Displaceability and Defensive Urban Citizenship(s): Urban Politics of 'Throwntogetherness' in Tel-Aviv

Authors: Oren Yiftachel*, Ben-Gurion University, Nir Cohen, Bar-Ilan University
Topics: Urban Geography, Immigration/Transnationalism, Urban and Regional Planning
Keywords: 'defensive urban citizenship', displacement, neoliberal urban planning, ethnocratic policies
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Marriott Ballroom Salon 3, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This paper contributes to the theorization of contemporary cities by developing two conceptual terms –'urban displaceability' and 'defensive urban citizenship'. We hold that 'displaceability' and 'defensiveness' redefine urban citizenship under conditions of 'throwntogetherness', marked by uncertainty and temporariness, which increasingly define contemporary regimes and societies. Focusing on southern Tel-Aviv's diverse neighborhoods, which host large groups of labor migrants and asylum seekers, we show that their settlement has set in motion a pro-eviction campaign led by a coalition of old-time residents (mainly marginalized Eastern Jews) and fueled by an ethnocratic national regime. Adding to the turmoil has been the new municipal Masterplan (Tel-Aviv 5000), which promotes institutionalized gentrification and massive regeneration projects, but largely overlooks the identity and needs of local communities. Consequently, southern neighborhoods have become sites of persistent conflict over resources – both material and symbolic, needed to avert communal displacement. The shadow of displaceability, elicited by neoliberal policies, is shared -- in various guises --- by most communities in the area, thereby adding new layers to their contested urban citizenship. We show that against these forces a new form of territorially-based political identity emerges -- defensive urban citizenship (DUC), entailing the self-organization of residential communities to defend their imperiled spaces. Thus, the forced coalescence of marginalized groups in areas deprived of resources, and pressured by 'regeneration' projects, produces new intersections of socio-spatial struggles and identities. As out study shows, these must be studied 'from below' in order to fully capture the nature of contemporary urbanism.

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