2014 OPEN CALL > 2014 FESTIVAL THEMATICS AND QUESTIONS > Cities To Die For

 

  Laborers in the Al Sajaa camp chat with each other as they sit on a bed in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates in this September 4, 2010, AP Images​

On the 10th of May 2010 Athiraman Kannan took off his shoes, placed his diary beside them and then jumped to his death from the 147th floor of world’s tallest building; the Burj Khalifa, the skyscraper he cleaned. It is understood he was denied access to his passport and holidays by the agency he worked for, preventing him from returning to India to visit his recently deceased brother’s family. Athiraman Kannan, lived on the outskirts of the city, in conditions that are described by NGO’s as a ‘camp’, where migrant workers live in extremely high density accommodation and are forced to share basic resources, including sanitary facilities.

More recently it has been reported that over 1,000 ‘tied’ labourers have been killed as a result of building the stadiums for the 2020 Football World Cup. How could this happen in the 21st century? It is understood cities today include more slavery than the 17th and 18th centuries. How does social Darwin racism contribute to their movement and experience in cities today?

Often workers take loans with employment agencies to secure and transport them to distant parts of the world in order to secure work and income for the families they leave behind. When they arrive the jobs are often paid significantly less than promised, passports taken, expenses such as food and housing arranged and pressure to pay debts increased. Was Athiraman Kannan’s jump from this spectacular tower, so soon after it opened, a desperate call for justice for the lives of tens of millions living in these bonded labour realities?

How can this reality be communicated? How can ‘urbanists’ work for these people rather than the developers, financiers and planners? Why aren’t ‘urbanists’ working for these people? 

Last updated on July 13, 2014 by This Is Not A Gateway