushes for an understanding of lived culturalism in contemporary Europe that attends to the complexities and ambivalences in, and beyond, the imbrication of the allochthon-autochthon divide in denizens’ (self)understandings.



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Link to download in university repository, Strange neighbors: Politics of ‘living together’ in Antwerp
PDF (via academia.edu), Strange neighbors: Politics of ‘living together’ in Antwerp (ToC; Introduction; Summary)

Bibliographic Information

Vollebergh, Anick Strange neighbors: Politics of ‘living together’ in Antwerp. Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research. 2016:  https://archive.jpr.org.uk/object-bel8