Interview mit Doug Saunders
In Arrival City you describe the great movement from rural areas to the city as sparking one of the most important socio-economic, political and humanitarian transformations in human history. Could you explain the implications of this historic occurrence? What epochal changes does this great migration bring with it?
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What most people call slums, shantytowns, deprived suburbs, you give the optimistic name “arrival city”. In so doing, you call into question their one-sided image of poverty, dismalness, sometimes compounded by violence. Could you briefly describe the positive sides of the arrival city? In other words, how do arrival cities function when they function at their best?
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In your research phase for Arrival City, you travelled across the world for about three years, experiencing very diverse communities, languages, everyday situations, life histories and aspirations. What aspects have struck you the most, which ones moved you or shocked you? Are you willing to share one or a few of the memories that are the most meaningful to you?
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In some passages of your first book, Arrival City, you seem to suggest that one important ingredient for the success of the arrival city is a certain degree of flexibility – we could also call it “lax regulation” – that makes it possible to occupy free land, to quickly start a business in the informal economy, to move from an unregistered status into regularity. These conditions, however, are largely unavailable in many Western cities, particularly in Germany. What are your comments on this?
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What is and what should be, in your opinion, the role of the mass media in shaping the public opinion on issues of migration and integration? What is their responsibility?
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What I really enjoyed about your books is that you discuss migration at the level of cities and other localities. Discussing migration predominantly at the level of nation-states is in many respects misleading, as migration flows and their impacts are very region-specific. But this leads us to focus on local governments and their interaction with state governments. In your opinion, how should the interaction between the local and the state level work to make arrival cities function at their best? Do you have positive/negative examples?
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To some extent, the European Union represents the attempt to shift the making of migration policy and politics to a supranational level. Some examples are the free mobility for EU citizens or the EU-Blue Card Third Country Nationals. What risks and what chances does this supranational dimension bring with it when it comes to the management of migration?
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In Arrival City you argue that government investments are required in order to tap the positive potential of the arrival city as a springboard to integration. In some of your examples though (e.g. Amsterdam) you show how some top-down government interventions, although well-meant, failed dramatically. Could you explain what types of investments are necessary and what naïve mistakes should absolutely be avoided?
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Let’s focus on Germany. In one fascinating chapter of Arrival City you point at the political mistakes that so far largely prevented successful arrival cities from forming in Germany. The most important mistake was the exclusion from legal citizenship and to citizenship in a broader, social and cultural sense. What lessons can German policy-makers draw from your observations when it comes to designing a sustainable approach to migration?
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What is really valuable about your books is how well you describe the dynamic processes that often go unnoticed. You re-define the arrival city as a conduit of integration instead of a hopeless, irredeemable slum, and in The Myth of the Muslim Tide you shed light on long-term changes that are in contradiction with static and essentialist views of culture. Do you think it is something inherent in migration, as a dynamic process that unfolds across boundaries, to also strain traditional boundaries within our minds? Could this be the reason why we need to oversimplify it, to put it in boxes, thereby missing many aspects of it?
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