“It’s August 13, 1961 – the day East Berlin starts building the wall,” my grandma remembers.
“On Sunday night, August 13, Walter Ulbricht, East German head of state, issues an order to close the Berlin border. Police forces put up barbed wire fences. Within one day, West Berlin became an island in the sea of communism. Trains do not run anymore, and West and East Berliners stand shocked on opposite sides of the border.
I hear about it at Moabit hospital, where I just gave birth to my first child on August 9. I remember being afraid of a new war and feeling helpless in the hospital, alone with my child, barely 20 years old. Also, we’re separated from our family. My grandparents lived in the Russian sector after the war, just ten minutes from where we lived in the American sector. My husband had fled to West Berlin from Rostock in the East to marry me. His parents, grandparents, sister, and other relatives still live there. I feel so helpless and yearn for my family. The future seems so unsure.”
Life writing – which includes a wide spectrum of sub-genres such as (auto)biography, memoir, letter, diary, (digital) life stories, and oral histories – has a long tradition in the U.S. and is becoming more and more popular all over the world. An abundance of artifacts compiled by famous, semi-famous, and not-at-all-famous people fill public libraries, private bookshelves, research centers, social media, hard drives, and websites. And that’s actually not even surprising since writing and/or talking about ourselves is a deeply rooted cultural practice and comes very naturally to most human beings. We do it all the time: We tell a significant someone how our day was, we put together our résumé when applying for a new job, we talk about childhood memories with siblings or a close friend. However, talking and writing about ourselves in an academic context and, to boot, in a foreign language is a completely different story.
We are pleased to announce that Darion Akins, the current U.S. Consul General from Hamburg, will open our lecture series with a talk on “Worth the Struggle: Why Democracy Matters” at 6:15 p.m. in the forum of Leuphana University Lüneburg’s central building (C40) on November 18, 2021. The coronavirus 3G rule (vaccinated, recovered, tested) applies to this event.
In addition to the lecture on campus, Julia Nitz (Universität Halle-Wittenberg), Christoph Strobel (University of Massachusetts, Lowell), and Fiona Tolan (Liverpool John Moores University) will also join us this semester via Zoom. As always, each lecture lasts roughly 1 hour and is either interactive or followed by a lively question-and-answer session. Please see the poster for further details.