Current Institutional Affiliation
Assistant Professor, Sociology, El Colegio de Mexico

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2004
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Anthropology, University of Chicago
Conflicts and Domination over Social Space in Post-Reunification East Berlin

The proposed project will study the production of political spaces through violent practices by extreme right-wing groups in east Berlin. Ever since the wave of pogroms against immigrants and asylum seekers in the early 1990s the violent creation of "nationally liberated zones" has been key to the praxis and theory of extreme-right groups in Germany. Despite broad mobilization against right-wing extremism, "fear zones" demarcated by routine violent practices have continued to dominate the landscape of East Germany, constituting the eve1yday of many communities in the region. In large urban settings, unlike in smaller communities, "liberated zones" entail complex techniques of spatial domination, extending to social and organizational networks, transportation routes, particular events, and specific sites; operating in numerous sets of temporalities; and manifesting themselves according to multiple and intersecting dimensions of subjectivities. My research will be conducted in Berlin, where geographical decentralization, unique history, a multiplicity of invested interests, and a cosmopolitan diversity all converge in complex political contestations over urban space; and where a wide spectrum of extreme-right ideologies and practices, characterized by zealous nationalism, racism, and violence, have succeeded in dominating certain neighborhoods. I will focus on two such neighborhoods: Lichtenberg, an inner-city slum, the habitat of many extreme-right cadres; and Hellersdorf, on the city's outskirts, where most violent incidents currently occur. Ethnographic research will be conducted simultaneously on three levels: (1) interviews with diverse local residents and actors will provide detailed maps of perceived spatial configurations as effects of violent practices, (2) observation of spatial domination practices in public space will examine the operative techniques and the dynamics of production processes, and (3) work with street social workers will facilitate contact with extreme-right activists, yielding data on "invisible" aspects of the production of space. Archival research will provide data on other actors involved in spatial-political contestations in Berlin.