Gabriela Iracema Randig

KU Eichstätt-Ingolstadt

Am Marktplatz 2

85072 Eichstätt

Gabriela Iracema Randig holds a bachelor’s degree in Theatre Studies, General and Comparative Literature Studies, and Latin American Studies from Free University Berlin. She obtained her master’s degree in Sociocultural Studies at European University Viadrina with a special focus on Urban Studies, postcolonialism, culture of remembrance, and aesthetic practices. Her master thesis “(De)constructing Pelourinho through memory: On the social construction of a symbolic Black place in Brazil” was conceived of as a critical inquiry of a district in the Historic Centre of Salvador da Bahia.

During her studies, Gabriela Iracema Randig joined various cultural and educational organisations in Berlin and Latin America as a volunteer, intern or assistant. Her academic interest in the decolonization of urban space is very much informed by her work experience at the Goethe Institute Salvador-Bahia, the National Commission of Uruguay for UNESCO and in the field of performing arts. Living in a place profoundly shaped by Germany’s colonial past – the so-called “African Quarter” in Berlin – over many years has additionally fuelled her curiosity in urban social movements committed to disclose and deconstruct colonial continuities in urban space.

Gabriela Iracema Randig is passionate about World Heritage, Education for Sustainable Development and youth participation, and pursues these interests within her voluntary work for UNESCO. Besides her activities as a trainer in World Heritage Education, she co-founded the youth committee of the German Commission for UNESCO and acts as board member of an alumni organisation that engages in educational work on UNESCO-related topics. Gabriela Iracema Randig most recently worked as a project manager for a Do & Think Thank for impact-oriented networks and as an editor for a Berlin-based start-up.

Decolonial struggles over the Right to the City in the Old Centre of Salvador da Bahia.

In my dissertation, I focus on decolonial struggles over the “Right to the City”. Taking the Old Centre of Salvador da Bahia as a point of departure, I explore how Black actors mobilize site-specific memories to claim urban space as a Black heritage, thereby defending themselves against the assertion of hegemonic interests in urban space. I am particularly interested in the question of how memory-making in urban space can strengthen Black actors in their political struggles and create “new spaces of protest” against urban inequality as suggested by the anthropologist André Cicalo (2015).

My research project centres around a local initiative in the Old Centre of Salvador da Bahia that I consider particularly suitable for gaining insights into these “new spaces of protest”. The focus is on the Articulação do Centro Antigo de Salvador, a coalition of Black residents affected by gentrification-induced displacement with various social movements and Black scholars from the Federal University of Bahia who jointly fight for “the Right to the City, living space and life”. By pursuing this goal, the Articulação do Centro Antigo de Salvador commits itself to “the historical struggle of our Black community” aimed at “taking ownership of a territory that belongs to us”, as stated on the initiative’s social media accounts. The Black authorship of the material urban space that traces back to enslavement – as well as the sense of ownership derived thereof – is the key memory narrative that underlies the initiative’s work.

In addition to memory practices, the Articulação do Centro Antigo de Salvador makes use of a variety of other symbolic practices with connection to space that draw from a cultural repertoire of Black and indigenous resistance, marking the initiative’s struggle for the reappropriation of urban space and the “Right to the City” as a decolonial struggle.

From a perspective extended to include not only memory but all kinds of spatial practices employed by the Articulação do Centro Antigo de Salvador, I base my dissertation on the following question: In what sense do Black actors in the Old Centre of Salvador da Bahia symbolically appropriate colonial urban space and, in doing so, create a basis for its material appropriation. In this spirit, I set out to explore the ways in which the Black struggle over the “Right to the City” can be understood as a symbolic and material decolonization of urban space – material in the sense that it is connected to concrete spatial demands.

I understand my research as a contribution to the academic discourse on the political implications of the symbolic appropriation of colonial urban space by Black actors in the Brazilian context. As the project unfolds, I intend to include other cases of comparable spaces of protest into my analysis, thereby extending the object of research across the Atlantic.

Approaches from Spatial Anthropology form the theoretical framework of my research project, with “Spatializing Culture” (2017) by Setha Low at its very centre. In view of the geographical location of my initial field of research, I draw further theoretical impulses from Latin American Urban Studies to develop a sound understanding of the general constitution of the city as well as the particularities of Latin American urbanization. As further points of reference I consider Henri Lefebvre’s concept of the “Right to the City” (1968) and Mary Louise Pratt’s notion of the “Contact Zone” (1991) that sheds light on conflicts in and around social spaces.