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Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Enhancing digital teaching

Winter Semester 2016/2017


Social Sciences, History, Economics

starts 24.10)

The Berlin Wall – Visual narratives in history and memory

Elena Demke

(Language requirements: min. English B2)

The course focuses on images of the Berlin Wall and the access they provide to the history of the Cold War as experienced and represented from various perspectives: Eastern and Western media, private photographers and agents of the production of collective memory. They ways in which the symbolic power of the Berlin Wall has transcended its historical context will be studied as well. Students will get acquainted with the history of the divided city and the struggles over the legacies of the SED dictatorship. Methodological learning objects concern the analysis and contextualization of visual sources and usages of photography as a tool in social science. 


(starts 18.10)

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.

(irregular dates,
starts 19.10)

Exploring Berlin Museums

Dr. Victoria Bishop-Kendzia 

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

*please note: this is a flexible course with regards to language skills

This interdisciplinary course explores some key aspects visible in Berlin’s museological landscape. It will focus on issues of Self and Other constructions as attested in museums and exhibitions. The aim of the course is to use anthropological methods to explore the sites and critical analyses to reflect upon them. This thematic course touches on several disciplines. It is based in empirical social anthropology, especially in terms of theoretical framework and methodology. It does, however, involve a historical overview of the Jewish narrative in Germany from just before 1933 to the present and an overview of migration issues.



Literature, Urban and Cultural Studies


(starts 24.10)


Vanguards and Jesters: Art and the Absurd from Lenin to Lolcats

Dr. Rositza Alexandrova

(Language requirements: min. English B2)

How do the comedic and the avant-garde intersect? Are they two antithetical avenues of irreverence — one with a valiant pedigree of open confrontation (or outright self-sacrifice in battle), the other — a cowering court jester making light of injury and insult, disarming with laughter. If comedy is indeed ‘the new rock-and-roll’, as repeatedly affirmed by the reality of stand-ups filling football stadiums, how could it ‘speak truth to power’ in its ‘cooption by the culture industry’? Conversely, how is it that a growing contingent of current affairs aficionados rather reliably source their news exclusively from daily
comedy shows and tersely formulated ‘tweetticisms’?

Beyond the instrumentally political, how does experimentation in art relate to the inner logic of comic provocation? Does the shared modality of ‘playful amusement’ only ever end in ‘effete entertainment’ or is it inroads to revolution!? Does the imperative to regale automatically relegate comedy to craft? Which of its tools of trade then (ambiguity,
surprise, hyperbole) might be aligned with the avant-garde’s arsenal of Verfremdung, Umfunktionierung, montage, détournement?

starts 18.10)

Black Berlin – The German Metropolis and its African Diaspora

Natasha A. Kelly

(Language requirements: min. English B2)

This interdisciplinary course deals with different phases of African migration in Berlin’s past and present.  It will focus on issues of social integration and political participation during WWI, WWII and German Reunification. The aim of the course is to explore different sites and critical analyses based on post-colonial methods which reflect on the experiences of Africans, Afro-Germans and Afro-Americans living in the capital. The course focus, however, lies on the continuing significance of colonialism as a representation and knowledge system, especially in terms of the theoretical framework and methodology. Therefore the course includes a field trip to the so called “African Quarter” constructed in Berlin-Wedding during German colonialism as well as to the exhibition on German colonialism at the German Historical Museum (DHM), Berlin.

starts 25.10)

“Berliner Bär” and Other Beasts

Michal B. Ron

(Language requirements: min. English B2)

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.

10:00-12:00 (starts 19.10)

Lens on Berlin: Making Visual Culture in the City

Christopher Shore

(Language requirements: min. English B2)

What does it mean to see rather than to look, to think critically while imagining your eyes as cameras? How do we make sense of the daily cavalcade of visual imagery we experience and how can we begin to distinguish a work of art from a can of soup? This course introduces students to the wealth of photographic practices in Germany beginning with the turn of the last century and carrying forward to the present. Photography has played a key role in shaping the cultural and visual history of Germany, and Berlin was well known to many of its most important practitioners. Drawing on fundamental theories of visual culture studies and cultural criticism, the class will also employ plastic approaches to study, combining field work with hands-on experiments and web-based technologies to expand student’s abilities to see rather than just look, to shape opinions critically, and to develop confidence as speakers while engaging in interesting subject matter.

10:00-12:00 (starts 20.10)

Berlin Films

Dr. Stefanie Rinke

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

*please note: this course is bilingual - German practice is highly encourage while English serves as a lingua franca.

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.

(starts 20.10)

Urban Writing. Schreiben in der Stadt.

Karl Flender

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

*please note: this course requires some basic German skills.

This semester will be spent exclusively to study Potsdamer Straße in Berlin (it is long, so we won’t get bored easily). The course has a dual approach: We will discuss theoretical and methodological approaches to studying the city, then practise these approaches in ethnographic, journalistic and literary writing ourselves. We will thus spend most of the time in the urban space, discovering Potsdamer Straße as a stage of social practice and reflect on these findings in different text formats.

The urban space around Potsdamer Strasse is especially well suited for this kind of research, as it is currently undergoing a process of rapid transformation. Numerous galleries have occupied empty stores, the old Tagesspiegel area is filled with design agencies and concept stores, the Potsdamer Platz with its measly collection of skyscrapers is still trying to become the centre of the capital. At the same time counterculture-pubs like Ex'n'Pop or Kumpelnest, where the queer scene is at home, still thrive – right next to the postmigrant culture of barbers and import/export shops. As you might know, even David Bowie has lived on Potsdamer Strasse.

(biweekly, starts 20.10)

Days of Future Past: Connecting to Feminist Lives, Struggles and Visions in Berlin

Sina Holst, Johanna Montanari

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

*please note: this course requires some basic German skills.

Remembering Hedwig Dohm, Clara Zetkin, Helke Sander, Ulrike Meinhof and Audre Lorde, this seminar investigates Berlin as a place of feminist struggles.

We will explore their works and experiences and read and discuss the historical and theoretical context. Using creative writing tools, we will connect the lives, struggles and visions of these women with what is alive in us. A focus will be on experimenting with visions of gender, race and class which broaden our possibilities of action.

Each session will include discussions of texts as well as creative writing. We will visit places in Berlin connected to the lives of these women.