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Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin | bologna.lab | Projekte des bologna.labs | Berlin Perspectives | Lehrveranstaltungen | Wintersemester 2013/14 | Leaving Home, Coming Home: Berlin and the Affective Engagements of Migrants

Leaving Home, Coming Home: Berlin and the Affective Engagements of Migrants

Taught by F. Gökçen Dinç

Thursday, 12:00 - 14:00, Dorotheenstraße 24, room 1.308

Course taught in English (with parts in German, depending on language level)

Course description

This course will look at the mutually transformative relationship between migrants and Berlin. It will incorporate the perspective and experiences of migrants to understand the complexities of multiple attachments of migrants, how these attachments contribute in the restructuring of Berlin and how Berlin’s spaces, private and public, affect the lives of migrants. As a cosmopolitan city at the intersection of East and West, a city of  ‘always becoming and never of being’, Berlin is at the same time a site of a distinctive German national narrative, ‘the site on which a new Germany is being constructed’. Yet, Berlin is also seen as ‘home’ by thousands of migrants with diverse backgrounds. ‘Affective’ engagements of migrants with Berlin unearths that home-making is a ‘continuous work’ and it expresses itself in the form of a ‘continuous emplacement’. Focusing on the agency and subjectivity of migrants with the help of affect theory and taking into consideration their sense of local belonging will allow us to get to understand the complexities of Berlin better. Furthermore, it will enable us to understand how the personal and collective experiences of migrants and their negotiations of belonging affect their engagement for the future of Berlin.

Most of the studies on migration in Germany focus on the perspective of the host state and stays limited around the discussions on integration policies, which in fact clues the ‘methodological nationalism’ of migration studies. Furthermore, migration studies focus on the migration to cities and migrant’s life in cities to a large extent but the complicated attachments of migrants to cities stays less researched. This course aims to challenge both by taking Berlin, rather than the nation-state Germany and by incorporating the perspective, experiences and multiple attachments of migrants.

We will answer questions like, ‘What are the multiple physical and social spaces inhabited by migrants in the city?’, ‘How do migrants transform and transcend these spaces?’, ‘How do they refashion themselves with regard to German identity?’, ‘How does Berlin figure as an ‘imagined place’ in migrants’ narrations?’, ‘How do their collective identities merge in the city?’, ‘How do their cultural diversity affect the reinvention of Berlin as a ‘global’ and ‘multicultural’ city?’ and ‘How do gender and queer identities matter in the interplay between Berlin’s ‘becoming’, migrants’ attachments and cultural diversity of the city?’


Methodology and learning objectives

With readings from different disciplines, relying on the theoretical framework of historical, migrant, postfeminist, queer, transnational, translocal, urban and postcolonial studies, with guest speakers – prominent scholars, artists, film-makers, activists, ...– and excursions –to museums, theaters, cultural centers, …- , we will investigate the contested meanings of engagement of the migrants with Berlin from an interdisciplinary perspective. Thus, the seminar, incorporating the disciplines of arts, humanities and social sciences, is open to students from all subject backgrounds and will enable them to acquire theoretical and analytical tools from diverse fields.



Students are expected to do the assigned readings, actively participate and engage in the discussions throughout the semester. Regular attendance in the seminar is crucial and students who miss more than 3 courses should contact the instructor. Each student should choose a theme/week according to her/his interests and make a 10-15 minute presentation about the readings in the beginning of each week’s class. S/he is expected to submit a response paper (3–5 pages) on that theme/topic. The paper should not only be a brief reaction paper; rather it should focus closely on the assigned readings and incorporate the theoretical arguments of the readings with the discussions in class.

The seminar carries 5 ECTS; performance in classroom participation counts for 1 point, the presentation in the classroom counts for 1 point and the response paper counts for 3 points.

Teaching and assessment takes place in English, yet there is the option for students who wish to engage with readings in German and, with instructor approval, to do parts of their assessment in German.