“Urban Fragmentation(s)” was the title of the Third Borders & Identity Conference (BIC), which ran from March 16-19, 2015. It was hosted jointly by the Centers for Advanced Studies in the Humanities (Geisteswissenschaftliche Zentren, GWZ) and held at Humboldt University Berlin (Germany).
The conference aimed at developing a better understanding of the processes of shifting formations of cultural, linguistic and societal identities in urban societies. The creation and expression of identities, which often involve tense negotiations of their changing and excluding boundaries, and thus the constant pressure on cities to reevaluate their own traditions and trajectories, governance and policies, were analysed in the light of linguistic, literary-cultural and other social condensates. The conference was organised along three parallel tracks, each prepared by a corresponding GWZ center: Track I “Language & Linguistics” by ZAS (Zentrum für Allgemeine Sprachwissenschaft); Track II, “Literature & Translation” by ZfL (Zentrum für Literatur- und Kulturforschung); and Track III “Society & Governance” by ZMO (Zentrum Moderner Orient).
MANFRED KRIFKA (Berlin), member of the board of directors; director of ZAS, stressed in his Opening Remarks the suitability of Berlin for the conference’s topics, due to Berlin's earlier internal division, and of GWZ as venue, since its history is linked to the unification of Berlin, and its subcenters cross borders of disciplines. DIETRICH NELLE (Berlin) talked about the future of cities referring to Jamie Lerner and his approach of viewing cities as both challenges and solutions. JUTTA KOCH-UNTERSEHER (Berlin) emphasised the interdisciplinarity of GWZ and the value of its research to education and policy. In a general introduction, DIRK NAGUSCHEWSKI (Berlin) underlined the conference’s interest in examining the processes that constantly undermine and recreate identities and their borders in the urban.
In the first keynote address organised by ZAS, linguist and anthropologist NORMA MENDOZA-DENTON (Los Angeles) talked about representations of gang membership and the related identities of Latina/o youth in northern California. The gangs’ identity markers are signs, symbols and language codes. Mendoza-Denton focused on the gangs’ linguistic identity marked by pronunciation and frequency of variants. These identities are fluid and can be switched. Including girls’ bedroom cultures  in her research, Mendoza-Denton analyses gangs in the context of migration, class, citizenship, race, language, and political participation.
The topic of the first Interface Panel was “Berlin”. Linguist and anthropologist JANET FULLER (Carbondale) explored linguistic landscapes and shifting ideologies about multilingualism in the public space of Berlin. Referring to the concept of “metrolingualism”, Fuller elaborated on the relations of normative monolingualism vs. pluralism and of elite vs. immigrant bilingualism, comparing English and Turkish.
Scholar of German Literature Studies ANDREAS KELLER (Berlin) talked about multiple fragmentations and overlappings of the “real” and the “written” Berlin, creating numerous possibilities for collective and personal identity formation. Relics of the past were combined with the “new” and the utopian, and in many ways remembered and redefined in narratives about the city.
The second panel of the Track “Society & Governance” was devoted to “Urban Boundaries”. Historian HANNA BAUMANN (Cambridge) explored the consequences of the separation of the Palestinian parts of the Jerusalem municipality from the rest of the city by a porous physical barrier. Territorial stigmatisation was used to justify special measures of governance. While the “abjection” of the Palestinian parts could be interpreted as a process of nation-building, de facto the wall created only the illusion of separation within a one-state reality. Architect and urban morphologist REZA MASOUDI NEJAD (Berlin) talked about the regulation and negotiation of Mohurrum processions in colonial Bombay (Mumbai) as a way to shape and regulate society. Around 1900 in the context of urbanisation and colonialism, attempts were made to separate and control ritual groups by channelling them into different parts of the city. The urban margins constituted a refuge for the ritual.
In the third panel of the “Society & Governance” Track, entitled “Religion and Urban Place-Making”, political scientist HEW WAI WENG (Berlin) talked about Islamic place-making in suburban Jakarta. Hew argued that Malaysian and Indonesian middle class Islamists focus on the smaller scale of the city or suburb in promoting an “Islamic way of modern good living” through place-making, economic jihad and religious lifestyle, instead of trying to build an “Islamic state”.
Historian TOUFOUL ABOU-HODEIB (Oslo) stressed in her talk about public spaces in late Ottoman Beirut the importance of class, capital relations and gender. Referring to the criticism of Christian women for taking off their face veils in certain places, Abou-Hodeib argued that, with changing capital relations, new spaces of consumption and leisure emerged, the different varieties of which each engendered different expectations for public behaviour.
“Urban Gentrification and Gated Communities” was the title of the second day’s first panel in the “Society & Governance” Track. Historian ANWESHA SENGUPTA (Oxford) talked about the marginalisation of street vendors in Kolkata and the emergence of gated communities and ghettoisation. Sengupta examined the relationship of “urban fear”  and trust-building exercises that result in what she referred to as a more porous notion of gatedness.
Fragmented memories and conflicting constructions of identity during state-led gentrification in Istanbul’s quarter Tophane were discussed by archaeologist KARIN SCHUITEMA (Istanbul). In the context of the Turkish government’s promotion of an allegedly cosmopolitan neo-Ottoman identity, Schuitema analysed the narratives of Tophane’s residents concerning the quarter’s past, and relating to contemporary marginalisation.
In the second keynote address, connected to the “Society & Governance” Track, historian TIMOTHY MOSS (Erkner) revisited the Splintering Urbanism thesis of Stephen Graham and Simon Marvin. Testing the thesis against the infrastructural development of Berlin, he showed that shifts in political economy and spatial impacts of structural changes were less uniform than assumed, and that incorrect demographic predictions, upon which new infrastructure projects are based, result for example in overcapacity. Moss concluded that infrastructure should be viewed as both society shaping and socially shaped.
The following poster session including 16 posters aimed at encouraging participants to engage informally in interdisciplinary discussions. Urbanist AZZURRA SARNATARO (Rome) and architect HASSAN ELMOUELHI (Berlin) presented their fieldwork on the terminology and governance of informal areas in Cairo. Comparing ashwa’eyat areas with ezbat areas, they showed the consequences of naming upon perception and governance. The linguists LUISA HELMEKE, MELANIE WEIRICH and STEFANIE JANNEDY (all Berlin) presented their research about the loss of phonemic contrast as a marker of social identity. Comparing multiethnic and monolingual German background adolescents in the multiethnolectal neighbourhood of Kreuzberg (Berlin), they found morphosyntactic and phonetic/phonological alternations, which are more strongly influenced by self-identification than by respective language backgrounds.
In organising the conference, the three GWZ centers aimed at stimulating interdisciplinary exchange by conducting Interface Panels and an open poster session. Thematic aspects of interdisciplinarity were addressed in a roundtable discussion with political scientist SANAA ALIMIA (London / Berlin), linguist and anthropologist RUDOLF GAUDIO (New York), scholar of German Literature Studies STEFAN WILLER (Berlin) and moderated by linguist and scholar of Cultural Studies DIRK NAGUSCHEWSKI (Berlin). While considering different forms of interdisciplinarity – such as the merging of different approaches or collaboration inside and outside academia –, emphasis was given to how consequences and outcome for the different parties involved have to be seen in relation to different expectations of institutions and researchers. While interdisciplinarity is promoted by politicians and academic institutions, conferences and journals are bound to disciplines, so that for strategic and economic reasons researchers are forced to streamline their disciplinary positioning, even if they cross disciplines in their work.
“The Sublime Now” was the title of the third keynote address by scholar of Arabic Literature Studies TAREK EL-ARISS (Austin), organised by the “Literature & Translation” Track. Referring to notions of the sublime by Burke and Newman, and to Coppola’s movie Apocalypse Now, El-Ariss elaborated on the resurgence of and fascination with the archaic in contemporary media, cultural and political practices. He juxtaposed ruined cities and their interpretation from very different contexts to Lefebvre’s humanistic The Right to the City. El-Ariss argued that violence, collapse and the archaic – aesthetically transcended to the sublime – are a constitutive part of the modern and break with ideals of the Enlightenment and the Arabic notion of modernity tamaddun.
“Lebanon – The Aftereffects of War” was the topic of the first panel of the “Literature & Translation” Track on the third day. Historian JAMES A. REILLY (Toronto) elaborated on contested interpretations of Beirut’s history during the Lebanese Civil War. Referring to Arab language historiographies, Reilly observed conflicts concerning the interpretation of symbols of the Ottoman era, pointing out that most historians expressed some forms of nationalism. Various uses of the past were made to indicate different visions for the present and future of Beirut. Remembering the Lebanese Civil War in the context of childhood nostalgia in comics was discussed by scholar of Literature Studies GHENWA HAYEK (Claremont). She stressed that comics allowed for a narrative intimacy interacting across generations, and, through the focus on urban daily life, for a shift from blame to empathy. Showing how the past wars structure today’s securitised urban landscape and daily life, a fear of future violence is conveyed.
Historian NORA LAFI (Berlin) opened the panel “Urban Conflicts and Cosmopolitanism” of the “Society & Governance” Track with her paper on processes of urban fragmentation in late Ottoman and early colonial Tunis, focusing on the social and spatial governance of the poor and marginalised. Showing how the old system of Ottoman urban governance through charity and patronage changed after the 1850s, Lafi argued that the increasing fragmentation, furthered by colonising interests, resulted from governance and civic institutions, and so could have been reversed. Sinologist HANG LIN (Hamburg) talked about identities in late 19th century Shanghai. Lin demonstrated how, in the context of the opening of Shanghai’s port to Western trade in 1842 and a fragmented urban administration due to foreign concessions, a distinctive “Shanghai identity” and a cosmopolitan society emerged, modelled upon Western modernity and combined with various Chinese traditions. Scholar of Central Asian Studies JEANINE DAĞYELİ (Berlin) elaborated on the preconditions for, procedure and possible functions of collective ritual urban violence in late 18th century Bukhara. While there was always the threat of it getting out of control, the competitive fights could also stabilise political order and were therefore used or forbidden by rulers.
The last panel of the third day of the “Language & Linguistic Creativity” Track was entitled “German or Polish?”. Scholar of Urban Studies ALEXANDER TÖLLE (Frankfurt an der Oder / Słubice) critically examined the effects of joint city development concepts for German-Polish twin cities. The projects were conceptualised as meeting places in an integrated European borderland. However, Tölle argued, these places degenerated and rather functioned as liminal places: between countries, cities and landscape, and between time and space, mediating the divided and non-divided pasts of the cities and ideas for the future. Linguists JOANNA BŁASZCZAK (Wrocław) and MARZENA ŻYGIS (Berlin) presented their study on the determining parameters of bilinguals’ national identity. In their survey conducted among German-Polish youths in Berlin, they found only Polish being significant regarding the influence of the level of language proficiency on identity. As some stress “Polishness” on purpose by identity markers in the language, having a national identity in times of European integration seems to be important for young bilingual people.
The conference stimulated fruitful discussions about various aspects of urban fragmentations and processes of construction, as well as the negotiation of shifting urban borders and related identities, addressing contemporary and historical examples from numerous regions. These processes are often exclusive and violent, connected to power relations and struggles. The organisers’ efforts to foster interdisciplinary exchange enriched the conference. As reflected on in the roundtable discussion, limits to interdisciplinarity were visible during the course of the conference - while participants embraced the interdisciplinary formats, beyond that they tended to stay in their discipline’s track. Overall, the conference provided a rich variety of academic analyses concerning the thematic topic of “the city”.
Manfred Krifka (GWZ Berlin, member of the board of directors; director of ZAS), Opening Address
Dietrich Nelle (Federal Ministry of Education and Research), Welcome Address
Jutta Koch-Unterseher (Head of the Berlin Senate Section of Economics, Research and Technology), Welcome Address
Hagen Findeis (ZMO, Berlin)/ Stefanie Jannedy (ZAS, Berlin)/ Dirk Naguschewski (ZfL, Berlin), Borders and Identity: Urban Fragmentations
Keynote Lecture I
Norma Mendoza-Denton (Los Angeles), Hemispheric Localism and Gang Membership among Latina/o Gangs in Northern California
Noon Session 1: Track: Language & Linguistics; Panel: Linguistic Landscapes
Klara Bilić Meštrić (Zagreb), Hybridity and Dynamism of Making of the Self – Multilingual Habitus of Children in Eastern Croatian Urban Spaces
Theresa Heyd (Freiburg), From Naija to Chitown: The New African Diaspora and Sociolinguistic Representations of Urban Space
Joanna Kremer (Sheffield), “Where are the Luxembourgers?”: Constructions of Place, Belonging and Foreignness
INTERFACE Panel: Berlin
Janet Fuller (Carbondale), Linguistic Landscapes in Berlin
Andreas Keller (Berlin), Labyrinth, Mauer, Neue Mitte: Spaces and Structures, Focus and Fragmentations in Berlin-Narratives (1900-1961-2011)
Berna Turam (Boston), Urban Space and Democratic Contestation: Kreuzberg, the “Turkish Neighborhood” of Berlin
Track: Society & Governance; Panel: Urban Planning – State and Social Actors
Anandita Bajpai (Berlin), (E)merging faces of India: Visions of the Urban in the Political Rhetoric of Indian Prime Ministers since 1991
Joseph Rustom (Cottbus-Senftenberg), Multi-Religious Societies and the Right to the City: The Case of the Al-Bashura District in Beirut
Natalya Kosmarskaya (Moscow), Shifting Urban Divisions and Identities in Post-Soviet Central Asia: Comparing Tashkent and Bishkek
Afternoon Session 2: Track: Track Language & Linguistics; Panel: Concepts
Elin Almér (Jyväskylä), Where it all Starts – Preschool Children’s Conceptions of Multilingualism
Kate Hammer (London), ‘After Crossing the Border’ – Linguistic and Psychosocial Perspectives on Migration
Marion Krause (Hamburg), Linguistic In-Group-Heterogeneity: The Case of Russian Heritage Speakers in German
Track: Literature & Translation; Panel: Diversity in Topography
Sebastian Cwiklinski (Berlin), Visibility of Ethnic Differences in Russian Megapolises: Tatars, Azeris and Central Asian Turks in Moscow and Saint Petersburg
Philipp Schröder (Berlin) / J. Otto Habeck (Hamburg), Angst in the City? Negotiating Ethnic and Sexual Diversity in Novosibirsk (Russia)
Rūta Eidukevičienė (Kaunas), Literary Topographies of Two Major Lithuanian Cities: The Significance of Natural Boundaries for Social and Cultural Fragmentation of the City Space
Track: Society & Governance; Panel: Urban Boundaries
Hanna Baumann (Cambridge), Jerusalem Marginalia: The Fragmentation of Palestinian Space and the Frontierisation of the Ghetto
Reza Masoudi Nejad (Berlin), Urban Margins, the Refuge for Mohurrum Processions in Bombay
Seçil Daǧtaș (Waterloo), Religious Borders: Neo-Ottoman Place-Making in Antakya
Late Session 3: Track: Language & Linguistics; Panel: Multilingual Cities
Lisa Bornstein / Jordan Rockerbie (Montréal), Planning in Multi-Lingual Cities: Can we Build a Better Babel?
Sarah McMonagle (Hamburg) / Lorna Carson (Dublin), Language Diversity in Dublin: Challenging the Monolingual Habitus?
Annemarie Sorescu- Marinković / Marija Ilić (Belgrade) / Monica Huţanu (Timisoara), Multilingualism and ethnic fragmentation on the European periphery: Romanian Language Use in the City of Belgrade
Track: Literature & Translation; Panel: Suburban Subjectivities
Matthias Schwartz (Berlin), Rebellion and Frustration. Fragmented Subjectivities among the Suburban in Polish Contemporary Literature
Lydia Wistisen (Stockholm), Suburban Masculinities – Identity, Alienation and Stereotypes in Three Contemporary Swedish Suburban Narratives
Shuangzhi Li (Göttingen), Urban Space as Queer Space in Hans Henny Jahnn's “Die Nacht aus Blei” and Herta Müller's “Reisende auf einem Bein”
Track: Society & Governance; Panel: Religion and Urban Place-Making
Hew Wai Weng (Berlin), Building a Religious City: The Production of Islamic Places in the Suburban of Jakarta
Jan-Markus Vömel (Konstanz), Reclaiming the Muslim Self – Notes on Islamist Urbanism in Turkey, ca. 1960–2000
Toufoul Abou-Hodeib (Oslo), Fragmented Publics: Class, Consumption, and Leisure in a Late Ottoman City
Morning Session 4: Track: Language & Linguistics; Panel: Urban Grammar
Heike Wiese / Ines Rehbein (Potsdam), Language Fluidity in Urban Diversity: Contact, Variation and Change in Dutch and German NPs
Kathleen Schumann (Potsdam), Lexical Focus Marking in Urban German: Kiezdeutsch and Namdeutsch
Ingrid Gogolin / Simone Lechner / Peter Siemund (Hamburg), The Acquisition of English as an Additional Language by Unbalanced Bilinguals in Germany
Track: Literature & Translation; Panel: Translating Urban Experiences
Olesya Ivantsova (Montréal), “Szenerie eines sozialen Dramas”: Russian Streets Translated by Western Intellectuals
Barış Ülker (Berlin), Photographing Modern Urban Development in Exile
Track: Society & Governance; Panel: Urban Gentrification and Gated Communities
Anwesha Sengupta (Oxford), From City Calls to City Walls: Emergence of Gated Communities and its Impact on the “Pheriwallahs /wallihs” of Kolkata
Karin Schuitema (Istanbul): Identities and Fragmented Memories in a Changing Urban Landscape: A Multi-Vocal Biography of Tophane
Antonin Margier (Lille), From the Interactions in Public Spaces to the Fragmentation of the City. Towards the Emergence of a Foam City?
Keynote Lecture II: Timothy Moss (Erkner), Splintering Urbanism Revisited
Anna Ananieva / Rolf Haaser (Tübingen), Circulation of News and Goods. The Transfer of Modern Urban Forms of Living in the German Speaking Press in Prague and Buda-Pest
Julie Abbou (Aix-en-Provence), Linguistic Embodiments and Political Genealogy of Inter- Colonialism in Hong Kong
Matthias Deininger (Heidelberg), Religious Diversity, Public Morality and the State in Singapore
Marwa El Chab (Paris), Modern Day Lebanese Urban Dynamics in Abidjan, Ivory Coast
Claudia Esch (Bamberg): What Kept a Medieval Town Together?
Christina Färber (Berlin), Alley-Grave: Language as an Inside Boundary of the Ghetto in “Der Schrei, den niemand hört!” by Else Feldmann
Luisa Helmeke / Melanie Weirich / Stefanie Jannedy (Berlin), Loss of Phonemic Contrast as a Marker of Social Identity
Abdolhosein Kalantari / Sediqa Bakhtiari / Abdullah Mohammadi (Tehran), Hazara Refugees’ Repatriation to Afghanistan and the Continuity of Their Historical Ghettoization in Kabul
Maria Pohle / Heike Wiese (Potsdam), Kiezdeutsch as a Peer-Group Marker: Linguistic Creativity and Situational Choice in Urban Youth
Anna Ross (Oxford), Photographing Reurbanization in West Berlin, 1979-84
Lucija Šimičić (Zadar) / Lana Peternel Bosniak (Zagreb), Ethnic and Sociolinguistic Identity Transformation in Zagreb, Croatia
Agnieszka Stanecka / Monika Gregorowicz-Cap (Piotrków Trybunalski), From the Suburbs to the City – Postcolonial Route
Juan R. Valdez (New York), Broken Words: An Analysis of Symbolic Violence in Language Debates in Puerto Rico
Lisa Wälischmiller (Munich), The Influence of Standard German on Central Bavarian Open Vowels
Solace Yankson (Nijmegen), Akan Migrants in Accra: A Sociolinguistic Perspective
Azzurra Sarnataro (Rome) / Hassan ElMouelhi (Berlin): Questioning Terminology in Urban Studies: the Concept of ezba in Cairo’s Informality
Roundtable Discussion: New Perspectives on Interdisciplinarity?
Sanaa Alimia (London, Berlin) / Rudolf Gaudio (New York) / Stefan Willer (Berlin)
Chair: Dirk Naguschewski (Berlin)
Keynote Lecture III
Tarek El-Ariss (Austin), The Sublime Now
Morning Session 5: Track: Language & Linguistics; Panel: Youth Identities
Nico Nassenstein (Cologne), Urban Youth Languages in the Great Lakes Region of Africa: Overview of Identity Constructions and Manipulative Strategies
Katharina Tyran (freelance researcher), Visualizing Identity, Scripting Borders – Writing Systems beyond Linguistic Functionality
Track: Literature & Translation; Panel: Lebanon – The Aftereffects of War
James A. Reilly (Toronto), Dueling Visions of Ottoman Beirut
Kifah Hanna (Hartford, CT), Desire and Belonging in Lebanese War Literature
Ghenwa Hayek (Claremont), “The War is Over (hahaha)” : Memory and Anxiety in Lebanese Comics
Noon Session: INTERFACE Panel: Urban Subjectivity
Sophie Wennerscheid (Ghent), Suburban Subjectivity in Contemporary Swedish Multilingual Literature
Siri Lamoureaux (Halle), Debates over Value and Morality among Nuba Christian Migrants in Khartoum, Sudan
Rudolf Gaudio (New York), “Big Grammar” and Pidgin Pride: Linguistic Trans/Nationalism in Nigeria's Capital
Track: Literature & Translation; Panel: Literary Representations of Israeli Cities
Shira Stav (Be’er Sheva), Capitalist Realism and the Fragmented Experience of the City in Post-Modern Hebrew Novel
Abigail Wood (Haifa), Passing Sounds and Fragmentary Narratives: Articulating Changing Boundaries in Jerusalem’s Old City
Chen Strass (Be’er Sheva/ Tel Aviv), The Apartment Building and the Borders of Representation: On the City and its Dwellers in Israeli Literature
Track: Society & Governance; Panel: Urban Conflicts and Cosmopolitanism
Nora Lafi (Berlin), Processes of Urban Fragmentation on the Margins of Late-Ottoman and Early Colonial Tunis
Hang Lin (Hamburg), The Kaleidoscope of an Emerging Cosmopolitan Society: Peoples, Lives, and Identities in Late Nineteenth Century Shanghai
Jeanine Daǧyeli (Berlin), Rioters and Martyrs: Ritual Urban Violence in late 18th-Century Bukhara
Afternoon Session 7: Track: Language & Linguistics; Panel: German or Polish?
Maria Klessmann / Dominik Gerst / Slavena Korsun (Frankfurt (Oder)), Multilingualism and Linguistic Demarcations in the Border Region: The Linguistic Border Landscape of the German- Polish Twin Cities Frankfurt (Oder) – Słubice
Alexander Tölle (Frankfurt an der Oder / Slubice), Designing Places of Integration, Retaining Spaces of Liminality. The Case of the German-Polish Twin Cities upon Oder and Neisse
Joanna Błaszczak (Wroclaw) / Marzena Żygis (Berlin), Am I German or Polish? A Case Study with Polish-German Children Living in Berlin
Track: Literature & Translation; Panel: Living Memories
André Otto (Hamburg), Superimpositions. Roy Fisher’s Poetic Terrains Vagues
Silvia Machein (Heidelberg), The City as Dreamscape: Metaphor, Metonymy, and the Politics of Memory in Kaunas, Lithuania
Aristotelis Anagnostopoulos (Kent), Modernity in Ruins: Materiality, Trauma and Class Antagonism in Cultures of commemoration in Heraklion, Crete
INTERFACE Panel: Urban Planning
Lieven Ameel (Helsinki), Narrative Planning in Helsinki’s Waterfront Regeneration: New Directions in Planning Practices and Theory
George Owusu (Accra), Decentralized Development Planning and Fragmentation of Metropolitan Districts in Ghana: The Case of the Greater Accra Metropolitan Area
Natalia Gagarina (Berlin), Multilingualism: Language Testing and Planning
 Angela McRobbie / Garber, Jenny, “Girls and subcultures.” In: Hall, Stuart and Jefferson, Tony (eds.), Resistance through Rituals: Youth Subcultures in Postwar Britain. New York 2006 , pp. 172–184.
 Setha M. Low, The Edge and the Center: Gated Communities and the Discourse of Urban Fear. In: American Anthropologist, New Series, 103, 1. March 2001, pp. 45–58.
 Stephen Graham, / Simon Marvin, Splintering Urbanism: Networked Infrastructures, Technological Mobilities and the Urban Condition, New York 2001.
 Edmund Burke, A Philosophical Inquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and the Beautiful, London 2013 .
 Barnett Newman, The Sublime is Now. In: The Ides of Art, Six Opinions on What is Sublime in Art? Tiger’s Eye New York. Nr. 6, 1948, pp. 52–53.
 Henri Lefebvre, Le droit à la ville, Paris 1968.