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Keywords:

  • immigrant integration;
  • neoliberalism;
  • unemployment;
  • post-socialist subjectivity;
  • workfare;
  • personhood

This paper examines how middle-aged and older post-Soviet immigrants in eastern Berlin navigate the neoliberalized landscape of work-based integration in face of their long-term unemployment. I first show how these immigrants' own insistence on the centrality of paid work for their feeling integrated contributes to their experience of collective despondency and enrollment in exploitative quasi-markets, including workfare. Focusing on this insistence, I examine how it draws strength primarily from their continued subscription to the conceptions of self as deeply socially embedded, and of work as a practice of such an embedding, adopted through their Soviet-era socialization into the culture of dispersed personhood and obligation to work, rather than from their adoption of neoliberal concepts of citizenship in Germany. Contributing to geographies of post-socialist experience of neoliberalized regimes of citizenship and immigrant integration, this paper thus highlights how some of the aspects of post-socialist subjectivities dovetail unexpectedly with the neoliberal project.