Racialization and Racism

Experimenting on racialized neighbourhoods: Internationale Bauausstellung Hamburg and the urban laboratory in Hamburg–Wilhelmsburg

The ‘urban laboratory’ concept has become a popular discourse and structure for urban projects in recent years. In this article, I ask what the concept achieves in the context of racialized urban disinvestment and stigmatization, with the Hamburg International Building Exhibition’s (Internationale Bauausstellung Hamburg, 2006–2013) work in Hamburg–Wilhelmsburg as an example. Drawing on laboratory studies and urban sociology, I sketch out the laboratory as an ‘imaginative infrastructure’ , including what it offers to the ‘investigators’ who use it. Based on the ‘situatedness’ of the urban laboratory, I argue that the racialization of the neighbourhood and its residents is important to the history of Wilhelmsburg’s planning, and to its recent laboratorization. Laboratorization of racialized people and spaces is not new, but rather has a long history in European colonialism. I conclude that though the experiment in Hamburg–Wilhelmsburg appears to be with the neighbourhood’s racialization itself, there is nothing experimental about attempting the planning myth and common sense of ‘social mix’ to which Internationale Bauausstellung Hamburg contributes. I argue that racialized Wilhelmsburgers deserve problem-solving that does not reinforce existing patterns of development and thus their stigmatization.

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