Berlin’s Colonial Legacies and New Minority Histories: The Case of the Humboldt Forum and Colonial Street Names in the German Capital

Christiane Steckenbiller


This essay interrogates how temporary and permanent urban structures highlight, question, and challenge Berlin’s urban identity. Specifically, I argue that the city center offers a unique opportunity to make visible histories that are traditionally excluded in the master narrative of contemporary Germany centered around Vergangenheits-bewältigung and German reunification. In looking at the Prussian City Palace and the remnants of colonial street names, I examine how a coming to terms with colonial history might be able to increase the visibility of other marginalized and/or minority histories and communities, and strengthen the ties between them. Often it is because of the creative and long-term efforts of rigorous grassroots activism that the public is forced to confront such histories in the public space. Therefore I focus on local and regional organizations to highlight how such groups form translocal and transcultural alliances, and challenge uneven power relations in the urban landscape. (CS)

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