Exhibiting Capital(s): Berlin and Beyond (NeMLA); Montreal (15.9.2009; 7-11.4.2010)

full name / name of organization: 
Peter McIsaac / York University, Toronto
contact email: 

Modern German cities, particularly regional and national capitals, have often been studied in relation to German national identity. For this reason, cultural displays (for instance, films and exhibitions) in and of these metropoles are often seen to demonstrate unique brandings, unique particularizations of space that define major cities with respect to each other and their national cultures. Much recent scholarship on post-unification Berlin, for instance, evidences this kind of perspective and has furthered a unifying comprehension of the new Republic as it is manifested in the re-made city. Our panel seeks to unsettle such predominant spatial analysis through focusing more closely on the heterogeneity of urban branding practices.

We are especially interested in visually based and materially driven representations of German urban spaces presented in public forums such as exhibition halls and movie theatres, insofar as their societal character presupposes that such representational practices have a hand in shaping civic and community identities. Of these public displays, we will ask whether and in what ways the "Germanness" of urban space as metonymy is constituted by that which is not canonically German. Thus, how have Berlin and other major German cities inflected more heterodox German national culture and identity through their use of space than is generally recognized? We also seek to account for temporality in this exploration inspired by what has been called the "spatial turn" and therefore welcome studies of German urban space in the 20th and 21st centuries as a means of fore-fronting the variance of space in time.