HS/US 320 - The Politics of Memory: Museums & Memorials in Berlin

There have been numerous ‘Berlins’ throughout a turbulent Twentieth Century. This course investigates the multiple layers of identity constructed by different political forms of remembering and representing the past: the bombast of a statuesque German Empire, the dizzying modernity of Weimar Berlin, the monolithic criminality of a National Socialist capital. After its almost wholesale destruction during World War II, the divided city was reimagined as both a model of democratic capitalism and of state socialism during the Cold War. An ‘island mentality’ informed the memorial cultures of both East and West Berlin. Their history remained linked, despite being drawn on the fault line of Cold War propaganda. The fall of the Berlin Wall and the subsequent reunification of East and West Germany in 1990 brought another reconstruction of the past and a new politics of memory. More recently, an invigorated debate of Germany’s colonial past and persistent patterns of racism in remembering and representing the past has unfolded in Berlin. The course will investigate and unpack the politics of memory at various museums, memorials, and monuments in Berlin. Through numerous field trips and academic texts, it will provide a unique insight into the historical construction not only of Berlin, but also of Germany - itself closely interlinked with the history and politics of Europe in the long Twentieth Century.

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Urban Studies

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