The article from the Seattle Times is something I've read before... in my class project for my Honors class on spatial politics (these classes overlap so much it's ridiculous), where my group members and I investigated Capitol Hill as an LGBTQ+ Space. One of the topics we broached was gentrification, which fits really well with this prompt! LGBTQ+ people are disproportionately economically disadvantaged, and as such are hugely affected by the increase in rent in Capitol Hill, pushing many residents out (for our project, we interviewed several community members who have had to leave Capitol Hill due to increase in rent, which in turn makes Capitol Hill less of a safe space and tight-knit community for queer individuals). I think this is a trend in neighborhoods surrounding downtown Seattle-- as more tech companies and big businesses come into Seattle, more people want to live closer to downtown, and Capitol Hill in particular is a prime spot, which mean increasing rent in those places and forcing residents to leave.
My hometown is a small suburban town south of Minneapolis, MN, and I don't quite know how gentrification affects this town or other suburbs like it. My impression is that suburbs and the "sprawl" were formed through White Flight-- white people moving out of the cities and into the towns adjacent. As such, it seems that these places aren't super desirable for people who want to live extremely close to the city, so there isn't as much demand to raise house prices. There may be perhaps a general, slowly increasing trend, but my impression is that gentrification happens more in city areas than suburban areas-- though "urban renewal" and "beautification" (i.e. gentrification) techniques do happen in all cities and towns.
I expect that Berlin is similar to Seattle and any large city-- gentrification is present in its many forms. I don't know much about Berlin-specific gentrification, so I looked up some recent articles to give Ladd's "The Ghosts of Berlin" some more recent context, aiding me in connecting past and present. The Vice article by Matt Shea was particularly interesting, as it connect back to Ladd's discussion of the Wall (see previous reflections). In early 2013, part of the Wall was set to be demolished as part of a plan to build new luxury condos-- which sparked a wave of protests claiming that "Berlin ist nicht käuflich!" (Berlin is not for sale). This protest is extremely interesting, because about two decades ago, inhabitants of Berlin were fighting for the Wall to be demolished in its entirety. Shea notes that these structural changes of the city are in part due to the influx of American tourists, bringing a need for beautification of "rundown" areas of Berlin. It's interesting that the same sites that were created and preserved to initially bring in tourism are now under threat of destruction because of an increase in that same tourism. The protests surrounding the destruction of the Wall remind me of a quote regarding the construction of the Topography of Terror: "The bulk of the site would remain untouched: no buildings, no landscaping, no beautification" (163). The creation of monuments and historical landmarks seem to be very focused on maintaining this static lack of change, which is in direct contrast to the reasoning behind gentrification. This may be stating the obvious, but to me, this shows a direct connection between the value society places on people and places. Historical sites are preserved and are free from gentrifying forces; other places deemed unworthy of preservation are subject to beautification.
Shea's article also mentions that Berlin seems to be the only city in which gentrification could be halted. He cites a time where over 500 people gathered to protest the eviction of a family who could not afford their housing after an increase in rent, and protests like these have continued and increased in intensity. Several questions crossed my mind when reading this: Was this family white and of German ancestry? How would the public's reaction have changed if they were migrants or German-born but of migrant descent? I wonder how this incident plays into German and Berlin identities-- what about Berlin makes it different from other cities, where people don't protest the eviction of one family (or it's at least not publicized)?
In the New Republic article by Thomas Rogers, a new "cool" city of Europe is discussed, as Berlin's tourists will soon flock to another metropolis. An interesting connection arose between Ladd's book and the article. A resident of Leipzig was quoted, explaining that after the fall of the Berlin Wall, many East German buildings were left to rot because they were deemed not worthy of upkeep by the GDR. Ladd explains something similar regarding "Stalinallee," and how this area of East Berlin used to be filled with modernist architecture. However, Stalinallee lost its appeal and people stopped coming there, no new shops were built there, and it was left unattended, destined to crumble along with many other areas of East Berlin (183-7). Because of this lack of appeal, I assume that it was very easy for low income families to move here-- low rent due to the crumbling structures and lack of tourism. However, over time, tourism changes, cities change, people change. Sites like Stalinallee become sites of gentrification, and the cycle continues.
Short Practice Interview Reflection:
After the Saturday session, Mira and I went to the Quad to find someone to interview. The prompt was: if you were in Germany and a German were to ask you about your take on minority issues in the States, how would you respond? The interviewee, a college-aged girl reading in the glorious sunny day, responded with very keen and astute answers. We chose her mainly because of convenience: she was sitting alone, and we thought that talking to one person might give clearer answers than talking to a group of people (the group members' opinions could be influenced by one another and we might not have gotten a true sense for their genuine feelings and thoughts). Personally, I find no discomfort in approaching people, though this largely depends on the context-- stopping someone on the street might be different because it seems like I'm interrupting their movement to be static and talk with me, and being at UW where the majority of people speak English, I am definitely in my comfort zone. Even with a bit of apprehension in unfamiliar situations, I generally just rip the bandaid off and approach people anyway. This situation was no different-- I was largely comfortable with the environment and the girl was very responsive and willing to talk to us. The answers she gave to the question (mentioning institutionalized racism and slavery as a huge issue in the continued marginalization of minority groups in the States) were in line with my own views on the subject. Had she given a vastly different response, I'm not sure how I would have felt. Perhaps suddenly uncomfortable, I definitely wouldn't have asked the follow up questions I did in this interview (building off of points she brought up, or asking her opinion on other aspects of the issue). As part of the majority (white), I think that bringing up minority issues can sometimes be a problem because I want to make sure I don't speak over or for anyone whose experiences I will never understand, even if I attempt to empathize. I think that this prompt was structured in a way that this wasn't a huge issue or concern, but I know that in the future with developing my research topic further, I will have to be aware of my own positionality and language I use in order to make sure I am not bringing harm to minority communities, however indirectly.
Mindfulness of Place Response:
I sat in this quiet little alcove outside of my dorm building, next to Denny Field. There were no benches, just an expanse of grass surrounded by shrubbery and trees.
I heard birds chirping, trucks driving, girls talking, flies buzzing, keys jangling, guys talking, airplanes flying, tennis balls bouncing, a beep (Alert System test) blaring, leaves rustling, and petals falling from the tree above me.
I smelled the air-- perhaps slightly sweet from the fallen plant matter around me, aromatic in their decay. The air was fresh, though not quite crisp.
I mainly saw green. Green leaves surrounded me-- bushes were a fortress, blocking my sight from the bustle of students passing. Blue sky above me, grass below me, woodchips spattered throughout. I saw boys playing frisbee across the way, and the tennis and basketball courts in Denny Field. I could only slightly see inside some rooms in Hutchinson Hall, but I could make out a bookshelf and a partial desk.
Only one of these sights, smells, or sounds was unfamiliar to me-- the beeping. One staccato, high-pitched beep, only once or twice during my time outside. I only knew what it was when there was a voice following one of the beeps: "Test System." However, all other sounds, sights, and smells were known to me and most were positive sensations. It was a really nice day today! Some sights (namely the dudes playing on the field) conjured up some negative connotations, mainly because I can hear them and others like them from my room, bouncing basketballs and blaring music at 11pm. Luckily, I interpret these noises as background noise and either ignore it, letting them blend into all other peripheral noises in my room, or block it out with headphones and music.
Pictures of the area below.