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

Nation and City: Changing Identities in Changing Berlin

Taught by Dr. Christian Wicke

Friday (fortnightly), 14:00 - 18:00, Dorotheenstraße 24, Room 1.604

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

Course description
Despite increasing global interconnectivities and alternative modes of belonging, the
basic belief that the world should be structured and divided primarily along national
boundaries remains surprisingly unchallenged in the 21st century.


Methodology and learning objectives
In crossing disciplinary boundaries this course uses the rapidly changing capital city of Berlin as a lens to enable students to observe important facets of German nationalism since the 19th century. These include romantic notions of place and belonging; the making of the two unifications; left, right and liberal forms of nationalism; and the collective memory of the Nazi past.

It provides an introduction to some important theories of nationalism, with special attention on the role of cities and capitals for the public (re)production of memory and belonging. By the end of this course, students will have a better understanding of Berlin and Germany, with their many contested layers of histories and identities. They will be able to grasp Berlin’s unique as well as paradigmatic role in the making and remaking of national identity in Germany.



  • The course literature will have to be shortly summarised by each student before the respective seminar and submitted to the lecturer (approx. 150-200 words per article or book chapter). The compulsory reading material shall amount to around 100 pages per fortnightly seminar (up to 700 pages in total, mostly in English). The reading material will be available at the Semesterapparat of the HU-library (Grimm-Zentrum, 4th floor, bologna.lab, Berlin Perspectives, Dr. Christian Wicke). Any material that is not in the shelf at the library will be available online or provided per email by the lecturer.
  • Please make sure that you have covered all relevant literature before each seminar, including the very first one. Please bear in mind that this is a block seminar, which means that the work load for each session will be twice as much as for weekly seminars.
  • Students will also be required to give a group presentation on a relevant topic (to be discussed with the lecturer).
  • Finally, there will be a take-home exam towards the end of the seminar. The optional questions will be published online on Friday at 2pm. Students will have four hours to answer one question in the form of a short essay of 1000-1500 words. The exam will have to be submitted electronically to the course convenor. Please note that appropriate referencing will be essential to pass this exam. It is also required to use at least one primary or secondary source in German.
  • In order to pass this course, students may not miss more than one of the six block seminars (unless exceptional circumstances apply) and will have to demonstrate engagement with the reading material during the discussions.


Selected bibliography


Celia Applegate, A Nation of Provincials: The German Idea of Heimat

(Berkeley, University of California Press, 1990), ch. 3.


Benedict Anderson, ‘Introduction’ to Imagined Communities: Reflections on

the Origin and Spread of Nationalism, revised ed. (London: Verso, 1991).


John Breuilly and Ronald Speirs, ‘The Concept of Unification’, in Breuilly and Speirs (eds.), Germany’s Two Unifications: Anticipations, Experiences, Responses (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004).


Michael Freeden (1998), ‘Is Nationalism a Distinct Ideology?’, in Political

Studies 46(4).


Peter Fritzsche, Reading Berlin 1900 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1996).


Jürgen Habermas (1988), ‘Historical Consciousness and Post-Traditional Identity: Remarks on the Federal Republic's Orientation to the West’, in Acta Sociologica 31(1).


Marc Howard (1995), ‘An East German Ethnicity? Understanding the New Division of Unified Germany’, in German Politics and Society 13(4).


Jennifer A. Jordan, Structures of Memory: Understanding Urban Change in Berlin and Beyond (Stanford University Press, 2006).


Jürgen Kocka (1988), ‘German History before Hitler: The Debate about the German Sonderweg’, in Journal of Contemporary History 23(1).


Will Kymlicka and Keith Banting (2006), ‘Immigration, Multiculturalism, and the Welfare State’, in Ethics & International Affairs 20(3).


Dirk Moses (2007), ‘Stigma and Structure in German Memory’, in German Intellectuals and the Nazi Past (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press).


Pierre Nora (2005), ‘Between Memory and History: Les Lieux de Mémoire’, in Representations 26, Special Issue: Memory and Counter-Memory.


Karen E. Till, The New Berlin: Memory, Politics, Place (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2003).


Christian Wicke (2013) ‘A Romantic Nationalist?: Helmut Kohl’s Ethnocultural Representation of his Nation and Himself’, in Nationalism and Ethnic Politics 19(2).