Building Cosmopolitan Citizenship

This contribution focuses on the urban environment of Berlin and the role of walking as a generator of cosmopolitan citizenship that builds on migrant agency as a prime contribution to city-making. It explores the re-shaping of Berlin in the course of the “refugee crisis” and the resulting engagement by displaced persons and urban practitioners to foster interaction between a wide array of participants, independent of their citizenship status. By building on Thomas Nail’s kino-political approach to migration, which identifies in the migrant’s pedetic force a prime source of agency, three urban projects involving the act of walking are analyzed. While these initiatives vary in terms of project articulation, they all use the urban fabric of Berlin as a key terrain for discussion and critique. The walking conversations become an expression of exercising cultural citizenship, whereby the right of membership exists prior to the allocation of official statuses. This seemingly mundane experience plays a relevant role in reinstating the defining feature of the migrant as that of movement, in contrast with the constraints of containment that displaced persons experience. The three cases illustrate how the successive instances of them leaving the camps, exploring Berlin’s spaces and taking the lead in narrating the city contribute to the reinforcement of a cosmopolitan perspective.

Published in the European Journal of Creative Practices in Cities and Landscapes.
Co-authored with Viviana d`Auria.

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