The Turkish Quarter in Mannheim - by Jan Eckardt, Vi-Anh Le, Lisa Traore
Section I: Introduction
The city of Mannheim, Germany has a history of being progressive in promoting integration among the various cultures that reside there. One year after recruitment for “gast-arbeiter” stopped, in 1974, a position for city commissioner for integration and migration was created with the hope of making the integration process between Germans and foreigners smoother. This was thirty years before the national government followed suit (The guardian, 2016). What this signals is the city’s interest in achieving harmony among its society. One major aspect that has helped to integrate foreign cultures with one another has always been food. Food really does have the power to bring people together. This brief paper presents an aspect of the relationship between socio-spatial practices and the cultural geography of food. This paper examines how the Turkish quarter in Mannheim, specially though food, has influenced the makeup of the city of Mannheim and its society. This paper is split into four sections. After this introduction, section two of this paper introduces the methodology used in our research. Section three, then presents the research that was conducted, as well as maps to visualize the findings. The last section that concludes with the significance of the research which was done.
Section II: Methodology
The overarching goal of this research was to examine if having a Turkish quarter, like that in Mannheim, has helped to integrate the German and Turkish communities more. We approached the research through qualitative methods, interpreting and taking meaning out of our experiences. Based on our observations (which will be further described in the following section) it has. We conducted our research though an interview process and first hand observations. We travelled to the Turkish quarter in Mannheim, Germany, which is comprised of three blocks. It is located in the center of town, in the city part known as ‘innenstadt/Jungbusch’. It is this part of town that has the highest concentration of immigrant population. There we went to Istanbul, a well-known and respected restaurant among the Turkish community. In order to achieve a better relationship between us (the working group) and the restaurant, we brought a friend with us who is Turkish. This was helpful as he was able to give us more ‘insider’ information, even translating at times. It was through him that we were able to cross the boundaries between German culture and Turkish culture. This concept of social boundaries of food to define communities was introduced by Bell and Valentine (1997).They assert that various food cultures create insider and outsider groups. Our Turkish “guide” helped to cross the boundaries. The information gathered during the interview, is presented in the section below.
After conducting the interview, we explored the quarter more with on-site observations. It was notable that acceptance and a harmonious lifestyle between immigrants and Germans exists within the Turkish quarter, however the economic aspect of integration was still lacking. It was observed that the neighborhood area was respectively poorer compared to other city parts that we travelled through to get to the Turkish quarter. This prompted us to explore the relationship between social class and the percentage of immigrants in an area. Our hypothesis was that the greater the immigrant population in an area, the worse the social standing of that area. To determine the respective social standing we looked at the purchasing power and unemployment rates of an area compared to the population of immigrants. As mentioned, the Turkish quarter is located in the city part “innenstadt/Jungbusch”. We compared this city part with three other parts of the city: Oststadt, Wallstadt, and Feundenheim. The relationship we examined was that the lower percentage of immigrants within a city area, the higher the social standing, therefore a higher purchasing power and lower unemployment rate. Our findings will be further presented in the section below as well as visualized with maps in the appendix.
Section III: Findings
In order to make it easier for the reader to get an overview of our topic, we will split our findings into two categories. First, the findings of the research which focused on to what extent the Turkish community is integrated with the German culture and vice versa is presented. Thereafter the correlation between social standing and immigrant population is examined and presented.
When we spoke with Istanbul’s restaurant manager, there was a noticeably friendly atmosphere around his character. He addressed questions dealing with integration. He explained that Germans come to the dine in even greater numbers than the Turkish. This demonstrates the crossing of boundaries between two cultures. He stated that the Turkish were good, working people who always “gave from their hearts”, showcasing that this particular manager was well integrated into the German culture and society or at least felt welcomed in this country. He continued by going into detail as to how the restaurant is connected to the Turkish quarter itself: The restaurant purchases a lot of its ingredients in the quarter, but also buys goods from German warehouses, which again demonstrates the crossing of boundaries. The restaurant seems to be an essential part in bringing people together of all nations, as he stated that many employees come from various countries. The food however is still prepared by Turkish cooks only. It is clear that the restaurant serves as a hub of cultural interaction between many different cultures, as it gives its employees as well as its customers a chance to take part in that interaction simply by existing. This again demonstrates food’s unique ability to transcend the boundaries of cultures and merge them. Said exchange has manifested itself in the food served in the restaurant. While it is officially a Turkish restaurant, the kitchen has chosen to give the option of fries as an alternative to rice as a side dish. This is a dish that is associated with Germany or Europe, whose incorporation into traditional Turkish cuisine results in a hybrid dish of two cultures that is enjoyed by both. This showcases that the restaurant does not only influence the community, but that the community in turn shapes how the restaurant operates. This is similar to the adaptability that Samantha Barbas writes about in “I'll take chop suey”: Restaurants as agents of culinary and cultural change (2003).
During our time in the Turkish quarter, it was pleasing to see “outsiders” visiting of some of the restaurants there, a sign of cultural exchange. However, it is still important to remember that social acceptance does not necessarily equal high social standing or a equal standard of living. While it did occur to us that the German and Turkish cultures interacted in a really positive way in the Turkish quarter, the Turkish still live in fairly poor conditions when compared to their fellow German citizens. The Turkish are the largest group of immigrants in Mannheim and make up 19,7% of immigrants. They also represent a majority in the ‘Innenstadt/Jungbusch’ part of town, where immigrants make up 61,7% of the entire population. This correlates with a lower income and higher unemployment rates in those parts of town: In Innenstadt/Jungbusch, there is a 5.8% unemployment rate and a purchasing power of 26.600 € per household, compared to wealthier neighborhoods like Wallstadt, with 1.7% and 44.300 € in place of those variables. At the end of this paper, the appendix gives information on all four city parts examined in our research. The final section below concludes with the significance of these findings.
Section IV: Conclusion
Despite the growing acceptance of their German ‘host culture’ and the other way around, Turkish immigrants still have it harder than other groups. This is exemplified by the economic standing that most foreigners have in the city of Mannheim, and one would probably be able to recognize this pattern in other Western cities as well. With the rise of social justice movements, it is important to keep in mind that social integration is only one piece of the puzzle that is successful integration. Further research could thus focus on what aspects leas to an economically integrated community, as opposed to a socially integrated one.
Barbas, S. (2003). “I'll take chop suey”: Restaurants as agents of culinary and cultural change. The Journal of Popular Culture, 36(4), 669-686.
Bell, D., & Valentine, G. (1997). Consuming geographies: We are where we eat. Psychology Press.
Cinotto, S. (2013) The Italian American Table: Food, Family, and Community in New York City. University of Illinois Press.
The Guardian. (2016) Sanctuary or ghetto? How Mannheim created a 'city within a city' for refugees. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2016/apr/11/refuge-cities-mannheim- germany-refugee-crisis-sanctuary-or-ghetto
This appendix presents the city parts of Mannheim that were examined in our research, which found that there is a strong correlation to percentage of immigrant population and prospects for worse economic conditions. This showcases that while immigrants, generally speaking, are culturally integrated, economically they are not.
Figure 1: In this illustration the highlighted area represents where the city part ‘innenstadt/Jungbusch’ is located within Mannheim. It has an unemployment rate of 5.8% and a purchasing power of 26.600 euros per household. 61.7% of the population have a migration history
Figure 2: In this illustration the highlighted area represents where the city part ‘Oststadt’ is located within Mannheim. It has an unemployment rate of 3.1% and a purchasing power of 33.700 euros per household. 39.3% of the population have a migration history.
Figure 3: In this illustration the highlighted area represents where the city part ‘Wallstadt’ is located within Mannheim. It has an unemployment rate of 1.7% and a purchasing power of 44.300 euros per household. 22.9% of the population have a migration history
Figure 4: In this illustration the highlighted area represents where the city part ‘Feudenheim’ is located within Mannheim. It has an unemployment rate of 2% and a purchasing power of 48.500 euros per household. 25.1% of the population have a migration history,
 All statistics were derved from the website of the city of Mannheim: Kommunale Statistikstelle.” Mannheim, www.mannheim.de/de/stadt-gestalten/verwaltung/aemter-fachbereiche-eigenbetriebe/kommunale-statistikstelle.