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

“Berliner Bär” and Other Beasts

Taught by Michal B. Ron

Starts 25.10. / Tuesday, 10:00 - 14:00, Hausvogteiplatz 5-7, Room 0323-26

Language requirements: min. English B2



Course Description

This interdisciplinary course critically explores human-animal relations as they emerge in historical and contemporary institutions of culture, education and entertainment in Berlin. Animals populate poetry and fables, their images appear in emblems and logos, modern science subjects their bodies and contemporary artists capture them as carriers of meaning. The aim of this course is to pause upon this ubiquitous presence of animals in culture, and to view the questions they give rise to through key theoretical works that deal with this problem. The course will combine close reading of these texts with an examination of exemplary case studies in Berlin, and will open a perspective on the less discussed, living or metaphorical, non-human inhabitants of the city.


Course Requirements

  • Active participation in class discussions and field trips.

  • Doing the readings for each session in advance, and preparing two discussion questions on each reading. I collect these questions in class.
    Texts and reading material will be provided.

  • Participating in a group presentation on a case study of your choice. The assignments will be distributed among the students in the first session according to the course plan.
    The presentation should include the following aspects:

    • ​​Description of the case study, noting the facts: what is it, who founded it and when, for what purpose, how should its plan fulfill its function, what does it included.
    • History: in what historical circumstances was it founded, what changes did it go through during its history?
    • State today
    • Interpretation: what ideology does this case study embody, is it still valid today?
    • Proposing questions and aspects for further analysis


  • Two written assignments:
    • Short written report following to your presentation topic (2-3 pages, double-spaced, Times new Roman) to be submitted in class and to me by email.
    • Analytical essay: written analysis of a chosen case study (5-8 pages, double-spaced, Times new Roman) to be submitted by email by January 31, 2017. Choice of topic should be checked with the instructor in advance.

The essay should include a description of the case study and its analysis applying at least one of the theoretical approaches we discussed.  Students may further develop the presentation they gave in class, but are encouraged to choose a new case study, whether another contemporary example from Berlin, an example from another field of study we didn’t directly approach in class, or suggesting an example from their homeland.


  • Attendance Policy: You may not miss more than 1 session. If you know you have to miss a class, let me know in advance and we can arrange a catch-up task, so you don’t fall behind. In the case of illness or other unforeseen situations, do email me as soon as possible. I would also require some written confirmation of the emergency. Do become familiar with public transport in Berlin and work out in advance how to get to the sites on time (addresses and public transport connection are given below).
  • Plagiarism policy: The presentation of another person’s words, thoughts, ideas, judgement, images or data as if they were your own, whether intentionally or unintentionally, constitute an act of plagiarism. The penalty for this is failure of the course.