Shaped by global capital and local and regional political turmoil, the cities of Berlin and Istanbul for the past decade have been settings for market-oriented policies aimed at increasing global competitiveness, commodification and the political sterilisation of public space. Rapid and drastic changes resulting from neoliberal urban transformations have led to political polarisation and social injustice, undermining the possibility of living together in a democratic society based on the principles of equality, inclusiveness and connectedness. Despite the rise of exclusionary politics, the promotion of monolithic identities and widespread homogenisation of physical spaces in these two cities, their populations undergo ongoing diversification. Called forth by political, economic and ecological changes alike, migration not only connects these two places in both past and present, but being fundamental to the urban experience, it also stands at the center of a current global backlash of anti-pluralist rhetoric and politics.
In the face of the uninhibited neoliberal restructuring of both Berlin and Istanbul, the struggle for affordable housing, access to public space, sustainable living, ecological justice and the right to live differently intensified. Various forms of resistance have unsettled the urban tectonics of both cities, forcing us to remap the urban as a primary terrain for political struggle. Interferences ‘from below’ have put the relationship between local governments and social movements to the test, provoking questions about where and how the political subjects of the city emerge.
Who are we, the city? Can we find the elements of an egalitarian democratic imaginary and a non-hegemonic conception of ‘we’ by thinking the instances of resistance in Berlin and Istanbul together? How do residents of Berlin and Istanbul experience, express and resist the physical, political and normative reordering of their cities? Over the course of three days, we invite practitioners and theorists of the urban – activists, cultural producers and scholars alike – to explore various forms of knowledge-production through moderated talks, panels and installations.