Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
This paper explores the signed and spoken language diversity in a multi-ethnic marketplace in Berlin. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall and due to the recent advent of refugees from various countries, tens of thousands of new migrants arrived in the city, a number of them gathering in the Dong Xuan Center on a regular basis. This place is called the “Vietnamese market” or “Little Hanoi” by some outsiders, but was from the very beginning a multi-ethnic place, where encounters take place among diverse groups, such as Germans, Indians, Pakistani, Vietnamese and Chinese. Therefore, “Asiatown” became a venue not only for economic exchange, but should be conceived as a place for encounter and conviviality.
Based on ethnographic fieldwork in the marketplace I aim to understand changes in language use and sign-making practices. As people in this marketplace come together from various parts of the world, Asia in particular, they engage in practices of translanguaging, trying to make themselves understood by others, thereby using various languages in order to create and maintain economic and social relations in the basar. The presentation investigates how people communicate when they bring different life histories, migration narratives and trajectories to interaction in this particular place. People communicate multimodally, including the spoken word, ritual interactions as well as gesture and signing. Taking into account recent critics on methodological nationalism, this paper argues for an anthropological perspective in analyzing the linguistic and socio-economic landscape in the eastern part of Berlin.