Creating spaces for encounter: The Grandhotel Cosmopolis – a ‘social sculpture’ in the heart of Augsburg, Germany.
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This paper illustrates the sites and effects of encounters between citizens and asylum seekers in different microspaces. While work on encounters has largely focused on ethnicity or race, this thesis analyses encounters between asylum seekers and citizens. Building on feminist theory, I argue for the incorporation of a non-hierarchical understanding of difference into research on encounters, in order to recognize the multiplicity of individuals. Given a decline of spaces for ‘multiple publics’ to interact, this paper conceives of spaces for encounter as ‘public’ spaces. Insights into encounters occurring in such spaces are drawn from a case study of the Grandhotel Cosmopolis, a political art project in Augsburg, Germany. Findings are based on participatory observation, interviews and focus groups. The case illustrates not only how encounters were en- and disabled in its microspaces, but also how encounters initiate processes of learning and challenge situated perspectives.