Sustainability through Ethnic Entrepreneurship

Friday, July 14, 2017
WMB - Hugh Fraser Seminar Room 2 (University of Glasgow)
Rıza Baris Ulker , Central European University
This paper explores the transformation of the figure of immigrant through the lens of ethnic entrepreneurship, focusing on the case of migrants from Turkey living in Berlin. Being an ethnic entrepreneur in Berlin, one of the most viable cities in Europe for migrants, is the reification of an integrated and autonomous immigrant in an unsustainable world of declining profitability of mass-production industries and the crisis of welfare policies.  She represents a self-reliant position that counters traits that are commonly associated with immigrants from Turkey: unskilled labor, unemployment, poor linguistic, educational and vocational qualifications, corruption, dependence on social benefits and reluctance to integrate. However, contrary to policy rhetoric, ethnic entrepreneurship has never been a one-fits-all formulation and praxis; it can be precluded, annulled, redefined and re-launched through everyday practices. At this point, the paper brings in the story of Nevin (from Dersim, Turkey), who is a former participant of a non-profit association (Initiative Selbständiger Immigrantinnen e.V.) which encourages entrepreneurship among immigrant women in Berlin. Her story illustrates the mobilization of ethnic entrepreneurship between transnational spaces of Dersim and Berlin through memories of the past and plans for the future, through social policies of Berlin, Germany and European Union, and through individual imaginations of an independent single mother. Consequently, ethnic entrepreneurship emerges as a technique of sustaining and taking care of oneself and others (à la Foucault) through varying degrees of compromises between autonomous individualism and social engagement.