Dissertation Abstracts

Whose Neighborhood Is It?: Citizenship, Migration and Community Engagement in a Changing Urban Space – The Case of Hatikva Neighborhood in Tel-Aviv, Israel

Author: Shamur, Tal , talshamur@gmail.com
Department: Anthropology
University: Haifa University, Israel
Supervisor: Amalia Sa'ar
Year of completion: In progress
Language of dissertation: Hebrew

Keywords: Urban Change , Migration , Citizenship , Community
Areas of Research: Community Research , Racism, Nationalism and Ethnic Relations , Local-Global Relations

Abstract

Hatikva is a lower-income neighborhood in south Tel-Aviv, known in Israeli public discourse as the home to marginalized Jews who immigrated to Israel from North Africa and Asia (Mizrahim) during the 1950s. Over the years, many of its original residents have left or died, while other groups gained predominance, including Jewish-migrants from Uzbekistan, who arrived during the 1990s, and more recently, asylum seekers from Sudan and Eritrea.

These demographic transformations have changed the neighborhood’s character, undermining the symbolic ownership of Hatikva’s veteran residents. These residents make vocal claims to the neighborhood and stage public protests against the arrival of Non-Jewish Africans, who, so they feel, overtake their neighborhood, threaten their personal safety, and generally undermine the identity of the Jewish state. Despite its geographical and historical marginality, Hatikva has become a central arena where politicians, social activists, and residents deliberate issues of citizenship and justice, on a local as well as national level.

Analysis of data collected over three years of fieldwork will provide detailed ethnography of a transformation taking place in a working class ethnic enclave in Israel. This data will show how subjects infuse a process of urban change with personal and collective meanings. It will emphasize how migration affects the creation of multi-ethnic and national spaces, where marginalized groups struggle to stake their claim to the city.

I am particularly interested in the insights provided by the concepts of performance, the dialectic approach to social structure, and the role of agency, in explaining the complex social reality and seeming paradoxes that I encounter on the ground. More specifically, I am interested in the implications of my findings for the concept of citizenship, as a multi-layered and process-bound construct.

Citizenship is highly relevant when analyzing the data from Hatikva neighborhood. This urban site, located in a city that been gaining international recognition as global city (GaWC ranking of world cities, 2010) and yet continues to be strongly bound by the Jewish state, has seen people negotiating spaces of citizenships, rights, and local belonging. They maneuver social inequalities and exclusionary practices, challenging the state and the city by claiming to be a local community. In my dissertation, I look at the dialectics of power and structural violence, as well as the creative agency of the urban poor protesting against their exclusion, abandonment and growing sense of insecurity.

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