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11 - “Everyday” Protest and the Culture of Conflict in Berlin, 1830-1980

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 January 2013

Andreas Daum
Affiliation:
State University of New York, Buffalo
Christof Mauch
Affiliation:
Universität zu Köln
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Summary

From the early nineteenth century up to the present day, Berlin has been a city of exceptional and almost uninterrupted street skirmishes. This has been the case despite the extraordinarily varying positions and meanings of the city itself, despite the “modernization” of the German state, and despite the diversity of the populations engaged in street-level unrest and substantial changes in the city's police forces. This concentration of unrest is related in part to Berlin's imagined centrality, even when it was not a capital city or, indeed, when it ceased to exist as a single entity. The proclivity to unrest and “culture of conflict” can be linked in part to Berlin residents' characteristic tough, combative physiognomy, an aspect of how many Berliners have over time imagined and represented themselves and their city. But these very characteristics were informed at least in part by ongoing sentiments of disenfranchisement and displacement among the diverse resident populations, as officials preemptively asserted authority over the streets. These expressions of autonomy and territorial control on the part of Berlin's residents survived at a significant level even under the most repressive regimes. Conversely, the force of police response to street-based protest did not always diminish as might be expected under liberal, republican regimes, nor can we say generally that there has been any linear diminution of such conflict. Competing visions of Berlin's symbolic meanings coupled with Berlin's very mythology as a city of unrest have helped perpetuate this conflict. By the late nineteenth century, these increasingly ritualized street scenes found a wide audience. Berlin's streets - its back alleys and “Haussmannized” avenues alike - became a stage for public theater of conflict that frequently captured Prussian, German, and even international attention.

Type
Chapter
Information
Berlin - Washington, 1800–2000
Capital Cities, Cultural Representation, and National Identities
, pp. 263 - 284
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2005

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