With more than half a million inhabitants, Antwerp is the largest city of the Flemish region in Belgium, and the second largest city of Belgium after Brussels, the capital city. Antwerp is a thriving economic centre in Belgium. The city has the second largest seaport in Europe after Rotterdam. In addition, Antwerp is home to one of the largest diamond trade centres in the world. The Antwerp diamond trade was dominated by the Jewish, although nowadays the majority of people working in the diamond trade are Indian dealers. Antwerp is home to one of the largest communities of orthodox Jews in the world outside Israel. Due to recent (and less recent) migration flows, Antwerp’s districts have become increasingly diversified.
The city of Antwerp is composed of nine districts. Eight of these districts used to be independent municipalities until 1983, when they merged with the (former) municipality of Antwerp. In 2001, however, the city of Antwerp opted for decentralisation and installed directly-elected district councils in order to reduce the gap between citizens and the authorities.
Antwerpen-Noord, Borgerhout and Deurne Noord are three adjacent areas in the city that are known for their highly diverse population. Antwerpen-Noord is the northern part of the largest and most central Antwerp district. Borgerhout and Deurne are distinct districts situated in the northeast and east of the city. Our fieldwork will mainly take place in Antwerpen-Noord, Borgerhout and the west of Deurne.
Antwerpen-Noord, also known as ‘2060’, is a relatively small but densely populated area in the north of the district of Antwerp consisting of the neighbourhoods Stuivenberg, Dam and Amandus-Atheneum. With around 35,000 inhabitants of more than 150 different nationalities, Antwerpen-Noord is one of the most ethnically diverse areas in the city. The most notable communities are the Chinese, the Africans, the Portuguese and the Moroccans. At the same time, Antwerpen-Noord is also one of the most deprived areas of Antwerp with one in three people living in poverty.
Borgerhout is one of the nine districts of the Antwerp municipality. It has more than 40,000 inhabitants reflecting more than 90 different nationalities. Borgerhout is divided in two parts by the ring road that encircles the city. The part of Borgerhout within the ring road is known as ‘Borgerhout intramuros’ whereas the part outside the ring road is known as ‘Borgerhout extramuros’. Borgerhout intramuros is the most densely populated and contains a large and ethnically diverse shopping street called the Turnhoutsebaan, which has also been the scene of conflicts amongst migrant youth. Borgerhout intramuros is sometimes nicknamed ‘Borgerocco’, referring to its many inhabitants of Moroccan origin.
With more than 75,000 inhabitants, Deurne Noord is the second largest district of the Antwerp municipality after the district of Antwerp itself. Deurne Noord is divided into a northern, central, eastern and southern quarter, each of them containing 20,000 inhabitants. While Deurne Noord is a suburban district with less inhabitants of foreign origin than Borgerhout and Antwerp, in the northern quarter of Deurne more than 50% of the population have a foreign background.