TU Berlin

Sociology of Planning and ArchitectureNew borders

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New borders and the making of cosmopolitan spaces and selves: British migrants, history and memory in post-­Brexit Berlin

Duration: September 2019 - September 2021

Mentor: Prof. Dr. Martina Löw, Faculty VI, Sociology of Planning and Architecture

Abstract: In the wake of Brexit and resurgent nationalism across Europe, the European Union has faced a crisis regarding its future and its legitimacy. While the EU is an economic project, it is also a cultural and a spatial project due to the human mobility it has enabled. A more expansive idea of European citizenship has become commonplace to many younger Europeans, yet this could prove a fleeting historical interlude as borders harden. The project’s primary research objective is to map how the Europe’s internal crisis and the resurgent nationalism evidenced by Brexit are being experienced through the lives of British migrants in Berlin. It seeks to map the social and cultural effects of structural changes and the atmospheres they create. To do this, the project will examine the emotional and affective life of British migrants in Germany’s capital city as the postwar settlement is upended. The British migrant provides a way into exploring the feasibility of a progressive cosmopolitan project and the often-uncomfortable relationship between privileged forms of migration and neoliberal global capitalismBerlin will offer a privileged insight: it has become a popular site of migration for Britons, with a 79% increase in registered British nationals since 2000. The project uses the lenses of history, memory and emotion to interrogate how Britons are being shaped by and shaping the spaces of Berlin. Are British migrants using urban spaces to cultivate cultural capital and access the ‘good life’ less available within Britain’s anaemic welfare state, or is civic engagement flourishing? How does migrants’ imagined life in Berlin fit with the daily reality and how does power run through these negotiations? Using ethnographic and participatory methods, the project will map the routine practices of British migrants within the spaces of Berlin in the wake of new bordering practices.

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