INURA at the AAG-Meeting in New Orleans
A panel on "Berlin revisited", organized by Ute Lehrer and sponsored by INURA, took place at the American Association of Geographers, in New Orleans, March 4-8, 2003.
Participants were Ute Lehrer (Toronto/Buffalo),Geraldine Gardner (Los Angeles), Jens Sambale (Berlin) and Volker Eick (Berlin), with concluding remarks by John Jorgensen.
This panel discussed Berlin's transformation since the fall of the Wall in 1989. While Berlin's transformation might be read as a unique case in terms of political, economic and social restructuring, a closer look brings to the foreground dynamics that are inherent in many of today's cities. The panelists focused on the remake of Berlin's spatial articulation as well as the redefinition of its social policies under the framework of neo-liberalization and privatization. The aim was to examine critically the difference between the expectations articulated by politicians, citizens and investors in the early days of a reunified city and the current realities. The four panelists brought to the table the following points for discussion: After introducing the panelists and trying to tie current world events to the specific topic, Ute Lehrer looked at the spatial transformation of the city and in particular at Potsdamer Platz. She argued that Berlin is a paradigmatic city for using the built environment for image production. What is somewhat new and intensified in rebuilding this city, is a commodification of the building process; this commodification is accompanied by what Lehrer calls a ‘spectacularization of the building process’. She concluded that what is taking place in Berlin is also happening at other places. Geraldine Gardner argued that Berlin's dominant development discourse appropriates cultural images to help galvanize a development agenda that promotes the growth of culture and innovation industries. Her contribution critically examined the type of cultural images used in the promotion campaigns created by the City's marketing company Partner für Berlin, a public-private partnership founded in 1994. Jens Sambale and Volker Eick discussed findings of their research project about non-profits in reshaping local social and labor market policies in Berlin and Los Angeles. While Sambale presented recent economic trends in Berlin and their possible policy implications, Eick discussed the new role that emerged for nonprofits in the field of homeland security. Through workfare programs, former unemployed and welfare recipients are now forced to work as security guards against homeless, poor and 'drop outs' both in inner city areas of high consumption as well as in residential areas that are seen as 'problematic'. In other words, the fiscal restraints of the city as well as the governance model of self-regulation has let to a situation where the poor are forced to police the poor. The session concluded with a discussion on Berlin's social and spatial transformation and its relation to the politics of local social movements.