Kotti & Co: taking a protest to the street
(Faculty of Humanities, University of Bergen)
Paper short abstract:
The paper deals with assets of using public space in the context of protest and struggle. I explore a Berlin based initiative called Kotti & Co and their use of public space for their protest against gentrification.
Paper long abstract:
The so-called utopian potentials of urban public space are often seen as an arena for the representation and articulation of the needs of people with different social and ethnical backgrounds, as well as a space for encounter and communication between them. The aim of this paper is to suggest an answer to the question how these potentials are turned to account in the context of fighting for the right to stay put. I will approach that question by exploring the activities in public space that were carried out by the initiative Kotti & Co in Berlin Kreuzberg. Being motivated by the need to fight against unaffordable housing and displacement in their neighbourhood, Kotti & Co started in May 2012. During a summer street fair, the locals managed to occupy part of a public square and to turn it into a permanent protest camp. Among other things, they built a little wooden hut called "Gecekondu". This name means "built overnight" and is a reference to illegally built houses in Turkish cities. From here, the activists visualise their protest, voice demands, and resist political strategies that try to assimilate them or to tire them out. I argue that the initiative has created an important meeting place for people with different social, political and ethnical backgrounds, as well as a forum for a new and solidary form of public togetherness. These activities have strengthened Kotti & Co´s protest against gentrification.
Ethnographies of urban public spaces