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URO LAB 2: Governing the Narcotic City: Discourses on Drug Use, Dealers and Migration

The second URO Lab focuses on contested urban orders of the Görlitzer Park - a public park in the neighborhood of Kreuzberg in Berlin.


Located in a diverse and rapidly gentrifying area between two vibrant nightlife districts, the Görlitzer Park continues to afford a number of uses to a wide variety of groups, including migrants, bohemians, local families, tourists and drug dealers. Recently, the park has become a key site for administrative and governmental interventions; not least caused by an increasing number of refugees using a space intended for recreational activities. Consequently, in late 2014, the park was declared a “danger zone” with ensuing increases of patrols, raids and arrests. Still, as both the marijuana trade as well as the protests against racial discrimination continue to escalate, the Görlitzer Park is currently the site of one of the hottest conflicts of Berlin as well as a symbol for the ongoing struggle over public space and “the right to the city”.

Three days of fieldwork and discussion

Using the complex socio-political entanglements around Görlitzer Park as a focus point, this international workshop aims to investigate the multiple and overlapping strategies and dynamics through which certain ‘urban orders’ emerge, reproduce and potentially transform. These orders entail forms of multi-level government and governance like systems of law and policing, territorializations and relations of private and public property, as well as arrangements of everyday practices, such as micro economies, forms of consumption and multiple uses of public space as place making by a broad variety of actors.

To address these dynamics, the URO Lab will bring together perspectives from geography, anthropology, history and urban studies as well as local activists and policy makers. The format of the workshop will cover inputs and presentations by local stakeholders and researchers as well as in-depth explorations and inquiries in small investigative teams allowing for focused and productive discussions aiming to identify and explore particular forms of ‘urban orders’.

By applying different approaches of multi-sited fieldwork (observation, participation, ‘nosing around’), we will address issues of urban government and governance, migration, the function and design of public space as well as urban political economies (e.g. the impact of tourism and its entanglement with the urban drug and nightlife cultures). By doing so, we will also discuss the complex networks of urban actors and social infrastructures around Görlitzer Park spanning from the local government, police and social workers to urban green space planners, refugee activists, journalists, residents, dealers, tourists and many more.

In order to explore the complex situation around the open drug market in the Görlitzer Park, we will also address the historical dynamics of the West Berlin drug culture, spatial politics and immigration policies. In this sense, Kreuzberg and especially the area around Görlitzer Park can indeed be understood as a laboratory as it serves as a key testing ground for new policies and governmental techniques as well as forms of protest and resistance. Investigating the entanglements of spatial practices, governmental strategies and politics of discourse around the Görlitzer Park promises valuable insights into how urban rights and orders are contested and negotiated.

Local Project Group

Dr. Thomas Bürk

Critical Geography Group Berlin, and Institute for Geography, Hamburg University



Dr. Stefan Höhne

Center for Metropolitan Studies, Technische Universität Berlin



Dr. Boris Michel

Institute for Geography, Erlangen University