Constitutional graffiti: Emergent landscapes of Corona protest in German cities

(French version below)

Munich, Germany – Only seldom do constitutional debates take the streets. However, these bureaucratically heated disputes–regularly discussed in the secluded spaces of courts–sometimes catch media attention and stir political debate. After the implementation of stark public health measures to fight against the expansion of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic in Germany, a mounting controversy has opened up in the last weeks. Federal states like Bavaria have issued public space use guidelines to prevent the virus to spread: these recommend not only a safety distance of 1,5m, but also include bans affecting many institutions and big shops, which have closed or been reduced to essential-mode only; in the streets and parks groups of only 3 people are allowed, with the sole exception of larger groups living in the same household. When appreciated in a comparative gaze, these measures are far less strict than most of the neighboring EU countries. However, different political factions in Germany consider that they affect the rights of free protest and the freedom of assembly.

In the last weeks there have been scattered protests all over the country, having some support across the political spectrum, against what some have called a ‘Demoverbot’ (ban of demonstrations). Some wonder: What should go first, fundamental rights or health? The debate, of course, takes different connotations, left or right. And there are different expressions related to it. Some weeks ago, a man was photographed in Karlsruhe carrying a makeshift book copy of the Constitution tied to his back. On May Day several ‘Spontis’ (spontaneous demonstrations) took the streets in the popular districts of Berlin in protest for the ban. Walking by the Isar – Munich’s river – some days ago, I found another modality: a graffiti fight painted on the pavement in a bike lane from the green spaces running parallel to the water in the Glockenbachviertel’s embankment. A collision of political views in yellow and white. In yellow someone had painted a statement whereby ‘Corona’ came to stand as the ‘Demoverbot’ in itself. In white, someone felt compelled to correct this: ‘Corona’, that person thought, is a ‘virus’, whereas ‘capitalism’ would be ‘the problem.’

[FR] Munich, Allemagne – Il est rare que les débats constitutionnels se déroulent dans la rue. Malgré tout, il arrive que ces disputes bureaucratiques de haute volée — habituellement réservées aux espaces confinés des tribunaux — attirent l’attention des médias et suscitent un débat politique. Ces dernières semaines, après la mise en œuvre de mesures de santé publique draconiennes pour lutter contre l’expansion de la pandémie de SRAS-CoV-2 en Allemagne, une controverse grandissante a émergé. Des États fédéraux comme la Bavière ont publié des directives sur l’usage de l’espace public pour empêcher le virus de se propager : celles-ci recommandent non seulement que soit respectée une distance de sécurité d’1,5 mètre, mais comprennent également des interdictions touchant de nombreuses institutions et de grands magasins, dont la plupart ont fermés ou ont été réduits à un service minimum ; dans les rues et dans les parcs, seuls les groupes de 3 personnes sont autorisés, à l’exception des collectifs pour peu nombreux qui vivent sous le même toit. Lorsqu’on les compare, ces mesures sont beaucoup moins strictes que dans la plupart des pays voisins de l’UE. Cependant, différentes factions politiques en Allemagne considèrent qu’elles affectent les droits de manifestation et la liberté de réunion. 

Au cours des dernières semaines, quelques manifestations ont été organisées dans le pays, avec un certain soutien de l’ensemble du spectre politique, contre ce que certains ont appelé un « Demoverbot » (une interdiction de manifester). On s’interroge : qu’est-ce qui devrait passer en premier, les droits fondamentaux ou la santé ? Le débat, bien sûr, prend différentes connotations, à gauche ou à droite. Et différentes expressions y sont associées. Il y a quelques semaines, un homme a été photographié à Karlsruhe avec un exemplaire de la constitution fait maison attaché dans le dos. Le 1er mai, plusieurs « Spontis » (cortèges spontanés de protestation) sont descendus dans les rues des quartiers populaires de Berlin pour contester l’interdiction. En me promenant le long de la rivière Isar-Munich, j’ai découvert il y a quelques jours une autre modalité d’expression : un combat de graffitis peints sur une piste cyclable du Glockenbachviertel, au niveau des espaces verts qui longent l’eau. Une confrontation de points de vue politiques en jaune et blanc. En blanc, quelqu’un avait peint une équation dans laquelle le « Corona » se substituait au « Demoverbot ». En jaune, quelqu’un s’est senti obligé d’en rectifier les termes : Le « Corona », selon cette personne, est un « virus », tandis que le « capitalisme » serait « le problème » (kindly translated by Jérôme Denis)

Publication and rationale

This short picture & text is a guest contribution to Scriptopolis (11 May 2020), the wonderful archive documenting material approaches to writing phenomena curated by Marie Alauzen, Jérôme Denis, David Pontille & Didier Torny.

Although the brief accompanying text provides contextual info on the picture, some relevant phenomena (like the 9pm clapping & the vast support of the measures) are obviously missing in this attempt at charting out landscapes of protest in German cities under Corona public health regulations. However, I wanted to document this to reflect how different liberal versions of ‘exposure’ might be emerging…

Interestingly, there are also newer landscapes of protest operating with an idea of ‘shared protection’: Disability rights movements like AbilityWatch have been exploring forms of demonstrating ‘at a distance’, particularly at a time when they feel even more exposed by a re-enactment of eugenic-like measures in health care using the hashtag #UNsichtbar. +info here: https://maiprotest.de/

Come what may, and beyond the more or less spectacular display of street protests, a looming question seems to linger: even if might sound like a minor issue, a too-civil concern, appreciating the constitutionality of these measures has become also a debate between jurists, given that they might have a jurisprudential value – hence, exploring their juridical and scientific grounding becomes quintessential, since they might be having a future impact.

Some background references

Jan Fährmann, Hartmut Aden, Clemens Arzt (15 Apr 2020). Versammlungs­freiheit – auch in Krisenzeiten!. Verfassungsblog: On matters constitutional.

SZ.de (18 Apr 2020). Verfassungsrichter kippen Stuttgarts Demoverbot. Sueddeutsche Zeitung.

Reuters (26 Apr 2020). Coronavirus: dozens arrested in Berlin protesting against lockdown. The Guardian.

Walther Michl (28 Apr 2020). Die Kohärenz als Begleitmusik zum infektions­schutz­rechtlichen Tanz. Verfassungsblog: On matters constitutional.

Felix Bohr, Uwe Buse, Anna Clauß, Markus Feldenkirchen, Barbara Hardinghaus, Wolfgang Höbel, Guido Kleinhubbert, Martin Knobbe, Julia Koch, Dialika Neufeld, Christopher Piltz, Max Polonyi, Andreas Wassermann and Alfred Weinzierl (1 May 2020). Germans Split Over Lifting of Lockdown. Der Spiegel.

rbb24.de (2 May 2020). 1. Mai in Berlin – Tausende Menschen ziehen dicht an dicht durch Kreuzberg. rbb24.de

Maik Baumgärtner, Felix Bohr, Roman Höfner, Timo Lehmann, Ann-Katrin Müller, Sven Röbel, Marcel Rosenbach, Jonas Schaible, Wolf Wiedmann-Schmidt und Steffen Winter (8 May 2020). Sturm der Lügen. Der Spiegel.

Thomas Anlauf (10 May 2020). Ohne Masken, ohne Abstand. Sueddeutsche Zeitung.

Public Lecture Series of the Center for Metropolitan Studies (TU Berlin) – WiSe 2018/2019 “Technologies of the City”


I am particularly happy to take part in this Winter Semester’s Public Lecture Series of the Center for Metropolitan Studies (TU Berlin), under the theme “Technologies of the City”.

Hence, next February 5th 2019 I will be presenting the following talk:

Infrastructure as ‘the people’: The social-technocracy of Barcelona’s accessible sidewalk standards

Disability rights activists have for a long time advocated for cities hospitable to bodily difference: de-stigmatizing, enabling, and supportive of their bodily diversity. Since the 1970s protests, many cities of the Global North have developed processes to sensitize architects, engineers, and civil servants so that such environments could be made to exist, creating the conditions for urban infrastructures to embody concrete arrangements of ‘sidewalk democracy.’ Drawing from archival, interview and observational work in the city of Barcelona, I would like to show different attempts at this: from the instalment of ‘free-barrier’ policies and architectural standards to more contemporary problematizations around ‘cultural’ and ‘multisensory’ approaches. Grounding on STS and Anthropology works, I would like to provide an account of the particular ‘infrastructural style’ of these undertakings, and the challenge it poses: or how a de-stigmatizing agenda is predated by its very mode of implementation.

To exemplify, I would like to reflect on the ways in which the city’s accessible sidewalks and crossings have been made and implemented to stand as infrastructures for ‘the people’. First, I will delineate the participatory governance processes–involving several representatives and associative movements of people with disabilities–through which the system of ‘urban elements’, including accessible sidewalks, was developed by the city hall. Second, I will show recent civic, techno-legal and techno-political controversies that have arisen after the enactment of a newer state-wide regulation, entailing an alternative sidewalk configuration: this will allow me to pay special attention to a ‘shared streets’ implementation in the iconic Passeig de Gràcia, which created as a response a united front of disability rights activists self-denominated ‘streets for all’, whose articulate demands were put on hold because ‘a technical solution was needed’.

In paying attention to the contested modes of composing those accessible urban infrastructures, I would like to analyze the relational architectures there arising, also reflecting on the challenges they pose to urban democracy. Even though the aspiration is openly and overtly social-democratic–these infrastructures standing for an aspiration to achieve an inclusive society for all, undoing and reworking the stigma of bodily diversity–, I call this infrastructure of public space and mobility an instance of ‘social technocracy’. In order to democratically respond to the many social demands of different stigmatized collectives and activist initiatives wishing to further use the city and move around, the only available strategy is a very paradoxical one: to produce an expert-managed, materially sealed, and procedurally closed-down to public scrutiny type of urban infrastructure. Rather tragically, in seeking to provide urban infrastructures and practices to tackle with manifold forms bodily stigma and social cohesion, newer versions of ‘inclusive exclusion’ are invented, of technocratic origin. Or, put otherwise, the material mode of expression and urban articulation of these political aspirations foregrounds infrastructures as ‘the people’. Against this background, alternative politicizations around accessibility, both intra- and extra-institutional might show us a way through: how, rather than engaging in classic political contestation, a technical democratization of these urban infrastructures is needed to avoid redoubling technocratically the harsh effects of stigma.


Antropologia de les Infraestructures i les Mobilitats – GRECS (UB)

El próximo viernes 9 de noviembre Roger Sansi organiza en Barcelona unas jornadas bien interesantes sobre antropología de las infraestructuras y la movilidad. Gracias a su amable invitación, ahí estaré andaré presentando mi trabajo más reciente sobre las infraestructuras accesibles de la ciudad de Barcelona.

Dejo por aquí el programa:

JORNADES INTERNACIONALS ANTROPOLOGIA DE LES INFRAESTRUCTURES I LES MOBILITATS

Universitat de Barcelona, Facultat de Geografia i Historia, Aula 411

C.Montalegre 6, Barcelona.

9 de novembre 2018

10.45. Presentació  

11.00 Infrastructuring urban mobility: Discipline, culture and a tramway construction in Cuenca, Ecuador. Sam Rume, Universitat de Barcelona

11.30  ‘Baka Motility and Fascia: Mobilities, Infrastructures and Moving-Sensing Bodies’. Doerte Weig, Movement Research | Lancaster University, UK

12.00  Infrastructure as ‘the people’.The relational architecture of Barcelona’s accessible sidewalk standards. Tomás Criado, Humboldt-University of Berlin

12. 30  Infra-demos: Infrastructures and democracy in Greece Dimitris Dalakoglou, Vrije University Amsterdam

13.00 Discussió i debat general, a càrrec de Roger Sansi, Universitat de Barcelona GRECS

3. 00 La infrastructura de la supervivencia urbana. Chatarreros senegaleses en las calles de Barcelona Mauricio Chemás, Universidad del Valle /Universitat de Barcelona GRECS

3.30  Las formas de lo informal. Estampas etnográficas de un garage klando en Ziguinchor, Baja Casamance (Senegal). Marta Contijoch, Universitat de Barcelona GRECS

4. 00 Aproximación antropológica a la infraestructura central del transporte en la Baja Casamance: la Gare Routière de Ziguinchor. Romina Martínez Algueró, Universitat de Barcelona GRECS

4.30 Discussió i debat a càrrec de Pedro Jose Sanchez, Université de Paris Ouest, Nanterre

5. 00 Aproximació panoràmica al marc general del desenvolupament contemporani d’infrastructures bàsiques a Cap Verd (Àfrica). Gerard Horta, Universitat de Barcelona GRECS

5.30 Fitzcarraldo al Sàhara: les vicissituds del telefèric d’Ifni. Alberto Lopez Bargados, Universitat de Barcelona GRECS

6.00 Discussió i debat a carrec de Manuel João Ramos, ISCTE-IUL Lisboa.

Per més informació : rogersansi@ub.edu.

Vidas Fuera de Cátalogo (Life Outside of the Catalogue) – BIdeOtik 2017

Presentation of the unfinished audiovisual project Vidas Fuera de Cátalogo (Life Outside of the Catalogue) by Arianna Mencaroni (CIC. Digital–UNOVA, Lisboa & En torno a la silla) and Tomás Sanchez Criado (TU Munich & En torno a la silla)

Tuesday July 11th 19:00 at Azkuna Zentroa, Bilbao (Spain), as part of the Festival BIdeOtik 2017

The presentation of the unfinished audiovisual project will tell the story of our several years’ exploration in En torno a la silla (Barcelona) with digital forms of documentation (namely, blog and audiovisual platforms).

En torno a la silla is a Spanish non-profit association operating from Barcelona. In En torno a la silla we co-create and fabricate collaboratively between people with diverse knowledges and modes of functioning with the aim of transforming and intervening urban environments, seeking to improve the conditions of accessibility, inclusiveness, and care in the urban world.

En torno a la silla is a collective that works at crossroads of open design and functional diversity. All our material explorations in recent years have sought to go beyond a world built for standard bodies, opening up design processes to the consideration and incorporation of the different experiences and needs of diverse bodies.

However, even though the material ‘tinkering’ with our environments through activities like building objects or generating co-creation events has constituted the essential focus of the collective, an important part of our activities has had to do with ‘tinkering’ with the use of different registration tools for the reflection, representation, and communication of our small objects and findings: tutorials and construction manuals, video-documentation of processes or interviews, poetic or political reflection texts, etc.

What role does this opening up of the design processes play when we think about documentation processes? Through the presentation of some our ‘tinkering with documentation’–including the conception and prototyping of diverse non-linear web-video projects–, we wish to delve into the central importance of representational processes, and discuss in what way our different successes and errors in tinkering with them might have contributed to a wider learning process, as well as different transformations of the collective.

**

About BIdeOtik 2017: From January to December 2017 Azkuna Zentroa hosts BIdeOtik 2017, a video festival / series that highlights different ways of recording and representing all that surrounds us using other audio-visual narratives. The object of this series is to showcase video-creation works and projects generated in a local, national and international context by people from the fields of art, creation and culture who use audio-visual language in a more personal, intimate and familiar way.

Check the festival’s leaflet here

 

IH, CCHS-CSIC | Seminario de Investigación: “Estados del cuidado: Para una genealogía del bienestar en crisis”

 

estados_del_cuidado

Miércoles, 15 de Marzo 2017, 12-13:30, en la Sala Gómez Moreno 2C del Centro de Ciencias Humanas y Sociales del CSIC (C/Albasanz 26-28, Madrid), estaré presentando algunos elementos de mi trabajo etnográfico reciente y su contextualización.

Organiza: Grupo de Investigacíón “Mundialización y mundialización de la ciencia” (IH, CCHS-CSIC)

Estados del cuidado: Para una genealogía del bienestar en crisis

‘Estados del cuidado’ quisiera ser una indagación no sólo de las formas en que los estados han querido arrogarse las competencias y dotarse de infraestructuras para cuidar, sino también del estado en que queda el cuidado por los diferentes modos en que esto se hace. La presentación, aunque resonando sobre el material etnográfico de mi trabajo reciente, tendrá un cariz genealógico. En ella intentaré explorar el bienestar como un concepto y un conjunto de prácticas sociomateriales sometidos en la historia Euro-Americana reciente a numerosas crisis: en un sentido que incluye las derivadas de medidas de austeridad o de los modos de economización neoliberal, pero que quisiera también considerar otras muchas problematizaciones abiertas sobre los asuntos a dirimir o los sentidos de las diferentes transformaciones institucionales. Con la mirada puesta en algunos debates sobre el crítico estado desde su concepción del estado del bienestar español, así como en la historia de algunas de sus transformaciones recientes, quisiera sin embargo prestar especial atención a las formas en que diferentes radicalizaciones de colectivos y profesionales–vinculadas a espacios feministas y LGBTi, movimientos anti-psiquiátricos o relativos a la vida independiente y la diversidad funcional, conectados con un contexto más amplio de debates en el ámbito Euro-Americano–, han venido no sólo articulando ‘críticas’ a diferentes estados de ese bienestar (paternalista y/o asistencialista, expertocrático y/o familista, caritativo y/o institucionalizado, externalizado y/o autogestionado), sino también construyendo alternativas, arreglos o ecologías de soportes y apoyos que pondrían ‘en crisis’ ciertas maneras restringidas de entender el cuidado, ampliando los modos críticos en que pudiera entenderse el bienestar más allá de algunos de sus estados recientes.

ICS, ULisboa – Visiting Researcher seminar: ‘Give Us an Institute and We Will Raise an Accessible Barcelona’

Give Us an Institute and We Will Raise an Accessible Barcelona

Next week I will be giving a Visiting Researcher seminar at the ICS-ULisboa

Organized by Dr. Ana DelicadoResearch group ‘Environment, Territory and Society’

**

Give Us an Institute and We Will Raise an Accessible Barcelona

12 October 2016 14.30h – 16.30h

Sala 2, ICS-ULisboa

This presentation reports on ethnographic and archival work undertaken in 2014 and 2016 at a very small and peripheral institute, part of Barcelona’s City Hall, the Institut Municipal de Persones amb Discapacitat (IMPD): enforcing and supervising the city-wide planning and implementation of accessible urban and transport infrastructures. Allegedly, the IMPD has been crucial for Barcelona’s huge transformation into one of the most accessible cities in the world. Officially founded in 1990–merging disability-specific management units (patronats) that emerged after the disability rights struggles in the late 1970s–this institute’s main objective has been that of offering a way for disabled people to take part in the city’s planning. Indeed, the IMPD’s council is jointly managed by civil servants–mostly social workers–and disabled people’s representatives elected every 4 years. But how could such a small entity have a lasting impact on a huge and extremely complex municipal structure? And how, in doing so, could it grant the ‘material expression’ of accessibility rights for its most vulnerable citizens?

In this presentation I will seek to explain this paying particular attention to the ‘documentary interfaces’ put together to articulate interesting relationships between the technicians and the accessibility advocates. To be more specific, not only will I seek to report on (a) on the role of topic-specific ‘commissions of participation’, where experiential and embodied knowledge from the disabled is documented and brought together to sensitize the architects and engineers in charge of implementing wider municipal projects; but also on other ‘smaller interventions’, such as: (b) its regular publications, sensitization campaigns and outreach leaflets; and (c) the work of its technicians, constantly supervising and writing reports on the designs, materials, and implementation of different urban accessibility projects. Building from this, I seek to foreground the IMPD as a ‘sensitizing device’, affecting in different modes the wider implementation of an ‘accessibility culture’ within the City Hall’s urban professionals’ planning and interventions. A fragile and fallible diplomatic task of affecting peripherally the multifarious sociomaterial articulation of accessibility arrangements, where many compromises have to be made with the goal of making Barcelona a city ‘for all’.

Urban accessibility issues: Technoscientific democratizations at the documentation interface

 

Picture CC BY Maria José Agüero

Carrers per a tothom demonstration, Barcelona, 14 March 2015 CC BY M.J. Agüero

As part of a special feature in the journal CITY edited by Ignacio Farías and Anders Blok on “Technical democracy as a challenge for urban studies”, Marcos Cereceda and I are publishing this article on accessibility struggles in Barcelona and their documentation interfaces.

CITY, 2016 VOL. 20, NO. 4, pp. 619-636, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13604813.2016.1194004

Abstract

After many struggles from disability rights and independent-living advocates, urban accessibility has gradually become a concern for many urban planners across post-industrial countries. In this paper, based on ethnographic fieldwork studies in Barcelona working with urban accessibility professionals and activists, we argue for the importance of the ‘documentation interfaces’ created in their struggles: that is, the relational processes to collaboratively build multi-media accounts in a diversity of formats seeking to enforce different translations of bodily needs into specific urban accessibility arrangements. In discussion with the asymmetries that the ongoing expertization of accessibility might be opening up, we would like to foreground these apparently irrelevant practices as an interesting site to reflect on how urban accessibility struggles might allow us to rethink the project of technical democracy and its applications to urban issues. Two cases are analyzed: (1) the creation of Streets for All, a platform to contest and to sensitize technicians and citizens alike of the problems of ‘shared streets’ for the blind and partially sighted led by the Catalan Association for the Blind; and (2) the organization of the Tinkerthon, a DIY and open-source hardware workshop boosted by En torno a la silla to facilitate the creation of a network of tinkerers seeking to self-manage accessibility infrastructures. These cases not only bring to the fore different takes on the democratization of the relations between technical professionals and disability rights advocates, but also offer different approaches to the politics of universals in the design of urban accessibility arrangements.

Journal’s website (free PDF access)

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