Here's a download if you just really feel like keeping my paper on your computer forever. I'm honored, truly.
Uploaded is my final paper for the "Reenacting German and American Identities" study abroad program, enjoy reading the culmination of 5 weeks of work!
Here's a download if you just really feel like keeping my paper on your computer forever. I'm honored, truly.
After speaking with my group in Berlin, we made a game plan for the coming days and tweaked our individual projects as we realized the reality of our stay in Berlin-- what was possible and what was not in 4 weeks, and what we should focus on to get the most in-depth research as we could within this time frame.
For myself, I decided to focus on only postwar memorials, instead of memorials in general-- I feel like this will be a more narrow lens with which to view my topic and will perhaps allow me to make more specific conclusions. Likewise, there is a preponderance of postwar memorials in both Berlin and America, and other memorials might be hard to find and investigate. Furthermore, it seems to me that war is inherently tied to some aspect of national identity (through perhaps the "defending my country" mindset?) and plays a huge role in the formation of nation states. I have many other questions about the logistics and details of my project that will hopefully be answered as I begin delving in, but for now, I feel like I have a clear vision.
As for my research schedule, my group and I decided to create a survey first, as we thought this would give us a really good and (hopefully) large data set and is the most time-sensitive item on our list. We hope to have the survey created and translated, ready for distribution, by the end of next week. I will also construct a survey to sent electronically to Americans (via Facebook and emails to people I know) concerning their views on memorials, phrased in a similar way to the physical survey distributed to the Germans. After the surveys are sent out (or, ideally, concurrently as the survey responses filter in), I will visit 3-4 memorials around Berlin and talk to people for short interviews (about 10 minutes), asking them similar questions as the survey. Likewise, I'll jot down some general observations and take pictures of the space to perhaps do a spatial analysis as I see fit later on. I'm hoping German people are receptive to my project-- I don't want to be too intrusive or abstract, but people here seem friendly enough so I hope it won't be a problem to approach people on the street!
The survey will focus on memorials and perceptions about them. I intend to do some sort of word association, like "what three words or short phrases come to mind when thinking about X memorial/German identity/American identity/national pride" and so on. I might configure a more qualitative question set, like several statements with "agree/disagree" scales that will hopefully allow me to interpret more concretely people's feelings about memorials and national identity. I will post the final survey, with my group members' questions as well, when it is all complete and ready to go.
After a few edits, here is my portion of our final research proposal draft. Again, see my group members' blogs for their side of the project (links in previous post). As I write, this, 7 more days until the journey begins!
Below is the preliminary research proposal for my time abroad! Only my sections are included, but check out Jasmine, Yu, and Anna's blogs to get a glimpse into the breadth of our project!
Art has been a means of expression throughout time and space-- coming in various forms, like music, poetry, paintings, drawings, etc. I think the ways in which art acts as a cathartic medium for marginalized groups is especially interesting, as these groups have their voices suppressed by dominant structures to the point where they have essentially no say in how they are perceived by the larger society. Therefore, art can be a way to reclaim this voice, this ownership over perception. Within this broad category of art, I believe that street art/urban art/graffiti is especially notable because of its very clear message: "I own this space." While this may not be legally true, this fact still offers a metaphorical ownership over space, something that is extremely important in taking back and laying claim to one's identity. In Eva Youkhana's article "Creative Activism and Art Against Urban Renaissance and Social Exclusion – Space Sensitive Approaches to the Study of Collective Action and Belonging" offers many interesting ideas on urban art and its potential for social activism. The most intriguing ideas that I came across were concerned with street art as a means of re-appropriating urban space, creating a different urban imaginary, and the ways in which street art can be considered (sub)cultural expressions. I think that urban art has great potentials for activism, as Youkhana points out, because it allows marginalized groups to have a voice through making a public, visible space, marked as their own.
In particular, I am interested in the differences, perceived or otherwise, between street art and graffiti. I've brought this up in class discussion, and it's been talked about in some of my other classes as well. To me, urban art and graffiti have widely different connotations. Graffiti is seen as something negative-- an act of vandalism that necessitates the prosecution of the criminal "artist." Likewise, graffiti is often conflated with other ideas, particularly concerning racial and class-related stereotypes. The "undesirables" do graffiti, and they sully the cleanliness of the public arena. However, street art means something completely different, at least to me. The connotation of "street" or "urban" art implies that there's some form of allowance or acceptance by the broader society-- even the word "art" denotes its value. However, street art can sometimes start out as what one might consider vandalism-- an illegal contribution to a public space that happens to be deemed acceptable enough to stay. Artists such as Banksy have proven this-- technically, what Banksy does is graffiti, as it has been painted over and taken down in many places, but still it sometimes remains and has gained rapid popularity and recognition because of the social commentary it provides. In this sense, it is deemed "acceptable." Other times, street art is commissioned by the local government in order to "beautify" or improve an area. For example, the 46th St. mural in Seattle was created to "link the neighborhoods of Fremont and Wallingford" and boasts sprawling designs, saccharine colors, and widespread acceptance. Because street art and graffiti are essentially the same thing-- a drawing or visual representation of something in a public place, why are they viewed so differently?
I think, as Youkhana mentions, this stems from the difference in intention behind the art. In commissioned street art, there is no true "claiming space" or "asserting identity" since those who contribute to and are represented by the art are not marginalized, so these types of public art are more for beautification purposes, as with the 46th St. mural. There is no underlying narrative that could be controversial. With less acceptable forms of street art, like Banksy, there is some underlying narrative, but in general it is not controversial enough to be considered sullying to the public space it situates itself in. Perhaps it is because Bansky is a white man, presumably middle-class, and only speaks to larger societal issues that a large majority of the population (white, middle-class) agree with. In graffiti, this is not true. Those who graffiti or tag places are often not white, not middle-class, and largely marginalized by larger society. Therefore, this assertion of space is deemed as threatening to the status quo, which is why it is looked down upon. Likewise, the narrative offered in graffiti ("I am here, I deserve to be here, I deserve to occupy and claim this space") goes against most hegemonic notions and societal norms, and is therefore an "unacceptable" form of demonstrating one's belonging to place. It is for these reasons, however, that graffiti matters the most among other forms of public art in the quest to fight for marginalized groups. Graffiti is a way to assert identity and ownership, and listening to those voices is essential in bringing justice and equality.
Is national identity intrinsically tied to the presence of memorials, the forced remembrance of things past? In what ways does memorialization affect and shape national identity, both in positive and negative ways?
These questions will shape my research abroad. I think this will be a really interesting investigation, especially because I am typically drawn to these kinds of questions-- the ones that deal with the effects of physical, inanimate structures on the unconscious behaviors and perceptions of humans. (For example, I think fonts/typography is the most intriguing topic because of the way fonts affect our decisions and perceptions without our explicit knowledge or awareness. Fascinating!)
This research topic was first introduced to me through Brian Ladd's "The Ghosts of Berlin," and I think this text will be very influential in my research, particularly for its focus on the Berlin Wall (though I would like to expand my topic to memorials in general, looking specifically at case studies, but making broad conclusions rather than specific investigations). (Also shout out to Lindsey for suggesting this initial interest as a research topic in the flesh.) Some of the other readings for class have focused on memorialization, though only in passing, so rereading those texts might be a good idea to extrapolate those passages for my project. In doing some preliminary research through Google Scholar, I found perhaps some relevant books and journal articles. Though it appears nothing explicitly ties to my project within Germany and America, there are several connections. I found a chapter from a book titled "Representations." The chapter is called "Remembering to Forget: Memory, History, and National Identity in Postwar East-Central Europe" by Richard S. Esbenshade. This chapter seems more focused on Eastern Europe than Western Europe/Germany, but I think the ideas and concepts presented will be beneficial to my overall research topic. Likewise, the idea of "memory" in this chapter seems less tangible than what I am aiming for; I am interested in physical manifestations of events that force a certain memory/viewpoint for those who view it, but this chapter seems more focused on memory in general. Nevertheless, this chapter seems to be relevant enough to research more. In doing a search through the UW library system, I found a few other articles on national identity (some with mentions of memorialization) that will be helpful as I begin delving into the topics.
As for on the ground research in Germany, I'm beginning to formulate some ideas about who I want to talk to and how I want to investigate my topic (though these are very loose and very preliminary). In looking at the Humboldt-Universität Zu Berlin website, I've found some departments who might be good connections. Particularly, the Department of Art and Visual History because of its connections to physical structures of history, like memorials. Likewise, the Department of Cultural Studies will be useful, simply for its broad application to my topic.
I have also been thinking of what sort of methods I would like to use to fully approach my research. I would like to, of course, do interviews at memorial sites around Berlin. I think these will be really influential to see the wide range of perceptions and interactions between people and these memorials. Since I would also like to get the US perspective, I think it would also be beneficial to create some sort of survey that can be accessed by those back in the States. I am imagining a survey where pictures of American monuments/memorials and German monuments/memorials are shown and the participants write three words to describe their feelings/impressions towards the picture. I can also distribute this in Germany either in virtual form or paper form, whichever is most convenient. I think this will give me a solid foundation in people's general impressions on memorials and the word associations might bring to light interesting connections, leading to solid conclusions in conjunction with my other resources.
The article from the Seattle Times is something I've read before... in my class project for my Honors class on spatial politics (these classes overlap so much it's ridiculous), where my group members and I investigated Capitol Hill as an LGBTQ+ Space. One of the topics we broached was gentrification, which fits really well with this prompt! LGBTQ+ people are disproportionately economically disadvantaged, and as such are hugely affected by the increase in rent in Capitol Hill, pushing many residents out (for our project, we interviewed several community members who have had to leave Capitol Hill due to increase in rent, which in turn makes Capitol Hill less of a safe space and tight-knit community for queer individuals). I think this is a trend in neighborhoods surrounding downtown Seattle-- as more tech companies and big businesses come into Seattle, more people want to live closer to downtown, and Capitol Hill in particular is a prime spot, which mean increasing rent in those places and forcing residents to leave.
My hometown is a small suburban town south of Minneapolis, MN, and I don't quite know how gentrification affects this town or other suburbs like it. My impression is that suburbs and the "sprawl" were formed through White Flight-- white people moving out of the cities and into the towns adjacent. As such, it seems that these places aren't super desirable for people who want to live extremely close to the city, so there isn't as much demand to raise house prices. There may be perhaps a general, slowly increasing trend, but my impression is that gentrification happens more in city areas than suburban areas-- though "urban renewal" and "beautification" (i.e. gentrification) techniques do happen in all cities and towns.
I expect that Berlin is similar to Seattle and any large city-- gentrification is present in its many forms. I don't know much about Berlin-specific gentrification, so I looked up some recent articles to give Ladd's "The Ghosts of Berlin" some more recent context, aiding me in connecting past and present. The Vice article by Matt Shea was particularly interesting, as it connect back to Ladd's discussion of the Wall (see previous reflections). In early 2013, part of the Wall was set to be demolished as part of a plan to build new luxury condos-- which sparked a wave of protests claiming that "Berlin ist nicht käuflich!" (Berlin is not for sale). This protest is extremely interesting, because about two decades ago, inhabitants of Berlin were fighting for the Wall to be demolished in its entirety. Shea notes that these structural changes of the city are in part due to the influx of American tourists, bringing a need for beautification of "rundown" areas of Berlin. It's interesting that the same sites that were created and preserved to initially bring in tourism are now under threat of destruction because of an increase in that same tourism. The protests surrounding the destruction of the Wall remind me of a quote regarding the construction of the Topography of Terror: "The bulk of the site would remain untouched: no buildings, no landscaping, no beautification" (163). The creation of monuments and historical landmarks seem to be very focused on maintaining this static lack of change, which is in direct contrast to the reasoning behind gentrification. This may be stating the obvious, but to me, this shows a direct connection between the value society places on people and places. Historical sites are preserved and are free from gentrifying forces; other places deemed unworthy of preservation are subject to beautification.
Shea's article also mentions that Berlin seems to be the only city in which gentrification could be halted. He cites a time where over 500 people gathered to protest the eviction of a family who could not afford their housing after an increase in rent, and protests like these have continued and increased in intensity. Several questions crossed my mind when reading this: Was this family white and of German ancestry? How would the public's reaction have changed if they were migrants or German-born but of migrant descent? I wonder how this incident plays into German and Berlin identities-- what about Berlin makes it different from other cities, where people don't protest the eviction of one family (or it's at least not publicized)?
In the New Republic article by Thomas Rogers, a new "cool" city of Europe is discussed, as Berlin's tourists will soon flock to another metropolis. An interesting connection arose between Ladd's book and the article. A resident of Leipzig was quoted, explaining that after the fall of the Berlin Wall, many East German buildings were left to rot because they were deemed not worthy of upkeep by the GDR. Ladd explains something similar regarding "Stalinallee," and how this area of East Berlin used to be filled with modernist architecture. However, Stalinallee lost its appeal and people stopped coming there, no new shops were built there, and it was left unattended, destined to crumble along with many other areas of East Berlin (183-7). Because of this lack of appeal, I assume that it was very easy for low income families to move here-- low rent due to the crumbling structures and lack of tourism. However, over time, tourism changes, cities change, people change. Sites like Stalinallee become sites of gentrification, and the cycle continues.
Short Practice Interview Reflection:
After the Saturday session, Mira and I went to the Quad to find someone to interview. The prompt was: if you were in Germany and a German were to ask you about your take on minority issues in the States, how would you respond? The interviewee, a college-aged girl reading in the glorious sunny day, responded with very keen and astute answers. We chose her mainly because of convenience: she was sitting alone, and we thought that talking to one person might give clearer answers than talking to a group of people (the group members' opinions could be influenced by one another and we might not have gotten a true sense for their genuine feelings and thoughts). Personally, I find no discomfort in approaching people, though this largely depends on the context-- stopping someone on the street might be different because it seems like I'm interrupting their movement to be static and talk with me, and being at UW where the majority of people speak English, I am definitely in my comfort zone. Even with a bit of apprehension in unfamiliar situations, I generally just rip the bandaid off and approach people anyway. This situation was no different-- I was largely comfortable with the environment and the girl was very responsive and willing to talk to us. The answers she gave to the question (mentioning institutionalized racism and slavery as a huge issue in the continued marginalization of minority groups in the States) were in line with my own views on the subject. Had she given a vastly different response, I'm not sure how I would have felt. Perhaps suddenly uncomfortable, I definitely wouldn't have asked the follow up questions I did in this interview (building off of points she brought up, or asking her opinion on other aspects of the issue). As part of the majority (white), I think that bringing up minority issues can sometimes be a problem because I want to make sure I don't speak over or for anyone whose experiences I will never understand, even if I attempt to empathize. I think that this prompt was structured in a way that this wasn't a huge issue or concern, but I know that in the future with developing my research topic further, I will have to be aware of my own positionality and language I use in order to make sure I am not bringing harm to minority communities, however indirectly.
Mindfulness of Place Response:
I sat in this quiet little alcove outside of my dorm building, next to Denny Field. There were no benches, just an expanse of grass surrounded by shrubbery and trees.
I heard birds chirping, trucks driving, girls talking, flies buzzing, keys jangling, guys talking, airplanes flying, tennis balls bouncing, a beep (Alert System test) blaring, leaves rustling, and petals falling from the tree above me.
I smelled the air-- perhaps slightly sweet from the fallen plant matter around me, aromatic in their decay. The air was fresh, though not quite crisp.
I mainly saw green. Green leaves surrounded me-- bushes were a fortress, blocking my sight from the bustle of students passing. Blue sky above me, grass below me, woodchips spattered throughout. I saw boys playing frisbee across the way, and the tennis and basketball courts in Denny Field. I could only slightly see inside some rooms in Hutchinson Hall, but I could make out a bookshelf and a partial desk.
Only one of these sights, smells, or sounds was unfamiliar to me-- the beeping. One staccato, high-pitched beep, only once or twice during my time outside. I only knew what it was when there was a voice following one of the beeps: "Test System." However, all other sounds, sights, and smells were known to me and most were positive sensations. It was a really nice day today! Some sights (namely the dudes playing on the field) conjured up some negative connotations, mainly because I can hear them and others like them from my room, bouncing basketballs and blaring music at 11pm. Luckily, I interpret these noises as background noise and either ignore it, letting them blend into all other peripheral noises in my room, or block it out with headphones and music.
Pictures of the area below.
Of the topics listed in the program description, I found myself most drawn to "investigation of identity reformulation" for migrant populations and "borders and frontiers," the latter focusing on US/Mexican and East/West Germany borders. Identity reformulation relates well to the NPR article on "Becoming a German: What Does It Mean?" as well as the Bonny Norton excerpt. In the NPR article, Sylvia Poggioli mentions that it's been less than a decade since Germany abolished the "citizen only by blood" law, but the deemed "people of migrant origin" still struggle to be accepted and welcomed by the larger German population. This terminology and the general reluctance regarding immigrant communities raises questions about identity reformulation-- how are the identities of migrant populations (or anyone not obviously "German," i.e. white) going to change knowing that they live in a country that still questions their validity in being there? One elected official, a Turkish man, said that "Maybe I am not a pure German, so call me a new German." This distinction between pure and new also complicates identity formation and implies that there are different levels of being German-- one pure, one new, and presumably others. Through this distinction, is a hierarchy created? How does one's identity change when making the transition from one country to another, and being seen as, at best "new," but perhaps more commonly, as an outsider? How does this change the way one views and interacts with others and oneself? Examples of possible outcomes are seen in Norton's piece, as she describes the stories of several immigrants and how their identities shifted upon entering a new country. In "European Others," Fatima El-Tayeb speaks of "identity policing" and microaggressions that enable those in power (those who are seen as "pure" German, American, etc) to shape and morph the identities of migrant populations. El-Tayeb mentions the question "How do you speak German so fluently?" as one of the ways in which minority identities are policed and reformed. This resonates in the US as well, as anyone who is not white is often questioned, sometimes even praised, for their use of proper English-- assuming that if you're not white, you're from somewhere else and therefore do not speak English or even deserve to identify as American without significant work and assimilation. These methods of identity policing, as well as the "colorblindness" that El-Tayeb mentions, seek to invalidate migrant identities, claiming their background makes them lesser, and that their culture has no significance or importance-- effectively reformulation their identities.
The "borders and frontiers" theme also piques my interest, perhaps because this is a topic I had just discussed in my class on spatial politics earlier this week. We talked at length about borders and borderlands-- the area of tension surrounding a border (not just around a physical border, but around the lives of those who have experienced the harshness of a border). This is extremely interesting when talking about US and Mexico relations, since the US border is so unbelievably politicized and rigid, that is has become not just a tangible structure, but a concept and a way of analyzing identities and national relations. Brian Ladd spoke a bit to this idea in "The Ghosts of Berlin" through his investigation of the Berlin Wall. The Wall became "a temporal more than spatial barrier" and had much larger psychosocial consequences that persisted long after the majority of the Wall was torn down. Even now, it could be argued, the idea of the Wall still acts as a temporal border, permanently reflected in the German population and national identity even though it no longer functions as a spatial border.
Over the past couple of weeks, we've been discussing in class possible research topics and groups. I had some initial, vague, broad, ideas: gender and sexuality studies, dialects and accents as they relate to national identity, discrepancies in access to education... etc. However, after discussing with my peers, I rested on a really intriguing topic: national identity and memorialization. I'm interested most in how a sense of national identity is fostered through the creation of memorials, and how those memorials further create a sense of national pride or national disdain (the former being more common, I presume). This is particularly interesting, as I mentioned in my first blog post, because Germany has the Berlin Wall, a memorial which was accidental and reflective of a negative time in the country's history. How does the presence of this wall influence a national identity for Berliners and Germans? Memorials like the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, Mount Rushmore, and others seem to only focus on the great people of the United States' history-- even war memorials serve to only remember the fallen US soldiers, but fail to address the harm and pain the country caused by being involved in various wars. Does this foster a sense of national pride that is skewed and undeserved? Do other German memorials have a similar effect? I might be also interested in tying these ideas to the "other," i.e. how the presence of memorials shapes a narrow but strong national identity to the point of exclusion of immigrant populations because they do not, and apparently cannot, have this same sense of connection and belonging to the specific country.
"Identity signals the way a person understands his or her relationship to the world, how that relationship is constructed through time and space, and how the person understands possibilities for the future." Bonny Norton, "Identity and Poststructuralist Theory in SLA"
Poststructuralism, like its friend postmodernism, really intrigues me. In previous coursework, I have been introduced to postmodernism and its denouncement of binaries and stable identity categories, particularly related to gender and sexuality issues. Through Norton's article, I find that poststructuralism can be applied to language and second language acquisition as being integral to identity formation. It is clear that "identities are contingent, shifting, and context-dependent," as people often change how they speak, to whom they speak, and about what they speak, depending on the context and other factors. This idea is exacerbated through the lens of second language learners living in a country other than their home country.
I feel that especially in the United States, second language learners or English language learners are looked down upon for their apparent inability to communicate effectively with others. (I've seen snide remarks posted on the Internet about this situation: if a native English speaker can't speak Spanish after 4 years of classes in high school, why should they demean people who can't fully speak English but live here regardless?) Interactions with native speakers are crucial in identity formation for second language learners, because I feel often these native speakers have authority over whether a second language learner is successful at assimilating into, or passing as being native to, the particular nation's culture. Likewise, it appears that second language learners who are living outside of their country of origin may be plagued with an identity crisis-- living in a country whose language they do not speak with obvious fluency, yet separated from their home culture has huge ramifications on their sense of identity and place and relationship between the two. A question that came to me during the reading related to this idea: is it possible to preserve history, culture, and heritage while still feeling apart of another culture or nation, or is assimilation necessary in order to be accepted by dominant structures? I feel this is an issue that is relevant to many minorities or marginalized groups who struggle for acceptance but also wish to maintain a sense of community that is uniquely theirs.
Norton addresses specifically the issues of identity formation in the classroom and how poststructuralist theory can help teachers and other staff members think critically about their classroom practices. Recognizing the existence of multiple identities, Norton claims, can help educators effectively teach and help their students instead of assuming that one strategy, activity, or teaching pace will be helpful for all students (this is obviously not true, as seen through the vignettes Norton provides). Through my work at the Odegaard Writing and Research Center, I have been exposed to many discussions about ELLs and their language acquisition process. I think learning more about the strategies used to help in SLA are extremely important, as this initial education will make a huge impact in a second language learner's identity in the country as a whole. Thinking more broadly to the program in Germany, this article is especially pertinent to the studies of migration and immigrant populations, as often these groups are marginalized because language barriers deem them as lesser or undeserving of being marked as a "German" or an "American," etc. Investigating more into immigrant populations and their experiences with language acquisition would be interesting. What is it about language that makes it integral to identity formation in a particular country, perhaps more so than outward appearances or other external signifiers?
Prompt: "Based on the readings from last week and for this upcoming week, what
are your thoughts about the following four narratives of the city of Berlin:
How does this compare to an American identity?"
Berlin, and any large city around the world, has a lot of different aspects to its identity and the identities of those who live there. Berlin can definitely be analyzed as a city of the Wall, as this structure is what it is best known for. As discussed briefly in the last post, the Berlin Wall is a defining characteristic of German identity, as it represents a huge part of the country's past. Germans can perhaps be seen as being defined by this wall, by this history, whether they want to or not. Talking about Berlin as a city of the Wall then brings many different perspectives and memories from different personal backgrounds and beliefs, though through the reading I've done and my past knowledge, it seems that the Berlin Wall is largely talked about without mentioning other identity divisions-- like race, gender, or immigration status. How do these descriptors affect the way Germans view the Wall or identify in relation to it?
Berlin has definitely become a global city in the sense that what happens in Berlin affects a large amount of people, from a large amount of places, with a large amount of experiences. Our reading, "The Age of Migration," offered a really interesting interpretation on global cities that affects and is affected by the other narratives in the prompt. Global cities, at their core, are multi-cultural, and can often be interpreted as having large amounts of migration, and "The Age of Migration" makes note that "ethnic clustering and community formation may be seen as necessary products of migration to global cities" (229). This process of clustering or community forming may have bad consequences, like increased discrimination and racism against these minority groups, but good outcomes are also possible, such as "enrichment of urban life and culture." (Though this could be interpreted as tokenism and appropriating cultures for the sake of renewal and improvement for tourism purposes, for example.) Global cities are always changing and morphing, and this means that the identity of Berlin as a global city, or the identity of Germans who view Berlin as a global city, is also dynamic. It will be interesting to examine exactly how these identities are formed and reflected and whether they vary among populations in Germany depending on how the inhabitants view the global city (either in a positive or negative light).
Being a part of the European Union gives a very interesting perspective on identity formation. Does this lead to "othering" or another process similar? Is there a sense of something beyond national pride-- but near-continental pride? "The Age of Migration" cites the formation of the EU as being necessary to create a unified labor market-- but the EU also made it harder for non-EU citizens to enter into the EU countries. This deeply impacted immigration policies, and it would be interesting to research the changes in German identity before and after the formation of the EU-- were people more open to immigration and migrant populations prior to the EU? Is there a stricter definition of what makes someone German now, compared to before?
The EU undoubtedly impacted the narrative of Berlin as a city of immigrants. I feel that this narrative can be discussed in two ways. One, a positive interpretation, wherein a mosaic model is used to propose that Berlin is a city where a variety of cultures come together in a good way; "everyone is an immigrant and our city is built and thrives upon that fact." The second, a negative interpretation, where Berlin is a city of immigrants and this has erased any sort of national or city identity, and now there is no "true" Berliner. The reading surprised me when Germany was described as having a very strict immigration policy-- the "guestworker" policy where "such countries tried to prevent family reunion, were reluctant to grant secure residence status and had highly restrictive naturalization rules" (221). This fact gives me the impression that the latter interpretation of Berlin as a city of immigrants would be the most popular narrative.
I was also surprised that the US was described as having the most accommodating immigration policies-- encouraging family reunions and treating most immigrants as future citizens. Somehow I have a very hard time believing this, given my previous knowledge on how migrant populations are dehumanized and discriminated against all over the country. This brings to mind important questions about American identities. In my podunk suburban town, I have seen and heard many comments that degrade immigrants (for example, a bumper sticker on a large pickup truck that read: "This truck wasn't made with chopsticks") and I feel the narrative about the US as a country of immigrants is an uncommon, or at least unwanted, narrative or identifier. America is the land of the free and the home of the brave, but only if you're white and fluent in English and most likely male and straight. These are the dominant narratives I see in our US society, and I'm interested to see if that holds true for Germany, specifically Berlin.