Hatred, Division and Healing in Berlin and Detroit: Sociospatial Trauma and the Role of Urban Green Space

Authors: Paul Draus*, , Dagmar Haase, Humboldt University Berlin, Jacob Napieralski, The University of Michigan-Dearborn, Salman Qureshi, Humboldt University Berlin, Juliette Roddy, University of Michigan-Dearborn, Nichole Bowman, The University of Michigan-Dearborn, Alec Sparks, The University of Michigan-Dearborn
Topics: Urban Geography, Landscape, Ethnicity and Race
Keywords: trauma, healing, green space
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/14/2018
Start / End Time: 2:00 PM / 3:40 PM
Room: Grand Ballroom A, Astor, 2nd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Many parallels may be drawn between Berlin, Germany, and Detroit, Michigan, some facile and others more meaningful. For example, Berlin and Detroit are both recognized as centers of electronic music; both are seen as fashionably gritty; and both have benefited from an influx of artists and others seeking affordable rents and the sometimes ghostly allure of post-industrial spaces. But the parallels run deeper than these superficial similarities, because both cities have been deeply traumatized by histories of hatred. For forty years after WWII, West Berlin was effectively a democratic island within communist East Germany, while Detroit after 1970 became a proud Black island within a majority-White metropolitan region. During these periods, Berlin and Detroit each experienced stages of steep population decline. In the case of Berlin, this was followed by stabilization and regrowth after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. While Detroit’s losses have only begun to level off, some point hopefully towards future regrowth. In this presentation, we consider specific examples from each city that help to shed light on the relationship between green spaces and ongoing social conflicts and divisions. We propose that open and green space may be seen as both a reflection of past harms and as a means of remembering and healing. We also consider the potential for these green space projects to deepen divisions and erase memories of the marginalized. Finally, we conclude with some thoughts concerning the challenges faced by each city in terms of pressing questions of justice and equity.

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