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Between 'creative' boost and political dysfunction: An exploration of class, culture and economic dislocation in East Berlin

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In cities where tourism, creative industries and new service economies are boosting, the continuing impact of de-industrialization is less prominent than in discussions of, for example, former Rustbelt cities. Yet, these cities display new forms of intra-urban inequalities that are, beyond the discussion of gentrification, not strongly visible in urban sociology discourses. While scholarly work on Berlin focuses on its gentrification and touristification, urban social movements and forms of migration, less attention is paid to the city as a site of de-industrialization, economic dislocation, class-based defamations and the resulting labelling of political dysfunctionality of certain parts of the population. Exploring the less visible yet ongoing effects of de-industrialization in the post-socialist context of a formerly divided city, this article contributes to a better conceptual understanding of the economic dislocation of the (previous) working classes of East Berlin. It is argued that effects of deindustrialization are related to the cultural and relational production of class through the organization of socialist industrial work and that these effects are ongoing, yet silenced. Lastly, the article outlines a set of hypotheses regarding the friction of a decreasing public, yet continued personal relevance of industrial and working-class heritage, socially and materially, in the city.
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Keywords: de-industrialization; industrial heritage; post-socialism; regeneration; right-wing voting; social class

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 0000000122487401 Humboldt-Universit├Ąt zu Berlin

Publication date: September 1, 2019

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  • Cities have been increasingly at the forefront of debate in both humanities and social-science disciplines, but there has been relatively little dialogue across these disciplinary boundaries. Journals in social-science fields that use urban-studies methods to look at life in cities rarely explore the cultural aspects of urban life in any depth or delve into close readings of the representation of cities in individual cultural products. As a platform for interdisciplinary scholarship from any and all linguistic, cultural and geographical traditions, the Journal of Urban Cultural Studies prioritizes the urban phenomenon in order to better understand the culture(s) of cities.
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