Cultural Studies
Course code: 
SO/CU 370
Terms offered: 
Language of instruction: 

What does Europe represent today? A crises ridden continent, an exception in our postmodern world? Is Europe and, in particular the enlarged European Union, on its way to a true and new cosmopolitan state with a new type of transnational citizenship and identity or does it break apart? What kind of identity would Europe need as a precondition for a European society?

What could be common grounds for a new European identity? Where are the fringes and margins of this new entity, where its fault lines? Are the Europeans– citizens and immigrants – at all eager to gain a collective European identity or do they fear of losing their old identities in a united Europe and in a globalized world? What stands behind new tensions between Muslims and Christians in Europe? Why and how do we argue about headscarves, minarets, mosques?

This course aims at analyzing new shifts in modern European identity formations since 1945, 1989 and 9/11. The course has two major focal points: First, memory politics and historic legacies and second,  challenges resulting from new cultural and religious diversity due to recent migration. We will analyze hot public discourses and hybrid spaces related to identity formation between geography, ethnicity, race, religion, class, and gender and locate new spaces and forms to define identity today.

Within the course we will try to delineate how some of these spaces are interrelated and overlapping. At the end we will answer the question on what grounds a new European constitution (still to be written and to be accepted) could stand. What are the binding links between national heritages, cultural traditions, religions and economic differences? The focus of empirical reflection and research literature will be on the European city with special references to St. Petersburg and Berlin (first part) and Paris and Berlin (second part).



Attendance policy: 

Regular class attendance is mandatory. Unexcused absences will negatively affect the grade for participation. Excessive absenteeism will negatively affect the final grade. Field trips are part of class.

Learning outcomes: 

By the end of the course students will be able to analyze the interrelation of various identity concepts and the possible changes and shifts within these concepts due to modernization/globalization. Students will  also be enabled to connect the discussion on European multicultural societies to the discourses and realities in the US and to their own experiences during their study abroad term.

Students will gain an overview of recent political and social changes in Europe and be able to interpret these developments. Germany, and in particular Berlin as the old and new borderline between East and West, will serve as a social lab.

Method of presentation: 

Lectures, class discussions, field trips, student presentations, use of films and documentaries in class. Moodle will be used to enhance students' learning experiences.

Classes are based on the reading of the required literature. The texts reflect the current discourse on national and European identity and are written by historians, sociologists, political scientists, and anthropologists. In addition we will use quite a number of guided field trips to illustrate issues discussed in class. In several discussions students will be divided into different groups to develop critical arguments and discussion skills and to understand the political discourse on identity in Europe better.

Required work and form of assessment: 

(Percentage Of Final Grade In Parentheses)
- A Midterm Exam (15%)
- A Presentation (15%)
- Participation In Class Discussion (25%)
- Learning Journal In Moodle (20%)
- A Final Exam Paper (5-8 Pages, 25%).

Exams will be a combination of essay questions and questions on data and history.  Written homework will be given and collected.


Session 1: Introduction to the Topic and Course Organization
Explanation of topics and tasks (moodle, presentation, final paper).
Where and what is Europe? The puzzle of Europe’s geographic, political, cultural and religious borders. Languages, religions, alphabets and the question of the Euro.
I. Historic Legacies, Memory Politics and Identities

Session 2: The Upsurge in Memory
Required reading:

  • Pierre Nora: Reasons for the current upsurge in memory. From:
  • Claus Leggewie: Battlefield Europe: Transnational Memory and European Identity.

Session 3: Identities Lost and Found: Memory and (N)ostalgia

Field Trip: GDR Museum
Meet at 12:45 p.m. in front of the GDR Museum (Karl-Liebknecht-Straße 1, 10178 Berlin, at the water front opposite of Berlin Cathedral).

Required reading:

  • Blum, Martin: Remaking the East German Past: Ostalgie, Identity and Material Culture. In: The Journal of Popular Culture; Winter 2000-Vol. xxxiv Issue 3, pp. 229–253.

Preparation for field trip: Watch films on Moodle on Ostalgie and the demolition of the palace of the Republic. Write short (400 words) impression (moodle) on field trip using the reading for this.

Session 4: Heritage Industry: Memory, Tourism and Consumerism
Required reading:

  • Frank, Sybille (2006) "Communist Heritage Tourism and its Local (Dis)Contents at Checkpoint Charlie, Berlin", in: Helmuth Berking et al. (Eds.): Negotiating Urban Conflicts. Interaction, Space and Control. Bielefeld: transcript, pp. 195-207.

Student presentation: Palace of the Republic/and or GDR brands(ostalgia)

Session 5: Memory Politics and National Narratives
The experience of totalitarianism in Europe and current ways of remembrance; the new geopolitics of memory, memory and national narratives.

Required reading:

  • Zhurzhenko, Tatjana (2007): The Geopolitics of Memory: (On national narratives of Post-Soviet Space), In: Eurozine (online version), 10/5/2007.
  • Greenfeld, Liah (1995): Nationalism in Western and Eastern Europe Compared. In: Hanson, St. E.; Spohn, W. (eds) Can Europe Work? Germany the Reconstruction of Postcommunist Societies, University of Washington Press, pp. 15-23. Student presentation: Holodomor and/or Leningrad Blockade

Session 6: How to Deal with the Past?
Required reading:

  • Garton Ash, Timothy (2002): Trials, purges and history lessons: treating a difficult past in post-communist Europe. In: Jan Werner Müller: Memory and Power in Post War Europe. Studies in the Presence of the Past. Cambridge University Press.

Student presentation: How to deal with a difficult past? The GDR guards at the Berlin/German Wall? How to deal with it? Presentation and lead class discussion.

Session 7/8: Field Trip: Stasi Prison and Memorial Site Hohenschönhausen
Preparation: Watch either "The Lives of Others" or "Good Bye Lenin" on your own. Films are available in IES library or on the computers in all three classrooms.

Session 9: Midterm

II. Migration, Minorities, Cultural Changes and Identities

Session 10: The Challenges of Citizenship in the New Europe
Challenges arising from migration and citizenship laws due to migration.

Required reading:

  • Soysal, Yasemin (2000): Citizenship and identity: Living in Diasporas in Post-war Europe? Ethnic and Racial Studies, vol. 23 no. 1 January 2000. Student presentation: Citizenship law in Germany and France

Session 11: Integration and Segregation in the New Europe. Minorities at the Margins
Required reading:

  • Taylor, Charles (1994): The Politics of Recognition. In: Amy Gutmann: Multiculturalism. Princeton University Press, pp. 25–73.

Student presentations: On the history and current status of Sinti and Roma in Europe. Clichés, history of marginalization, and current problems.

Additional reading for presentation on Sinti and Roma:

Session 12: Integration and Segregation in the New Europe. Minorities at the Margins
Segregation in the German school system.

Student Presentations: 1. The history of Turkish guest workers/immigrants from Turkey in Germany; 2. Migrant children in the German school system. Explain the school system, compare it to the US; explain why migrant children, especially Turkish ones, are discriminated within the system. What could be done to improve the situation?

Material for student presentation:

Session 13: Segregation and Identity in the City and the Multicultural Backlash
Social and cultural segregation in European cities on the example of Berlin and Paris with special attention to the segregation and marginalization of migrants in the educational system.

Required readings:

  • Will Kymlicka (2010) The rise and fall of multiculturalism? New debates on inclusion and accomodation in diverse societies. In: The Multicultural Backlash. Routledge 2008.

Student presentations: 1. The notion of honor and honor killings and their echo in the German/European media; 2. The head scarf debate/ male and female circumcision in Germany

III. Religion: The New Divide Between Culture and Religion in Europe

Session 14/15: Field Trip Mosque
Required reading:

  • Jose Casanova (2009): Immigration and the New Religious Pluralism: A EU/US comparison.

Questions for the reading: Define the role religion plays for immigrants in the US and Europe/Germany – especially in regards to their integration into the society. Assignment: Prepare at least 5 questions for Kreuzberg (mosque guides)

Session 16: From Turkish Guest Workers to European Muslims
Young Muslims and Islam in Berlin today; Turkish Youth culture

Required reading:

  • Bendixsen, Synnove (2008): Islam as a new urban identity: Young Muslims in Berlin. Working paper: Berlin Roundtables on Transnationality
  • Soysal, Levent (2003): "Europe and the Topography of Migrant Youth Culture in Berlin," in: Europe without Borders: Re-Mapping Territory, Citizenship and Identity in a Transnational Age, Mabel Berezin and Martin Schain, editors, John Hopkins University Press.

Student presentations: 1. The headscarf debate in Germany, France, England; 2. Turkish Rap and/or Hip Hop

Session 17: Muslims and Jews - a history of changing images, clichés and identities
Required reading:

  • Diana Pinto: The Third Pillar: Towards a New European Jewish Identity. Central European University, Budapest 1999.

Session 18: Field Trip Jewish Quarter (Scheunenviertel) or Jewish Cemetry Weissensee (depending on weather)

Session 19: Döner or Bratwurst? Food and Identity in Europe and the US
Why is American food for Europeans always sweet? How did food and food industries develop here and there? How migration changed food - in Germany and elsewhere? What has food to do with European, national and regional identities?

Student presentation: On the history of the Turkish Döner/Ethnic Economies, Food and Identity

Required reading:

  • Alison Leitch (2003) Slow Food and the Politics of Pork Fat: Italian Food and European Identity. ethnos, vol. 68:4, pp. 437–462.

Task: Put in and explain at least one typical Berlin food into the moodle glossary. Choose between: Eisbein; Blutwurst, Sol-Eier; Brathering; Rollmops; Teltower Rübchen; Senfgurken; Boulette, Berliner Leber (Liver Berlin Style); Berliner Luft; Kartoffelsuppe; Spreewald-Gurken (Spreewald pickles); Pellkartoffeln mit Leinöl; Karpfen blau; Karpfen polnisch