Urban Planet: Collective Identities, Governance and Empowerment in Megacities

The Eighth Berlin Roundtables on Transnationality on “Collective Identities, Governance and Empowerment in Megacities” took place from 11 – 16 June 2008.

An international essay competition was organized in summer/autumn 2007 to address and to analyze issues relating to different forms of urban fragmentation and processes of identity (re-) configuration. Competition participants were also invited to explore best practices by state, municipal and civil society actors to cope with corresponding conflicts and difficulties and to reflect on new civilizing arrangements resulting from civic engagement in the urban context.

In response to the call for papers, the Foundation selected 45 young(er) scholars to participate in three workshops and panel discussions held at the Social Science Research Center Berlin (WZB) and the Humboldt-University Berlin. The workshops were chaired by Michael Bommes (Prof. of Sociology, Institute for Migration Research and Intercultural Studies, Osnabruck University), Anthony D. King (Prof. em. of Art History and Sociology, State University of New York, Binghampton) and Carole Rakodi (Prof. of International Urban Development, University of Birmingham). During the workshop sessions and panel discussions, the participants discussed inter alia issues relating to urban identity formation and discrimination from theoretical and practical perspectives; described and analyzed various coping strategies with respect to poor living conditions and socio-economic deprivation; and reflected on different forms of urban self-organization and governance running the gamut from central planning, regional governance, decentralization and communal empowerment.

Evening lectures by Klaus Töpfer (Prof. of Environmental Studies and Sustainable Development, Tongji-University, Shanghai; former Executive Director, United Nations Environment Programme), Arjun Appadurai (Prof. of Sociology, The New School, New York) and Meinhard von Gerkan (architect, Hamburg/Shanghai) accompanied the programme.

Towards the end of the workshop sessions, an international jury awarded the Irmgard Coninx Research Grant to four participants – a stipend to be used for a three-months research stay in Berlin at the WZB and the Humboldt-University. The Jury consisted of Susanne Baer (Prof. of Law and Gender Studies, Humboldt-University); Helmuth Berking (Prof. of Urban Sociology, Technical University Darmstadt); Michael Bommes (Prof. of Sociology, Institute for Migration Research and Intercultural Studies, Osnabruck University); Julie Chu (Assistant Professor of Anthropology, Wellesley College, Massachussetts); Anisseh van Engeland (Max Weber Fellow, European University Institute, Florence); Anthony D. King (Prof. em. of Art History and of Sociology, University of New York, Binghamton); Jürgen Kocka (Prof. of History, WZB); Carole Rakodi (Prof. of International Urban Development, University of Birmingham); Ingo Richter (Prof. of Law, Chairman of Irmgard Coninx Foundation); and Folke Schuppert (Prof. of Law, WZB).

The winners of the research grant are: Felicitas Becker (Assisant Prof. of African History, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver), Mariana Cavalcanti (Post-Doctoral Research Fellow, Anthropology, Centro de Pesquisa e Documentação de História Contemporânea do Brasil, Getulio Vargas Foundation, Rio de Janeiro), Ajay Gandhi (Ph.D. candidate in Anthropology, Yale University) and Colin McFarlane (Lecturer and Associate Director in the Centre for the Studies of Cities and Regions, Geography, Durham University).

In additition, the contributions by Christopher Capozzola (Associate Prof. of History, Massachusetts Institute of Technology), Matias Sendoa Echanove (Ph.D. candiate in Urban Studies, Tokyo University) and Deniz Yonucu (Ph.D. candidate in Anthropology, Cornell University) were honoured with special distinction.