Renaming Streets, Inverting Perspectives: Acts of Postcolonial Memory Citizenship In Berlin

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Jenny Engler

Abstract

In October 2004, the local assemblyman Christoph Ziermann proposed a motion to rename “Mohrenstraße” (Blackamoor Street) in the city center of Berlin (BVV- Mitte, “Drucksache 1507/II”) and thereby set in train a debate about how to deal with the colonial past of Germany and the material and semantic marks of this past, present in public space. The proposal was discussed heatedly in the media, within the local assembly, in public meetings, in university departments, by historians and linguists, by postcolonial and anti-racist activists, by developmental non-profit organizations, by local politicians, and also by a newly founded citizens’ initiative, garnering much attention. After much attention was given to “Mohrenstraße,” the issue of renaming, finally came to include the so-called African quarter in the north of Berlin, where several streets named after former colonial regions and, most notably, after colonial actors are located.

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Articles