By Olivia Mena, London School of Economics and Political Science
On a snowy morning in early March 2013, under the cover of darkness and protection of 250 police officers, construction workers began to take down several segments of the last standing, 1.3-km stretch of the Berlin Wall to make way for luxury high-rise apartments (Birnbaum 2013; The Guardian 2013). Just a week before I had made my first pilgrimage to the remains of the Wall, walking with other tourists along the East Side Gallery, as it’s known, photographing the murals by artists from all over the world that capture the significance, history, and meaning of the Berlin Wall and project alternative visions of a more convivial world without walls. The stretch of cinderblock and the preserved empty dead-zone behind it became the most famous instance of de-bordering in the postmodern world, an antipode for future walling and divisions. Despite protests and conflict over the residential plan, a moneyed developer with police protection was able to remove parts of this globally-recognized memorial—which signifies the freedom of movement—in an era when the politics of mobility are increasingly policed and national borders are being sealed.
The annual commemoration of the fall of the wall in November 1989 is an interesting moment to reflect, not only on the recent and intensive global proliferation of fortress border architecture, but also on the ecologies of de-bordering efforts at a time when the very tribute to overcoming walls has been partially removed in the interests of neoliberal capital.