Vienna meets the Balkans: Communicative practices and commodification of culture in the city’s migrant economy

Vienna meets the Balkans: Communicative practices and commodification of culture in the city’s migrant economy

(funded by the “Jubiläumsfonds” of the City of Vienna)

The project focuses on small and micro migrant enterprises in the hospitality industry run by migrants of Balkan origin. People from the Balkans are not only the largest migrant group in Vienna, but they are also particularly likely to set up their businesses using the culture and language of their countries of origin as a resource. This means that they are increasingly developing offerings in which they market the culinary culture of their countries of origin, particularly in a way that appeals to new customer segments of the host society. In addition, these migrant businesses make an essential contribution to urban development and the upgrading of neighborhoods (urban scaling) by renting vacant shops in less attractive districts and thus revitalizing them or contributing to cultural diversification through new offerings.

The project, therefore, focuses on the role of cultural and linguistic identity in these businesses and how both contribute to business success and indirectly affect the urban space, transforming it into an intercultural meeting zone. To this end, the communicative practices that characterize how these companies work and the semiotic strategies for commodifying culture are analyzed using linguistic and cultural studies methods.

In this context, the linguistic, cultural, and social resources migrants mobilize will be examined, as well as how they shape the local urban space and how their customers perceive them.

The project aims to provide new insights into how such companies influence cultural diversity in the districts and neighborhoods and turn these areas into intercultural encounter zones by marketing their native language and culture. The expected results should provide implications for practice to different stakeholders (the City of Vienna, business development agencies, further education and training institutions, NGOs, and NPOs supporting migrants), such as adapting support programs to the actual needs of migrant entrepreneurs based on the challenges they experience; reshaping the relevant districts in city marketing by recognizing the contribution of migrants' cultural heritage and commercializing it.

Project Team

Nadine Thielemann, Lejla Atagan & Dina Stanković