Accepted Paper:

Divergent re-orientalisations: ghetto-spectacles in WorldCity Berlin  


Emrah Yildiz (Wesleyan University)

Paper short abstract:

As a concept, ghetto is variously mobilised in transforming Berlin into a WorldCity. While Kreuzberg is imagined as carnivalesque-spectacle, Neukoelln becomes a ghetto-spectacle. These districts embody and market diverse expressive repertoires within Berlin’s spatial and discursive topography.

Paper long abstract:

Kreuzberg has been situated literally in the "center" of the still ongoing process of gentrification that has swept through unified Berlin. It has, however, persistently occupied the 'margins' in the discursive and imaginary topography of WorldCity Berlin. In this presentation, I assert that the concept of "ghetto" has been variously mobilized within the spatial and discursive transformation of the unified Berlin into WorldCity Berlin. Meanwhile, I argue, similarly complex, yet distinct "ghettos" have been produced (and consequently consumed by diverse parties) in the terrains of WorldCity Berlin.

First, I will argue that Kreuzberg has been re-imagined and re-presented as an ethnicized and carnivalesque spectacle in the terrains of WorldCity Berlin. Beyond Migration Series recently presented by Kanak woodlounge over a month, Turkish Film Week in the hip Babylon Theater, May Day celebrations on Oranienplatz, are just a few examples that illustrate the ways in which Kreuzberg has emerged as the conveniently re-Oriental-ized yet carnivalesque spectacle of WorldCity Berlin.

The municipality of Neukoelln, on other hand, has been produced as the dangerously foreign, gang-ruled, and unapproachable ghetto-spectacle, particularly after recent criminal acts in Neukoelln subway stations, riots at the Ruehtli secondary school, and a very-well circulated, Berlinale-premiered, feature-film "Knallhart" [Tough Enough] that narrates the struggle of an upper-class white German teen, as he moves from one of the most affluent sections of Berlin into the ethnicized and dangerous ghetto: Neukoelln. The film has been praised by numerous critics as "a modern film noir" and interpreted as "an unexpectedly radical ballad from Berlin's social ghetto".

In conclusion, I illustrate how "ghettos" have been simultaneously constructed, mobilized, lived and displayed in diverse, and in the case of Kreuzberg and Neukoelln, divergent ways in the dynamic topography of WorldCity Berlin. I argue that these temporal configurations of "ghetto" deserve critical attention in order to fully engage the greater process of spectacularization: namely that of WorldCity Berlin. In other words, Neukoelln and Kreuzberg have come to embody, display, and market diverse and divergent expressive repertoires within BerlinCity-as-a-spectacle: in its new participatory and regulatory regimes, its globally-resourced, transnationally-circulating, yet locally-rooted economy as well as within its dynamic spatial, discursive and lived urban topography.

Panel W037
Investigating the city spectacle in a globalising world