Cities, Difference, Community: a Manifesto

Berlin is a city full of every imaginable type of difference, from the working class block within the flashy district to the streets of Turkish imports and ancient Berliner pubsWe see diversity as a constitutive element, enriching our common spaces with nuance and contrast, in ways often left out of political debates on so-called ‘integration’. We see Berlin through a lens that, although formed by a unique historical and political context, can provide lessons for other metropolises struggling to build community in the face of diffusion and its discontents.

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Photo by Juri Gottschau

We advocate for the idea that every city is home to its very own “collision” of cultures and thus has unique stories about diversity to share. Through the lens of migration – the movement and coming together of people – we believe that we can understand more about what makes ‘us’ who we are on an individual, local, and global scale. Through our personal lens of moving and living across borders, we aim to make sense of what defines and shapes the places we call home, as well as the places we leave. Cities, as a reflection of ‘the we’, are a good place to start.

The Collidoscope Manifesto

Originally published as a guest post for the Global Citizens Initiative

Individuals are born within borders. On a map, these borders seem relatively arbitrary: meandering lines awkwardly encircling blurbs of land. And yet in our lives, the purpose they are meant to serve is anything but, as borders demarcate political, legal, and bureaucratic spaces, as much as they do geographic ones. For it is not geography – the land itself – that keeps us from coming and going. It is our (hu)man-made political systems and governments that determine who is permitted to enter or leave, to immigrate or emigrate, to belong or not to belong.

Despite the presence of these borders, we all make our way across these lines one way or another. Whether through relationships abroad, use of technology, involvement in international groups, or participation in the global economy: our lives are increasingly global and less tied to the borders in which we were born or reside. While this does not automatically make us all global citizens (which necessitates awareness and action), it fosters connections across borders that reinforce the idea of a world community. How can we reconcile this ever-present reality with our understanding of borders and restrictions on an individual’s freedom of movement?

The majority of us – more than ever before – lives in cities. Thanks largely to migration, modern cities have become microcosms of the global community, home to spectacular cultural, ethnic, and religious diversity. While this “collision” of cultures can pose challenges, it is also a tremendous opportunity for growth and enrichment. If we begin to view our cities’ pockets and spaces of difference as opportunities – becoming more empathetic, inclusive, and participatory in the process – we can begin to realize global values within local communities.

Berlin, Germany is one example: a city with a long history of attracting those who are “different”, where 1 in every 4 residents is of foreign origin and 138 countries are represented. A city that is undergoing constant transformation, while undertaking the challenge of integrating not only newcomers, but the 2nd and 3rd generations. A city that is brimming with rich diversity and teeming with opportunities. Collidoscope Berlin is a celebration of these stories and opportunities, a conversation-starter, a democratic and inclusive view of the many peoples, spaces, and settings that constitute the modern city.

This manifesto will surely change, as more lessons come to be and stories shift with the political terrain. With this in mind, please contact us with your questions, comments, or ideas for collaboration. This is an ever-evolving project in progress, and we are ever excited to learn.

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