- Nach der Parallelgesellschaft. Neue Perspektiven auf Stadt und Migration by Marc Hill
Against the backdrop of right-wing populism and public resentment toward migrants and migration policies, Nach der Parallelgesellschaft explores new perspectives to theorize urban transformation processes and individual experiences of migration. At the center of Marc Hill's sociological study lies St. Ruprecht, a former working-class neighborhood and social democratic stronghold in Klagenfurt, the capital of Kärnten, which today is primarily perceived as an "Ausländerviertel," with an estimated 30 to 40 percent of its inhabitants "Menschen mit Migrationshintergrund" (127). Hill is critical of such ascriptions, attributing them mostly to Jörg Haider's long-term political impact on the region—Haider was governor of Kärnten from 1989–1991 and then again from 1999 until his death in 2008—eclipsing the area's long-standing history of plurality and multilingualism. Located in the Alpe-Adria region, close to the Italian and Slovenian border, Austria's southernmost state is a rural area, shaped by [End Page 677] tourism and agriculture rather than industry, which explains the area's lack of labor migration and influx of guest workers so typical for other locales. Yet although the state is not an industrial powerhouse—many young people leave to seek job opportunities elsewhere—in recent years the region has seen large numbers of newcomers from former Yugoslavia and other EU member states as a result of the expansion of the European Union. In conjunction with the region's inherently transnational characteristics, Hill insists that the state's recent migration history be viewed as an important resource, especially in light of the area's peripheral location and reputation for nationalist politics.
Specifically, Hill argues for a postmigrant vision that recognizes migration as a crucial engine for educational, cultural, and economic initiatives that promote urban diversity and growth, and could increase the area's overall attractiveness. Hill's main goal is to make visible and counteract entrenched hegemonic discourses that devalue migration and those affected by movement. In line with current scholarship on migration, he decries the blanket description of migrants and their descendants as eternal foreigners and newcomers, as well as commonly assumed hierarchies regarding their countries of origin and religious and cultural backgrounds. What is new is that Hill takes particular issue with the concept of parallel societies, a term coined by sociologist Wilhelm Heitmeyer in 1998 that underpins misleading public tropes of a homogenous society threatened by social segregation. This has the detrimental effect that certain locales, such as St. Ruprecht, are dismissed as marginalized neighborhoods and therefore divested of their cosmopolitan potential. Assuming a perspective from below that takes the everyday experiences of recent migrants as well as those belonging to the second and third generation as a starting point, Hill calls for a "postparallelgesellschaftliche Perspektive" (62) that critically interrogates processes of marginalization and shifts focus on the positive and productive aspects of migration.
Marginalization is a key term in this study. Building on Foucault's rich body of work concerning power, Hill understands marginalized communities as heterotopias, spaces of otherness outside of and yet necessary for the reproduction of society and its discursive structures. He defines marginalization as knowledge that is constantly being reproduced, consisting of interconnected processes that systematically stigmatize people with certain backgrounds and polarize social spaces, discrediting certain locales while privileging others. Hill further thematizes scholarship's own complicity in these processes, as actively contributing to the discursive construction of social inequality and marginalization, negatively impacting research projects, and preempting new findings. Acknowledging his own position in such knowledge structures, Hill advocates a theoretic position that is self-reflexive and considers spaces as individual and relational, a common trend in recent epistemologies of the urban (Neil Brenner and Christian Schmid). He highlights personal experiences and everyday practices, and treats residents of marginalized communities as experts of their own living conditions. [End Page 678]
Hill's study is thus subject-oriented and draws primarily on qualitative data based on biographical interviews. Some of the questions he is...