Author:Maria Schiller (Max Planck Institute)
Paper short abstract:
Based on participant observation, this paper analyses the reactions of ‘middle class’ residents and urban planners, who inter-relate in ‘local partnerships’ and citizen involvement procedures, to post-migration diversity in the context of the ‘refugee crisis’ in 2015 in two German cities.
Paper long abstract:
This paper presents findings from anthropological research on urban planning and citizen involvement in two German cities. It analyses the ways in which diversity, and I am focusing here primarily on migration-induced changes of the local population, is explicitly or implicitly addressed by 'middle class' participants in citizen involvement procedures. In both urban planning projects, migration-induced diversity has been perceived as a key characteristic of the neighbourhoods from the very start, and has been compounded by the allocation of large temporary asylum accommodation centres in the context of the 'refugee crisis' in 2015. How do urban planners and 'middle class' residents, who are participating in citizen involvement procedures, respond to and evaluate post-migration diversity? How do they relate to it based on their own social positioning and what scenarios do they develop for the neighbourhood? Based on participant observation in citizen involvement events and in so-called 'local partnerships', where local citizens regularly meet with the urban planners, I investigate how the right to the city is becoming differentiated in these urban development projects. I find struggles of urban planners as well as of the participating 'middle class' residents to negotiate diversity, as representations of diversity oscillate between idealizing diversity as profitable (connected with hopes for gentrification and a more dynamic future of the neighbourhood) and demonizing diversity as leading to ghettoization (connected with fears of the loss of value of one's property or of losing the status of the majority).
The vulnerable middle class? Strategies of housing in a prospering city