Fall 2024

Borders, Migration, Gender: Contemporary Germany since 1989

Listed in: German, as GERM-322


Jonas Rosenbrueck (Section 01)


What happens when a wall crumbles and borders disappear? Since 1989, this question has been at the center of contemporary German cultural and political life. When the Wall dividing East from West Germany fell, Germans sought to reconstitute themselves as one “reunified” nation. However, this unity has proven fragmentary, fragile, and contentious, most recently at the height of the Refugee Crisis in 2015 which triggered intense debates around German identity. Our class will investigate three fault lines that, since the disappearance of the Wall and its Cold War binary, have cut through Germany’s tenuous sense of unity in the intervening decades: first, the continued East/West divide, particularly attempts to come to terms with the legacy of East German authoritarianism in the present. Second, we will explore the role of race, migration, and refugees in shaping what has come to be called “Multikulti” Germany, in opposition to a closed-off “Fortress Europe.” Third, and inflecting both of these dividing lines, we will consider the gendered dimension of debates around notions of belonging, including the continued force of oppositions such as man/woman and gay/straight that are seen to bisect German social life. We will focus in these explorations primarily on short pieces of post-1989 literature, but the course will also draw on materials from history, film, and pop culture. Authors may include Olivia Wenzel, Sasha Marianna Salzmann, Jenny Erpenbeck, Rainald Goetz, Antje Rávik Strubel, Emine Sevgi Özdamar, and Elfriede Jelinek. Additionally, students will acquire crucial conceptual tools from the tradition of critical theory and political philosophy, which deepen our understanding of contemporary and historical phenomena such as belonging, exclusion, walls, and “internal borders.” Small-group work and frequent writing exercises will allow students to develop their oral and written fluency in German. Conducted in German.

Fall semester: Professor Rosenbrück.

How to handle overenrollment: null

Students who enroll in this course will likely encounter and be expected to engage in the following intellectual skills, modes of learning, and assessment: an emphasis on instruction in languages other than English (in particular listening, speaking, reading, and writing skills), oral presentations, group work, short writing exercises, and regular discussion posts.

Course Materials


Other years: Offered in Fall 2022, Fall 2024