Saturday, August 13, 2011

Vlog Narrative

Fitting in with the course theme of mobility, I decided to take pictures and short video clips around and outside different U-Bahn stations throughout Berlin for my video blog. In Berlin, this was my primary mode of transportation and the most consistent activity that I took part of everyday while I was in Berlin. I begin my blog at Heinrich Heine Strasse, the closest U-Bahn station by our apartments. Then I put together clips of different stations approximately ordering them by the distance from our apartments. I found Berlin to be a very dynamic city shaped by its history: the division of East and West Berlin as well as the division into different sectors. I chose to record different U-bahn stations in order to capture the differences in demographics and building styles throughout the city that I saw. For example, I tried to contrast the constant activity and crowds of Alexanderplatz and around Friedrichstrasse with the quiet and neighborhood-like atmosphere around Jannowitzbruke. 

Friday, August 12, 2011

Visual Assignment #2

Before going to Berlin, I began with the idea that Germany would have a very different culture, but being part of Western Europe it would still share enough similarities with the United States that it would still be relatively easy to get around the city and to not stand out. Further, I had expected that there would be a language barrier in Germany, but that residents would know some English or at least enough English that I would be able to communicate and accomplish daily tasks relatively with ease. Generally, this was the case. However, besides the language barrier which was present in any social interaction that I encountered in Germany, such as ordering food at a restaurant or asking for directions on the street, there were small daily issues that came up that made me feel like an outsider: being unable to use their change efficiently or being slow at packing my groceries at the store.  I chose a photo of a keyboard at the Central Berlin Public Library as a photo to represent the intersection of reality and fantasy because it represents my experience in Germany as an outsider. Like the German keyboard, I found daily activities in Germany mostly familiar. However, occasionally there would be small issues that came up that made me feel like I did not belong; on the keyboard, I would be typing my query and suddenly find that I was typing z’s instead of y’s or that I could not find the question mark key. As a foreign student in Germany, I feel that I experienced to a lesser extent the feeling of not belonging and the unfamiliar. This image represents to me this memory. 

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Istanbul Photos

Image 1: City of Istanbul
This was the first image that I took in Istanbul. In this photograph, I tried to capture the different buildings, the Golden Horn, and the vitality of the streets in order to control the shock of first seeing the city.

Image 2: Interior of the Blue Mosque
I focused on the elaborate detail of the Blue Mosque in order to show the complexities of the built environment.

Image 3: Jewish Museum Exhibit
An image of the metal faces exhibit at the Jewish museum is limited because it can in no way capture the bodily sensations that are felt by being the actual presence of it; it cannot show the immensity and noise that results from walking on the faces.

Image 4: "Don't Touch My House"
Not only does this image show a sign posted in the window of a home in Istanbul, but it requires further interpretation because its reference to the current process of gentrification and structure of power in Istanbul.

Image 5: Hagia Sophia
Before coming to Istanbul, the image of the Hagia Sophia was what I most closely identified with the city. By taking this image, I am trying to capture the memory of travelling to Istanbul.

Image 6: Gentrification in Istanbul

Image 7: Greek Orthodox Church

I chose an image of one of the flats in the Golden Horn in order to convey the idea of gentrification in Istanbul. I felt that the issue of gentrification discussed by Dr. Orhan Essen was incredibly interesting because of how it is currently transforming the present city of Istanbul. It was interesting to hear that as a result of projects such as Code 5366 that older houses were being renovated by the state in order to increase the values of the property. As a result of the increase in the value of the property, more wealthy families move into the neighborhoods while poorer families are forced out of their homes because they can no longer afford them. I think it is really important to the city of Istanbul because gentrification becomes a source of mobility in the city. Because it causes families and individuals of different socioeconomic backgrounds to migrate through the city it further emphasizes the notion that there is not a permanent location for a group of people within Istanbul and that it is a very dynamic city. Furthermore, I found it interesting that one of the justifications for the implementation of projects such as Code 5366 was that older, more established families somehow possessed an inherent right to occupy the renovated space. The argument that only a certain subset of people have the right to belong in a certain space seems to parallel the argument in the Turkish republic for a homogeneous state.

Another image that I took was an image of a church near Taksim Square in Istanbul. The presence of the church in a currently, predominantly Islamic nation demonstrates the rich cultural history present in Istanbul that Dr. Jennifer Petzen discussed during her lecture. It shows the change from being a center of the Christian Byzantium Empire to an Islamic nation state. Even though the Turkish nation state has attempted to establish a nation that is very homogenous through measures such as  forcibly deporting Christians living in Anatolia to Greece, it has decided to keep these religious buildings. It was fascinating for me to see that the Turkish state would choose to keep the church and keep it in its memory and allow it to shape the identity of the city. Furthermore, I found the role of religious institutions such as churches in the provision of social networks for immigrant families to be very interesting. As discussed by Dr. Essen, for immigrants, churches provided a source of community. A source of social networking was key for the immigrant families to establish themselves. Furthermore, the idea of a church funding the surrounding area and providing social services for the community as a part of a “foundation” was a very fascinating idea for me. During the period of the Ottoman Empire, these foundations really shaped the way communities were established in Istanbul. In addition, the establishment of these foundations shaped the source of power and authority in the community. The sultan was no longer the sole source of authority; instead, communities  fell under the jurisdiction of religious authorities that decided upon a different set of issues. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Research Proposal

After World War II, the Third Reich was divided into East and West Germany. It was not until the 1990s that Germany was reunited as a single nation. During this period, German film and cinema reflected these different political transformations. For example, in West Germany, the main source of funding for films was by the state under The German Film Board. Through its funding, the German Film Board sought to create films “produced by Germans for Germans” (Halle 13). Thus, these films were used to display German culture at the time. As globalization increased in the 1990s, private investments began to increase in German films as well, which increasingly became to be seen as a source of profit. Furthermore, American influence began to increase. The reunification of Germany in the 1990s also instigated a rise in German films about the Holocaust and the Third Reich, which helped to develop a “shared German identity” (Berghahn 294).

For my research project, I plan to investigate German film. I will study how German film has developed and especially the current influences on German film and how it reflects and represents German culture. Furthermore, I will investigate German film in relation to the development of the German nation state and national identity. Through this study, I hope to better understand how German film has played a role in the formation of the German nation state after its reunification in the 1990s. I also propose to research how people in Germany view the development and production of German film in relation to the impact that it has had on their culture and how the films represent their culture.

I plan to investigate films and cinema in Germany by observing current films. In addition, I plan to discuss with people in Berlin about contemporary film in order to better understand their opinion about how successfully current films represent or define their culture.  

Berghahn, Daniela. “Post-990 Screen Memories: How East and West German Cinema
Remembers the Third Reich and the Holocaust.” German Life and Letters 59.2 (2006): 294-208.

Halle, Randall. “German Film, Aufgehoben: Ensembles of Transnational Cinema.” New 
            German Critique 87.Autumn (2002): 7-46.

Kaes, Anton. “German Cultural History and the Study of Film: Ten These and a
            Postscript.” New German Critique 65.Spring (1995): 47-58.  

Rentschler, Eric. “How American Is It: The U. S. as Image and Imaginary in German Film.”
            The German Quarterly 57.4 (1984): 603-620.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

"Guests and Aliens"

Sassen's "Guests and Aliens" uses empirical and historical evidence to discuss immigration patterns and policies in Europe. I found Sassen's discussion of the development of the "nation-state" in Europe very interesting and in particular how the development of borders creates a notion of an "outsider."  When I reflect on my own definition of an outsider, I do realize that I define this term through the use of borders. Because how can one be an outsider if there is not some boundary between being in and out? My personal definition of an outsider employs the use of political borders, such as borders between nations, or geographical borders, such as Eastern and Western Washington, as well as less physical borders such as differences in culture. Before reading this article, I had not thought of immigration as a process that becomes inherent with the definition and creation of borders.

I found Sassen's study on the different immigration patterns of Germany, France, and Italy particularly interesting because it really highlights the inhomogeneity of immigration policy throughout Europe. I found it interesting how economic differences in the respective nations really defined and drove the types of immigration patterns and policies: urbanization and industrialization in Germany required cheap migrant workers while the maintenance of an agrarian civilization in France demanded a more constant influx of permanent immigrants. I think this shows one potentially valuable method of studying immigration.

In addition, I thought that Sassen's characterization of immigration as a "pattern" of human movement was interesting in that it implies that immigration can be studied in terms of  populations or groups. Although every migrant individual has a unique tale and rationale, these individuals could be understood in terms of a larger scope and that it is important to understand "why these people in motion exist in the first place" (Sassen 2). I share Sassen's view that by better understanding the rationale behind immigration, nations can avoid some of the xenophobic classifications that exist today and nations similar to the United States can more effectively cope with immigration because they will better understand the root cause. The notion of better understanding the reason behind immigration patterns ties into an important ongoing theme in Sassen's "Guests and Aliens" that I agree with: that concrete evidence and facts will be most crucial in helping to form future immigration policy.