Tuesday, October 06, 2015, 07:30 pm | Humanities

France and Its Rivers: War, Property, and Pleasure along the Marne

Historian Michael Miller uses French waterways to propose a different framework for exploring the intersection of French geography, history, and identity. While the prevailing approach to waterway history has long focused on human engineering, power, and environmental change, Miller instead explains how France came to be so identified with and by its rivers, streams, and canals. To grasp that identification, he uses archival sources, ranging from disputes about waterway governance to the words of French authors about their rivers and the cities along their banks.

Thursday, October 08, 2015, 07:30 pm | Environment
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Policies to Decarbonize the Economy

The world got big news in March 2015 when the International Energy Agency reported for the first time in history, annual energy-related CO2 emission stayed flat while the global economy experienced positive growth. So is this the start of a serious movement to decarbonize the economy? And can we thereby halt runaway climate change and avoid almost unimaginable damage to this country—and indeed the whole Earth? CEO of Energy Innovation, Hal Harvey, examines how decarbonization trends and new technologies indicate that we can land at a reasonable climate future with very modest costs and profound benefits.

Thursday, October 15, 2015, 07:30 pm | Humanities
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The South and the Federal Income Tax

Most commentators tend to focus on two questions about American tax politics: how high or low, and how progressive or regressive. Yet because the US political system is designed to emphasize geography more strongly than class-interest or political ideology, the history of federal taxation is better understood in geographical terms. Robin Einhorn will discuss how, from this perspective, the big story is about redistribution from the South to the Northeast, through the nineteenth-century tariff, and then from the Northeast to the South, through the twentieth-century income tax. Only in retrospect is it surprising that Southerners championed the adoption of the federal income tax, which reversed the direction of sectional redistribution.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015, 07:30 pm | Humanities
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A Global History of Health: Reconstructing Humankind’s Encounters with Infectious Diseases

Historian Monica Green’s lecture “A Global History of Health" addresses the need for a narrative of global health that encompasses every continent, across time, and includes all major infectious diseases. This means, as well, the inclusion of histories of pathogens and the human actions that played a role in human exposure to disease. As she reframes the public discussion of epidemic and pandemic, Green’s work is relevant to biomedical researchers, molecular biologists, population geneticists, and policymakers.

Monday, October 26, 2015, 07:30 pm | Humanities
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Gay Berlin: Birthplace of a Modern Identity

In this lecture, Robert Beachy presents the broad argument from his book Gay Berlin: Birthplace of a Modern Identity (published in November 2014 and in German translation last June). Beachy argues that German legal reformers and medical doctors invented a new language to describe an “essentialist” sexual identity that helped to shape Berlin’s community of sexual minorities, both before and after the First World War. As a city of firsts, Berlin hosted the first homosexual journal, the first homosexual rights organization, the first Institute for Sexual Science, and the first sex reassignment surgeries. According to Beachy, Berlin’s contributions still influence our thinking about sex and gender to this day.

Following his lecture, Robert Beachy will discuss his book with Dr. Daniel Baranowski of the Bundesstiftung Magnus Hirschfeld.

In cooperation with Bundesstiftung Magnus Hirschfeld and Siedler Verlag.

Thursday, October 29, 2015, 07:30 pm | Humanities
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The Possibility of Social Progress

 Philosopher Philip Kitcher's lecture speak to his Academy project “Renewing Pragmatism,” in which he expands upon American philosopher John Dewey’s version of American pragmatism. Following Dewey, Kitcher believes in the need to reconstruct philosophy so it does not become a “sentimental indulgence for the few.” Developing a general philosophical framework to address everyday implications of ethical issues, Kitcher will identify the continuing tension between religion and secular humanism, and consider the transformative power of literature and music in democratic societies.

Tuesday, November 03, 2015, 07:30 pm | Architecture
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Planning the Postwar City: East German Design and Its Afterlife in Vietnam

Scholars have long been interested in architecture and urban planning as a cultural battleground during the Cold War. What is less known, however, is how such ideological conflicts played out abroad, beyond the frontlines of Europe. This lecture is concerned with a largely forgotten chapter in the history of the global Cold War: that of the reconstruction of the city of Vinh, Vietnam, by GDR technicians after the end of US air war. Based on extensive field and archival research carried out in Vietnam and Germany, Christina Schwenkel traces the dialectical relationship between global socialist designs and local cultural practices through Vietnamese architects, workers, and tenants whose own social logics of dwelling transformed the newly built city and its modernist style of social housing.

Please note that this lecture will take place at Museum-The Kennedys, Auguststrasse 11-13, 10117 Berlin

Monday, November 09, 2015, 07:30 pm | Technology
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Shifting Power Dynamics in the New Digital Age

Access to the Internet is spreading faster than ever, promising unprecedented advances in education, economic empowerment, and personal health. While we witness unprecedented citizen empowerment, the same geopolitical challenges that have plagued our world for centuries—terrorism, war, repression, sectarian violence—are spilling over into the digital domain in ways unique and without precedent. From the Great Firewall of China to Russia’s troll armies, from the Syrian Electronic Army to ISIS’s propaganda machine, states and non-state actors are using technology to repress people and restrict free expression. Simply applying a physical-world lens to international relations will no longer suffice. Only a comprehensive—physical and digital—approach will prepare us to meet old challenges in new domains.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015, 08:00 pm | Arts and Culture

The Tsar of Love and Techno

Anthony Marra's latest book introduces a cast of remarkable characters whose lives intersect in ways both life-affirming and heartbreaking. A 1930s Soviet censor painstakingly corrects offending photographs, deep underneath Leningrad, bewitched by the image of a disgraced prima ballerina. A chorus of women recount their stories and those of their grandmothers, former gulag prisoners who settled their Siberian mining town. Two pairs of brothers share a fierce, protective love. Young men across the former USSR face violence at home and in the military. And great sacrifices are made in the name of an oil landscape unremarkable except for the almost incomprehensibly peaceful past it depicts. With its stunning prose, rich character portraits, and a sense of history reverberating into the present, The Tsar of Love and Techno is a captivating work. Tickets (€5)

Thsi reading will take place at the English Theatre Berlin, Fidicinstraße 40, 10965 Berlin.

In cooperation with the US Embassy Berlin, the English Theatre Berlin | International Performing Arts Center, and Thalia Buchhandlungen

Thursday, November 12, 2015, 07:30 pm | Humanities
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Shame and Shamelessness in the Age of New Media

Cultural critic Andrea Köhler reminds that shame and shaming have been powerful tools since the expulsion of Adam and Eve from Paradise. But with the rise of social media, the brutality of shaming has reached a cultural boiling point. While mistaken as a medium for social justice, where the powerless are given a voice, cyber-mobbing often takes on the characteristics of medieval punishment. Shielded by the anonymity of the Internet, shamers can wreak havoc on the lives of those who have offended their values. Shamers often think of themselves as being morally superior and claim to be unaware of the devastating effects of their actions on their victims. But as more and more people end up on the receiving end of cybermobs, the destructiveness of public shaming has become an international problem that must be reckoned with. Although we are living in an era where shamelessness is a crucial, lucrative part of the entertainment industry, the lack of shame is ritually deplored in almost every sphere. (“Do Bankers Have no Shame?” read a headline in the New York Times, during the financial crisis). On the other hand, shame itself is a feeling nobody seems to want to discuss. This lecture will do so, exploring the nature of shame itself and its various manifestations in the present, focusing on the disturbing lack of empathy present in the realm of anonymity.

Image detail of "Me for You" (2012), by Dan Gluibizzi. Courtesy the artist.