Contested Geographies of German Reunification: Neighbourhood Action in Leipzig, 1989-1993

Smith, Fiona Mary (1996) Contested Geographies of German Reunification: Neighbourhood Action in Leipzig, 1989-1993. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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German reunification is too easily regarded as a legal and administrative process, simply involving the application of Federal German experiences to eastern Germany. By concentrating on the processes and experiences of neighbourhood and city development in the city of Leipzig over the period from 1989 to 1993, this study illustrates the diversity of the processes underway and the highly contested nature of the restructuring of the urban environment at this time. Not only was the city being reshaped physically, but the definitions and meanings of the 'political' and of geographical categories (public space, private space, neighbourhood, local, state, nation) were also open to renegotiation, often in highly contested ways. Documentary sources, interviews, group discussions, observations and questionnaires were used to explore forms of action and resistance developed by local residents. This concentrated on five case-study areas and on the responses to the uneven and unequal interest of formal planning and of capital in Leipzig's degraded urban landscape. In this the utility of post-colonial and post-structuralist strategies of identity and resistance was illustrated and questions were raised about western theoretical understandings of community action, democracy, citizenship, public and private spheres and eastern European 'transitions'. Geographies of local action arose from, and reshaped the legacy of, both normative geographies of citizenship defined by state and Party in the GDR and experiences of the GDR revolution when, alongside demands for political reform, problems of urban decay and extreme pollution were raised in public forums and marches. This (re)politicised public space and transgressed the boundaries of appropriate forms of and sites for action. GDR planners and activists developed plans for local change around discourses of "careful renewal" and "citizen involvement", stressing the importance of neighbourhoods, local citizens' knowledge and avoidance of political dogma in favour of rational planning. Tensions emerged after reunification among those involved in planning for the city and the neighbourhoods. While Leipzig attracted intense investment in the built environment, regulations for the transferral of property and public spending limits served to block many local changes. Alliances and tensions developed between residents, local politicians and planners from East and West around different understandings of the significance of local action, the status of local knowledge and about suitable forms of planning. Competing forms of scale politics developed around the scales of the citizen, neighbourhood, city, nation. These were associated with particular understandings of the nature of reunification and of the appropriate relation between urban planning and civic action. Essentially these crystallised around two geographical imaginings which viewed reunification either as a developmental process in time, removed from power relations, or as a negotiation across space which allowed spaces for action, for alternative developments, and for alliances across the markers of East and West. Reunification was, and continues to be, shaped by uneven power relations between East and West, between residents and capital interests, between past experiences and western norms. However, the thesis illustrates that viewing the categories of East and West as internally homogeneous is misleading and denies the multiple ways in which actions are contested, and meanings constructed.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Additional Information: Adviser: Ronan Paddison
Keywords: Geography, Urban planning, Public administration
Date of Award: 1996
Depositing User: Enlighten Team
Unique ID: glathesis:1996-75583
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 19 Nov 2019 19:23
Last Modified: 19 Nov 2019 19:23

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