Present borders in border-memoryland Berlin. Contemporary in/visible b/ordering dynamics and creative border deconstruction in an urban space

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Most attention in Berlin goes out either to its history of division between East and West Berlin, or to its diverse, exiting and ´hip´ centre, where ´everything is possible´. Berlins is often presented as ‘the capital of freedom’, a representation wherein the supposed freedom of today – ‘in all areas and at all levels’ – is opposed to the city’s divided past. When looking closer however, various bordering and ordering dynamics are present on the stage of urban space Berlin. These borders are not as physically present as the past Berlin Wall, but rather they are interwoven into different levels of life in the city, affecting mostly those people that have been living there the longest and those that do not possess much money or the ‘right’ citizenship. Given their invisible nature, it is not only challenging to put a finger on these present b/ordering dynamics and to show their hierarchical, categorical and excluding consequences. Also identifying the various working mechanisms that create, facilitate, sustain or even exacerbate them, asks for a look behind Berlin’s stage into particular policy instruments and strategies, regulations and rhetoric. This research deals with the multiple present b/ordering dynamics and their working mechanisms in Berlin. Furthermore, it explores creative forms of border deconstruction that can contribute to ´put a finger´ and deal with these complex interwoven dynamics and mechanisms in yet another manner. It does not seek to find precise numbers, but rather it presents stories, opinions and experiences deriving from various places of the city. Used for this aim is a mix of qualitative research methods: ethnographic flâneries, interviews with City Locality Coordinators and various creatives, participations in creative projects, analysations of official Berlin documents and the city website, observations and photography. The idea is adopted that one should no longer understand the border as a static clear-cut line, but rather as a dynamic process and as a verb; bordering. A process that needs certain symbolisations and imaginations in order to function and have a meaning. By looking at the city as a whole through a border lens, this research provides a unique insight into how developments taking place in different parts of urban space Berlin relate to each other and how various phenomena that are generally studied apart interact, collide and cohere. Rather than zooming into one specific place of phenomenon, it thus offers a look on ´the bigger picture´. Thereby, it sheds light on those developments and dynamics that should gain more attention, because they rather invisibly border and order the various areas and actors on the stage of urban space Berlin today.
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