Course Information
Cultural Studies
Terms offered: 
Fall, Spring
Language of instruction: 



What does Europe represent today? 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 – a new 'imagined community' of its kind? And if so, is a European identity a pre-condition for a European society or just a side effect of the institutional constructions?

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 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: memory politics and historic legacies and 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, Berlin, and Istanbul.

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 should be able to :

  • Analyze the interrelation of various identity concepts and the possible changes and shifts within these concepts due to modernization/globalization.
  • 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. 
  • Interpret the developments of recent political and social changes in Europe.
Method of presentation: 
  • Lectures
  • Class discussions
  • Field Trips
  • Student Presentations
  • Film and documentary clips

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: 
  • Travel assignment - 15%
  • Participation - 30%
  • Presentation - 10%
  • Midterm Exam - 10%
  • Final Exam - 15%
  • Term Paper - 20%

Travel Assignment
Either Istanbul or St. Petersburg, 1500 words

Term Paper
1500 words minimum

Session Number and Title Topic Readings
Session 1: Introduction to the Topic and Course Organization

Where and what is Europe? The puzzle of Europe’s geographic, political, cultural and religious borders. Languages, religions, alphabets in Europe.

I. Migration and Changes of Identity

Session 2: European Demographics and Migration. Recent Debates. Sinti and Roma

Shrinking regions and boom towns; aging and low fertility rates; family policies, gender roles and birth rates.

Required Reading:

  • Rainer Münz. Old Europe (Eurozine 2007)
  • Europe’s Demographic Future. Published and conducted by Berlin Institute for Population and Development (2008)

Session 3: History of Migration in Post-War Europe: Identities and Citizenship Rights

Student Presentations:

  1. History of Turkish Guest Worker Migration to Germany
  2. German and French Citizenship Rights

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.\
  • Randall, Hansen (2003) Migration to Europe. Its History and its Lessons. The Political Quarterly.

Session 4: Religion in the Public Sphere: The Debates on Head Scarves, Circumcision and Honor Killing

Student Presentations:

  1. Head scarf debates in Germany, France, and Great Britain
  2. Debates on Circumcision
  3. Honor Killings in Germany

Required Reading:

  • Jose Casanova (2009): Immigration and the New Religious Pluralism: A - EU/US comparison!
  • Bendixsen, Synnove (2008): Islam as a new urban identity: Young Muslims in Berlin. Working paper: Berlin Roundtables on Transnationality.

Session 5: Second Generation Migrants. Problems, Challenges, Chances.

Education and Popular Culture (Hip Hop)

Student Presentations:

  1. The German Educational System and why it discriminates migrant children
  2. Turkish Hip Hop in Berlin as a response to German unification

Required Reading:

  • 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.
Session 6: Field trip Kreuzberg and Mosque  

Required Reading as preparation:


  • Have each 2 – 3 questions ready to ask in the mosque (on Islam; life of Muslims in Berlin etc.)
Session 7: Ethnic Economies: The Story of the Döner. Food and Identity

Student Presentations:

  • Ethnic Economies in Berlin. The Döner Story.

Required Reading:

  • Light, Ivan, Gold. St. (2000): Ethnic Economies. Chapter 1. Academic Press.

Session 8: Berlin as a Jewish City: New Migration and Old Memories.


Required Reading:

  • Diana Pinto. Towards a European Jewish Identity.
  • Watch film in moodle!
Session 9 Midterm  
Istanbul Trip

II. Historic Legacies, Memory Politics and Identities

Session 10: The Upsurge in Memory

Student presentations:

  • Armenian Genocide

Required Reading:

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

Questions for the reading: 1. How can one explain the new wave in ‘memorialism’ in Europe? 2. Can you see similar developments in the US? 3. What are the specific reasons for the <acceleration of history>? 4. What major topics have to be included into a future pan-European memory?

Session 11: Identities Lost and Found: Memory and (N)ostalgia 

Field Trip: GDR Museum!!

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.

Questions for the reading:

  • Why and how did a nostalgia for communism and the Communists past develop in East Germany (as in other Eastern European countries) in the 90s and later on?
  • What have consumer goods to do with that? What has the consumer goods industry to do with that?

Home work:

  • Entry in semester journal

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 12: Ostalgia/Heritage Industry: Memory, Tourism and Consumerism

Student Presentation/Assignment:

  1. The fate of the Palace of the Republic

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. S. 195-207.

Session 13: Memory Politics and National Narratives /Post-communist Identities

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.


Recommended Reading:

  • 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.

Questions for the reading:

  1. Where is the link between memory politics, nation building and EU enlargement?
  2. What are positive and problematic aspects in recent memory politics in Eastern Europe and Russia?
  3. Explain the correlation between nation building and self victimization/glorification/patriotism for national identities in post 89 Europe.

Student presentations:

  1. The Holodomor 2. Katyn Massacre; Armenian Genocide
Session 14: How to Deal with the Difficult 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.

Questions for the reading:

  1. What are the key questions when it comes to dealing with a problematic past for nation states and the international community?
  2. What methods are offered (you can add to the methods mentioned in the text)?
  3. What are the differences between Eastern European Countries in dealing with the past? Why did some countries opt for special measures and others not (e.g. Poland vs. Germany; Hungary vs. Poland etc.).

Student presentation:

  1. 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 15: Consultations for term paper    
St. Petersburg Trip

III. European Futures

Session 16: Modern Asylum Policies in Europe.


Required Reading:

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


Student Presentation:

  • Asylum policies in Europe – changes

Session 17: European futures: What can we learn from the past?


Required Reading:

  • Ivan Krastev (2012) The European dis−Union. Lessons from the Soviet collapse. Eurozine 7/2012.

Recommended Reading:

  • Gerard Delanty, Almantas Samalavicius (2012) Shifting shapes of Europe. Eurozine 4/2012.

Student presentations:

  1. The EU enlargement process
  2. The collapse of the Soviet Empire
Session 18/19: Day trip to Potsdam    

Session 20: Final Exam




Required readings: 

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