“Asiatown” – A Post-Socialist Bazaar in the
Eastern Part of Berlin

by Gertrud Hüwelmeier

Working Papers WP 13-08
April 2013
ISSN 2192-2357 (MMG Working Papers Print)

Full text: pdf

Prior to the collapse of communism, hundreds of thousands of migrants arrived in various localities throughout COMECON countries by way of programs of mutual cooperation and “socialist solidarity,” including in East Germany. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, many of these former contract workers have become entrepreneurs mostly engaged in wholesaling and retailing. Local markets, increasingly comprised of diverse peoples, play key roles in post-socialist economic development while transnationally linking a variety of geographical and socio-cultural spaces. Based on ethnographic fieldwork in a bazaar in the eastern part of Berlin, this paper addresses questions of (1) spatial continuities between the socialist past and the post-socialist present, (2) mobility and transnational social and economic practices, and (3) the negotiation of power and diversity in new marketplaces. I will argue that socialist pathways of migration and longstanding transnational ties established during the socialist period are still relevant to contemporary routes of migration and therefore to trade, business, and the global flow of money.

Gertrud Hüwelmeier is an anthropologist and Senior Research Fellow at the Humboldt-Universität Berlin and Senior Research Partner at the Max-Planck-Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity, Department of Socio-Cultural Diversity. She has published widely about migration, religion, and transnationalism and is directing a new research project on “The Global Bazaar,” funded by the German Research Foundation, focusing on cross-border social, religious, and economic ties among migrants in post-socialist countries in Europe and in Vietnam.