Neighborhood in Contemporary Berlin Literature

The neighborhood, as a concept, faces many challenges today. In particular, the scarcity of living space and the competition for affordable housing characterize the daily lives of Berliners and as a topic, proves to be a powerful determinant in what receives media coverage today. Furthermore, the harrowing experiences of flight and exile endured by refugees coming into Europe, as well as the omnipresent fear of poverty, homelessness, and the unknown further place stress on an already fragile social ecosystem. For this reason, great hopes and expectations are being set on local structures within districts and villages. Often the neighborhood thus gains utopian features.

The German term “Nachbarschaft” ("neighborship") designates a locality existing within the minimum recognizable amount of space, whose borders, however, are not defined and are constantly in flux. According to the etymology, “Nachbarschaft” means the relationship to whoever is spatially nearest. But in times of digital media, this spatial vicinity is losing importance. “Nachbarschaft” is about living together peacefully but also includes tense and conflictual relationships.

The starting point of this project are the representations and negotiations of neighborly relationships and networks in contemporary literature. Contemporary literature from Berlin especially displays a wide variety of imaginations of neighborhood. Much of the Berlin literature scene being multi-lingual allows for a wider perspective including neighborhoods between countries, languages, with and in other regions. Furthermore, the focus on neighborhoods transcends common dichotomies such as city versus countryside or district versus city and thus affords a view of social networks under the conditions of global interconnectedness.

The project seeks to add a literary perspective to the predominantly sociological discussion of neighborhood. A central concern will be to find common ground in the questions asked, thereby initiating a conversation between authors and researchers of scientific and literary disciplines. The ZfL Literature Days in the Literaturhaus held in November 2019 inaugurated this literary exploration of Berlin’s neighborhoods. The digital anthology, edited by the project researchers, gathers previously unpublished texts by authors and short scholarly essays.


Fig. above: © Dirk Naguschewski

Funded by The Governing Mayor of Berlin, Senate Chancellery – Higher Education and Research. Grant from Berlin funds 2019–2022
Head researcher(s): Hanna Hamel
Associate Researcher(s): Christina Ernst


Hanna Hamel


ZfL Literature Days
11 Jun 2021 – 12 Jun 2021


Literaturhaus Berlin, Fasanenstr. 23, 10719 Berlin

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Long Night of the Sciences
05 Jun 2021 · 5.00 pm

Auf gute Nachbarschaft

online via Zoom

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26 Apr 2021 · 7.00 pm

Tim Dean: How to Have Sex in a Pandemic

ICI Berlin, Christinenstr. 18–19, Haus 8, 10119 Berlin

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Digital Workshop
23 Apr 2021 · 9.30 am

StadtLand, LandStadt. Die Stadt-Land-Differenz in Literatur und Gesellschaft der Gegenwart, with Christina Ernst and Hanna Hamel

online via Zoom

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Lecture Performance and Artist Talk
11 Apr 2021 · 8.00 pm

STÖRGERÄUSCHE. Ein performatives Zoom-Gespräch von hannsjana

online via Zoom

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24 Mar 2021 · 7.00 pm

Jean-Luc Nancy: Touche-touche

ICI Berlin, Christinenstr. 18–19, Haus 8, 10119 Berlin

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11 Feb 2021 · 7.00 pm

Susanna Paasonen: Infrastructures of Intimacy and the Deplatforming of Sex

ICI Berlin, Christinenstr. 18–19, Haus 8, 10119 Berlin

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Reading and Talk
28 Nov 2020 · 4.00 pm

Zwischenräume. Nachbarschaften im Berlin-Comic “Jein”


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Readings and Workshop
19 Nov 2020 – 20 Nov 2020

Neue Nachbarschaften. Stil und Social Media in der Gegenwartsliteratur


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Livestream: Reading and Talk
28 May 2020 · 6.30 pm

Partner oder Polizei? Über die Zukunft des Zusammenlebens mit Hubots

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ZfL Literature Days
22 Nov 2019 – 23 Nov 2019


Literaturhaus Berlin, Fasanenstr. 23, 10719 Berlin

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Media Response

24 Feb 2021
Wir schreiben Kiez-Geschichte

Was macht Nachbarschaft aus? Davon erzählen Berliner Autoren in einem Online-Projekt
Newspaper article by Sebastian Bauer, in: B.Z., 24 Feb 2021, 14–15


11 Feb 2021 Video
“Infrastructures of Intimacy and the Deplatforming of Sex”
Lecture by Susanna Paasonen (University of Turku) as part of the online lecture series “Intimacy,” moderated by Ben Miller and Georg Dickmann, with an introduction by Peter Rehberg

28 Nov 2020 Video
“Zwischenräume. Nachbarschaften im Berlin-Comic ›Jein‹ von Büke Schwarz”
Reading and talk with author Büke Schwarz, Christina Ernst, and comic researcher Marie Schröer as part of Comicinvasion 2020
© Comicinvasion

22 Nov 2020 Audio
“Literatur nach Maß? Markt, Stil und Social Media”
Radio feature on the event “Neue Nachbarschaften. Stil und Social Media in der Gegenwartsliteratur” in the program “Kultur heute” on Deutschlandfunk
© Deutschlandfunk

19 Nov 2020 Video
“Neue Nachbarschaften. Stil und Social Media in der Gegenwarts­literatur”
Talks and panel discussion with the authors Berit Glanz, Senthuran Varatharajah, and Stefanie Sargnagel
© ZfL

19 Nov 2020 Audio
“Social Media und Literatur”
Radio talk with Hanna Hamel in the program “Kultur am Mittag” on WDR 3

28 May 2020 Video
“Partner oder Polizei? Über die Zukunft des Zusammenlebens mit Hubots”
Reading and discussion with Emma Braslavsky (author) and Rainer Mühlhoff (philosopher, mathematician, programmer, TU Berlin), moderated by Hanna Hamel
© Museum für Kommunikation Berlin