Who are the City Makers and Breakers?

What role do ordinary people play in a city’s prosperous growth or bleak decline and who are these ordinary people, these urban citizens? In the past few decades, urban developers have advised the leaders of “old economy” cities that their future lies in an urban regeneration that will attract foreign investment and “creative classes.” In this story of urban rebirth, the working people of the previous economy are envisioned as a barrier and those categorized as migrants are seen at best as exotics who are only useful in marketing the city. Underneath the surface of new gleaming towers and storefronts, my research in three very different but disempowered cities in Germany, the US, and Turkey reveals a different picture of who makes and breaks the city. In the face of the dispossessive forces of growing public and private debt, rising housing prices, run-away corporations, precarious work, and growing wealth disparities, my colleagues and I found migrants and non-migrants acting as social citizens to build the social life that sustains and empowers cities.

About the speaker

Nina Glick Schiller

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Nina Glick Schiller is Emeritus Professor (University of Manchester, UK and the University of New Hampshire, USA), Research Associate at the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology, Germany, and Co-Editor of Anthropological Theory.  Her research addresses the role of migrants as city-makers in relationship to urban restructuring. Her over 100 articles and nine books include Migrants and City-Making: Dispossession, Displacement and Urban Regeneration; Nations Unbound: Transnational Project, Postcolonial Predicaments, and Deterritorialized Nation-states; Georges Woke Up Laughing: Long Distance Nationalism and the Search for Home; Locating Migration: Rescaling Cities and Migrants; Whose Cosmopolitanism?; Regimes of Mobility and; Migration; Development, and Transnationalization