Elina Kränzle

  Zones of Insecurity – Nation, Nationalism and the Politics of Public Space (working title)
Photo © Kränzle    

European cities are undergoing accelerated change in the context of deindustrialization, European integration and global migration, economic globalization and climate change and their inhabitants are increasingly confronted with difference. This has been taken up by many scholars in the field of urban studies who have developed an ethics of multiculturalism and cosmopolitanism in cities based on the multiple contact points urban life offers with its various cultures, religions, ethnicities or lifestyles.

This Everyday Cosmopolitanism faces the reality of belonging and participation in the democratic nation-state, which is still legitimized through nationality and an often essentialized national identity. The recurring idea that identity is bound up with a fixed cultural and spatial position is reflected on many political levels: there is still no agreement on a joint rescue and integration strategy of refugees whose lives remain threatened in overcrowded border camps, campaigns against immigration have dominated populist politics across Europe, and anti-immigration-parties have won influence, just to name a few symptoms of a new nationalism.

The spatial sciences have contributed to an understanding of how urban space is made a central arena of such anti- and ethnopluralist, xenophobic and nationalist agendas and exposed the city as a contested space of political appropriations. Recent German-speaking architecture, urbanism and urban studies publications presented critical research on the conservative to extreme-right aesthetics, conceptualization and appropriation of space. What most recent research in urban studies has still fallen short of are analyses of how nationalism is inscribed into everyday praxis, life and relations in cities, and how urban development is relevant in nation-building and cultural unification. Shifting the perspective on nationalism from an understanding as extraordinary to an understanding as an ideological habit of established nation states, Michael Billig’s work on Banal Nationalism (1995) points to how the nation-state is reproduced daily. Departing from such an understanding of nationalism, the aim of this work is to link discourses on nationalism and urbanization as constitutive forces of contemporary societies looking at different phenomena of space production by the nation-state.

Applying Corrigan and Sayer’s (1985) concept of “state’s statements” to understand how the state through namings, statistics, definitions, or mappings articulates problematizations of space in policy, the aim of my research is to analyze how through these statements space is produced and which conceptions of space and society underlie. The qualitative research builds primarily on close-up, detailed observations of multiple-cases of national urban space policy affecting public spaces in Vienna, such as the propagation of different prohibitive zones (Sicherheitszonen, Waffenverbotszonen), and covers 1) specific reports, regulations and policies of the federal state which affect urban spaces directly or indirectly; 2) urban policy responses from the urban government level to these interventions; 3) the ways in which these statements are translated into “policing” of urban spaces. Instead of a comparative approach, this multiple-case study design covers different policies of public space regulation in Vienna to draw a single set of conclusions across these multiple cases looking at contemporary transformations of the state in Austria through the lens of space.

Supervision   Prof. Dr. phil. DI (FH) Sabine Knierbein (TU Wien, Austria)
Scholarship   Promotionsförderung der Studienstiftung des deutschen Volkes