Researching Transitory Urban Phenomena – Rajlovac 2009 and 2012

Posted on November 15, 2012

When I first visited Rajlovac, a suburb part of city of Sarajevo, in spring 2010 I found there a vivid city part, mostly populated by Chinese community. Beside the economic contribution through trading, these people “contributed to revitalization of this urban quarter without architects and urban planners”(Sirbegovic, 2011: 172). This renewed vivid city quarter is still here in 2012, what seems to be missing is Chinese community. It merged into a semi – industrial zone for Bosnian companies, with service and trading utilities.

This questions came up to my mind: What happens with my research now? Is it valid, even if they don’t live and work there any more? Since the beginning of my research I am aware of dynamics of migrational society and also the danger of momentariness, and now I am still amazed of their “vanishing”. The importance of research of exactly these dynamic urban phenomena connected to migration came to the fore. There is so much potentiality in the vivid migrational communities for a natural bottom up city renewal. If we don’t recognize and appreciate this contribution to the society, the danger is very big that these qualities can be lost. On the other side it can be very easily misused by others as their own contribution. Chinese people in Bosnia and Herzegovina didn’t vanish. In the times of economical crisis they moved on. According to web portal Chinese people are closing their shops and leaving Serbia, “they are leaving for new markets in Poland, South America and Africa.” At the same time they are also remigrating to China, because they find better economical circumstances there now than ten years ago. With the growing Chinese global power their picture in media also changed. In 2001 the topics on Chinese community in Bosnia and Herzegovina were criminal and bizarre issues on this growing community. Nowadays the image of Chinese in the region is concentrated on China as big, growing, economic power, and there are lots of articles on bilateral relations between different politicians and development of economic connections with China. In the times of global economic crisis China is seen as a big international investor. The articles on Chinese community in Bosnia or in the region are very rare, medias are showing China as big friend and helper, reporting for example on gifted weapons from China as “…a symbol of friendship between people of Bosnia and China” (Zrno). Dnevni Avaz (a popular Bosnian daily news paper) reports in 2012 of renewed and new trading agreements between Bosnia and China. There are no articles on Chinese people living in the region in their database. Searching the database of a popular web portal for Chinese (in Bosnian, Kroatian and Serbian language), I got 200 results, of which only six articles reported about Chinese community in the region. Everything else was a mixture of scurrilous news from China, about rising Chinese economical power and plans of investing in the region.

Revolving my memory on entering Sarajevo in 2006 and driving through Rajlovac as driving through a Chinese city quarter a question arises Did my memory or my perception change? Still existing Chinese shops don’t stand up, because Rajlovac is overloaded with huge semi-industrial storage and utility service buildings. The rapidness of capitalistic development overruns even the dynamic migrational development, that took place here in the last ten years. Migrational development is vivid and dynamic, but still informal and button up, therefore also vulnerable and destroyable. Migrational practice, determinated by temporariness, reacts spontaneously on given situation. In the case of Rajlovac it is the continuance of migration, back to China or further on into European Union, but also into another Bosnian cities, where new transnational spaces develop. The locality of settling down in Rajlovac impacts and makes further mobility possible. “ order to be able to stay mobile it is necessary for migrants to develop some local ties and to be embedded in specific localities.” (Dahinden 2010: 52) Developing local ties opens new opportunities, Chinese community uses its local connections and knowledge to move inside of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the region and is not forced to remigrating back to China or moving further to European Union. Even if the impact of Chinese community and its migrational practice isn’t any more visible in this city part, Rajlovac is still part of transnational space created by migrants.

Amila Sirbegovic
15th  November 2012







Dahinden, Janine (2010): “The Dynamics of Migrants’ Transnational Formations”. In: Bauböck, Rainer / Faist, Thomas (eds.), Diaspora and Transnationals, Concepts, Theories and Methods, Amsterdam University Press, p.51-71

Grobovic, Elmedina (2009): “Zasto Sarajevo nema kinesku cetvrt?” in accessed 08.11.2012

Sirbegovic, Amila (2011): »Disrupting the Visual Paradigm“. In: Mörtenböck, Peter/ Mooshammer, Helge (eds.), Space (Re)Solutions / Intervention and Research in Visual Culture, trancript Verlag, Bielefeld, p. 165-174.

Zrno: accessed 08.11.2012

24 sata: accessed 08.11.2012

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