Spatial proximity and social distance: Albanian immigration in Thessaloniki, Greece

Type Conference Paper - 3rd LSE PhD Symposium on Modern Greece
Title Spatial proximity and social distance: Albanian immigration in Thessaloniki, Greece
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2007
Albanian immigration in Greece is a broad phenomenon this last decade. The intensity in which it takes place makes Albanian population movements one of the most important intra-European fluxes. In addition, in a very short time period Albanian migration seems to progressively present some of the most characteristic features of international migration, such as its stabilisation after family reunions, the decision for long-stay installation after children’s Greek schooling, etc. However, Albanian migration in Greece is also very different from some classic migration patterns, particularly as far as spatial segregation matters are concerned. Although a considerable number of studies – academic research, in particular – have dealt with relevant themes, most existing research principally examines Albanian immigration and its effects on Greek society and its economy, without considering the actors of these phenomena, i.e. Albanians themselves, their practices and modes of life. It should also be pointed out that, hitherto, no research has coped with the geographical “patterns” that Albanian migration takes, nor the further analysis why such “patterns” occur. Therefore, it seems essential and even urgent – particularly after the 2005 events on the Parisian suburbs – to deal with relevant themes. The object of this paper is double: on one hand, is to illustrate the spatial pattern that Albanian migration takes on in a Greek metropolis, through the example of Thessaloniki. In this way, Albanian immigrants’ mode of territorial insertion is to be revealed, by centering our interest on Albanians’ geography in the city, and more particularly on the question if they constitute precise communities based on ethnicity or alternatively if they rather offer a more “diffused” prototype within the urban space. Based on cartography – maps of the city of Thessaloniki in which the places where Albanians and other immigrant households reside – we will argue that it is this second hypothesis that seems to be confirmed; Albanians, opposite to other immigrant group, tend to be “diffused” into the urban space. On the other hand, we are also interested in exploring if this pattern of territorial insertion – or better inclusion – is equally interpreted in a social inclusion too. In other words, if, in view of the spatial proximity of Albanians to Greeks, we could argue that a social proximity between them also exists. As it will be demonstrated through this specific case – using data from interviews with Albanian immigrants in Thessaloniki – the spatial distance/ proximity does not provide a measure for the social distance/ proximity.

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