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2011 Global Seminars

Memory, Democracy, and Public Culture: Berlin and Its Pasts

Berlin, Germany, June 16 - July 30


“Memory, Democracy, and Public Culture: Berlin and Its Pasts ” will be taught in Berlin, Germany, from June 16 to July 30, 2011. The course is led by Jan-Werner Müller, associate professor of politics.

For most of human history, political regimes have glorified their own pasts. Only recently has a new form of political legitimacy emerged: governments now acknowledge misdeeds of the past, leaders officially apologize, and atonement is often literally set in stone through monuments and museums. Germany is frequently cited as a model for dealing with a difficult past. 

This six week interdisciplinary seminar examines the German case and also asks broader questions: Is there an ethical obligation to remember the past? How do collectives—as opposed to individuals—actually “remember”? What should happen when collective memories conflict? Does a functioning democracy require public consensus about the past? Can the right kinds of memory further a global human rights agenda?

Students will address these and other questions, aided by visits to historical sites, monuments, and museums. Guest lecturers may include activists, academics, and politicians actively engaged with the question of how the past should impact the present. Students will read novels, examine films and architecture, and explore social-scientific literature as well as historical and ethical readings on collective memory. Excursions in and around Berlin include the Holocaust Memorial, the Jewish Museum, and Sachsenhausen, as well as a long weekend in Budapest. Students will also attend a daily class in conversational German.

The course fulfills the Social Analysis (SA) requirement and is open to freshmen, sophomores, and juniors.

Click here for the seminar syllabus.


Monday, February 14, 2011, 5 p.m.

Week of February 21, 2011

Acceptance e-mails sent
Tuesday-Wednesday, March 8–9, 2011

Acceptance deadline
Monday, March 21, 2011


April 19, 2011
Pre-departure Orientation Meeting
Aaron Burr Hall 216
Jan-Werner Muller & Jayne Bialkowski (culture, expectations, travel database, ISOS, etc.)


Jayne Bialkowski, Seminar Administrator
Global Seminar in Berlin
319 Aaron Burr Hall