Artist Training presents: Alliances – Students, Scholars and Artists at Risk is the continuation of the Artist Training Lab for Radical Transformation (2020/21) and How to Create a Safer Space (2022) event series. Together with the representatives and members of various universities and artists, this workshop series was developed to address and discuss structural discrimination and obstacles within German universities, with UdK Berlin being no exception. In collaboration with the Commission for Equal Opportunities and the International Office at UdK Berlin, the workshop series focuses on networking, inventory analysis, and coordination of programs for students, scholars, and artists at risk in the coming years. The reflections on the three workshops are being documented through interviews with participants and invited professionals by a podcast. 

The first podcast of the series “Alliances with representatives of Berlin’s Universities” with eight universities focuses on exchanging ideas, analyzing and building stronger alliances. The meeting takes place against the backdrop of the discontinuation of DAAD funding for refugees at universities in Germany. The first guest is author and activist Sanaz Azimipour. Together with moderator Johanna Madden, they will reflect on the expiring programs and ideas for further development.

Speaker: Sanaz Azimipour (Author and Activist)
Moderation/Production: Johanna Madden (UdK Alumni)  
Coordination: İpek Çınar & Melanie Waldheim (Artist Training Team) 

Following the workshop on “Non-violent communication in sensitive discussions” as part of the event series “Let’s talk! Israel / Palestine”, the anti-siscrimination & diversity officer, Alejandra Nieves Camacho, presents the communication guidelines for sensitive political discussions.

These guidelines were developed by students of the UdK Berlin as part of the above-mentioned workshop to ensure that political discussions at the UdK Berlin are characterized by respect, empathy and constructive dialogue. The guidelines are non-binding. They are intended as a tool to promote dialog and can be adapted to the needs of the groups wishing to hold such discussions.

Communication Guidelines

Sorry, this entry is only available in Deutsch.

Am 05. Dezember 2022 fand der Aktionstag Recognizing barriers an der Universität der Künste statt. Die in diesem Artikel aufgearbeitete, kritische Reflexion des Programms erfolgte durch den Künstler und Kunstvermittler Dirk Sorge, Gründungsmitglied von Berlinklusion, mit dem Schwerpunkt auf Barriereabbau und inklusiver Praxis im Kulturbereich, und der Schwarzen, intersektional verwobenen Künstlerin Lahya (Stefanie-Lahya Aukongo), deren künstlerische Inhalte sich um die Themen Privilegien, Dekolonisierung, Heilung, individuelle sowie kollektive Liebe und Verletzlichkeit spannen.

 

Unter dem Titel Recognizing barriers versammelten das studentische Kuratorium, bestehend aus Vivian Chan, Luïza Luz und Chris McWayne, sowie der Vizepräsidentin Ariane Jeßulat und dem ehemaligen Diversitäts- und Antidiskriminierungsbeauftragter Mutlu Ergün-Hamaz kritische Stimmen und ermächtigende Strategien zur Bekämpfung systemischer intersektionaler Diskriminierung in einem Aktionstag für Studierende, Lehrende und Interessierte.

Die Aufschrift des Veranstaltungsplakats „Barrieren, die wir sehen, sind Barrieren, die wir bekämpfen können“ unterstreicht die Relevanz der Benennung von Hürden, um ihnen entgegenwirken zu können, und impliziert sogleich die Schwierigkeit, die dem titelgebenden Anliegen anhaftet: Was für manche Körper als Schranke spürbar wird, bleibt anderen verborgen.

Doch was bedeutet es, wenn Barrieren Ausschlüsse produzieren, wenn ihre Widerständigkeit erhöhte Krafteinwirkung erforderlich macht und folglich diese Perspektiven zu großen Teilen am Rande verbleiben? Im Zuge des Aktionstages sollte der Thematik Barriere(-freiheit) – ausgehend von der Erkenntnis, dass die UdK Berlin nicht frei von intersektionaler Diskriminierung ist –, durch den Einblick in unterschiedliche Lebensrealitäten und durch Kritik an bestehenden Barrieren begegnet werden.

Den Programmauftakt am Hochschulübergreifenden Zentrum Tanz Berlin (HZT) in den Ufer Studios gab die Künstlerin Gugulethu A. Duma mit ihrem Begrüßungsworkshop Awakening Senses, in dem sich die Teilnehmenden einander u. a. über eine von ihnen selbstgewählte Geste vorstellten, die als Begrüßung durch die übrigen Anwesenden imitiert wurde. Das anschließende Panel mit Nanna Lüth (AG Critical Diversity), Sandrine Micossé-Aikins (Diversity Arts Culture), Sophia Neises, Ahmed Shah (Theater X) und Christian Schmidts (UdK Berlin) diskutierte unter dem Titel Recognizing What?! Was (an-)erkannt wird, kann auch verändert werden?

Im Hauptgebäude an der Hardenbergstraße wurde das Programm durch künstlerische Interventionen und Workshops fortgeführt. Die Gruppe Eine Krise bekommen, bestehend aus Studierenden der Fakultät Gestaltung, versammelte in ihrer interaktiven Installation We are sorry to inform you … kollektiv Ablehnungsgründe für die Aufnahme eines künstlerischen Studiums. Sie reagierte damit auf die jährlich verschickten Ablehnungsbescheide, die tausenden Bewerber*innen den Zugang zu Kunsthochschulen verwehren und eine unsichtbare Mauer an Ausschlussmeachnismen und Diskrimierungen bilden. Der Workshop Embodying Vision mit Dr. Aki Krishnamurthy für BIPoC FLINTA* lud dazu ein sich über Übungen aus der Körperarbeit mit der eigenen Kraft, mit Wünschen und Visionen zu verbinden.

 

Alles selbstverständlich – für wen?

Worte finden
Menschen¹

Alles selbstverständlich
für wen?
Ich bin frustriert, erschöpft
schon nach 19 Minuten
Kein Juhu, nur Unmut

Für wen? Wer darf? Wer fehlt?
Ich möchte schreien
Liebe für die Ungesehenen

Lahyas Gedicht, das im Zuge des Begrüßungsworkshops entstanden ist, hallt nach. Ihre Worte markieren den Anfang eines eindringlichen Gesprächs über Barrierefreiheit an der UdK Berlin, das neben Wertschätzung für die Bemühungen um die Gestaltung eines Aktionstages, die liebevolle Atmosphäre, wie Lahya sie beschreibt, und die Menschen, die dem Tag mit Offenheit und Interesse begegnet sind, auch deutliche Kritik verlauten lässt. Ihr Gedicht erinnert uns eindrücklich daran, dass Barrieren direkten Einfluss auf das menschliche Erleben nehmen und ist erneut Appell, die Bedürfnisse und Erfahrungen derjenigen anzuerkennen und anzugehen, die auf sie stoßen.

Der Beginn des Aktionstages mit der Künstlerin Gugulethu A. Duma wirft für Lahya bereits zentrale Fragen auf: „Es fehlten ganz viele Sachen, wo ich auf einmal merkte, so, oh mein Gott, welche Körper werden mitgedacht? Wie werden nicht-sehende oder blinde Menschen mitgedacht, wie werden Menschen mitgedacht, die vielleicht der englischen Sprache nicht mächtig sind, obwohl es natürlich eine Übersetzung und eine Flüsterübersetzung gibt?“ Dirk Sorge macht deutlich, dass es einen Unterschied gibt zwischen der Auseinandersetzung mit und dem tatsächlichen Erleben von Barrieren, wenn er teilt, dass auch für ihn im Zuge des Programmauftakts bereits „eine oder mehr Barrieren“ entstanden sind.

Für Dirk Sorge ergab sich daraus die Frage nach dem beabsichtigten Publikum der Veranstaltung, die für ihn bis zum Ende unbeantwortet blieb: „,Der Tag wird größtenteils auf Englisch stattfinden’, ja, welche Teile denn? Wann macht es Sinn für mich, zu kommen? Das ist eine Information, die mehr Fragen aufwirft als Planungssicherheit gibt. Das ist halt das Grundding, ihr müsst transparent sein, damit Menschen mit Behinderung oder auch andere Personen überhaupt im Vorfeld genug Informationen haben, um entscheiden zu können, ob sie mitmachen wollen und dann müsst ihr die Informationen in die Kanäle streuen, die auch genutzt werden.“

Es geht dabei um die Intransparenz wichtiger Informationen, die in Unklarheiten über die sprachliche und physische Zugänglichkeit der einzelnen Programmteile, der Verfügbarkeit von Gebärdensprachdolmetscher*innen und nicht zuletzt im (Nicht-)Wissen um die Veranstaltung selbst als Barriere für Menschen mit unterschiedlichen Behinderungen und Sprachkenntnissen wirksam wird. So wurden relevante Communities nicht angesprochen, die möglicherweise bei ausreichender Informationslage in den Aktionstag mit eingebunden hätten werden können, erklärt Lahya. Dirk Sorge bestätigt, dass er als bereits in der Kunst- und Diversitätsszene aktive Person ohne seine eigene Initiative möglicherweise gar nicht von dem Aktionstag erfahren hätte und wirft damit Fragen zur Öffentlichkeitsarbeit der Hochschule auf.

Sein konkreter Vorschlag: „Egal ob Menschen mit Behinderung kommen oder nicht – wir veröffentlichen einfach über jeden Veranstaltungsort die Barrierefreiheitsbedingungen. In welchem Stockwerk findet das Event statt, in welchen Räumen, Wegbeschreibungen. Die UdK gibt’s jetzt ja auch schon ein paar Jährchen, das hätte man bereits für die jeweiligen Standorte entwickeln können. Das sollte es einfach geben und immer, wenn man eine Veranstaltung plant, wird das eben mitgeschickt, ohne dass man weiß, welche Person welche Bedarfe hat. Genauso wie ich keine Veranstaltung veröffentlichen würde, ohne dass da ein Datum dabei steht.“ Lahya unterstreicht im Zuge der Kritik noch einmal die Relevanz von Multiperspektive durch „critical friends“ innerhalb der Planung und Organisation einer Veranstaltung, um Ausschlüsse zu verhindern.

In puncto Öffentlichkeitsarbeit fordern beide insgesamt weitaus mehr Offensive, um „die Blase der elitären Academia“ zum Platzen zu bringen, sodass zudem keine unnötigen Barrieren für Menschen entstehen, die nicht zum Dunstkreis der UdK Berlin gehören, sich aber potentiell für ein Studium an der Hochschule interessieren. „Dass es nicht einfach möglich ist zu sagen, bewerbt euch doch alle, ihr könnt euch doch alle bewerben, wir sind doch eine freie Uni, wir sind doch sichtbar für alle, sondern, ja, da sind so viele Barrieren, die erstmal abgebaut werden müssen und die müssen angeschaut werden“, ergänzt Lahya.

 

Leerstellen und Abwesenheiten

Auch das Vormittagspanel legte problematische Aspekte offen. „Das Panel und der Tag waren für mich wie eine Zeitmaschine. Ich fühle mich wie im Jahr 2012 und nicht 2022. Alle diese Themen hätten wir vor zehn Jahren genauso besprechen können und haben wir teilweise auch, aber offenbar hat die UdK die letzten 10 Jahre gepennt, ich kann mir das nicht anders erklären“, kritisiert Dirk Sorge die Trägheit des Wandels innerhalb der Hochschule. Lahya fehlte die Radikalität: „Wie können wir Dinge von der Wurzel her verändern? Wie können wir da noch kraftvoller werden?“

Insgesamt unterstreicht sie die Relevanz, auch die teils unsichtbaren Hindernisse sowie Abwesenheiten und Leerstellen in den Bemühungen um Diversität und Inklusion an Hochschulen zu identifizieren, wenn sie fragt: „Wer fehlte da eigentlich auf der Bühne heute, wer fehlte in der Diskussion? Natürlich können wir nicht bis ins Hundertstel alle Leute aufmachen, aber wir können sie zumindest erwähnen oder sichtbar machen, wie den Platz hier unserer Ahninnen [verweist auf den leeren Stuhl neben Mutlu Ergün-Hamaz].“ Es geht darum, ein erweitertes Verständnis von Barrieren zu entwickeln, sie zu benennen und transparent zu machen, um eine umfassende und inklusive Bildungslandschaft zu schaffen. Trans Personen oder Personen mit Fluchterfahrung in der Universität nicht ausreichend zu berücksichtigen, kann als eine Form der Barriereunfreiheit betrachtet werden. Hierbei wird erneut deutlich, dass Barrieren nicht nur physischer Natur sein können, sondern auch soziale, kulturelle und institutionelle Aspekte umfassen.

 

Von unten und von oben

„Wo sind eigentlich die ganzen Dekan*innen und Menschen, die doch eigentlich heute auch hier sein können, sollen, müssen?“ Die Frage nach Abwesenheiten wird auch beim Blick durch den Raum noch einmal auf andere Weise laut – der Konzertsaal an der Hardenbergstraße ist spärlich gefüllt, neben dem Präsidenten der UdK Berlin Norbert Palz und Vize-Präsidentin Ariane Jeßulat sind nicht viele Leitungspersonen gekommen. Dirk Sorge betont die Notwendigkeit einer klaren institutionellen Verpflichtung zur Barrierefreiheit und führt an, dass Weiterbildung und Sensibilisierung nicht optional sein sollten, sondern als Pflichtveranstaltungen etabliert werden müssen. Er hebt hervor, wie grundlegend es ist, in Stellenausschreibungen die Bedeutung von Barrierefreiheit und Diversität zu betonen. Darüber hinaus wirft er einen Blick auf Auswahlgremien sowie die Besetzung von Professuren und argumentiert für mehr Diversität in diesen Bereichen, fordert Schulungen, um Stereotype und Vorurteile in Auswahlverfahren zu erkennen und zu überwinden.

„Im Bereich Gestaltung wäre es wichtig zu sagen, okay, wir nehmen jetzt ins Curriculum Barrierefreiheit als Pflichtmodul auf, alle Gestalter*innen, Architekt*innen müssen das quasi einmal im Studium thematisiert haben“, schlägt er weiter vor. Dabei ist beiden jedoch bewusst, dass diese Transformationsbemühungen nicht lediglich „von unten“ kommen können: „Man kann an so vielen Stellen ansetzen, aber dabei ist immer die Frage, ist die Leitung an Bord? Sind die Personen an Bord, die das entscheiden können?“, verdeutlicht Dirk Sorge die Verzahnung einer Umsetzung von Maßnahmen und tiefgreifender, struktureller Transformation mit einem Bewusstseinswandel auch oder vor allem in den Reihen von Leitungspersonen.

Lahyas Überlegungen zeichnen ein ähnliches Bild: „Ich habe die Hoffnung, dass solche Institutionen verstehen, dass sie wirklich ihre Plätze frei machen müssen, dass sie wirklich neu denken müssen, dass sie ihren Lehrplan verändern müssen und dass Leute an die Plätze kommen, die vielleicht die letzten fünfhunderttausendmillionen Jahre nicht an den Plätzen waren. Dinge mal wirklich zu verändern und wirklich mal zu gucken: Warum sitze ich hier eigentlich? Was ist mein Privileg, dass ich hier sitzen darf? Und wessen Platz besetze ich hier gerade?“

 

Sara Ahmeds „brick wall“

Inmitten der Reflexion der Respondenzen zu den Herausforderungen und Fortschritten in den Transformationsbemühungen drängt sich eine philosophische Reflexion auf, die sich auf die Worte von Sara Ahmed stützt. Ahmed, eine bekannte Theoretikerin im Bereich der Queer Studies, beschreibt die Anstrengungen um mehr Diversität als ein Kopf-gegen-die-Wand-Erlebnis und veranschaulicht auf eindrückliche Weise, wie es sich anfühlen kann, Welten für jene zugänglich zu machen, die historisch von ihnen ausgeschlossen wurden. Die Wand, die Ahmed als „brick wall“ beschreibt, repräsentiert dabei die Hindernisse und Widerstände, die in der Diversitätsarbeit als eine physische und emotionale Erfahrung der Beharrlichkeit wirksam werden und zugleich Normen und Hierarchien aufrechterhalten, die sich in realen Strukturen und Praktiken manifestieren.

Wenn wir ihre Perspektive einbeziehen, wird deutlich, dass diejenigen, die in der Diversitätsarbeit engagiert sind, nicht nur gegen institutionelle Barrieren kämpfen, sondern auch gegen ein tief verwurzeltes System, das Veränderungen oft hartnäckig widersteht.

Der Weg zur Veränderung ist zweifellos mühsam, aber von entscheidender Bedeutung. Die UdK Berlin wie auch andere Hochschulen müssen ihre Strategien überdenken und aktiv daran arbeiten, Barrieren abzubauen und vielfältige Perspektiven zu repräsentieren.

 

¹ Dieses und folgende Zitate sind der internen Videoaufzeichnung des Panels entnommen.

Quellen:

Feministkilljoys (2014b): Hard, [online] https://feministkilljoys.com/ 2014/06/10/hard/.

Day of Action: Recognizing Barriers, 05.12.2022, Universität der Künste Berlin (o. D.): [online]
https:// www.udk-berlin.de/en/university/translate-to-english-diversitaet-und-antidiskriminierung/translate-to-english- aktionstag-recognizing-barriers/.

Videoaufzeichnung des Aktionstags Recognizing barriers

 

Common Ground 2016-2023

(c) İpek Çınar

You can also find this text in Arabic (Translation: Michaela Daoud), Farsi (Translation: Forough Absalan) and Ukrainian language (Translation: Yevheniia Perutska).

The student initiative Common Ground originated in the Support Refugees (SURE) project founded by a few students from Gesellschafts- und Wirtschaftskommunikation (Communication in Social and Economic Context) at the Berlin University of the Arts (UdK Berlin) in 2015. The project was a direct response to the war in Syria and the significant number of people seeking refuge in Berlin. Two former UdK Berlin students, Benjamin Glatte and Elisabeth Hoschek, renamed and reshaped it that year into the current format, as part of their Bachelor’s thesis project, envisioning a long-term initiative that would open up institutional walls to offer more welcoming spaces. From its beginnings, the goal of the initiative was to support people who have experienced forced migration, offering advice and opportunities to engage with local creatives and organizations. Over the years, it has further developed to provide assistance and a sense of community to disadvantaged newcomers, before and during their study application process. It continues to be a place for creative encounters between UdK Berlin students and diverse communities in Berlin, as well as for raising awareness about issues relating to migration and exile.

Common Ground’s members act as mediators between prospective students and other university initiatives, such as AStA (Allgemeiner Studierendenausschuss), the International Office, the Studium Generale, Berlin Career College and the Artist Training. Each year, the group organizes and funds social art projects by, with, and for people who have experienced migration. Over the past eight years, these included exhibitions, performances, film screenings, music jam sessions, workshops, and reading groups, among others. The support comes through establishing helpful contacts with students, artists, and other professionals, as well as financing the realization of artistic projects. The student initiative received funding from the DAAD and the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) through the efforts of International Office.

Since 2020, Common Ground has also been running the Common Ground Studio, a study preparation program providing access to UdK Berlin’s Institute of Fine Arts for disadvantaged individuals. For one academic year, from October to July, it invites selected participants to join one of the specialist artistic classes, granting them guest auditor status. This allows them to actively participate in class meetings, engage in studio projects, and receive guidance from professors. The program offers a valuable opportunity for prospective students to prepare their portfolios for formal study applications, gain insights into the Fine Arts program at UdK Berlin, and further develop their own artistic practice. As a result, the university gains a wealth of diverse perspectives from talented individuals who otherwise may not have had the opportunity to study at UdK Berlin due to structural inequalities.

In this publication, we take a retrospective look at the inception and trajectory of Common Ground: the work accomplished, the challenges faced, and the achievements celebrated. We delve into the low and high points, exploring which strategies have been fruitful and what potential lies ahead. To gain further insights, we had the privilege of speaking with six former and current Common Ground members: Benjamin Glatte, Elisabeth Hoschek, Lima Vafadar, Narges Derakhshan, Forough Absalan, and Vincent Hulme. Their perspectives highlight the continued critical importance of Common Ground at the university, emphasizing its value in supporting disadvantaged individuals and fostering a diverse and inclusive artistic community.


Interview Benjamin Glatte & Elisabeth Hoschek

(c) İpek Çınar


Benjamin Glatte and Elisabeth Hoschek crossed paths during their studies in the Communication in Social and Economic Contexts (GWK) department at the Berlin University of the Arts (UdK Berlin). It was in 2015 when they initially conceived the idea for Common Ground. Together, they worked on establishing and maintaining a platform that connected artists in exile and newcomers in Berlin with students and professionals in the art community. Over the course of eight years, what initially began as a communications project for their Bachelor’s thesis has evolved into an enduring initiative that has embraced various forms of community building.
Currently, Elisabeth is pursuing her studies in film production at the Deutsche Film- und Fernsehakademie Berlin. She also works as a freelance producer and takes on various roles on film sets for television, cinema, and series. Since graduating, Benjamin has established multiple ventures: an NGO that focuses on diasporic communities and artists in exile, a film set rental company, and a web development company. He is also a communications consultant and a communications coach for young adults.

Adela Lovrić:

How did Common Ground initially develop?

Elisabeth Hoschek:

During our final project at GWK, called the Kommunikationsprojekt, our group of five students aimed to develop a communication campaign for a company. Instead, we decided to work with the AStA of UdK Berlin and further develop their campaign that started out as SURE (Support Refugees). Our goal was to create safe spaces and raise awareness within the academy for artists who had recently fled their countries. We acted as an interface, connecting students, teachers, and artists in exile who wanted to contribute their expertise through workshops and seminars. Our main focus was to match demands and offers, and to build a dense network of communication. Natalia Ali, who was a Fine Arts student at the time, organized a discussion at UdK Berlin about the role of women in Syria and how their life changed through the war and thereby introduced us to the community we wanted to reach out to. This event led to further demands for integration into academic and artistic life in Berlin. We restructured and renamed the initiative, putting a lot of work into creating a lasting structure that could address similar situations in the future.

Adela Lovrić:

What kind of work did you engage in within Common Ground and what were some of its goals and guiding principles?

Benjamin Glatte:

We wanted to create a meaningful project that had an impact beyond our end-of-studies presentation. During this time, the conflict in Syria was happening and we wanted to address the issue at UdK Berlin. Things got quite complex because there were a lot of parties involved: UdK Berlin, AStA, professors, and friends. First, we got the confirmation from AStA that we could further promote the Support Refugees project under its umbrella, and then we also received support from various other parties, including Studium Generale, Berlin Career College, the International Office, and many others. Our next step was to connect all of this together and make the project accessible. We then focused on understanding the needs of the people we wanted to support—young artists who were refugees. We wanted to encourage and empower them. We thought it would be great to invite both students and future artists who are here in exile to come together at UdK Berlin and communicate, make projects, and offer or get support for studying at the university. Our aim was to be the interface and direct contact point bridging the gap between the two groups. We wanted to connect, support, inform, document, and mobilize, making it a collective effort rather than just a nice art project. We wanted artists in exile and newcomers in Berlin to engage in projects, to teach and contribute, while also benefiting from UdK students’ expertise. We also started applying for funding, creating a website, using all the communication channels we had, and establishing new things, and then it all took off. I think 90 percent of the work we did was actually not what we intended to do for our studies, which was a communications project.

Elisabeth Hoschek:

We focused on creating a social network that organically grew to meet the needs of the project. We organized jam sessions, workshops, and portfolio consultations, and maintained a newsletter and blog. We looked for cracks within the university that we could break open and create a more welcoming environment. What we all had in common was having to overcome bureaucratic hurdles. We managed to find some space at the Rundgang to showcase our platforms and the artists we were working with and create a connection between artists and students, which is where the collaboration with UdK’s Berlin Career College became stronger. We saw ourselves as a student initiative, but we had a lot of artists coming to us who had studied before and already worked as professionals. Berlin Career College was working mostly with professionals, but students were always showing up at their door trying to figure out how to study. We tried to bring all those forces together and create spaces of encounter that would allow people to find their way through this network. We also went out and engaged with people directly at different events in Berlin. There was a lot going on but in small circles that sometimes overlapped. We tried to increase the overlap between different scenes and foster word-of-mouth communication. This helped us to create contacts and make the project known.

Adela Lovrić:

What kind of responses to Common Ground did you receive from your target audience?

Elisabeth Hoschek:

There was a lot of interest from all sides, including newcomers, students, the university, and others. Some requests involved urgent matters like finding housing for people, but we were aware that we couldn’t become a flat-searching entity. Instead, we focused on spreading the word and connecting students privately. Sometimes we did manage to engage more in side tasks, but we quickly figured out our limitations and the importance of following our platform’s purpose and communicating it clearly. Some people may have been upset by this, as they expected support in all aspects.

Adela Lovrić:

How did you approach this sensitive task of helping people in need?

Elisabeth Hoschek:

We were aware that as a very white group of people initiating this, it could be seen as the savior complex of rich German kids supporting the “poor refugees.” We invited UdK Berlin students who were related to this context already, to create initiatives and give their opinions on how we should go about things. We really wanted to have eye-level encounters and not something that came from above or was demeaning in any way.

Benjamin Glatte:

The idea was not to approach people as refugees in the first place but as human beings with talents. We wanted to come together at UdK Berlin and create something together, to see if there could be good outcomes for all sides, and to see who could contribute what. This was always the most essential belief when it came to what we wanted to do with Common Ground and what we did not want to do.

Adela Lovrić:

How would you say that Common Ground, being a multi-directional project where both newcomers and the university benefited, has the potential to transform and impact everyone involved, spreading knowledge and ethics beyond its initial scope?

Benjamin Glatte:

This question is pointing towards the core of what it means if people support each other and how you can actually do this, especially if someone is obviously in the more disadvantaged position. In psychology, there’s a concept called a systemic approach, where the specific problem becomes less relevant if you have a solution that works for you. If you put this ideology on our approach, then I’d say we were not focusing on people being in need and being refugees, but on something positive, which is that we are all human beings and we have something to contribute to and share with each other. This is beyond support; it’s how I imagine inclusion to work. It’s about valuing you as a human being, seeing you at eye level, and trying to enrich each other through activity or conversation. This ideology has, through the course of the Common Ground project, definitely stuck with me when it came to how I wanted to engage with people, no matter their background. And, of course, their background is still something to keep in mind.

Elisabeth Hoschek:

We don’t mean to diminish the act of helping others in times of crisis. I genuinely appreciate people who lend a hand when it’s needed. However, the perception of how to really make an impact that goes beyond just giving a hand has shifted, not only for me, but for a lot of people. That comes, for example, through political discussions and developing friendships. For me, the most valuable thing was to get to know so many different people and perspectives that were engaging with us in many different ways. In the end, I’m still very much anchored in the community that resulted from the work we did. I’m in touch with many people we met through the initiative. The nicest thing about the aftermath of Common Ground was the strengthening of a community of art students and artists.

Benjamin Glatte:

During the so-called “refugee crisis”, most problems arose from the lack of direct contact with those who had fled their home countries. There was no direct contact, so they remained a picture on TV. Through Common Ground and getting in contact with people from different nations and contexts, I often had the feeling that this bubble was broken, which had a lasting positive impact on the people that were involved. If I were to explain why Common Ground is so valuable, especially for students, it’s about getting out of their bubble, actually connecting with others, and ultimately becoming more tolerant through this.
I think that Common Ground is not necessarily just dependent on the next crisis, which is definitely going to come. It’s another connection point that opens up UdK Berlin, this environment, and this way of living, thinking, and being to the outside world. And it can be adapted to a lot of causes, not just crises.


Interview Lima Vafadar

(c) İpek Çınar


Lima Vafadar came to Germany from Iran in early 2011 to continue her Master’s degree in Cultural Media at the University of Paderborn. Prior to moving, she graduated with joint degrees in Iranian Folklore Painting and Print Design from the University of Applied Science of Tehran. Wanting to further pursue her artistic and creative practice, Lima relocated to Berlin and enrolled at the Berlin University of the Arts (UdK Berlin) to study Fine Art. During her studies, she also worked as a student assistant at Studium Generale, where she contributed to creative projects for newcomers. Among them was Common Ground, an initiative she joined in 2015 upon meeting its co-founders Benjamin Glatte and Elisabeth Hoschek and stayed with until the summer of 2018. As someone who could personally identify with the struggles of people escaping war and other difficult circumstances, Lima engaged wholeheartedly in creating welcoming spaces and a sense of community for newcomers in and outside of the university. Today, she works as a psychosomatic therapist and continues to develop her artistic practice.

Adela Lovrić:

How did you get involved in Common Ground and why did you feel compelled to join?

Lima Vafadar:

I went through a very long path to find my place in Germany as a creative and an artist. I moved to Berlin in 2011 with the wish to continue my creative and artistic career. To achieve this, I started learning German and applied to UdK Berlin. In early 2015, I began working as a student assistant at the Studium Generale department at UdK, where I developed creative projects for newcomers. They provided a platform for collaborating with fellow students and colleagues on making a safe space for newcomers to find their voice in the art scene of Berlin. While working there, I met the founders of Common Ground. I really appreciated their idea of establishing a bigger container that would connect various creative projects throughout Germany. They wanted to build a space for students and newcomers to meet at the university and share their ideas, as well as to make this digital. I found this wonderful and joined the Farsi translation group to contribute to the beautiful mission of Common Ground.

Adela Lovrić:

What were Common Ground’s main objectives at the time when you were active there?

Lima Vafadar:

We came together from different fields of creative study at UdK Berlin. Our meeting space was AStA, where we discussed how to present our platform to the university president and different institutes within UdK. We wanted to establish communication that would help us open spaces and allocate resources for newcomers in Germany who were eager to engage in creative projects. We sought to address the heartfelt aspirations of these newcomers by providing them a platform where they could be seen and heard, and by opening doors in different institutes of UdK as well as many other creative institutions in Germany. Our intention was to secure funding for individuals who had significant reasons to realize their creative ambitions; to help these talents shine by listening to them and building a supportive community.

We organized open calls for artists and extended our efforts to reach newcomers who had just arrived in Germany. We also talked about our project at conferences and established connections with larger institutions throughout Germany, with the aim of uniting similar initiatives in different cities. At UdK Berlin, we had meetings in the garden with students, professors, and newcomers, where we discussed who we were, what our vision was, who we needed to connect to, and which resources we needed. Through sharing our vision, we could also connect to smaller groups of people and realize the next steps.

Adela Lovrić:

How did you personally connect to Common Ground’s mission?

Lima Vafadar:

For me, Common Ground was the most important community for students and newcomers at UdK Berlin. It gave a sense of community where you could always find people with the same interests and the same kind of empathy, who wanted to do creative projects but not all alone. At that time, a very big collective trauma was happening. As an Iranian born during the war between Iran and Iraq, I couldn’t stay silent. When the Syrian war happened, all of my artistic and creative work was involved with what was happening socially and politically. I remember that the only thing that could keep us alive in Iran during the war was the sense of community. Knowing that many others were sharing the same experiences gave us a sense of safety. Being part of Common Ground was very valuable because it offered an opportunity to meet with individuals with the same passion, share our resources, and be present for each other in therapeutic, creative, and fun ways.

Why is it important for Common Ground to continue to exist at UdK Berlin?

Lima Vafadar:

The world needs people who listen and are brave enough to take action. People who are experiencing war trauma go through many brutal experiences. They often have to leave their loved ones behind. For people who have lost their voices and feel alone, having someone to connect with and express what they’re experiencing is very important. Even if they lack the words to articulate their emotions, they can do it through creativity.

I remember how hard it was to communicate when we started. In Common Ground, we had so many people who could translate, who were familiar with the system, and who knew how to be present for people and connect them to their vision and to therapeutic support. I think it’s so important to provide creative spaces for those who have a big heart and an ability to listen, allowing them to share their ideas and stay connected with those who went through a lot and help them express themselves in any way they can. By doing so, we can foster a stronger, more centered, and more supportive society for the next generation.

Adela Lovrić:

What have you learned through working at Common Ground?

Lima Vafadar:

Through my experiences with newcomers at UdK Berlin, I recognized the significance of our work and also how important it is to learn how to interact with big collective traumas. We gradually learned how to enhance our projects by adding resources to ensure that we could hold space for more people and age groups. For example, we needed an art therapist by our side. Many times we also needed a psychotherapist to be present, especially during expressive theater projects or when working with children. We always needed more people, especially those who were fluent in the participants’ native languages, to hold the space for people partaking in creative projects.

Adela Lovrić:

Has your work at Common Ground in any way continued to inspire you outside of UdK Berlin?

Lima Vafadar:

These experiences inspired me to pursue further studies in psychosomatic therapy, in which I learned how to connect to the emotional and physical parts of people in a very creative way, and to heal trauma in one-on-one and group settings. I’m also still doing my political art these days.

I liked the sense of working in a group because, as an artist, sometimes you feel so alone with your ideas. Through Common Ground, I felt how important it is to share and to resort to other professionals who can help you to create. After finishing my art studies at UdK Berlin, I continued to dedicate myself to this work. I felt how important it was for my own artistic growth to be more connected to people this way. I really hope that we can keep this spirit and let it shine as a beacon for those who have experienced or are currently living through war. It is crucial to be able to come together and hold space for others, not through a rigid systemic way but through heart-to-heart and creative communication.


Interview Vincent Hulme & Forough Absalan

(c) İpek Çınar


Vincent Hulme moved to Berlin from Canada in 2011. Before enrolling in the Fine Arts program at the Berlin University of the Arts (UdK) in 2017, he worked as an art teacher, gallery assistant, and printmaker in a silkscreen studio. He joined Common Ground in 2019 and, since 2020, he has been managing the Common Ground Studio (CGS), a year-long preparation program for disadvantaged artists aiming to study at UdK. Aside from working and studying at UdK, Vincent continues to develop his expanded media art practice that engages with the topic of normative repercussions.

Forough Absalan is an interdisciplinary textile artist from Iran. Prior to moving to Berlin in 2018, she studied textile and surface design at the Tehran Art University. In 2021, she joined UdK as a student in the MA program Art in Context. The following year, she became a member of Common Ground and currently co-manages the Common Ground Studio alongside Vicent. She is also active in the wider social and cultural field, especially in working with people in the queer BIPOC community. Her most recent educational and cultural art project was a series of collective workshops with FLINTA* migrant youth and children, in cooperation with various NGOs and accommodations in Berlin.

Adela Lovrić:

How did the Common Ground Studio (CGS) start?

Vincent Hulme:

I learned about the *foundationClass at Weissensee when one of its founders visited UdK to showcase their work in 2019, four years after the so-called “refugee crisis”. At the time, the *foundationClass had already been around for some years. I thought it was something really interesting that I would like to get involved with, but at the time they didn’t need more help. The concept resonated with me because, even though I didn’t have to flee my country to come to Germany, I still arrived as a foreigner and had to jump through all the hoops and confusion, mostly by myself. I thought, why wasn’t there something like this at UdK?

When I joined Common Ground, I had the idea to do the same. I met up with Nadira Husain, Marina Naprushkina, and Ulf Aminde from the *foundationClass and asked for their blessing to try something similar at UdK. Then the pandemic happened. I was on the fence about whether this was going to work. I had been looking for a room and it seemed that it was either never going to be a permanent space, or it would have been some weird office and it just wasn’t going to work. I thought of the guest student program, came up with a structure, and asked all the Fine Arts professors if they were willing to try it out. And then we did it and it worked quite well.

Adela Lovrić:

What was the first edition like?

Vincent Hulme:

In the first year we were figuring it all out. It was 2020, five years since a big number of people had arrived in Germany. We debated a lot about whom Common Ground was for, because there weren’t as many new people coming as in 2015 from Syria, and now from Ukraine. We targeted artists in exile who had arrived in Germany in recent years and now wished to study art. Our focus was on individuals who weren’t German or Western European.

To begin, I reached out to professors at UdK, including Mathilde ter Heijne, David Schutter, Hito Steyerl, and Jimmy Robert, who agreed to support the test run by allowing one or two students to join the class for a year. This ensured the students had a studio spot and a connection with professors and students. The idea was to create pathways of access and personal connections, which are so important in the art world. I remember one of the first participants in the CGS went into the studio at UdK for the first time and waited for the professor to tell her what to do, and then nothing happened. She was very surprised because in Syria, the situation was quite the opposite.

In the summer, we launched an open call and screened applicants based on their portfolios, motivation letters, and readiness to study fine arts at a university level. It all happened during the pandemic, so we had to do all of the meetings online, but some people got access to the studios despite it being nearly impossible. In the end, it worked out quite well. Some people didn’t get in, but most did or did something really valuable with their time.

Adela Lovrić:

How did the CGS develop later? Did you implement some changes in the following years?

Vincent Hulme:

The second year was more on autopilot in terms of structure. In the third year, I wanted to encourage a stronger sense of community through simple initiatives like showing work together at school and meeting for drinks. Next year, I hope to get a bit more effort on the participants’ side in terms of building a community and getting involved beyond just coming for info meetings. I also want to make sure that they commit to the program from start to finish. It’s a valuable opportunity, and we do have to turn down some applicants. It’s disheartening when someone disappears after three months, leaving the professors with an empty studio spot. I really want to push them to make the best use of this one-year free pass and the professors who are willing to help.

Forough Absalan:

This year, we also managed a two-week art residency at the university with people from the CGS and UdK students. Every day, we had various activities like performances, screenings, and an exhibition. We are planning to do the residency again with workshops and projects involving the BIPOC art community.

Right now, Vincent and I are also planning for the next semester of the CGS. I would like the participants to also have access to the Master’s program Art in Context. Most of the people I know from the BIPOC community are artists in exile who already have a career and a Master of Arts program is more suitable for them. With this kind of access, we can also accommodate more participants.

Adela Lovrić:

Are there also ways in which the university can help you improve this program?

Forough Absalan:

Every year we have this issue of being told that we can only continue this work until December. It’s disappointing to not know how it’s going to be next year because we cannot plan ahead. It would be great if the university could support this as an ongoing program. It would also be beneficial if the International Office at UdK would involve us more in their decision-making process, since we are more familiar with the students’ and the CGS’s needs and concerns.

Vincent Hulme:

I think it works well right now with putting people into different classes, but the issue with this is that it gets hard to maintain a group dynamic. It would also be good to be independent of the administration as we wouldn’t have to be beholden to its slow pace. It would allow us to be more flexible and attuned to the reality of studying. With more resources and staff, we could definitely have a bigger impact. We are dealing with topics of inequity and discrimination, but I personally don’t feel like the CGS has the capacity and the resources at the moment to address the entirety of these issues.

Adela Lovrić:

How do you see the CGS being beneficial for the communities it targets and the university?

Forough Absalan:

I find it interesting and useful, but there are some things that could be changed. What I and a lot of other people wanted to do when we were new in Germany was to apply to university. At first, I applied to participate in the CGS and then Common Ground advised me to apply for the Art in Context program due to my work and study background. At the time I didn’t know anything about it but I applied and got in. I actually find it much more relevant to my direction than other departments.

I was also involved in the ‘How to Study at UdK’ and the Artist Training programs. This has helped me because, being new in this country and everything feeling overwhelming, I felt a bit lost. I was reassured that everything was manageable and that I didn’t need to worry. These experiences were very positive, and I hope we can expand the CGS to also include people who already have a career and don’t need to start from the first year.

Vincent Hulme:

Because of exclusionary practices at UdK, there are people who approach it with much more privilege and resources, and who then obviously have better chances of succeeding. CGS can work around those walls to assist people who are just as deserving and skilled artists, but may not have the understanding of the system required to get in. A lot of people who come here come from a completely different art background. There’s a critique of the school that asks what it really means to be an art student, whether it is to make Western European-centric art or to also challenge this way of thinking. I think that putting students and professors in contact with diverse perspectives and backgrounds increases awareness within the school. If the student body becomes more diverse, I believe the policies will have to change as well. We are very fortunate to be here and we should extend access to people who have faced incredibly difficult circumstances or continue to do so. Regardless of the crises, there will always be a need for Common Ground. Perhaps in two years, if it continues to exist, it will have a different focus.


Interview Narges Derakhshan

(c) İpek Çınar

Narges Derakhshan relocated to Berlin in 2016 with the aim of pursuing her second Bachelor’s degree in Communication in Social and Economic Contexts at the Berlin University of the Arts (UdK Berlin). Prior to her arrival in Germany, she studied theater and gained experience as a copywriter for advertising agencies in Tehran. Presently, she is an MA student of screenwriting at Filmuniversität Babelsberg Konrad Wolf and works as a screenwriter and editor.
Narges became acquainted with Common Ground during her initial introduction day at UdK Berlin and was immediately captivated by its mission. Shortly thereafter, she made the decision to join the group and remained an active participant until the end of 2019.

Adela Lovrić:

What kind of projects did you realize with your colleagues at Common Ground?

Narges Derakhshan:

At first, we were figuring out how to work as a group of people from really different backgrounds. Personally, I had the challenge of figuring out my place and role and how I could be helpful. Our objective was to come up with new projects and explore ways to improve support for artists who were newcomers to Germany and had no networks here. The idea was to give them a stage to present their art at UdK Berlin. At some point, we started another project which was really dear to me, called “How to Study at UdK Berlin.” We decided to put our minds together and share our own experiences of applying to UdK Berlin, with people who were not German. I think that was also one of our most successful events. Besides that, we were also organizing music jam sessions in the beautiful backyard of the university.

Adela Lovrić:

Can you tell me more about the “How to Study at UdK Berlin” events? What was particularly valuable about this work?

Narges Derakhshan:

At the time, we used Facebook to push the event and that helped a lot to reach out beyond our friend networks. A lot of people that we didn’t know showed up to the event, which was great—people who were interested in studying at UdK Berlin but had no idea how to create a portfolio of their work or how to present themselves. At the event, we had a presentation and we invited UdK Berlin students to show their entry portfolios. Afterward, we had a Q&A session. To me, getting into UdK Berlin was very hard and so my biggest purpose at Common Ground was to help make it easier for someone else. I thought, if just one person can do it in an easier way, then I will be happy. I think one of the successes of these events was also to present study courses that people might not know about. We became friends with some of the people who came to our events and two of them are actually studying at UdK Berlin right now, in courses for which UdK Berlin is not typically known.

Adela Lovrić:

What else was especially important for people reaching out to Common Ground during the time you worked there and how were you able to meet their needs?

Narges Derakhshan:

I think every European has an idea of what a portfolio is. But non-Europeans who are good artists might not know how to present themselves or what to expect. Every now and then, we had people with great ideas reach out to us, but they didn’t know how to translate them into a form that was understandable to a broader audience. I think it was really helpful to share our own experiences and portfolios with newcomers, as it gave them a good example and an idea of how they could also achieve it.

From the outside, UdK Berlin can be scary. Talented artists who need this community and network were scared away because they didn’t know how to get in. For that reason, initiatives like Common Ground are really important. When I got in, I remember Common Ground had a flyer in Farsi and in Arabic. Seeing something I could understand immediately made me feel welcomed and drawn to Common Ground. I also remember a jam session we organized and how cool it was for me to hear an Iranian song inside the university. I think it’s crucial to make UdK Berlin more open to non-Europeans, to people who are a bit afraid of entering this kind of educational atmosphere.

Adela Lovrić:

Can you recall some challenges that you encountered through working in Common Ground?

Narges Derakhshan:

There were many, to be honest. Initially, the biggest challenge was to reach our target group. In the beginning, we also went to refugee camps to present ourselves and hand out flyers. Every time we had an event, there were lots of men showing up and, at some point, I would think: this is about diversity, so how can I reach women? So, at the time, one of our biggest challenges was reaching people who we wanted to actually reach. Another was organizing. I don’t want to repeat the clichés of artists who cannot organize themselves, but when it comes to this kind of work, you have a good will, but on the other side, you need accessibility, programming, and organization.

Adela Lovrić:

Do you still engage in this kind of work or apply some of the lessons learned through Common Ground in your current endeavors?

Narges Derakhshan:

In my work as a screenwriter, I use these experiences a lot. Being a newcomer myself, I was not just an observer but an active participant. I don’t only draw from the people I encountered but also reflect on my own experience. These memories greatly influence my writing and my characters—how they perceive the world and how they feel totally strange but have to pretend they know what’s up.

Adela Lovrić:

Why is it, in your opinion, important to have an initiative like Common Ground at UdK Berlin?

Narges Derakhshan:

Education shouldn’t be a luxury, especially in art. People should trust themselves and give it a shot. But, from the outside, UdK Berlin is seen as a fancy university. Because of that, people don’t have the confidence to apply. The existence of Common Ground is important as a reminder that there are people who share your experiences and to provide this perspective that it’s not only for fancy, rich, privileged people. Everyone is welcome here.


We thank all Common Ground members:

2016
Assali, Mouna
Glatte, Benjamin
Hoffmann, Leander
Hoschek, Elisabeth
Laufkötter, Astrid
Vafadar, Lima
Vent, Johannes

2017
Abo Assali, Mouna
Derakhshan, Nagres
Faulhaber, Leo
Glatte, Benjamin
Haddad, Dana
Hoffmann, Leander
Hoschek, Elisabeth
Khalifeh, Farah
Vafadar, Lima
Vent, Johannes
 
2018
Derakhshan, Narges
Guiness, Joshua
Haddad, Dana
Khalifeh, Farah
Stegmann, Sophia
Vafadar, Lima
White, Dylan

2019
Astrup-Chavaux, Jeanne
Derakhshan, Narges
Stegmann, Sophia
White, Dylan

2020
Hoffman, Lisa
Hulme, Vincent
Khajehnassiri, Farshad
Lovric, Adela

2021
Al-Marai, Ali Adnan Yas
Hoffman, Lisa
Hulme, Vincent
Khajehnassiri, Farshad
Lovric, Adela

2022
Absalan, Forough 
Alizadeh, Saeed
Al-Marai, Ali Adnan Yas 
Hulme, Vincent
Khajehnassiri, Farshad 
Seebeck, Charlotte
Zubytskyi, Dmytro

2023
Absalan, Forough 
Alizadeh, Saeed
Al-Khufash, Mudar
Hulme, Vincent
Perutska, Yevheniia

UdK, Common Ground in collaboration with International Office and Artist Training, UdK Berlin Career College
International Office: Regina Werner
Artist Training: Dr. Melanie Waldheim
Department Fine Arts: Prof. Dr. Jörg Heiser

Common Ground: Benjamin Glatte, Elisabeth
Hoschek, Lima Vafadar, Vincent Hulme,
Forough Absalan, Narges Derakshan

Interview: Adela Lovric
Editor: Mudar Al-Khufash
Proofreadig: Alison Hugill
Photos: Artist Training, İpek Çınar

Graphic Design: Caroline Lei & Quang Nguyen
Typefaces: Impact Nieuw by Jungmyung Lee,
Junicode by Peter S. Baker

Edition: 100

Universität der Künste Berlin
Körperschaft des öffentlichen Rechts
gesetzlich vertreten durch den Präsidenten
Prof. Dr. Norbert Palz
Einsteinufer 43
D-10587 Berlin

The project Common Ground is offered by the Berlin University of the Arts and is funded by the DAAD and Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) in collaboration with the International Office, Student Office and Artist Training, UdK Berlin Career College.


Berlin University of the Arts, 30.09.2023

Artist Training presents: The workshop series How to Create a Safer Space I-III aims to discuss structural discrimination and inequalities within the UdK Berlin and to develop strategies for equality with experts from the fields of anti-discrimination and organizational development. Each workshop is accompanied by a podcast.

The third podcast episode How to Create a Safer Space III: Experiences from the Recognizing Barriers Day features anonymous guests from the Recognizing Barriers Day event held on December 5, 2022. For this workshop, we created an experimental space that encourages members of the University, including students, professors, and academic staff, to speak freely about their experiences with discrimination and observations within the University. During the podcast, we ensured complete anonymity for the individuals sharing their experiences by altering their voices through Artificial Intelligence. Our moderator, Johanna Madden, will reflect on these cases.

In collaboration with the Critical Diversity Blog 

Production: Johanna Madden & Sel 
Workshop development: İpek Çınar (Artist Training Team) 
Coordination: İpek Çınar & Melanie Waldheim (Artist Training Team)

Artist Training presents: The workshop series How to Create a Safer Space I-III aims to discuss structural discrimination and inequalities within the UdK Berlin and to develop strategies for equality with experts from the fields of anti-discrimination and organisational development. Each workshop will be accompanied by a podcast.


The second podcast episode, How to Create a Safer Space II: Anti-Discrimination Clause, features two guests: Sonja Baltruschat and Mutlu Ergün-Hamaz. Together with podcast series host Johanna Madden, they reflect on the second workshop and discuss the needs of the UdK Berlin and what kind of document might best to meet those needs. 

Speakers: Sonja Baltruschat & Mutlu Ergün-Hamaz
Production: Johanna Madden & Sel
Coordination: İpek Çınar & Melanie Waldheim (Artist Training team) 

How to Create a Safer Space I: Code of Conduct

Artist Training presents: The How to Create a Safer Space I-III workshop series aims to discuss structural discrimination and inequalities within UdK Berlin and develop strategies for equality with experts from the fields of anti-discrimination and organizational development. There will also be podcasts accompanying each workshop.

In the first podcast episode, How to Create a Safer Space I: Code of Conduct, there are two guests: Armeghan Taheri (writer, artist and founder of the art and literature magazine Afghan Punk Rock) and Elena Buscaino (student at UdK Berlin, member of the Critical Diversity Blog, and activist). Together with the moderator of the podcast series Johanna Madden, they reflected on the first workshop and discussed further the needs of UdK Berlin, as well as the possible implementation of a Code of Conduct.

Speakers: Armeghan Taheri & Elena Buscaino
Production: Johanna Madden & Sel
Coordination: İpek Çınar & Melanie Waldheim (Artist Training team) 

Fatima El-Tayeb is an author and Professor of Ethnicity, Race & Migration, and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Yale University in Connecticut, USA. Her work deconstructs structural racism and centers strategies of resistance among racialized communities, especially those that politicize culture through an intersectional, queer practice. Her current research projects explore the intersecting legacies of colonialism, fascism, and socialism in Europe and the potential of alliances of (queer) people of color in decolonizing Europe. She is active in black feminist, migrant, and queer of color organizations in Europe and the US.

In this episode, El-Tayeb speaks about the construction of Otherness and discrimination of migrants, refugees, and racialized people in Europe, the (im)possibility of a post-migrant society and university, and other questions relating to migration within the academic context and beyond.

Sorry, this entry is only available in Deutsch.

Katharina Oguntoye ist eine afrodeutsche Schriftstellerin, Historikerin, Aktivistin und Dichterin. Sie gründete den gemeinnützigen interkulturellen Verein Joliba in Deutschland und spielte eine wichtige Rolle in den Anfängen der afrodeutschen Bewegung. Prof. Mathilde ter Heijne hat sich mit ihr getroffen um über das Buch Farbe bekennen zu sprechen, welches 1986 von Katharina Oguntoye mit May Ayim und Dagmar Schultz im Orlanda Verlag herausgegeben wurde. Die Sammlung ist eine Zusammenstellung von Texten, Zeugnissen und anderen Sekundärquellen und lässt die Geschichten Schwarzer deutscher Frauen, die in Deutschland inmitten von Rassismus, Sexismus und anderen institutionellen Zwängen leben, lebendig werden. Das Buch greift Themen und Motive auf, die in Deutschland von den frühesten kolonialen Interaktionen zwischen Deutschland und der Schwarzen „Andersartigkeit“ bis hin zu den gelebten Erfahrungen Schwarzer deutscher Frauen in den 1980er Jahren vorherrschen. 

Der Ausgangspunkt des Gesprächs war Looking Back 1930 I 2020: Building on Fragmented Legacies, ein Performance- und Diskussionsabend mit Karina Griffith, Sandrine Micossé-Aikins, Katharina Oguntoye, Abenaa Adomako und Saraya Gomis am 24.09.2020 im HAU Berlin. Die Veranstaltung fand im Rahmen des Programms Radical Mutation – On the Ruins of Rising Suns statt, kuratiert von Nathalie Anguezomo Mba Bikoro, Saskia Köbschall und Tmnit Zere. Das Programm verband historische Kämpfe für Gleichberechtigung, Antirassismus und Repräsentation in der Kultur und aktuelle Bemühungen um radikale Veränderungen mit Berlin als Startpunkt. Der Titel bezog sich auf eines der ersten überlieferten schwarzen Theaterstücke (Sonnenaufgang im Morgenland, 1930), welches die Repräsentation von Schwarzen Menschen in kulturellen Produktionen der Weimarer Republik in Frage stellte.

AG Critical Diversity is an initiative by associates of the Commission for Equal Opportunities at

Ableism is the discrimination of and social prejudice against people with differing physical and mental abilities and needs. It typically involves a negative assessment of a person’s body and mind due to skills and abilities, based on a supposed biological (physical and/or mental) norm of what an able-bodied, neurotypical person should be. Ableism can intersect with other forms of oppression such as racism and sexism. 

Adultism is the discrimination found in everyday life and law based on unequal power relationships between adults, on the one hand, and children, adolescents, and young people on the other. 

The General Equal Treatment Act (AGG), enforced since 2006, is the uniform central body of regulations in Germany for the implementation of four European anti-discrimination directives. For the first time, a law was created in Germany that comprehensively regulates protection against discrimination on the grounds of race, ethnicity, gender identification, religion or belief, ability, age, or sexual orientation.

Antisemitism is a belief system based on hatred/hostility towards or discrimination against Jewish people as a religious or racial group, Jewish institutions or anyone/anything that is perceived Jewish. Antisemitism varies over time and between cultures, with antisemitism intensifying in different historical moments.   

Accessibility names the extent to which a product, service, or environment can be used and accessed by as many people as possible. Inclusive accessibility therefore assesses the needs and desires of all possible people—including those who are neurodivergent or who have varying abilities—and incorporates these into its design and function. Changes to enable those with different abilities to have equal opportunity and participation are often referred to as accommodations.  

Harassment is undesired and non-consensual conduct that violates the dignity of another person. Harassment can often create intimidating, hostile, humiliating, or offensive environments, and can be based on someone’s sexual orientation, religion, national origin, disability, age, race, gender, and more. Harassment can take a variety of forms, including verbal, physical, and/or sexual. 

The gender binary is the classification of gender into two distinct and opposite categories of man/masculine and woman/feminine. This belief system assumes that one’s sex or gender assigned at birth will align with traditional social constructions of masculine and feminine identity, expression, and sexuality. Assignment beyond the gender binary is typically viewed as a deviation of the norm. 

Sex refers to a person’s biological status and is typically assigned at birth, usually based on external anatomy. Sex is typically categorized as male, female, or intersex. 

Cisgender, or simply cis, refers to people who identify with the gender assigned to them at birth. Cis comes from the Latin prefix which means “on this side of.” 

This concept, according to Birgit Rommelspacher, assumes that there is a system of hierarchies, rule and power in which the various racist, sexist, classist, and other forms of governance intertwine. In this interconnectedness, a dominant group maintains power, which is socially negotiated again and again. In a given society, the dominant group achieves their role by being perceived as pertaining to a majority of the population and having a significant presence in societal institutions. 

The prison-industrial complex (PIC) is a term that describes the complex and interrelated dependencies between a government and the various businesses and institutions that benefit from practices of incarceration (such as prisons, jails, detention facilities, and psychiatric hospitals). Based on the term “military-industrial complex,” PIC urges a more comprehensive analysis of how imprisonment is used in a society, noting all the interest groups that prioritize financial gain over keeping people out of prisons. 

Gender-expansive is an adjective that can describe someone with a more flexible and fluid gender identity than might be associated with the typical gender binary. 

Gender is often defined as a social construct of norms, behaviors, and roles that vary between societies and over time. Gender is often categorized as male, female, or nonbinary. 

Gender transition is a process a person might take to bring themselves and/or their bodies into alignment with their gender identity. This process is not a singular step nor does it have a definite end. Rather, it can include any, none, or all of the following: telling one’s family and social circles; changing one’s name and pronouns; updating legal documents; medical interventions such as hormone therapy; or surgical intervention, often called gender confirmation surgery. 

Gender expression is how a person presents gender outwardly, most typically signalled through clothing, voice, behavior, and other perceived characteristics. Society identifies these cues and performances as masculine or feminine, although what is considered masculine or feminine varies over time and between cultures.  

Gender dysphoria refers to psychological distress that results from the incongruence between one’s sex assigned at birth and one’s gender identity. People of all genders may experience dysphoria at varying levels of intensity, or not at all. 

Gender identity is one’s own internal sense of self and their gender. Unlike gender expression, gender identity is not externally visible to others. 

Heteronormativity is the concept that heterosexuality—romantic and/or sexual attraction between people of the “opposite” gender—is the normative or acceptable sexual orientation in a society. Heteronormativity assumes the gender binary, and therefore involves a belief in the alignment between sexuality, gender identity, gender roles, and biological sex. As a dominant social norm, heteronormativity results in discrimination and oppression against those who do not identify as heterosexual.   

Hormone therapy, sometimes called gender-affirming hormone therapy (GAHT) or hormone replacement therapy (HRT), is the process by which sex hormones or other hormonal medications are administered. These hormone changes can trigger physical changes, called secondary sex characteristics, that can help better align the body with a person’s gender identity.

Institutional discrimination refers to prejudiced organizational policies and practices within institutions – such as universities, workplaces, and more – such that an individual or groups of individuals who are marginalized are unequally considered and have unequal rights. 

Inter*, or intersex, is an umbrella term that can describe people who have differences in reproductive anatomy, chromosomes, or hormones that do not fit typical definitions of male and female. The asterisks (*) emphasizes the plurality of intersex realities and physicalities. 

Intergenerational trauma refers to the trauma that is passed from a trauma survivor to their descendent. Due to violent and terrifying events—such as war, ethnic cleansing, political conflict, environmental catastrophe, and more—experienced by previous generations, descendants may experience adverse emotional, physical, and psychological effects. As the original sources of trauma are structured by forms of discrimination such as race and gender, intergenerational trauma also occurs along intersectional axes of oppression. For example, Black communities have brought to light the intergenerational trauma of enslavement. 
Intergenerational trauma is sometimes called historical trauma, multi- or transgenerational trauma, or secondary traumatization. 

Intersectionality names the interconnected nature of systems of oppression and social categorizations such as race, gender, sexuality, migratory background, and class. Intersectionality emphasizes how individual forms of discrimination do not exist independently of each other, nor can they be considered and addressed independently. Rather, addressing oppression should take into account the cumulative and interconnected axes of multiple forms of discrimination. 

Islamophobia is a belief system based on hatred/hostility towards or discrimination against Muslim people as a religious or racial group, muslim institutions or anyone/anything that is perceived Muslim. Islamophobia varies over time and between cultures, with Islamophobia intensifying in different historical moments.

Classism is a term that describes discrimination based on the belief that a person’s social or economic status determines their value in society. Classism, as a form of discrimination and stigmatization, is based on actual or assumed financial means, educational status, and social inclusion. “Inferior” classes in the hierarchy are problematised and stereotyped, and often receive unequal access and rights within society. 

Colonialism is the control and dominance of one power over a dependent area or people. In subjugating another people and land, colonialism entails violently conquering the population, often including mass displacement of people and the systematic exploitation of resources. Beyond material consequences, colonialism also includes processes of forcing the dominant power’s language and cultural values upon the subjugated people, thereby effecting cultural, psychological, and intergenerational trauma. 

Culturally argued racism is directed against people based on their presumed cultural or religious background. This form of discrimination can occur regardless of whether they actually practice one culture or religion and how religious they are (e.g. anti-Muslim racism and anti-Semitism). 

Cultural appropriation is the act of taking on aspects of a marginalized culture by a person or an institution who is outside of that culture, without comprehensive understanding of the context and often lacking respect for the significance of the original. Cultural appropriation, when promoting negative cultural or racial stereotypes, reproduces harm. Acts of cultural appropriation can often reveal power dynamics within a society: for example, a white person who wears a marginalized culture’s traditional dress is praised as fashionable, while a racialized person could be isolated from the dominant group and marked as foreign.  

Marginalization describes any process of displacing minorities to the social fringe. As a rule, marginalised groups are presumed to not correspond to the norm-oriented majority of society and are severely restricted in their ability to behave freely, have equal material access, enjoy public safety, and more.  

Microaggression names individual comments or actions that unconsciously or consciously demonstrate prejudice and enact discrimination against members of marginalized groups. As small, common, and cumulative occurrences, microaggressions can comprise of insults, stereotypes, devaluation, and/or exclusion. Microaggressions often negatively affect the person on the receiving end, affecting their psychological and physical health and wellbeing. 

Misogyny is a term for sexist oppression and contempt for women that is used to keep women at a lower social status than men, thereby maintaining patriarchal social roles. Misogyny can indicate an attitude held by individuals and a widespread cultural system that often devalues anything perceived as feminine. Misogyny can overlap with other instances of oppression and hate—such as homophobia, trans*-misogyny, and racism. 

Neurodiversity is a term that describes the unique ways each person’s brain structures function. The basic assumption of what kind of brain functioning is healthy and acceptable within a norm-oriented majority society is called neurotypical. 

Nonbinary is a term that can be used by persons who do not describe themselves or their genders as fitting into the binary categories of man or woman. A range of terms are used for these experiences, with nonbinary and genderqueer often used. 

Patriarchy is a social system whereby cis men dominantly hold positions of privilege both in public and private spheres. In feminist theory, patriarchy can be used to describe the power relationship between genders that favors male dominance, as well as the ideology of male superiority that justifies and enacts oppression against women and all non-normative genders. 

Pronouns, or personal gender pronouns (PGPs), are the set of pronouns that an individual uses to refer to themselves and desires for others to use when referring to them. The list of pronouns is continuously evolving. An individual may have several sets of preferred pronouns, or none. The intention of both asking and using a person’s pronouns correctly is to reduce the negative societal effects for those whose personal pronouns don’t match with the gender identity that’s assumed by a cisnormative society. Using gender-neutral wording and terms to refer to groups of people (such as “folks,” instead of “guys”) are also inclusive steps that resist the gender binary and cis-normativity. 

Racism is the process by which systems, policies, actions, and attitudes create unequal opportunities and outcomes for people based on race. More than individual or institutional prejudice, racism occurs when this discrimination is accompanied by the power to limit or oppress the rights of people and/or groups. Racism varies over time and between cultures, with racism towards different groups intensifying in different historical moments.   

Sex-gender difference names the distinction between the concept of “sex” as a biological fact and the concept of “gender” as a product of cultural and social processes, such as socially constructed roles, behaviours, expressions and gendered identities.

Sexism is the process by which systems, policies, actions, and attitudes create unequal opportunities and outcomes for people based on their attributed or supposed sex and the ideology underlying these phenomena. It is mostly used to name the power relations between dominant and marginalised genders within cisheteronormative patriarchal societies.

Sexual orientation is the term that describes which sex or gender a person feels emotionally, physically, romantically and/or sexually attracted to.

Social origin describes the socio-cultural values and norms into which one is born, including factors such as environment, class, caste, education biography, and more. The values that accompany one’s social origin are constructed, but often have material impact that privileges or under-privileges certain groups and people. For example, someone whose social origin includes living in a Western country, inheriting intergenerational wealth, and having a consistently good education will increase their chances for a high-paying job as an adult. Their social origin must therefore be taken into account, rather than their inherent worthiness for such a job. 

A social norm is a shared belief in the standard of acceptable behaviour by groups, both informal as well as institutionalized into policy or law. Social norms differ over time and between cultures and societies. 

Socioeconomic status, usually described as low, medium, or high, is a way of describing people based on their education, income, and type of job. The values and norms assigned to each socioeconomic class are socially constructed but have material impact. 

Structural discrimination refers to patterns of behaviour, policies, and attitudes found at the macro-level conditions of society. This discrimination of social groups is based on the nature of the structure of society as a whole. Structural discrimination is distinct from individual forms of discrimination (such as a single racist remark, which is a microaggression), though it often provides the contextual framework to understand why these individual instances occur. 

Tokenism is a superficial or symbolic gesture that includes minority members without significantly changing or addressing the structural discrimination of marginalization. Tokenism is a strategy intended to create the appearance of inclusion and to divert allegations of discrimination by requiring a single person to be representative of a minority. 

White supremacy names the beliefs and practices that privilege white people as an inherently superior race, built on the exclusion and detriment of other racial and ethnic groups. It can refer to the interconnected social, economic, and political systems that enable white people to enjoy structural advantages over other racial groups both on a collective and individual level. It can also refer to the underlying political ideology that imposes and maintains multiple forms of domination by white people and non-white supporters, from justifying European colonialism to present-day neo-fascisms. 

Whiteness is a socially and politically constructed behaviour that perpetuates an ideology, culture, history, and economy that results in the unequal distribution of power and privilege favoring those socially deemed white. The material benefits of whiteness are gained at the expense of Black, Indigenous, and people of color, who are systematically denied equal access to those material benefits. 
On our blog, white is often written in small italics to mark it as a political category and emphasize the privileges of whiteness which are often not named as such, but rather taken for granted as the invisible norm. 

Xenophobia names the hostility towards groups or individuals perceived as “outsiders” based on their culture. Xenophobic attitudes are often associated with hostile reception of immigrants or refugees who arrive in societies and communities that are not their homelands. Xenophobic discrimination can result in barriers to equally access socioeconomic opportunities, as well as ethnic, racial, or religious prejudice.

Abolition is a term that names officially ending a system, practice, or institution. Rooted in 19th century movements to abolish slavery, present day abolitionism is often invoked to end the practice of policing and military and/or the interconnected carceral systems of prisons, refugee camps, detention centers, and more. For more, see the definition of prison-industrial complex). 

Accountability is the obligation and willingness to accept responsibility for one’s actions. In the context of social justice, accountability refers to the ways in which individuals and communities hold themselves to their principles and goals, as well as acknowledging the groups to which they are responsible. Accountability often requires a transparent process and continuous self- and collective awareness. 

Ageism is discrimination or prejudice based on a person’s age, such as when skills and abilities are questioned and assessed based on one’s older or younger age. 

Agender is an adjective that can be used by persons who do not identify as any gender.

BIPoC stands for Black, Indigenous and people of color. A term that originated in the U.S., it is a self-designation intended to center the specific experiences of Black, Indigenous, and other racialized groups, who are severely impacted by systemic racial injustice rooted in histories of enslavement and colonialism, and to unite people and groups affected by racism. 

Colorism is a term that describes the prejudice or discrimination favoring people with lighter skin tones over those with darker skin tones. This is especially used to describe the nuanced discrimination faced within a racial or ethnic group. 

The Critical Diversity Policy at UdK is a document whose intention is to emphasize and enforce the idea that differences in values, attitudes, cultural perspective, beliefs, ethnic backgrounds, sexual orientation, gender identity, abilities, knowledge and life experiences of each individual in each group of people should be considered and overcome within the university.

Deadnaming is the act of calling a trans*, nonbinary, or gender-expansive person by their birth name, or an incorrect name, when they have changed their name as part of their gender expression. It is never okay or necessary to use a person’s deadname when they have changed their name, including when describing past events. If you deadname someone, take accountability by apologizing and commit to not doing so in the future. Take steps to know someone’s current name and commit to using it.   

This sociological term focuses on how people observe, (re-)produce, and make gender relevant in everyday life. Rather than taking gender as an innate quality, the acts of “doing gender” emphasize how gender is a social construct that is prevalent in daily human interaction. 

Misogynoir is a term, coined by Black feminist Moya Bailey in 2010, that describes the gendered and racial oppression faced by Black cis and transgender women (the latter sometimes referred to as trans*-misogynoir). Taking an intersectional lens, misogynoir examines how anti-Black racism and misogyny combine into a particular form of oppression and discrimination. 

Queer is an umbrella term for people who are not heterosexual or cisgender. It Is used for a broad spectrum of non-normative sexual and/or gender identities and politics. 

Safer spaces are intended to be places where marginalized communities can gather and communicate shared experiences, free of bias, conflict, or harm perpetrated by members of a dominant group. Recognizing that there is no such thing as a perfectly safe space for marginalized people under the current systems of our society, the term “safer” indicates the goal of temporary relief, as well as acknowledging the fact that harm can be reproduced even within marginalized communities. 
Examples of safer spaces created in organizations and institutions are queer-only spaces and/or spaces only for Black, Indigenous, and people of color. 

Social justice is a form of activism and political movement that promotes the process of transforming society from an injust and unequal state to one that is just and equitable. Social justice is rooted in the view that everyone deserves equal economic, political, and social rights and opportunities, and the fundamental right to feel psychologically and physically secure. Social justice therefore aims to change governing laws and societal norms that have historically and presently oppressed some groups over others. Social justice is not just the absence of discrimination, but also the presence of deliberate systems and supports that achieve and sustain equity along lines of race, gender, class, ability, religion, and more. 

Transgender, or simply trans*, is an adjective that refers to people whose gender identity is different than the sex assigned at birth. Trans comes from the Latin prefix which means “across” or “beyond.” The self-designation is not an identity feature that automatically indicates whether this person identifies with a different gender, no gender or multiple genders. Thus, there are several trans* identities. The asterisks (*) emphasizes the plurality and fluidity of trans identities.