Neighborhood in Contemporary Berlin Literature
The neighborhood, as a concept, faces many challenges today. In particular, the scarcity of living space and the competition for affordable housing characterize the daily lives of Berliners and as a topic, proves to be a powerful determinant in what receives media coverage today. Furthermore, the harrowing experiences of flight and exile endured by refugees coming into Europe, as well as the omnipresent fear of poverty, homelessness, and the unknown further place stress on an already fragile social ecosystem. For this reason, great hopes and expectations are being set on local structures within districts and villages. Often the neighborhood thus gains utopian features.
The German term “Nachbarschaft” ("neighborship") designates a locality existing within the minimum recognizable amount of space, whose borders, however, are not defined and are constantly in flux. According to the etymology, “Nachbarschaft” means the relationship to whoever is spatially nearest. But in times of digital media, this spatial vicinity is losing importance. “Nachbarschaft” is about living together peacefully but also includes tense and conflictual relationships.
The starting point of this project are the representations and negotiations of neighborly relationships and networks in contemporary literature. Contemporary literature from Berlin especially displays a wide variety of imaginations of neighborhood. Much of the Berlin literature scene being multi-lingual allows for a wider perspective including neighborhoods between countries, languages, with and in other regions. Furthermore, the focus on neighborhoods transcends common dichotomies such as city versus countryside or district versus city and thus affords a view of social networks under the conditions of global interconnectedness.
The project seeks to add a literary perspective to the predominantly sociological discussion of neighborhood. A central concern will be to find common ground in the questions asked, thereby initiating a conversation between authors and researchers of scientific and literary disciplines. The ZfL Literature Days in the Literaturhaus held in November 2019 inaugurated this literary exploration of Berlin’s neighborhoods. From the project’s events an anthology will be published, including previously unpublished writings of authors and short literary essays.
Hanna Hamel: Nachbarschaften. Nachlese zu den ZfL-Literaturtagen, in: ZfL Blog. Blog of the Leibniz Center for Literary und Cultural Studies, Berlin, 18 Dec 2019
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Museum for Communication, Leipziger Str. 16, 10117 Berlin
Literaturhaus Berlin, Fasanenstr. 23, 10719 Berlin
Photo: Dirk Naguschewski