Faculty of Humanities

Human Rights, Citizenship, Spatial Participation

Human Rights seem to be a cross-culturally and universally shared and accepted value-system that provides even marginalised groups with a legal basis to appeal to governments and the powers that be. In definite conflicts, however, a claim to Human Rights can aggravate the struggle, as is shown by the project Fundamental Political Conflicts and the Impact of Human Rights. The Case of the Amazon Region (Prof. Andreas Niederberger, Department of Philosophy). First results seem to suggest that the appeal on Human Rights grounds deepens the divide between those affected in different interest groups and legal parties. By implying absolute claims it becomes almost impossible to negotiate different interests. To what extent can the conflicts about the Belo Monte power plant be regarded as paradigmatic cases for the development of political conflicts? How relevant are they for a theoretical and normative analysis? An essential part of the project is the exchange between the participants with mutual visits to Brazil or Germany, and taking part in workshops and conferences. Brazilian activist and Professor for Human Rights, Paula Arruda, visited the international workshop The End of Citizenship?,  organised by Andreas Niederberger et. al. at Käte Hamburger Kolleg, where topical questions and developments of this central ideal of modern political theory were discussed.

Another project that deals with citizenship, but in reference to public space, is the doctoral project Spatial Citizenship. Responsible Appropriation of Space as a Reaction to Intersectional Experiences of Exclusion in Childhood. For Spatial Citizenship, pursuing an emancipatory objective, too, the Human Rights are central. Jana Pokraka (supervisor: Prof. Inga Gryl, Geography/Science Instruction) uses this approach to ask how learners can be empowered to responsibly appropriate spaces and participate in social processes of negotiating their use and revaluation. In this project, children are encouraged to visualise and communicate their perception of everyday spaces, their own spatial practices, experiences of inclusion and exclusion, and their wishes for structuring urban spaces, by means of tablet-supported mapping. The approach of Spatial Citizenship is extended by that of Intersectionality. This allows to not only regard the category of ‘age’, but also to take into view individual forms of exclusion and discrimination along interacting lines of difference such as gender, religion, milieu, or race, and open them up for examination.

Equality of opportunity and democratisation were the political keywords in the education debates of the 1960ies and 70ies. In higher education policies in North Rhine-Westphalia they corresponded with ideas of spatial planning, according to which the federal state as a coherent space should no longer be divided into functional zones. Decentralisation and the regionalisation of higher education, while at the same time efficiently using the existing structures, were then the objectives. Politicians aimed at the prevention of skills shortage, the integration of all regions and the inclusion of their inhabitants. The “spaces devoid of higher education” ascertained by spatial planners were to be transformed into an academic landscape. The dissertation project The Transformation of Spaces Devoid of Higher Education into an Academic Landscape. The Comprehensive University Plan of North Rhine-Westphalia investigates the realisation of the reform of higher education in the context of contemporary perspectives on space (Timocin Celebi M.A., Department of History, supervisor: Prof. Ute Schneider, support: DFG).