Paper: Two national narratives, one urban historiography: Expression of memory and identity in Berlin’s central district Mitte after German reunification

Dellenbaugh, Mary. 2014. Two national narratives, one urban historiography: Expression of memory and identity in Berlin’s central district Mitte after German reunification. Paper presented at the City Margins, City Memories Conference on 7 & 8 April 2014, Institute of Germanic & Romance Studies, University of London School of Advanced Study.

The fight for memory and identity is played out intensely on the site of one of the most famous borders of the modern era: the Berlin Wall. In Berlin’s central district Mitte, similar to in other eastern European cities, the definition of a post-Wall identity and historiography is a thorny issue. However, contrary to other examples from Eastern Europe, East Berlin’s and East Germany’s accession to West Berlin and West Germany meant not the creation of a new identity within a continuum of development including the socialist period, but rather the reinterpretation and difficult reconciliation of two parallel (and often contradictory) narratives and their toponymic inscription (Rose-Redwood, Alderman, & Azaryahu, 2010). These conflicts are played out in the urban landscape through street names, architecture, planning, and monuments, above all in Berlin’s historic center, Mitte.The research conducted for this paper used interviews, discourse analysis and historical research, and a combination of colonial and post-colonial theory, post-cold-war nation building, and Germany’s troubled national identity form a fitting explanatory model for these developments.

This paper takes quotes from George Orwell’s 1984 as a framework to unpack these concepts. The research presented examines Germany’s troubled national identity and post-Cold-War nation building through the lens of changes to Berlin’s symbolic landscape after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

You can download the paper here.

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