Walls in Our Heads: Political Divisions and Cultural Imaginaries

John Smith
UC Irvine

In conjunction with the twentieth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall in November, 2009, the German Department at UC Irvine hosted an interdisciplinary conference that explored the relationship between cultural images (broadly conceived) and the maintenance or breakdown of political divisions. Walls are not just physical entities; they also rely on and propagate segregationist forms of knowing and depicting “the other.” This means that alternative representations are necessary if walls are to be replaced by new social unities. Keynote lectures were by Ngugi wa Thiong’o (English and Comparative Literature, UCI) and Christina von Braun (Cultural and Gender Studies, Humboldt University, Berlin).