Tag Archives: Berlin Wall

Bearing the scars of change: post-socialist Poland and divided Germany

by Fiona Ferbrache

August 1961, and East and West Germany were being physically divided by soldiers of the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) starting construction on the Berlin Wall, a boundary that was to be in place for 28 years (The journal.ie, 2011).  As the wall was erected, families were split apart, as Evans (2011) reveals, unable to reconnect between West and East Berlin.

50 years on and Germany marked the anniversary of the Wall’s construction on 13 August (BBC News, 2011).  However, the Berlin Wall is more than a memory for some people for, as Evans (2011) reveals, it continues to impact the psychological and daily lives of many people.

There are some connections between this media article and Burrell’s forthcoming article in Area – Opportunity and uncertainty: young people’s narratives of ‘double transition’ in post-socialist Poland – where Burrell focuses on the impact that large-scale economic and social changes have had on ordinary people.  ‘Double transition’ refers to the life-course transition from childhood to adulthood (for young people during the 1990s) and the simultaneous societal changes brought about after the collapse of socialism.  Drawing on interview data, Burrell illustrates how the contemporaneity of such changes impacted heavily on her respondents (Polish migrants in the UK) through various temporal and spatial challenges.  Central to this article is a narrative of migration and settlement in a post-socialist society and, just as Evans refers to scars created as a result of the Berlin Wall, Burrell’s article deals with the scars of post-socialist change.

   BBC News Online (2011) Germany marks 50 years since Berlin Wall.  BBC News 13 August, 2011

  Burrell, K. (in press) Opportunity and uncertainty: young people’s narratives of ‘double transition’ in post-socialist Poland.  Area.

  Evans, S. (2011) The Berlin Wall sickness that lingers today.  BBC News  11 August, 2001

  The Journal.ie (2011) In photos: 50 years of the Berlin Wall.  13 August, 2011

East Side Gallery and the Contested Geographies of Graffiti

by Sarah Mills

Following on from Fiona’s entry today (below) about a flâneur’s encounter with graffiti in Toulouse, I was struck by one of this week’s news stories.  Tensions over the East Side Gallery – a series of graffiti based images on a particular stretch of the Berlin Wall – have triggered long-standing debates about the role of graffiti/public art in cities.  The Gallery was originally created after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 to bring together (unpaid) artists from East and West Germany in a creative project.  Controversially, a number of pieces have been whitewashed and overlaid with copied images in a recent renovation, described by one commentator as a “faked-up’ pastiche of itself…a Disneyesque, postmodern reconstruction of the art of the Wall designed to please tourists”.  A number of the original artists are now suing the city council over issues of copyright and the reproduction of images without the artists’ permission.

These ethical and legal issues over the display and ownership of graffiti, in this case embroiled with political symbolism and significance, highlights a broader set of complex geographies that interweave ideas of creativity, art, public space, urbanism and place-making.  In the context of this news story, McAuliffe and Iveson’s article in Geography Compass (see Fiona’s entry) also offers valuable insight into the tensions surrounding graffiti, which they describe as “a modern touchstone of urban discontent, a global popular culture phenomena that drives urban managers to distraction” (2011: 128).  In providing a critical review of the literature, they aim to uncover the complexity of graffiti’s dynamic and contested geographies and explore the tensions surrounding public graffiti, which are so clearly demonstrated in the ongoing debates surrounding the East Side Gallery.

 Read C. McAuliffe and K. Iveson (2011) Art and Crime (and Other Things Besides …): Conceptualising Graffiti in the City, Geography Compass 5 (3): 128-143.

 Read ‘Berlin Wall artists sue city in copyright controversy’ in The Guardian

 Read Jonathan Jones ‘In praise of the Berlin Wall murals’ in The Guardian  

A World Without Walls?


By Kate Botterill

The 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall was celebrated by thousands of Europeans and World leaders at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, Germany last week. World leaders at the celebrations on Monday night talked of Mauerfall as a decisive moment in history signalling a political shift from repression and state control to freedom, prosperity and individual opportunity. The political speeches proclaimed 1989 as a turning point in overcoming the ideological force of socialism, where east Germans emerged from the “darkness” of a socialist existence towards self-liberation and unification with the west. Representations of East and West have long since been used to categorise regions geopolitically, constructing a binary between the post-socialist world and ‘the rest/the west’.

Critiquing such representations of East and Central Europe, Stenning and Horschelmann (2008) argue for a reconsideration of history, geography and difference in the ‘post-socialist world’. They support an approach to theory in which history is non-linear and non-deterministic and, drawing on post-colonial discourse, suggest a deconstruction of the east-west binary. They read post-socialism as extending beyond East and Central Europe and the former Soviet Union, re-examining geographical categories and existing histories, and advocating methodologies that validate ‘the subaltern, the discursive and the ethnographic’ (330). Thus, they pay particular attention to the ‘lived experiences’ of people in the region and challenge a ‘persistent tendency to marginalise the experiences of the non-western world in a discourse of globalisation and universalisation’ (312).

60-world Read Berlin marks 20 years since the fall of the wall in the Guardian

60-world Stenning, A. and Horschelmann, K. (2008) History, Geography and Difference in the Post-Socialist World: Or, do we still need Post-Socialism in Antipode