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Berlin, Alexanderplatz

Transforming Place in a Unified Germany

Gisa Weszkalnys

226 pages, 17 ills, bibliog., index

ISBN  978-1-84545-723-5 $120.00/£85.00 Hb Published (May  2010)

ISBN  978-1-78238-317-8 $29.95/£21.00 Pb Published (October 2013)

eISBN 978-1-84545-835-5 eBook


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Weszkalnys undertakes a fascinating exploration of the planning process, the intellectual debate and political contest over reconstruction, and the multiple roles of citizenship in the reunified city.”  ·  H-Net Reviews

This volume contributes significantly to the now well established body of literature analyzing urban places, and it does so by viewing a specific plaza ethnographically… Weszakalnys’ study of a plaza demonstrates the rich potential insights from a careful, nuanced examination of urban institutions, political symbolism, residents, state functionaries, and the places in which they dwell.”  ·  PoLAR

[This] is a thought provoking analysis of the square’s multifaceted meanings within a theoretical framework drawing on citizenship, Heimat and other concepts of interest to political scientists and anthropologists alike...This monograph does much to link the abstract concept of citizenship to its impact on a specific place. The site is well-chosen as a concrete manifestation, so to speak, of enduring national division, local loyalties and actual citizenship practices. ...this work offers a wilfully fragmentary but nonetheless stimulating view for all that of Alexanderplatz as a place of ‘citizenly entitlement’, political engagement and social construction.  ·  German Politics

…a fascinating study of the social and political processes of urban development as well as the inherent complexity surrounding the definition of place…an interesting and sharp ethnography. I can recommend the book to anyone interested in contemporary government, the market and citizen engagement.  ·  Suomen Antropologi: Journal of the Finnish Anthropologcial Society

“…presents multiple perspectives with a clear focus, enabling the reader to apprehend a complex, consequential, and always transforming site as the nexus of multiple views, values, experiences, and hopes. Smart, deeply researched, interpretively sophisticated without being overburdened by theory, this is a real contribution to an anthropology of urban sites and life.”  ·  Don Brenneis, University of California, Santa Cruz

A benchmark study in the changing field of urban anthropology, Berlin, Alexanderplatz is an ethnographic examination of the rapid transformation of the unified Berlin. Through a captivating account of the controversy around this symbolic public square in East Berlin, the book raises acute questions about expertise, citizenship, government and belonging. Based on ethnographic fieldwork in the city administration bureaus, developers’ offices, citizen groups and in Alexanderplatz itself, the author advances a richly innovative analysis of the multiplicity of place. She reveals how Alexanderplatz is assembled through the encounters between planners, citizen activists, social workers, artists and ordinary Berliners, in processes of popular participation and personal narratives, in plans, timetables, documents and files, and in the distribution of pipes, tram tracks and street lights. Alexanderplatz emerges as a socialist spatial exemplar, a ‘future’ under construction, an object of grievance, and a vision of robust public space. This book is both a critical contribution to the anthropology of contemporary modernity and a radical intervention in current cross-disciplinary debates on the city.

Gisa Weszkalnys studied in Berlin and Cambridge and received her PhD in Social Anthropology from the University of Cambridge. She is a Lecturer in Anthropology at the University of Exeter and is conducting new research on oil developments in West Africa.

Series: Volume 1, Space and Place
Subject: Urban Studies General Anthropology General Geography
Area: Germany

LC: DD887 .W47 2010

BL: YC.2011.a.8768

BISAC: SOC002000 SOCIAL SCIENCE/Anthropology/General; SOC026030 SOCIAL SCIENCE/Sociology/Urban; ARC010000 ARCHITECTURE/Urban & Land Use Planning

BIC: RPC Urban & municipal planning; JHM Anthropology




Contents

List of Figures
Acknowledgements
Glossary and Acronyms

Chapter I: Introduction
Where?
Berlin (in) Alexanderplatz
Inventing East and West Anthropologies of the City
Anthropology’s Objects

Chapter II: Constructing a Future Berlin
Suspect Debates
The Capital Topographies of Immorality
The European City Solids and Voids
Emptiness

Chapter III: The Disintegration of a Socialist Exemplar
Diagnosing the ‘Weak Heart of the City’
Inversions of Sociality
Failures of Government
A Dangerous Place?
A Problem of ‘the Social’
Producing Disorder

Chapter IV: Promising Plans
On (Not) Planning
Assembling Alexanderplatz
Premises and Promises
New Hybrids, Old Ambivalences
Postponing Failure

Chapter V: The Object of Grievance
A Time of Citizens
Citizens Summoned
Citizens Made
Governing Perceptions
Legitimate Concerns
A Citizenly Engagement with Place

Chapter VI: A Robust Square
The Place of Young People
Networking
Alexanderplatz Potentialities
Experts and Citizens Revisited
Perspectival Disparities
The Universal, the Particular and the Robust

Chapter VII: In Conclusion, Whose Alexanderplatz?

Bibliography

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