Failed Citizens or Failed States?

Conflicts have been flaring up with exceptional heat recently. Exploiting this trend, right-wing populisms are promoting escapism and warmongering – thereby priming failed citizens and failed states. In contrast, the FRIENDLY FIRE conference wishes to explore how we could embrace conflicts in order to make societies more democratic. To begin with, the project asks: What is it for any person to become a citizen, today? What is it for citizens and non-citizens alike to become political actors in fields of dissent? The Berliner Gazette (BG) wishes to invite researchers, activists, coders and journalists to its seventeenth annual conference with the aim of initiating debates and collaborative processes. For the first time the event will be held in collaboration with the ZK/U – Center for Art and Urbanistics, one of the most exciting venues on Berlin’s independent scene.

Public Talks

Are digital non-/citizens the status quo?

Thursday | Nov. 2 | 7:30 p.m.: Are Digital Non-/Citizens the Status Quo? Two prolific speakers will look for answers: the artist James Bridle, whose visionary project "Citizen Ex" reflects digital citizenship and the political thinker Eleanor Saitta, whose work explores the potential of radical democracy and consistently challenges the blind spots of the digital avantgardes. Moderated by Anna Sauerbrey, who is a Berlin-based journalist, this public talk will reflect the politics of citizenship with regard to the rampant digitalization of people's lives – be they citizens or not.

Who Claims Global Citizenship?

Friday | Nov. 3 | 7:30 p.m.: Who Claims Global Citizenship? Two prolific speakers will discuss this question: the journalist Atossa Araxia Abrahamian, whose book "The Cosmopolites" has triggered a debate about the commodification of citizenship, and the media art pioneer Ingo Günther, whose project "Refugee Republic" envisions a global network of refugee shelters. Moderated by Harsha Walia, a Vancouver-based activist, this public talk will reflect on global citizenship from the points of view of both the super-rich and the underprivileged.

How is citizenship changing in war times?

Saturday | Nov. 4 | 3 p.m.: How is citizenship changing in war times? Two prolific speakers will look for answers: the sociologist Deborah Cowen, whose books "War, Citizenship, Territory" and "The Deadly Life of Logistics" explore the politics of violence in the global age, and the historian Felicity Scott, whose Silicon Valley research sheds new light on the emergence of the military-entertainment complex. Moderated by Valentina Pellizzer, a Sarajevo-based cultural worker, this public talk will reflect the crises of citizenship in the context of war.

As a warm-up to this public talk, the workshop groups (see below) will present their results: position papers, multimedia storytelling projects, etc.

After this talk, please join a cooking party with Pepe Dayaw starting at 6:30 p.m.


Register and Join

The open call for the workshops targets (upcoming) hackers, journalists, activists and researchers. A limited number of participants was is able to register by contacting the following E-mail: info (at) Deadline is October 15. Registration fee: 50 Euro, incl. catering. Please note: The five workshops will be running in parallel fashion, hence everybody is invited to commit to one single track. On November 2-4, the workshops will take place from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. The conference hosts will provide catering throughout the entire conference, including warm lunch. A series of guided city walks is planned for lunch breaks!

Explore Citizenship

To tackle the key issues of the conference, five parallel workshop tracks will offer five different approaches for a constructive critique of citizenship as a framework for political participation: "Who needs Biometric Passports?", "Are Asylum Seekers: Political Actors?", "Who risks Mutant Citizenships?", "Who benefits from Statelessness?", "What is it to be an Algorithmic Non-/Citizen?". The workshops will bring together over 100 activists from all over the world. The BG has invited key actors from the international scene to form the core of the five workshop tracks, more participants will register/join via an open call.


The workshop groups will encompass approximately 15 people, partly invited by the conference organizers, partly registered via the open call. Moderated by experienced facilitators, all workshop groups are invited to work on collaborative resources dedicated to the respective track theme. The results will be made available as online resources via They can include position papers, multimedia storytelling projects and collections of ideas. Check the workshop results from the previous BG annual conference and find photos from the workshops here.

Who needs Biometric Passports?

In the democracy of ancient Attica, a citizen was defined according to the contrast between the public and the private, his or her home (the seat of reproductive life) as distinct from the city (the place of politics). Modern citizens, on the other hand, seem to be living in a zone of non-differentiation, in which our political body is becoming indistinguishable from our physical one: biometric technologies are propagated as infallible and unchallengeable verifiers of the truth about a person – the ultimate guarantors of identity. But what on earth might your relationship to your fingerprints or your genetic code consist of? Won't this trend to categorize and quantify the body eventually decouple politics and citizenship? Who benefits from this? Who is left behind? The workshop initiates a quest for answers.

Guests: Detlef Borchers (tbc), Jeff Deutch, Kristoffer Gansing, Tabea Grzeszyk (tbc), Bernd Hatesuer (tbc), Anna Magdalena Kedzierska, Morana Miljanovic, Marta Peirano, André Rebentisch, Christina Rogers, Jutta Weber. Moderators: Ela Kagel & Christopher Senf.

Are Asylum Seekers Political Actors?

For a long time, the European definition of a political person was that rational people made public demands, and then, with the aid of consensus-building measures, used the tools of democracy to realize their demands. This also formed the basis of citizenship. Yet the tools of democracy (e.g., elections) have lost their appeal and power; the state itself, which is meant to make these tools practicable, has increasingly drifted out of reach. At the same time, a growing number of actors are effectively excluded from formal possibilities for political participation: asylum seekers, undocumented people, refugees, etc. Is it necessary to redefine what it means to be political and, more specifically, what it means to be a citizen? If so, how could we incorporate notions of citizenship as well as political agency from the Global South? The workshop initiates a quest for answers.

Guests: Arwa Alladin, Rosemary Bechler, Martin A. Ciesielski (tbc), Sabrina Dittus, Daphne Dragona, Valeria Graziano, Jennifer Kamau, Andrea Liu, Victoria Martinez, Dalia Othman, Annika Seibt, Cassie Thornton, Harsha Walia. Moderators: Abiol Lual Deng & Jaron Rowan.

Who risks Mutant Citizenships?

Citizenship as a product of nation-states has always been characterized by blind spots, such as for instance its logic of exclusion based solely on where people are born. Today, these blind spots are becoming apparent through the rise of local as well as transnational networks. Created by disenchanted citizens and asylum seekers alike, these networks are ‘accommodating’, e.g., thousands of undocumented people who are living in European cities nowadays. Moreover, they are providing the basis for so-called Sanctuary Cities – as in Toronto. Meanwhile, New York is offering ID-NYC, government-issued identification cards, to all New Yorkers, regardless of their immigration status. What institutional frameworks are already emerging that could actually support something that could be called global or urban citizenship? What institutional frameworks are lacking so far, but should be developed? The workshop initiates a quest for answers.

Guests: Atossa Araxia Abrahamian, Laura Burtan, Stefan Candea, Branka Curcic, Friederike Habermann, Harlo Holmes, Evan Light, Matthew Linares, Tomislav Medak, Valentina Pellizzer, Brett Scott, Maria Tengarrinha, Jaroslav Valuch, Elena Veljanovska. Moderators: Max Haiven & Nina Pohler.

Who benefits from Statelessness?

Throw your passport away and become a free person! Statelessness as a status that individuals have to a certain degree voluntarily taken upon themselves can be viewed as liberating and as a rebellion against the State and the idea of citizenship. Yet celebrations of self-imposed statelessness tend to ignore various problems that are fueling trends diametrically opposed to the building of democratic space, e.g., the politics of involuntary statelessness by people who are born stateless; the expansion of citizenship-stripping powers; and the production of a sub-proletariat that boosts the informal economy but has neither rights nor representation. How could the mechanisms and institutions that enable and enforce statelessness become more accountable? How could such transparency help criticize and redefine citizenship? The workshop initiates a quest for answers.

Guests: Susanne Braun, Jérôme Hourdeaux, Inga Lindarenka, Monisha Caroline Martins, Sara Moreira, Jacopo Ottaviani, Victoria Parsons, Jordan Schneider (tbc), Catherine Sotirakou, Martina Staneva, Kavya Sukumar (tbc). Moderators: Claudia Núñez & Cristina Pombo.

What does it mean to be a digital non-/citizen?

Digital citizenship is usually defined as the (self-)enactment of people’s role in society through the use of digital technologies. It is therefore seen as empowering and democratizing. At the same time, processes of quantification and algorithmic categorization are transforming digital citizenship into a potential trap: we are effectively losing control of defining who we are online; moreover, we are losing ownership over the meaning of the categories that constitute our identities. Thus we have to confront various challenges as regards the expansion of networks as well as database rationalities: what differentiates the consumer and the non-/citizen in this scenario? What are the means by which we may render the processes of quantification and algorithmic categorization transparent and appropriate them for our own definition of digital citizenship? The workshop initiates a quest for answers.

Guests: Martha Dörfler, Alina Floroi, Cory Levinson, Riho Matsuda, Hitoyo Nakano, Katrin M. Kämpf, M.C. McGrath (tbc), Juliane Rettschlag, Andreas Schneider, Koji Takahashi, Beata Wilczek. Moderators: Sabrina Apitz & Michael Prinzinger.


Our Crowd, our mission

When we tackle politics, technology and the media we strive for diversity in terms of gender, tech literacy and professional background as well as expertise. We bring a wild mix of people together to stimulate collaborative creativity. Our crowd is a gathering of people from a range of skill-sets, political orientations, passions and talents. We wish to attract experts and beginners, hybrids and border-crossers, men and women.


The ZK/U is a laboratory for inter-disciplinary activities centered on the phenomenon of the city. Its work is informed by theoretical and practice-based critiques developed in disciplines such as geography and anthropology. It promotes exchange on global issues in the light of what is happening in one’s own backyard. Working with local and international partners, residencies bring together critical minds at the intersection of artistic production and urban research. Address: Siemensstrasse 27, 10551 Berlin. Look at this map.



The organizer of the conference is Berliner Gazette (BG). As a nonprofit and nonpartisan team of journalists, researchers, artists and coders we analyze and test emerging cultural as well as political practices. For more than 15 years we have been publishing under a Creative Commons-License – with more than 900 contributors from all over the world – and also organizing annual conferences and editing books. Mail us your suggestions under: info(at)



The conference language is English – after all, people from more than 20 countries are coming together.



You can find us on social networks, for example on twitter or on facebook. The hashtag is: #FriendlyFire.

Social Networks

Social Networks

Photos from the conference will be published here where our FRIENDLY FIRE warm up events have been already documented. Now have a look at other BG photo albums or at our previous annual conference TACIT FUTURES.

Live Photos

Live Photos

“SIGNALS. An Exhibition of the Snowden Files in Art, Media and Archives” is an international project organized by Berliner Gazette. The exhibition will have special opening hours in the week of the FRIENDLY FIRE conference. More info here.