Summer Abroad in Berlin

Babylon Kino in Mitte district

The following course was held in summer 2013. Complete information for Summer Study Abroad 2014 will be posted (dates, descriptions, pricing) by December 20, 2013.

Today Berlin is at a particularly exciting moment in its cultural history: having reclaimed its status as Germany’s capital after reunification, it has also risen to become one of the most important international hubs of contemporary art, design, film, and architecture. A staggering number of artists have moved to Berlin from around the world, drawn to its relatively low cost of living and high concentration of galleries and alternative art spaces.

Berlin Past/Present

Instructor: Karen Fiss

June 17-July 5, 2013

Spots are still available in this course. Interested students should contact the instructor, Karen Fiss, as soon as possible to start the approval process for registration.

For architecture students interested in taking this course AND the Berlin Architecture Studio with Christopher Falliers and Antje Steinmuller, please note that special arrangements to complete the summer architecture studio work would need to be made in advance. Please contact Falliers and Steinmuller for approval prior to registering for both courses.


The reinvention of Berlin as one of the most innovative and cutting-edge centers for contemporary cultural production, however, cannot be understood without serious consideration of the city’s tumultuous and often catastrophic history. For in many respects, the cultural scene there has come to rely on, and drawn energy from, the city’s many historical ghosts. It is the complex intertwining of past and present that the class explores together, unpacking the multiple layers of history and contemporary cultural responses that make up Berlin’s ever-changing political, artistic, and architectural landscape. The class focuses on the major events and conflicts that have left their mark on Berlin’s social and urban landscape: the rise of the modern metropolis, the World Wars, the Third Reich and the Holocaust, the Cold War and the fall of the Berlin Wall.

At the same time, the class also pays close attention to other, less obvious, “micro-histories” that continue to leave significant imprints on the life and culture of the city. In this way, the course offers students an entry to understanding the social and cultural topics currently debated within Germany: controversial issues including ethnic diversity and immigration, environmentalism, German national identity, the Euro crisis, and the future of the European Union.

The course provides a diverse array of experiences: walking and bike tours; studio, gallery, and museum visits; as well as meetings with individuals actively engaged in the critical issues facing German society and culture today. Among the numerous places the class visits are the Boros collection, Centrum Judaicum/Neue Synogoge, Topography of Terror, studio of Weimar artist Jean Mammen, Bauhaus Dessau/Berlin, the Reichstag dome and art collection, Deutsche Kinemathek, Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Potsdam, as well as contemporary artist studios, galleries, and alternative project spaces in various neighborhoods including Wedding, Neukölln and Kreuzberg.

About the Instructor

Karen Fiss is a professor, writer and curator, whose scholarship encompasses a range of interdisciplinary fields engaging art, design, architecture and film. She writes on German national identity, the Third Reich, and the legacy of fascism, as well as on contemporary culture and globalization. She recently served as film curator for exhibitions at the Museo Reina Sofia in Madrid, and is at work on a book about the practice of “nation branding” and its impact on the social, artistic and build environment of postcolonial emerging economies. More indepth information on Karen Fiss


Undergraduates: completion of sophomore level by summer 2013 and instructor approval.

Graduates: instructor approval

In addition all students must be in good academic, conduct, and financial standing for the 2012–13 academic year.

Course Satisfies

For undergraduates, this course satisfies a 200- or 300-level Visual Studies Elective, a Cultural History requirement, a Diversity Studies Seminar or a Diverstiy Studies Studio.

For graduates, this course satisfies a gradwide elective.

Program Fee

$4,650 + $50 registration fee

Program fee includes
3 units, housing, guest artists, field trips, entrance fees, and travel/health insurance (see insurance)

Program fee does not include
Airfare to and from Berlin, meals

Please make sure you read the related links in full:
Financial Aid
Passport, Visa, and Insurance
Code of Conduct

All CCA Summer Study Abroad courses (including New Mexico, New York, and Texas studios) are coordinated by the Office of Special Programs.


Office of Special Programs
Oakland campus, Ralls 201

Nina Sadek
Dean of Special Programs

Carol Pitts
Operations Manager, Special Programs