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Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - bologna.lab - Neue Lehre. Neues Lernen

Sommersemester 2017


Sozialwissenschaften, Geschichte, Wirtschaft


starts 24.04)

Rethinking the Migrant: The case study of Berlin

Kine Valvik Mitchell, Amber  Kepple Jones

(Language requirements: min. English B2)

In January 2016, The Sun, the most highly read “newspaper” in the UK, published an article with the headline: “Refugee Crisis: Berlin so swamped by migrants that city is in ruins”. Though such hyperbolic claims are often quickly dismissed, they also echo and reiterate fears existing within hegemonic discourses surrounding “migrants” and reflect public consciousnesses about the “crisis” in not only the UK but in Berlin, Germany and more generally, the global north. This interdisciplinary course will give an overview of migration and border studies, as well as postcolonial approaches to the figure of the migrant while deconstructing the figure of the “migrant” and the concept of “crisis” while placing them into wider discussions of “raceless” Europe.

starts 24.04)

Biographies of the Berlin Wall

Elena Demke

(Language requirements: min. English B2)

The Berlin Wall was the best known materialization of the Cold War. Once it had disappeared, its surviving remains turned into outstanding objects of commemoration – in private as well as public contexts. This course will apply the concept of “biographies of objects” as developed in ethnology and sociology to the study of the history of the Berlin Wall. The course has three major parts: First, students will get an overview of the history of the division of Berlin with a special emphasis on how it was materialized at the various stages. In this context, we will deal with the construction of the initial fortification in 1961, its changes over time up to its destruction in 1989/1990 and its afterlife in various objects of commemoration, studying the interaction of material objects and social agents. The second part will be dedicated to the reading of classical texts and to the theoretical background of the study of “biographies of objects”. During the third part of the course we will discuss how to apply this theoretical framework to the history of the Berlin Wall and write samples of “biographies of the Berlin Wall”. 

(starts 18.04)

Re/Inventing Berlin - Architecture after 1945

Alessa Paluch

(Language requirements: min. English B2)

At the end of World War II Berlin , the former capital of Hitlers Third Reich, was largely destroyed. But the area-wide destructions also held a chance: the possibility to rebuild Berlin as a totally new city – in modernists words: as a better city. And indeed Berlin changed dramatically – but not in the way modern architects and urban planners had envisioned it in the post-war period.

Quite differing proposals were made in East and West Berlin. Especially for the so called Capital of the Cold War it proves to be true that architecture is a not just a mirror to the society which builds it – but that architecture also shapes the lives of the people living with and within it.

Using examples such as Karl-Marx-Allee, Hansaviertel, Gropiusstadt, Potsdamer Platz et al. this seminar retraces the stations and phases of reconstruction with a focus on political and cultural developments. The most influential concepts of 20th century urban planning will be presented. In addition the seminar aims to be an exercise in (architecture) criticism.

(starts 20.04
room 0203)

Berlin Histories of Migration

Mareike Heller, Sophie Groß

(Language requirements: min. English B2)

Far right and right wing populist movements in Germany mobilize against immigration and demand the “protection” of a pure and homogeneous society which is imagined in different historical conjunctures as mainly “aryan”, “white”, “German”, “western”, or “Christian”. In fact, German society and especially metropolises like Berlin have been shaped by migration from the beginning. In this seminar, we want to make this history of migration visible. Historically, the motives and reasons for people to migrate are diverse and their routes and experiences vary to a large extent. The French Huguenots and people from countries colonized by Germany as well as ‘guest workers’/‘contract workers’, refugees and many others shaped Berlin as the city it is today. Critical migration studies reflect on this phenomenon with the keyword of the postmigrant-society and try to shed light on how a society is shaped by migration, instead of asking how migrants integrate into society. Within this perspective, we will work around the histories of migration in Berlin and reflect on personal and political struggles around migration that have been fought, thereby transforming the urban society of Berlin. Working with mixed material, we will provide readings in English which give insights into the historic periods. As a second entry point, we will provide (auto-)biographic narratives, small pieces of fiction writing, comics and movies in the available languages. Thereby, we want to provide a forum for international students to also reflect and articulate their different experiences in the city of Berlin. 

starts 19.04)

German Memory Culture and Politics

Dr. des. Frank Beyersdorf

(Language requirements: min. English B2)

How did and do Germans form their collective memory over the course of the last 150 years? Who can (and who cannot) construct and exhibit in public which kind of past? Is the post-World-War II antifascist consensus on the wane, as Tony Judt, an eminent historian of Europe, has argued? Have Germans abandoned the so-called ‘guilt complex’ for the atrocities committed during the war? What does memory tell us about German nationalism? In order to hone in on these questions, we will scrutinise German memory cultures and politics. We will first debate classic texts on nationalism and memory culture by Maurice Halbwachs, Benedict Anderson, Pierre Nora, and Aleida Assmann.

Then, we will approach these problems practically by visiting museums and sights in Berlin. In each case, we will infer from objects, space and representational strategies and ask how and why it changes over time. We will analyse and contrast who represented how nationalisms at Berlins Museumsinsel after the creation of the German Empire and then the Nazi Empire. We move on to places for remembering (and forgetting) the victims and the perpetrators of Nazi Germany. Then, we will compare two museums commemorating but also reflecting the Cold War and, respectively everyday life in East Germany. Finally, we will discuss the meaning of the reconstruction of the Berlin Schloss as one of the most recent examples of the new Berlin Republic.

Students should have a medium to good command of English (B1). Since parts of the reading will be in German, you also need to have at least reading skills in German (A2). We will work on holding parts of the sessions in English and in German as the course progresses. Students of all disciplines are welcome, no prior knowledge is required. Refugees are more than welcome!

(starts 19.04)

Berlin Glossary: Site Research Methodologies

Anna Kostreva, Rubén Jódar 

In this immersive spatial course, students will learn to read and create the city – to communicate about urban themes across disciplines and media. We will analyze maps, watch films and make site visits, collecting materials and observations for follow-up research. We will use a sort of forensic methodology: collecting clues and patterns in order to put together the story of the city. Through this participatory process we will pinpoint the appearance of authorship, history, digitization, behavior, diversity, war, legislation, and political controversy. 




Kulturwissenschaften, Literaturwissenschaften


(starts 19.04
room 0203)

Spectres of the City: E. T. A. Hoffmann’s “Demonic Berlin”

Polly Dickson

(Language requirements: min. English B2, German A2)

What place might the practice of literary realism find within the city? What relationship, in turn, might realism and the fantastic have first with each other, and second with the notion of place? How, specifically, does E. T. A. Hoffmann — one of the most influential German writers of the nineteenth century — arrive in his own city, Berlin, through his idiosyncratic poetological praxis?

Hoffmann reached the peak of his writerly prowess in Berlin. The aim of this course will be to uncover the hidden, fantastic Berlin that he knew, whilst sketching an account of what we might call Hoffmann’s ‘realism’ in the process. It aims to serve both as an introduction to Hoffmann and as an enquiry into the kind of writing that might enable us to reproduce the character and secrets of a city. As such, we will begin to study Hoffmann’s alignment with the literary and cultural currents of his own time, and to question his conventional reputation as Gothic Romanticist. Above all, we will begin to ‘read’ the city of Berlin through the eyes and words of Hoffmann.

10:00-12:00 (starts 20.04)

Berlin Films

Dr. Stefanie Rinke

(Language requirements: min. English B1, German B1)

A lot of films are made in Berlin, but not every film could be called a „Berlin Film“. A film is a Berlin Film, so the definition in class, when the film shows special places of Berlin, when it shows a particular life-style or specific historical, cultural or political events. Only Berlin Films construct the identity of the metropole Berlin and are part of the thick space of a metropole: are intermingled in (imaginary) city relations.

In the seminar we discuss and analyse, why a film is a Berlin Film and deconstruct its position in the relation network between real place and imagination. We will not study documentaries, only motion pictures from the years 1920s until today.

The films will be available for all students in a handset in the Grimm-Zentrum (media center) and the texts and handouts via Moodle.

Language Skills

The language in class will be mainly German, and English will be Lingua franca (bilingual seminar). We will try to speak as much German in class as we can, to improve the German language skills.

The texts will be, if possible, in German and English. The short presentations and the essay could be in English or German. The films will be in German with English Subtitles.

German Level B1 and English Level B1

14:00-16:00 (starts 20.04)

Theater und Öffentlichkeit

Marc Hiatt, Roman Kowert

(Language requirements: min. German B1)

Freedom of expression, and in particular freedom of artistic expression is one of the values on which the state in the Federal Republic of Germany, like many others, rests its legitimacy. This does not mean that theatrical productions do not still sometimes trigger public scandals. But where the state is prepared to tolerate almost everything, the irritations and objections of particular audiences, especially if they are expressed with passion, can seem ridiculous. (More than one observer of the court battle over Falk Richter’s 2015 play, FEAR, viewed the so-called scandal in this light.) Does this mean that in post-reunification Berlin all the tension really has gone out of the relationships between theatre, society, and the political? What forms have conflicts in and over theatre taken in the past? What forms do they take today? And what can their history tell us about the changes in German society and politics up until the present time?

Taught in German, minimum B1 (with the option of English for the written work)

starts 19.10
room 0203

Exploring Berlin Museums

Dr. Victoria Bishop-Kendzia 

(Language requirements: min. English B2)

This anthroplogically inflected course is interdisciplinary in nature. The aim of the course is to explore and critically analyse certain aspects of Berlin’s museological landscape using anthropological methods. This will be realized during the various field trips to relevant sites. The focus is on two particularly visible and conflict-ridden aspects of this landscape, namely the Jewish narrative and the topic of migration.  Although this course is based in social/cultural anthropology it does indeed engage with other disciplines and might be of interest to students of history, theology, art history, not to mention the more theme-based programmes of Urban Studies, Ethics, and Museum Studies. English B2 Required.

All the lectures will be in English. German is not required for this course, but a would be an asset as it would allow for indepth exploration of a number of German texts and museums.