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Welcome to the Blue-Light District! The Transformation of Berlin-Kreuzberg and the Making of Narcotic Places

Authors: Stefan Hoehne*, Institut Für Kulturwissenschaft (KWI) Essen
Topics: Urban Geography, Cultural Geography, Migration
Keywords: narcotics, public space, drugs, urban
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

“Save us from the Drug Menace!” or “No one is safe here!” - If such media headlines are to be believed, a small area in the midst of Berlin-Kreuzberg is in a terrifying state of emergency and about to drown in a vortex of violence, drugs and anarchy.The public drug scenes for heroin and pills at Kottbusser Tor as well as for Cannabis at Görlitzer Park have become the center stage in a conflict entangling dynamics of gentrification, migration, touristification and the right to the city.

Especially in recent years, the open drug scenes in Berlin-Kreuzberg have sparked outrage by local residents as well as a hysterical media campaign. As a reaction, politicians, government agencies and the pmobilize everything in their disposal to restore law and order while activists and social workers aim for strategies of de-escalation and controlled use.

However, these narcotic spaces also attract more and more international tourists each year, making the district one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe. How can such a drug-infested and dangerous area in the same time be dream destinations for tourists, migrants, and “global creatives” alike? To untangle this dynamics, I will trace the governmental strategies, discourses and interventions in and around Görlitzer Park and Kottbusser Tor. Drawing on interviews and media analysis we will argue that these the conflicts around these public narcotic cultures have to be addressed in context of the global political economy of tourism and migration well as governmental strategies of localism and policing space.

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