Building Cosmopolitan Citizenship Through the Mundane: Insights from Walking Conversations in the Public Spaces of Berlin

The European Journal of Creative Practices in Cities and Landscapes. Vol 1, no 1 (2018)
ISSN 2612-0496

Building Cosmopolitan Citizenship Through the Mundane: Insights from Walking Conversations in the Public Spaces of Berlin

Katharina RohdeKU Leuven

Katharina Rohde is an Urban Practitioner working internationally. Her practice explores spatial, social and economic inequalities and visualizes inherent spatial, and socio-economic strategies of mobile urban actors, to mediate for their inclusion in ongoing urban regeneration processes. In reflecting upon her practice, Katharina is currently investigating the agency of migrants in city-making in Berlin and Johannesburg as part of her doctoral exploration within the “Urbanisms of Pluralism” track at KU Leuven, Belgium. Since 2005 she is involved in teaching at various universities around the world.

Viviana d’AuriaKU Leuven

Viviana d’Auria was trained as an architect and urbanist at Roma Tre University and pursued studies in Human Settlements at the KU Leuven where she also completed her PhD. She has been Rubicon fellow at the Department of Geography, Planning and International Development Studies of the University of Amsterdam and is currently Assistant Professor in International Urbanism at the Department of Architecture, KU Leuven. Exploring “practiced” architecture is an integral part of her research within a more general interest in the trans-cultural construction of cities and their contested spaces.

Published: 2018-12-31


This contribution focuses on the urban environment of Berlin and the role of walking as a generator of cosmopolitan citizenship that builds on migrant agency as a prime contribution to city-making. It explores the re-shaping of Berlin in the course of the “refugee crisis” and the resulting engagement by displaced persons and urban practitioners to foster interaction between a wide array of participants, independent of their citizenship status. By building on Thomas Nail’s kino-political approach to migration, which identifies in the migrant’s pedetic force a prime source of agency, three urban projects involving the act of walking are analyzed. While these initiatives vary in terms of project articulation, they all use the urban fabric of Berlin as a key terrain for discussion and critique. The walking conversations become an expression of exercising cultural citizenship, whereby the right of membership exists prior to the allocation of official statuses. This seemingly mundane experience plays a relevant role in reinstating the defining feature of the migrant as that of movement, in contrast with the constraints of containment that displaced persons experience. The three cases illustrate how the successive instances of them leaving the camps, exploring Berlin’s spaces and taking the lead in narrating the city contribute to the reinforcement of a cosmopolitan perspective.


Between January 2015 and June 2016, approximately 1,5 million displaced people arrived in Germany, and 65.000 to Berlin.1 The rapid and high influx of people to the city triggered various interrogations on how to host the new arrivals, and several attempts were made to welcome them. Due to the exceptionally high number of people arriving, the question of quickly accommodating them became particularly urgent during 2015 and 2016, with the city´s administration overwhelmed by the number of asylum applications to be processed. The solutions proposed for actually hosting those in the process of asylum and those granted a refugee status, or a comparable form of international protection, have for the large part been temporary, and remain so until today. Asylum seekers and refugees continue to be hosted in temporary constructions2, such as container camps, or they are accommodated in former office blocks or other non-residential buildings, such as the Tempelhof airport that is no longer in use. The duration of a stay in camps largely depends on the status of each individual person, since only once a refugee status or subsidiary protection is received, the person can move out of the camp and search for an alternative living situation. Yet, to find accommodation on the local housing market is nearly impossible, particularly in Berlin, where affordable housing is increasingly inaccessible, not only to refugees. Camps3 are often located in areas outside Berlin’s most central districts, and not seldom within a vulnerable socio-economic tissue, where unemployment is higher and fears are easily projected onto the new neighbors.

Following the administration’s collapse during the so-called “refugee crisis” of 2015, a huge solidarity movement developed in Berlin, that is still ongoing. Citizen-led initiatives emerged providing various forms of support, ranging from language classes, to housing and legal advice, as well as setting up projects and events to include asylum seekers and refugees and to foster encounter between longer-term residents and the newly-arrived. While the most recent migration “wave” has engendered efforts from host communities across Europe and beyond, and many individual citizens have been involved in supporting new arrivals,4 asylum seekers and refugees are prime actors in terms of learning about the cities and countries they live in, however suspended they may be in their legal status. Asylum seekers and refugees accommodated in camps manifest their agency in various ways, for example by exploring their new neighborhood. Some camp residents gradually commute into the city, and in particular to the consolidated neighborhoods of arrival, such as Neukölln or Wedding. In such areas interactions remain generally within the broader migrant community itself, a process that helps new arrivals in familiarizing with the new urban environment, its rules and regulations, and its cultures and customs. This learning from other (former) temporary citizens helps to build self-esteem in approaching locals and in accessing the city and its infrastructures more generally. Language can be an obstacle for asylum seekers and refugees to leave the camps: some may find it difficult to read street signs, or ask for directions, or apprehend public transport systems.

Refugee “integration” is defined by consequence of a cultural understandings of nationhood, that in most European countries are related to a modified form of ethnic-based citizenship.5 In the case of Berlin, this has an obvious link to the German self-conception of nationhood, that “associates belonging to the nation with sharing the same language and origins rather than more inclusive criteria, such as individuals’ desire to be part of society.”6 Since Germany was one of the last European countries to accept that it had to become a country of immigration, related legal frameworks were revised as late as 2000.7 However, to acquire full citizenship is a relatively long and demanding process, whereas temporary citizenship is largely experienced in terms of informal membership and accessibility to services provided by voluntary associations and migrant networks rather than by the State. In this paper we will refer to refugees and asylum seekers as “temporary citizens,” and to people with German citizenship (whether with a migrant origin or not) as “full citizens”.

Constructing cosmopolitan citizenship through the act of collective walking

Several refugee- and citizen-led initiatives work as movements which challenge the access to citizenship based solely on the perspective of legal frameworks and the required changes to them in order to grant access to a number of associated rights. While this remains a crucial question, the kind of citizenship embedded in German and European legislation is questioned by actually uplifting temporary citizens from their state of suspension, induced by stringent legal frameworks that characterize recent European migration policy. On the other hand, citizen-led projects have practiced a form of urban inclusion rooted in the idea that temporary citizens are actually present in Berlin, even if their access to various amenities is minimal. The concept of cultural citizenship is relevant here, as a way of having a “right of membership which exists prior to formal allocation of citizenship and upon which basis they (irregular migrants) now insist on legal recognition.”8 This notion was introduced by American anthropologist Renato Rosaldo, and “refers to the right to be different and to belong in a participatory democratic sense.”9 Through cultural practices and processes a new collective arena can be constructed, and the notion of citizenship becomes a “practice which constructs relations between insiders and outsiders,”10 between temporary and full citizens.

The initiatives led by full and temporary citizens are also partial answers to the interrogation of how a “cosmopolitan citizen thinking,” as it was described by Stevenson,11 can be achieved. For Gerard Delanty, to approach a cosmopolitan imagination, is to “share experiences, cognitive processes, forms of cultural translations and empowerment discourses.”12 Through their work these initiatives enact cosmopolitan, rather than temporary citizenship. They illustrate that progressing from temporary to cosmopolitan citizenship is not only a matter of changing legal frameworks, but it requires a society that feels cosmopolitan at its core. The walks also emphasize how relevant it is for citizenship to be “understood not as a possession, but as an identity and practice.”13

To explore these questions in more depth, three urban projects are analyzed. The cases are generated by various coalitions: between full citizens, between temporary citizens coalesced through self-initiative, and co-productions between full and temporary citizens. All of them are based on walking in the city of Berlin as a prime means to generate interaction between participants (whether temporary or full citizens), and their living urban environment. Berlin’s architecture and urban forms become mediums through which ideas around co-habitation are shared and common experiences are generated. These walking experiences embody the idea that it is through the “role of mundane interaction, (that) cosmopolitan norms are spreading.”14

Walk 1 — How we live together: Full citizen-led walking conversations

Responding to the high influx of people arrived in Germany and Berlin in 2015 the project “How we live together”15 emerged as a collaboration between three independent urban practitioners16 and the German Architecture Centre (DAZ) in Berlin. The initiative was part of the umbrella project Berlin Mondiale,17 a union of Berlin-based cultural institutions, and the Berlin Council for the Arts. The latter had already emphasized the role of artistic and cultural practices for establishing a welcoming culture for temporary citizens. In its view, opening up cultural institutions to new arrivals would promote mutual learning between full and temporary citizens. This would also help refugees to better establish themselves within the city, for example through internship and/or job opportunities in the same institutions.

The project was based on a tandem between each institution involved and the different refugee camps that exist in the city. The development of collaborative projects and initiatives was tailored according to the particular needs of the camp´s inhabitants. The team working with the DAZ partnered with a container camp in Berlin-Buch. In the course of initial meetings between the DAZ team and the camp’s residents, the latter expressed the common interest to explore their place of “arrival”, namely Buch as an immediate neighborhood, and Berlin and the city’s various neighborhoods and spaces, its public transport system, its communities, its socio-cultural practices, and its society as a whole. More general questions were also solicited, such as access to health care, employment opportunities and education.

These interests and questions led the team to formulate the idea of walking in the city together and to use these explorations as moments of interaction, as actual conversations. The walks were viewed as a method to explore the city and to share stories between participants of very different backgrounds, leading to an approximation of how to live together. Via an open call, other urban practitioners were invited to participate. By definition, the walks had to be organized on a voluntary basis and be free of charge for participants. The response from practitioners was overwhelming, and the respondents proposed walks designed at foregrounding a particular part of the city.

Between fifteen and twenty-five people joined the walks each time and approximately ten persons became regular participants. Many of the temporary citizens that joined the walks were actually architects or urban planners, or were in the course of their studies in such fields when they had to leave their home countries. Generally more men than women joined the walks. Apart from those interested in leading a walk, there was significant motivation by longer-term Berliners in joining and accessing the opportunity to interact with temporary citizens. Interestingly, the walks were visited also by lawyers, doctors, and school teachers, who provided additional and informal knowledge to the walking conversations, answering questions on legal, educational and health support and giving information on how to access it.
Buch is a neighborhood in the North-East of the city, and belongs to the district of Berlin-Pankow. Its main center is located around the S-Bahn station Berlin-Buch, where the historical village core is located. The predominant urban feature of Buch is its Plattenbau18 architecture. The Campus-Buch, a science and technology site with biomedical research institutions, is in the South-East side of the center. Berlin-Buch is located 16 kilometers away from the city’s center (Mitte), and is relatively well connected via public transport, with journeys taking 45 minutes on average.

The AWO-led19 Refugium Berlin-Buch, opened in April 2015 and it was still operational in November 2018. It is one of the city’s biggest container camps with a capacity to accommodate 500 people.20 The camp consists of three two-story buildings, a green area with a playground and picnic benches. The 15 square-meter rooms host two persons, and families are accommodated in double rooms with a connecting door. Community kitchens exist on each floor, as well as gender-separated sanitary facilities. The perimeters of the camp are challenging to transcend, particularly for women with children, as they often do not have access to child care, and many feel too insecure to explore the city by themselves. Language constraints as well as culturally related hesitations to publicly commute are also common obstacles, while traumatic experiences also play their role since they have increased a sense of vulnerability.

The walks were organized in different neighborhoods: the modernist Hansaviertel, the Tempelhofer Airfield community gardens, Moabit’s different religious sites, the vibrant migrant district of Kreuzberg, spaces of refugee resistance such as the Oranienplatz21, public facilities such as the multi-lingual library (Amerika-Gedenk-Bücherei), the Kreuzberg Museum with its permanent exhibition on migration, and one of the city’s biggest hospitals (Urban Krankenhaus). One walk focused on spaces of memory, and included a visit to the Gedenkstätte Berliner Mauer (Wall memorial site), to trigger discussions around German history and that of Berlin, including war and flight.

Along the way, different urban concepts and approaches to architecture and society were presented and discussed, to question whether or not these supported a vision of communal living and a pluralist society. The concept of community gardening for instance, that is very common in Berlin and is often established in the form of intercultural gardens, was presented at the Allmende Kontor community garden located at the Tempelhofer Airfield. The garden was established in 2011 by 20 activists running 10 raised beds, and in 2018 counts 600 members and 250 raised beds. The Kontor additionally networks with all community gardens in the city of Berlin. On their website, they describe urban community gardens as “outside district-centers (Stadtteilzentren) that can be shelters for people in need.”22 Due to its location in the Airfield, refugees living in the Tempohomes on the same site, are regularly invited to join the Kontor as a terrain for interaction with longer-term Berliners.
During the visit to the garden, discussions arose on the increasing privatization of public space, and about the fact that community gardens presented a counter-concept to such processes by creating genuine opportunities for encounter of a diverse range of citizens. The group of Syrian participants that joined the walk that day, explained that community gardens existed in Damascus and Aleppo, but rather than being born out of urban activism, were a custom related to growing vegetables for personal consumption. The shabby-looking raised beds irritated some newcomers, but were understood as being activist space, leading to a discussion around clichés, the right to be different and to belong. Conversations continued at the end of each walk informally and over a cup of tea. These encounters were hosted by different cultural institutions or neighborhood initiatives, such as the Prinzessinnengärten (a community garden), the Spreefeld (a community housing/co-working project), the ZKU (the Centre for Art and Urbansim), or the Sharehaus Refugio (a co-living space for refugees and locals), and supported the process of building a collective cosmopolitan arena.

The citizen-led walking conversations were a strategy to, on the one hand, collaboratively explore the different neighborhoods of Berlin with new arrivals, and in doing so, to foster an improved navigation of the city. On the other hand, the collective walks were an opportunity for urban practitioners to actually familiarize with temporary citizens and to learn about their stories, their home-countries and cultures, and their new realities in Berlin. During feedback sessions, the practitioners reported back that the urban walks were a relevant approach for their professional development. The experience triggered further reflection on how to design for displacement and as a way to stimulate communication, in McNevin’s terms, between the “insider” and the “outsider.”23

In response to harsh asylum laws and regulations, the project provided opportunities for walking participants to exit a state of suspension, embodying the idea that “integration” begins from the moment migrants arrive, rather than from the acquisition of full citizenship. Internships in architecture firms were one way to help temporary citizens to leave the monotonous routines of camp life and to return to activity. The opportunity to practice the German language while walking helped temporary citizens to engage with and participate in the city’s infrastructures more effectively.

Along the walk, participants have discussed housing issues, unveiling the harsh conditions in which temporary citizens have to experience every day in camps. These discussions have led to collectively rethink ideas about social housing and mixed living, as is currently being tested in some of Berlin´s co-housing projects.24 A jointly-reached conclusion was that co-housing projects were increasingly required, in which full and temporary citizens would share common spaces and thereby learn to live together in the literal sense. The exercise of walking together through Berlin was therefore a way to share experiences, to build connections and sometimes friendships, and a way to endorse cosmopolitan citizenship through the recognition of the active participation of temporary city dwellers in the social, cultural and political community.

Fig. 1 Citizen-led walking conversation, Kreuzberg. Photo ISSS research and architecture
Fig. 1 Citizen-led walking conversation, Kreuzberg. Photo ISSS research and architecture

Walk 2 — From Camp to City: walking with temporary citizens

The citizen-led walking conversations were curated by urban practitioners singling out parts of Berlin that in their view made sense to visit with temporary citizens. After this experience, however, the importance of reversing the approach became apparent to some of the curators involved in the “How we live together” project. In their view, the lived experience of temporary citizens and the appropriations made within their living space and its surroundings deserved acknowledgment. Likewise, camp residents’ perspectives on the urban environment they were experiencing daily became the object of further explorations by urban practitioners and academics25. For most participants involved in the research, in fact, the experience of Berlin-Buch and Berlin-Lichtenberg meant discovering a relatively unknown peripheral area of the city.

The container camp in Buch and the emergency shelter in Lichtenberg present some analogies for their residents. Many of them spend large amounts of their day within both camps’ immediate perimeters. This was found to be particularly true for women with children, but it was an overall tendency. Generally speaking, it took time for the residents solicited to share their daily routines and perspectives on Berlin, making response uneven. This resistance also reflected the challenge for many residents to exit the passive state resulting from being suspended from many fundamental rights. Actively exploring and partaking in city-making is not a given for temporary citizens for whom access to the local labor market, education and housing is restricted. Younger male camp dwellers were in most cases an exception to the above, and took up the challenge of sharing their daily trajectories from the camp, to the immediate neighborhood of Buch and Lichtenberg, to the larger realm of Berlin.

Insights from the camp in Buch are comparable with those in Lichtenberg, although the immediate surroundings are less complex because of the neighborhood’s consolidated role as an arrival destination for migrants, especially from Asia. Urban navigation from the emergency shelter in Lichtenberg is therefore somewhat simpler than from the camp in Buch. Lichtenberg is located to the east of the city center, which can be reached by public transport with a ten-minute journey. Like Buch, it is also a predominantly Plattenbau area, within which the huge complex of the former state security headquarters (Stasi) is located. The latter is where the emergency shelter was accommodated upon its inception in October 2015, hosting approximately 1000 people in the course of its existence. It was shut down in July 2017 in the run-up to national elections, when the city of Berlin decided to close down all emergency accommodation and provide more permanent community shelters. 13,000 temporary citizens were relocated to more permanent camps by 2017 but around 2,000 people still remain in emergency camps in 2018.26

Accessing the massive former Stasi headquarters is already an experience itself, and reflects much of the daily vicissitudes of its temporary dwellers. The ground floor of the 14-story building hosts the shelter management area, run by the Red Cross, as well as a canteen where meals are provided three times a day within allocated hours. Shower cabins have been installed in the courtyard, and people are compelled to queue as early as five in the morning for a warm shower. All the other floors have been minimally transformed so former office space has now become a 19 square-meter room equipped with bunk beds, a wardrobe, a table and two chairs, shared by four to six people. Toilet facilities on every floor are also used jointly, though gender separated, but they have no showers.

The shorter and more frequented trajectories of camp residents in Berlin-Buch were based on accessing the closest S-Bahn stop (Berlin-Buch), followed by walks to reach schools and kindergartens, supermarkets and look for health care and legal support. The 10-minute walk to the S-Bahn stop means crossing a Plattenbau area where long-established citizens reside. Some visit the neighborhood center along the way, and join their German classes or the welcome-café that is regularly taking place to provide a ground for encounter between temporary and full citizens.

The shopping street between the apartment blocks and the S-Bahn station, hosts an Asian Restaurant, a bakery, a supermarket, a clothing shop, a post office and a drug store. Camp dwellers, however, seldom use the nearby facilities, but travel instead to Berlin’s more central areas. The consolidated migrant neighborhood of Neukölln, where goods are cheaper and more culturally responsive (such as Halal groceries), is a major destination. Moreover, a visit to such areas becomes a way to connect with same-ethnic communities, and sometimes even an opportunity to find work. Since many of the dwellers do not leave the camp or its immediate neighborhood, a shopping network has established in Buch amongst the Arabic-speaking community. Those staying in the camp compose shopping lists for those regularly commuting to Neukölln who can purchase specific goods, and charge a little extra for their service. Experiencing life in the camp means observing groups of young men returning to Buch in the evening with grocery bags. Other regular commuting activities to Berlin’s more central neighborhoods include the Gesundbrunnen-Kiez in Berlin-Wedding to reach a boxing studio, and visits to a mosque in the same area for Friday prayers.

When not in Neukölln or Wedding, the younger generation uses the local park area, within a 5-minute walk from the camp. Some benches there allow for some relaxing and lingering, and the youngsters explain that the park offers some privacy and retreat. While the camp also features outdoor spaces with benches to hang out, such spaces are usually overcrowded and under the gaze of camp personnel and other residents, including elders. The container camp is in fact fenced off and has a secured entrance area, where people have to sign in and out, making many dwellers complain that it feels like a prison rather than a home.27

In Lichtenberg, the camp´s inhabitants visit green areas such as the Parkaue, nearby supermarkets such as Aldi or Lidl and the shopping mall ‘Ring Centre’, as a favorite destination for the younger temporary citizens, also because of its fitness area, regularly. The centrally located S-Bahn stop Frankfurter Tor is also frequently visited, especially because of cheap cigarettes from Poland being sold there by a Vietnamese trader. A night shop is located within the perimeters of the camp and the owner offers discounts and has bonded with some of the residents. Attached to it, the owner has opened a café which represents a way to connect with other camp inhabitants or to bridge with Berliners.

Another attractive destination is the biggest Asian wholesale center of Berlin, the Dong Xuan Centre, also known as Asiatown. Vietnamese migrants have established the center and run most business there, thought in more recent years, an increasing number of traders from other Asian and Middle Eastern countries have started to open up shops as well. The temporary inhabitants from the emergency shelter come here to search for job opportunities since employment opportunities are increasingly available for recent migrants comparably to other migrant areas, such as Neukölln. Some opportunities stem from solidarity, while in other cases jobs are offered in the black market and result from the exploitation of asylum seekers’ socio-economic vulnerability .

Some of the Lichtenberg camp dwellers commute to the market along the canal in Kreuzberg on a regular basis, which used to be known to most Berliners as the “Turkish Market” for many years. While its transformation over time has led to the critique of it becoming a tourist attraction, visitors from the camp appreciate it for its hybrid nature, resulting from a combination of German and Middle Eastern groceries and food cultures. It is viewed as a place where both well-known goods such as spices, and less known customs can be found and experienced.

By walking with camp dwellers in Buch and Lichtenberg, six urban practitioners, five academics and eight students have had the opportunity to delve into the immediate and daily environments of temporary citizens. Twelve temporary citizens were involved, of which eight were men and four were women aged between 19 and 32. For them, the walks developed as a way of story-telling, and of voicing their opinions on camp conditions and environments, as well as their challenges in interacting with the city and its citizens. Practitioners, academics and students turned into the audience that listens and learns, and by consequence develops a better understanding of what “Life in a Camp” means. This immediate encounter with the daily realm of newcomers can potentially lead to a more critical thinking on urban and national strategies for accommodating newcomers. Viewing the city from the perspective of temporary citizens created a better understanding, not only in regard to questions of cultural citizenship, but also in terms of individual attempts to belong.

Fig. 2 “Turkish market,” Kreuzberg. Photo Katharina Rohde
Fig. 2 “Turkish market,” Kreuzberg. Photo Katharina Rohde

Walk 3 — Route 44, Refugee voices tours and Querstadtein: temporary citizen-led walking conversations

Expanding on the previous two cases, joint efforts between full and temporary citizens led in turn to exciting endeavors that negotiate how space in the city is shared, and reflect a cosmopolitan thinking. Whereas walking with temporary citizens in the context of the “Life in a Camp” initiative took place in an informal and more intimate setting, a more active approach took shape in the context of temporary citizen-led walking conversations that provided them the opportunity to present their stories and perspectives to a broader audience, from tourists to longer-term dwellers. While the previously presented walking conversations were less fixed and focused mainly on interaction between participants, the tours described below are designed as such and offer specific information to an interested audience.

Various walking tours have developed in the city in the last couple of years, spearheaded by a decade-old initiative known as Route 44.28 Since 2008 ten migrant women from different generations, geographic origin and backgrounds design walking experiences through the neighborhood of Berlin-Neukölln.29 Route 44 is a project of the non-profit association “Kultur bewegt e.V.”30 that promotes cultural projects with migrants and “locals”. The guides are Turkish, Palestinian, Lebanese, Ukrainian, and Pakistani in origin, or are born in Berlin from parents with a migrant background. Similar to the “marches exploratoires”31, developed to explore the social and spatial characteristics of urban spaces for women in order to feel secure, Route 44 aspires to sensitize the greater public vis-à-vis the migrant women’s experience of the urban realm.

The more recent “Refugee voices tours” were initiated in 2016 by Lorna Cannon, a young British guide currently based in Berlin, who noticed that the discussions on migration in the media and within the broader society were predominantly talking about refugees. Her aim with the tours was to provide a platform for those “who are so often talked about but rarely listened to.”32 In crafting this platform, she asked refugees she knew personally whether they would have been interested in designing tours for full citizens, and some accepted the invitation, and are now part of the organizing team. Two tours on offer are run by a Syrian and a Sudanese man.

The non-profit organization “Querstadtein” supports temporary citizens to develop walking conversation. They followed comparable principles so that personal experiences and individual perspectives could be shared with a wider audience. As stated on the organization’s website the city guides “engage as actors of political education and inspire to see the city otherwise.”33 The organization started in 2012 as a group of volunteers working with homeless people to design walks, and has grown into a small social organization with three full-time employees and fifteen guides, which are all male.

The walks are organized in different neighborhoods of the city and have various foci depending on the guide. They cover areas such as Neukölln, Mitte and Kreuzberg as well as historically significant places in Berlin, usually to draw connections with the more recent turbulences and geo-political vicissitudes of refugees’ countries of origin. While the guides of Route 44 focus on Neukölln only, the other two operators explore the district of Mitte/Tiergarten and Kreuzberg too. However, Neukölln is a main focus for the guides, and this reflects the significance of this “arrival neighborhood” for temporary citizens.34

The guides share their personal stories of flight and talk about their life in Berlin along the walk. Some of these are designed along historically significant places in Berlin, such as the Checkpoint Charlie or the Brandenburger Gate, and connect personal stories with the history of the city. Through this juxtaposition and comparison, the guide intends to show that “no-one is immune to turbulent times,”35 and argues against those voices rejecting the inflow of temporary citizens. From his perspective, “Europe has the means to offer safe places,” and “it needs a change of attitude”36 in order to become an inclusive continent. Another tour from the “Refugee voices tours” focuses on the rights movement of temporary citizens and is led by a Sudanese man, active in the movement. The tour starts at the formerly occupied Oranienplatz in Kreuzberg and ends at the still partly occupied Gerhard-Hauptmann-Schule. Both places have become symbolic for the struggle of temporary citizens in Berlin.

The walks in Neukölln focus on its migrant communities, and the district as an arrival neighborhood that supports temporary citizens. Neukölln is perceived as a place where many can belong. The guides show specific places important to their respective cultural community, such as the Turkish-Shiite mosque, a Kurdish association or the Sonnenallee, which is known as the “Arabic Street” amongst temporary and full citizens, as most shops along the street are run by people from the from the Arabic-speaking countries. The walks point out how migrant communities create their lives in a new environment and how they support each other, for instance through the initiative “Stadtteilmütter” that two of the female guides of the Route 44 walks have joined. This endeavor helps troubled migrant families to navigate better in their often unfamiliar cultural circumstances.

The guides have an opinion, and use the opportunity while walking to voice their perspectives and to enter into discussions with the audience. A young Kurdish-Syrian Berliner described the several hurdles he still faced in Germany, with the biggest challenge being the “integration” measurements and the complicated asylum system, that in his view clearly illustrate that temporary citizens are discouraged from making Germany their home. He insists on solidarity as the only option, and the walks for him are a way to overcome clichés about displaced persons and to trigger conversations between full and temporary citizens.37

The walks become impressive walking conversations because of the very personal experiences and moments that the temporary citizens share with the participants. During the “Neukölln from a new Berliner´s perspective” tour for instance, that the corresponding author joined in June 2018, a young Kurdish-Syrian man described his flight from the war and the journey’s various phases via Turkey, and the Balkans, including first-hand experience with human smugglers. One participant stated that “the tour was an eye-opener, and provided me an entirely new perspective on Syria, and the international community´s role in the current conflict.”38

Walking together provides the opportunity for temporary citizens to share their stories, and by doing so, they can retain their sense of identity, while at the same time sharing their stories can lead to an increased understanding of their condition by the host community39—in this case, the walking participants. Furthermore, the walks provide a space for newcomers to enter the political discussions that are taking place in the city and which they are legally not allowed to participate in, as they don't have a German citizenship and hence are not entitled to vote. It is a way of taking membership in a society they now live in, but yet are not allowed to fully belong to.