Accepted Paper:

Demanding local rights in the global city: the legacy of Henri Lefebvre and Hamburg's "right-to-the-city"-movements  


Ulrich Ufer (Karlsruhe Institute of Technology)

Paper short abstract:

This paper asks in what ways the work of H. Lefebvre is reflected in Hamburg's "Right-to-the-City"-movements. Local activists challenge promoters of Hamburg as a "Global City" by proposing heterotopic organizations of urban space and by phrasing their demands and strategies in Lefebvrian language.

Paper long abstract:

The past years have seen a resurgent interest in the work of Henri Lefebvre - not only in Academia, but also among activist groups. Urban grassroots movements, in particular, have adapted Lefebvre's concept of the "Droit à la ville" (1968) and have used Lefebvrian terminology to justify their demands and express their aims. This paper will track Lefebvre's influence on the programs of citizens' initiatives and on activists' language in the case of Hamburg. Here, some thirty local activist groups have united under the Lefebvre-inspired umbrella slogan "Recht auf Stadt" (Right to the City to challenge the visions of promoters of Hamburg as a "Global City". In particular, the occupiers of the Hamburg Gängeviertel-quarter are currently proposing the conception of a heterotopian "alter-urban" space which may serve as a model to spread a different kind of urban modernity. This group has been very successful in articulating their political demands and has employed strategies for occupation, negotiation and communication which are markedly different from those of Hamburg's anarchist squatters of the 1980s. Since Lefebvre conceived the "Right to the City" in the late 1960s, the context and meaning of the term have changed considerably and in a seaport like Hamburg the global dimension of local conflicts and interests thus demand a creative usage of Lefebvre's heritage. What are the overt as well as hidden influences that Lefebvre's revolutionary thoughts on the city have on Hamburg's "Right-to-the-City"-movements? And in what ways have these movements adapted and continued his work in order to fit the conditions of present urbanity?

Panel W121
Inspiring alter-politics: anthropology and critical political thinking (EN-FR)