Urban planners as boundary spanners: Steering perceptions of asylum seeker accommodations in Germany

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Since its open-door policy for welcoming asylum seekers in 2015, Germany has experienced a resurgence of anti-immigrant sentiments and a backlash against the safeguarding of human rights. Such perceptions of asylum seekers and their accommodation are shaped in urban neighborhoods, where street-level bureaucrats try steering such perceptions. While much literature has discussed how immigrant affairs departments promote intercultural encounter or acceptance of diversity, we know relatively little so far if and when urban planners steer perceptions of migration-related diversity. Yet, urban planners work closely with residents in urban regeneration programs and were confronted with residents’ anxieties about the potential impact of the asylum seeker accommodation when large reception centers were opened in 2015. The article aims to fill a gap in the literature. Based on two in-depth case studies it shows how structural contexts inform whether urban planners span disciplinary boundaries and act as broker between residents and the state in order to steer perceptions of asylum seeker accommodations. The article is based on field research and qualitative interviews in two large German cities. The article contributes to literatures on perceptions of migration and diversity, urban planning and urban regeneration, street-level bureaucracy, boundary spanning and brokerage.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)763-778
Number of pages16
JournalEnvironment and Planning C: Politics and Space
Issue number3
Early online date9 Aug 2021
Publication statusPublished - 9 Jan 2022

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Funding Information:
The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article. This article is supported by max-planck-institut zur erforschung multireligiöser und multiethnischer gesellschaften.

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© The Author(s) 2021.

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