Summer is the time for vacations. For academics, especially those of us in language, cultural and area studies, it’s a time to reconnect with our objects of study. For me, that means Germany, most specifically Berlin. I’ve lived there multiple times since 1990, that tumultuous year when East and West Berlin started relearning how to be one city.
Berlin always feels unfinished, an attribute that even art historian Karl Scheffler noted back in 1910. It’s that edginess, that constant change, the unexpected surprise around the corner. I feel at home in Berlin, which is an odd statement, since every time I visit, I first have to reorient myself, for given its transitional nature, there is always some kind of change since my last visit. Since I spend the majority of my time in the historic center, still being (re)constructed, this is no surprise.
But there are also parts of Berlin that have undergone fewer changes in the last decades. Here I think of the Kaiser Wilhelm Gedaechtniskirche (Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church) and the Breitscheidplatz, the public space that was rocked by terror last December, when a truck plowed into pedestrians enjoying the Christmas market there. How will this space have changed? How are such acts of terrorism changing public spaces in London, Nice, Paris, Brussels…..? And how do the consequences of these acts affect our relationship to these spaces?
For now, I don’t have any answers. Stay tuned, for my next installment in July….from Berlin!
Scheffler, Karl. 1910. Berlin. Ein Stadtschicksal. 2nd ed. Berlin: Erich Reiss Verlag.