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Dr. Giovanni Picker - Planning the European Racial City: An Economy of Dread in 21st-Century Berlin - Reseach Factory B/ORDERS IN MOTION

14.12.2022 16:15

14.12.2022 17:45

European University Viadrina, HG 109 (Senatssaal)

Speaker: Dr. Giovanni Picker (Lecturer in the Sociology of Inequalities (Sociology), University of Glasgow)

Moderation: Luís Hernandez Aguilar (European University Viadrina)


Global Social Sciences conversations on cities typically differentiate between the global North and South. One of the main criteria of differentiation is the presence of (post)colonial legacies, or continuities, widely considered to be relevant in Southern cities only. My paper questions this distinction and argues that without understanding contextually variable postcolonial entanglements in cities of the former metropole (i.e. Western Europe) we fail to fully grasp the global breath of racial-urban articulations as rooted in five-century long European colonialism. The paper empirically focuses on a participatory planning initiative in 21st-century Berlin. In framing the "problem of drug dealers" through the language of fear, the initiative puts in place an "affective economy" of dread, which -as I discuss- seems rooted in a peculiar combination of two of the main racial archives of continental Europe -- the anti-Black (colonial) and the anti-Jewish (Nazi/Fascist). As I show, the counterintuitive character of this combination, which disrupts linear, conventional understandings whereby anti-Blackness be exclusively rooted in colonial archives, allows the planning initiative to conceal its racial rationale, and therefore to be recognized as fully legitimate, gaining support from the state and the wider, self-defined progressive public. The conclusion suggests the presence of a key distinction between postcolonial and settler colonial cities on one hand, and continental European cities on the other: while the former are structured by racial conceptions which draw on colonial legacies only (colonial planning, colonial trade, racial segregation, redlining, native and aboriginal containment, etc.), the latter may be seen as structured by contextual combinations of colonial and Nazi/Fascist racial conceptions, variously articulated in ways which make it very difficult to empirically unearth racial rationales of urban planning in this part of the world.


Dr. Giovanni Picker is currently a Lecturer (Assistant Professor) in the Sociology of Inequalities. He received his Ph.D. in Sociology and Comparative Urban Studies from Milan-Bicocca University (2009), and a B.A. + M.A. (Laurea) in Political Sciences and Cultural Sociology from the State University of Milan (2004).
He does research, teaches and writes in the Social Sciences. His work on nationalism, race, and cities extended across Europe (Kosovo, Romania, Italy, the UK, France and Germany). In 2017, he published Racial Cities: Governance and the Segregation of Romani People in Urban Europe, a multi-focal ethnographic book which bridges Race Critical Theories and Urban Studies from a global and historical perspective, to explain the post-WWII emergence and persistence of deprived and segregated urban areas across Europe that are stigmatized as "Gypsy urban areas". He then co-curated a series of thematic collections on the relationships between urban spaces, the state and everyday forms of domination, always with a view of critically enlarging both the theoretical horizon and the typically West-oriented empirical focus. He currently is co-editing a volume and writing a monograph, both aimed at understanding, from multiple perspectives, European urbanism as a constitutive part of the global history of race. 
He is active in international research and education projects, including the Summer School on Black Europe that takes place every year at IIRE (Amsterdam, The Netherlands).