Europe

B/orders: Berlin, Borders, and the Disparate Value of Life

Recently, 25 years after Gorbachev, Reagan, John Paul II, Harald Jaeger, or, alternatively, David Hasselhoff, brought down the Berlin Wall, Germans flocked to the capital and the East Side Gallery to mark the occasion. Many news outlets and blogs have discussed the festivities, culminating with the symbolic release of glowing balloons shortly after midnight on Monday morning of November 10th, but few have acknowledged the paradoxes and inequalities that persist.  While attending the Berlin Border Seminar, organized by Martin Barthel (Comparative Research Network), I witnessed some of the ways these dissonances seep through narratives of progress, pan-Europeanism, and tourist-friendly order. I also had the pleasure to hear about border-related research happening in Europe, including James W. Scott‘s thoughts on the dynamic, ongoing process of bordering and re-bordering in urban spaces in cities such as Berlin.  (Here are links to the conference schedule: Berlin Border Seminar Booklet 41114  and BBS Errata.)

As I made my way to the Armony hotel on the morning of Saturday, the 8th of November, I walked along the former line of the western wall (it was actually a strip, not a single wall).  While it would have been a lofty task to damage all or most of the thousands of balloons, its clear that a significant number had been destroyed.  Some of the thin, black posts were knocked over or bent, and other balloons were simply popped, leaving their stands holding limp blobs off lifeless latex.  More importantly, some of the remaining balloons had been repurposed to display radical messages. (See photos below.)  One, for instance, had two boxes, beside “Berlin wall” and “European Wall,” with the first selected with an approving “X.”  Tellingly, most of the balloons had been repaired or replaced by the following morning. Continue reading

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B/orders: Interview with Ms. Petra Weber

This interview was conducted on November 3, 2014 in the International Office of the European University Viadrina in Frankfurt (Oder), Germany, on the border with Slubice, Poland. In this interview, Ms. Weber discusses the role of the International Office in Viadrina’s internationalization. She also provides insight into the recent history of the community, the ERASMUS program, practical aspects of European de-bordering and university administration, and the evolving mission of the Viadrina. This interview has been edited for readability.

J. Aaron Waggoner: Ms. Petra Weber, could you please start by telling me a little bit about your department?

Petra Weber: I think the setup of the International Office of the Viadrina is a bit unusual, because it has areas which are not commonly placed within international offices in Germany. Our standard, our call word, is really the exchange programs. We also have responsibilities like international offices in the states do, for example, for recruitment of international students, but also advising and taking care of incoming degree-seeking students. We are also working in the area of recognition of credentials for two faculties of the Viadrina, Business Administration and Cultural Sciences. Then we have a number of projects, which could be partly research, but sometimes are also structural projects. For example, we are dealing with projects towards double degree programs with the faculties where sometimes we can negotiate the whole project on our own. Basically, for the Business faculty we have that responsibility, which is quite unusual, but we do the same thing for all faculties in terms of the advising for the logistics and sometimes also about the setup of the programs… We have at the moment, I think, nineteen double degrees in place, which is a very high number, also in comparison to some other larger universities in Germany. We have a benchmarking with some of the really big institutions, for example Dresden and Vienna. And Vienna has not nearly the number of double degrees we have.

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