Thursday, April 30, 2009

Former Border Guards--comments from Manuela

Regarding the former border guards: This is a highly sensitive issue. People who served at the border are reluctant to talk about their time at the border. Border guards had to follow the "shoot-to-kill-order" and many people were killed while fleeing the country. Therefore, former border guards are always confronted with this implicit question of "have you ever followed the order? "

To get an idea about the whole structure of the troops at the border:

Berlin Wall Video

From Shawn:

Here's a good, short video on the Berlin Wall from formation to tear down (7.5 minutes). Some of the most interesting moments is right after the wall was erected and the film of people standing on either side trying to wave to family members or friends on the other side with white
scarves. In our world of immediate communication and instant gratification, it's hard to understand at first what these people are doing until you realize they can't communicate with people on the other side of the wall by phone or other means. In another scene, a man takes out the bricks from a window on the wall and jumps to freedom.
There is no narration, just music (which is a little melodramatic...).

Watch the video

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

More ideas for topic

Another idea that was brought up in yesterday's class was marketplaces.
If you like marketplaces, flea markets, etc., you might think about how you can build an investigation or theme around that idea. For example, how does a theme like "melancholy" relate to a marketplace.
Often flea markets are places where we might find the artifacts of cold war era East Berlin. If you ask a vendor what's the story behind an object, there's usually a history and that history might be personal, even intimate--a sort of mini oral history that's tied to an object.
Or, you find old postcards from one person in E. Berlin to another in the west and it requires you to complete the conversation or make up details you think they're talking about. Try putting together unrelated objects from a flea market--old postcard, random family photo, a piece of 50's era jewelry, etc. You make an interpretation of it, then take the objects to someone in Berlin who lived through this period and have them tell you a different story.
Another idea for the marketplace is examining the cross section of the community that's there both as customers and as vendors. Do a study of why certain vendors attract a certain specific clientele and another a completely different clientele even though they might sell similar items. Observe first, then ask questions.
There are other kinds of markets too in Berlin. Ten years ago when I first went there, I wanted to meet clothing designers, so I searched them out, found a building in former East Berlin where a whole group of designers had workshops and stores. I eventually started up a conversation with Jane Garber owner of a place called Kostumhaus. She designed innovative women's clothes made out of contemporary microfibers, even clothes made out of a paper like material. (Long story why I was looking for this, but my new novel is about fashion.)
One of my writing projects for you while in Berlin and Istanbul will be to buy a postcard everyday and while you're standing in front of the thing pictured in the postcard, write on the back what's not in the picture (sounds, smells, people...). If you do this daily, you'll have a kind of journal of "writing in the moment" and then the next step for you after you assemble these postcards is try to remember some specific image from the time inbetween the writing of each postcard.
I'll send you more ideas for topics later. Shawn

Berlin Questions and Topic

Hi Berliners,
Here are some thoughts following yesterday's class. When considering your topic or topics, you might consider not only a subject specific topic, but also a thematic topic. On your blogs, you might begin by simply writing down the questions you have about that topic and the answers you hope to find in Berlin or how you might hope to refine the topic once you get to Berlin.
For example, the theme of "Betrayal." Some of the questions might be:
1. When the wall fell down, did East Berliners feel betrayed by the failure of the Soviet Union, Communism, an ideology?
2. When East and West Germany became one Germany, did the West Germans feel betrayed that this new unification would undermine all that they had built up and now they would have to take care of their "poorer"
cousins behind the Iron Curtain?
3. Did East Germans feel betrayed when they had to adopt a new monetary system?
4. Did those working in East Berlin government or military feel betrayed when the wall came down?
5. When the wall came down, did East Berliners feel betrayed when they lost their identity as East Berliners?
6. When Germany joined the EU, did Germans as a whole feel betrayed at the loss of their national identity?
Sometimes just thinking of questions can lead you to a topic.
Some other ideas that came up during our discussion:
Humor (Was there iron curtain humor? Why is David Hasselhof so popular in Germany?), Food, Music, Sports, National Memory and Identity, Berlin's dual identity (two of everything--museums, airports, etc.), exile.
Another way to approach the topic is to think what are your interests here and how do they translate to your specific study in Berlin (international relations, fashion, globalization, NGO's, propaganda, modernist art, religion, Holocaust, architecture).

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Berlin in the news

Dear Group,

Articles related to Berlin (Sunday NYT, April 26, 2009):

Traveling in Berlin

Saving Money (or not) in Berlin

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Discovering your topic in Berlin

Today in class the students did an in-class assignment to help them start thinking about their project topics for Berlin.

Students created an imaginary alter and on this alter they added objects that they might find if they were to create an alter based on their topic interest in Berlin.

The end results...see student blogs...

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Schedule Update

Dear Students,

An update for Thursday's seminar, April 23:

--discuss the Fukuyama articles and also discuss Tamiko's presentation
--discuss/share border assignment
--begin discussion on project topics and start bringing the readings together

We will move the following to April 30:

-- choose three topics of interest and post on blog
--choose groups
--"Becoming a German, what does it mean?"

Also, "Race Culture Nation and Identity Politics in Turkey" is moved to week 7

I will update the syllabus on the blog to reflect these changes. See you all on Thursday!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Border Discussion--4/09


Antifascist Protective Wall, Security Fence, Frontier, Bulwark, Barricade, Blockade,
Fortification, Facade, Divided, but held together, Hurdle, Security Fence, Divider,
Rampart, Line, Zipper, Fence, Zareba, Construct, Compartment, Boundary, Ceiling
Rift, Chasm, Void, Inclusive, Break water

What happens at borders?
Resistance and Violence
Memorials to memory

Some Borders and Walls around the world:
Thailand's security fence (Malaysia)
North/South Korea demilitarised zone
Beijing/North Korea
Western Sahara/Morocco/camps in Algeria
Israel occupied West Bank/Palestine
United Kuwait/Iraqi frontier
Saudi Kingdom/Yemen (and plans for border with Iraq)
US/Mexico (1,920 mile fence) and virtual fence, i.e. U.S. policies
Borders around EU (Turkey is not part of the EU for example)

And more things to think about...
contradictory aspect of borders
fluidity of borders
porous borders

Types of Borders:
borderscapes (examples in Seattle? Viaduct, 520 Bridge?, other borders?)
environmental ("natural")
Hybrid borders
economic/class borders

More thoughts on border assignment (from Shawn)

Dear Students,

As you go out and and see borders in the city, consider:

When we think about walls, we usually think about what the fence or wall will keep out (ancient walled cities, Great Wall of China) or keep in (prisons, Guantanamo Bay), but once you wall in a city, say Rome, what are the consequences inside the city? The emperor had to care for all the residents inside the city and it became a giant welfare state. He had to put people to work, feed them, and even enslave some of them.

Once West Berlin was cutoff, what was the responsibility of the "west" to West Berlin (US Berlin Airlift, etc.). Communist societies and societies committed to democracy both felt the responsibility of supporting the symbol of democracy and freedom or of the iron curtain and communism. Which ideology was going to rule the world? Here we have "the cold war".

We'll continue to think deeply about the idea of walls and division and exile. What kind of walls do we construct? How do we separate ourselves from places, things, people? How do we wall things or people out or in? How do these walls create our own personal ideologies?

Should we care about building a wall between the US and Mexico? Every non-US citizen who comes into the US is fingerprinted by Homeland Security, tourist, everyone. How do we feel about that?

All this as we consider the question of what should we care about studying Berlin?

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Assignment: Seeing Borders in Seattle Due April 16

This week be a traveler in your own city and find a border/wall and reflect upon this particular borderscape. Things to consider:

What is the metaphor/meaning of this particular border (consider Brian Ladd's chapter on the Berlin Wall)?

What happens at this border? Activities, etc.

What is the border dividing and how does its placement change the cityscape, the images/particulars on the other side of the border, and your own perceptions of the division/things being divided?

How would you get around the border?

What are your feelings about this division. Think of the physical, psychology, and social aspects of this border.

Please blog your reflections. Also feel free to use photos and/or video or music to enhance your blog post. It's up to you.

Due next Thursday, April 16

Also due Thursday: Virtual Wall link (review) and readings (see syllabus).

A Berliners Portraits of People and Her Familiar, and Foreign, Home

A Berliner’s Portraits of People and Her Familiar, and Foreign, Home

Published: January 7, 2009
BERLIN — Not all culture is global yet. Outside aging lefty circles in Greenwich Village or the Berkshires, the photographer Gisèle Freund mostly causes head-scratching in the United States. Among other reasons, she published unflattering pictures of Eva Perón in Life magazine in 1950, troubling the Argentine dictator and ruffling diplomatic relations, so the State Department officially declared her an “unwanted person.”

Read more:

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

In Berlin, Authors Find Their Voice

TRAVEL   | March 29, 2009
Cultured Traveler: In Berlin, Authors Find Their Voice
Wit and wordplay are a native sport in this city, where locals turn out
in force at readings big and small.