A couple months ago, Collidoscope Berlin was invited to write its first guest post for the Global Citizens Initiative – an organization that aims “to build a network of people who see themselves as global citizens and want to build a better world”. Part of the task was to connect what we do here to the significance of borders. “Borders?”, we wondered, unsure how to proceed but mostly questioning why we had never concretely addressed the topic before. What kind of immigration project doesn’t discuss borders?
When we launched this project in April of last year, we knew we wanted to do something different related to the topic of difference. We knew of groups that promoted and celebrated cultural and ethnic diversity. We had worked for institutions that research and analyze immigrant integration. Our goal was to do something in between, producing articles and commentary that both told a story and provided facts and context. And we wanted to do this through the lens of one city that, although formed by a unique historical and political context, could perhaps provide lessons for others.
A few days ago, Collidoscope Berlin turned one-year old – and as we took the opportunity to reflect back, we realized that not talking about borders was, in fact, making a statement about borders. It wasn’t that we thought borders were unimportant or that we were advocating their complete erosion. Rather, we were advocating for the idea that every city is home to its very own “collision” of cultures and thus has unique stories about diversity and difference. 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 the individual, local, and global scales. 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.
We’d like to conclude this anniversary post by thanking everyone who has been part of the discussion this past year – reading, commenting, critiquing, supporting, following, contributing photos and story ideas and event announcements – we appreciate it all and look forward to another year of diversity, difference, and positive discourse!
– By Sophia Burton and Kelly Miller
First photo by Anna Meister, second photo by Collidoscope Berlin, third photo by Juri Gottschau.