Following the Berlin Wall Through the City with Lauren van Vuuren
Can't make this time?
A video recording will be sent to all participants after the seminar.
When the Berlin Wall fell in 1989 the divided city had to stitch itself back together again, in a difficult and contested process of rebuilding. The result was the curious patchwork that constitutes the reunited city today. That ‘patchwork’ of architectural styles, strange empty spaces, and curious memorials and statues that belong to nothing and no idea anymore, is what reminds us, despite the gleam of today’s sleek new Hauptstadt, how the Berlin Wall still casts a long shadow across the landscape of the city.
During our conversation, we will trace the remains of the Berlin Wall through the former East Berlin neighborhoods of Prenzlauer Berg and Friedrichshain, and then cross the line of the Spree into West Berlin, and that famous heartland of anarchy, Kreuzberg. From the grandiose Socialist melodrama of the Karl Marx Allee boulevard to the squats and clubs of West Berlin, whose anarchic squatting scene reflected the intense claustrophobia of the Walled City, to Prenzlauer Berg, now the home of bourgeois internationals, but still traced with the tenements of the pre-War urban proletariat, and visible stretches of the Wall, we will move between past and present: from stories of life in the divided city to reflections on contemporary Berlin, struggling as it is with remembering and forgetting, some of the most cataclysmic events of the twentieth century.
Dr. Lauren van Vuuren is a South African born historian currently living in Berlin. As an AW Mellon Fellow and then lecturer at the University of Cape Town she taught and researched across a range of subjects from the history and theory of warfare and violence, to representations of the South African and German past on film. In December of 2012 she came to the Free University as a research fellow in contemporary history, and encountered the most compelling world she had ever experienced: Berlin. Then, the sheer weirdness of the gloomy winter city merged with her understanding of its recent past to convince her of the utter uniqueness of Berlin as a place, and as an idea. Within a year she had permanently relocated to the city. Today she researches, writes about, and teaches on the twentieth century history of Berlin. Sharing the stories of this excoriating place has become an enduring joy for her. She is the recipient of the South African Thomas Pringle award for short story writing in 2013 and is currently collaborating with a photographer on a book of stories and photographs about Berlin.