Research Group Transnationalism Working Paper
"Sometimes I feel that this is the Russia we had always dreamed of..." : transnationalism and capitalism ; migrants from the former Soviet Union and their experiences in Germany; paper for the conference 'Alltag der Globalisierung. Perspektiven einer transnationalen Anthropologie', January 16-18, 2003, Institute of Cultural Anthropology and European Ethnology, Johann Wolfgang Goethe University, Frankfurt am Main
- The present article explores perceptions and cultural constructions of the terms capitalism or capitalistic West among ex-Soviet, highly qualified Jewish migrants from Russia and Ukraine after their emigration to Germany between 1990 and 1996. It seems that migration offers a unique opportunity to migrants to realise knowledge that is normally taken for granted, behaviour schemes and values, and to reflect on them. How do they acquire such presumed capitalist knowledge of the new society and new social world, how do they create it, and with what concrete contents do they connect the illusion about monolithic cultural, economic and political capital, the illusion which contributes to group formation and which serves as action orientation? As my research shows, immigrants try to disparage much of what appeared to them in the Soviet Union as normative, right and appropriate; now they often act by way of categories, which were defined in the previous context as "capitalist" and were interpreted as immoral. Without exact ideas or knowledge about behaviour codes, unspoken norms and silent values from the new society, many immigrants orient themselves towards the opposite of what was counted as morally proper in the origin society. Simultaneously they revive old system through the establishing and development of a Russian language enclave. Nevertheless this enclave is not located in a vacuum of "dusty" memories from the past, but build transnational cross-border space connected and corresponding to the processes of to-day's CIS and with the life of those relatives and friends who still live there, und with whom the emigrants share intensive social networks.