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This piece was originally published on the British Council Pakistan website. Republished with their kind permission.

Maria Khan (photo by the British Council Germany)

Maria Khan (photo by the British Council Germany)

27 year-old Maria Khan is this year’s winner of the IELTS Award, the first of its kind in Germany.
Maria, originally from Pakistan, has just finished her Bachelor’s course (her second!) at Bard College Berlin. Her application was chosen out of more than a hundred we received.
British Council | IELTS will cover £10,000 of her tuition fees at Newnham College at the University of Cambridge in the UK. We wanted to learn more about her, so we have met up with Maria to talk about her impressive application and plans for the future but also to learn more about her passions outside of university.


Maria: I found about the award through the IELTS website. I was registering for the IELTS exam, I read about the award and thought I could apply for it.


Maria: In 2010, I graduated from Kinnaird College for Women Lahore. After completing my BSc Economics I had decided to pursue public policy. However, I always wanted to study in Germany since one of the leading Pakistani poets and philosophers, Muhammad Iqbal, received his education at Heidelberg University, Germany. Iqbal also received part of his education at Cambridge, where he was the student of neo-Hegelians i.e. John McTaggart and James Ward. Iqbal’s poetry and philosophy had been an integral part of my upbringing and not only had Iqbal received his education in Germany, he was very much influenced by Nietzsche’s concept of Will. While looking for schools in Europe I came across a very small residential liberal arts university called European College of Liberal Arts, Berlin, now called Bard College Berlin. Initially I came for a one year program to study literature and philosophy before I began graduate school, but I realized that I wanted to invest more time in the humanities; reading, writing and thinking about works of the Western canon and learn languages i.e. German and French.

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This piece was originally published by Al-Fanar Media on March 18, 2015. Republished with their kind permission.


Asma’ discusses in a class on “Ideology” at Bard College Berlin (photo by Inasa Bibic)

I am a Palestinian student, 20 years old. I was born in Jerusalem, but I have been there only twice. I grew up in the Al-Arroub refugee camp, north of Hebron. Originally, I am from Gaza, but I have never been there.

The Al-Arroub camp is a very crowded place of about 10,000 people. I live there with my family—three brothers and two sisters. I studied until the ninth grade at the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees school. It was a good education. Afterwards, I went to high school in the camp.

The only thing that I could think about during school was how much I wanted to go to the United States to study. Why the U.S.? Probably because I was watching Hollywood movies too much. I was obsessed with the easy life I saw depicted on the screen, the modern, developed lifestyle with technology, easy transportation and freedom, especially freedom of movement.

In 2012, I graduated from high school, and it was time to decide on a university. Should I stay in Palestine or study abroad? I was torn. Then I received information about an American college in the West Bank,  Al-Quds Bard Honor College. I decided to attend because it has a strong, American-based education program where I could study journalism, a lifelong dream.

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Occupy Wall Street rallies in New York's Zuccotti Park in support of Greek resistance to austerity. February 18, 2012 (photo by Michael Fleshman)

Occupy Wall Street rallies in New York’s Zuccotti Park in support of Greek resistance to austerity. February 18, 2012 (photo by Michael Fleshman)

Die Bärliner blog launches today a series where Bard College Berlin faculty offer their perspective on much-debated contemporary issues or current hot topics. If you’d like to ask one of our faculty member a question in this category, please send it to blog@berlin.bard.edu.


The Iliad is a tragedy. Since tragedies show that terrible suffering is inevitable, perhaps the Iliad is not the place to look for practical solutions to problems. What tragedy teaches—is to pray that you’re not a character in a tragedy!

But let me try to adopt a more sporting attitude towards the question . . .

You could say that the Iliad begins with a financial crisis. Apollo’s priest, Chryses, comes into the Greek camp in order to exchange “limitless ransom” for his captive daughter. Not only is the priest’s money refused, he’s gratuitously insulted as well. He’s told that he’ll never get his daughter back, and that he should get the hell out of the Greek camp while he still can. This event starts a chain-reaction in which one failed attempt to make up for a loss of value leads to another and another and another. That’s a spiraling financial crisis, of a kind. The most famous of these failed attempts is Achilles’ refusal of Agamemnon’s long list of gifts in Book 9. The most heartrending is the failure of the death and mutilation of Hector to adequately compensate Achilles for the loss of Patroklus.

What is the relevance of this ancient story to our modern, ongoing financial crisis? I would say that the Iliad is a poem about a permanent human confusion as to what has a price and what doesn’t. In a really serious financial crisis, things that seem to be incommensurate with cash-value, such as one’s own dignity, become part of the crisis. If the current crisis is also one of dignity as well as money—and the accusations and counter-accusations of greed, laziness, and shamelessness indicate that it might be (you can also find these accusations in Book 1 of the Iliad)—then the resolution to this crisis, like the resolution to the Iliad, will have to involve spiritual greatness and generosity. There’s a lesson for you!

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Photo: Irina Stelea

Each year ECLA of Bard introduces its students to the city’s dynamic past and present, in an exciting and diverse 3-day programme led by faculty, staff, and alumni. This year’s large selection of walking tours presented new and returning students alike with the cumbersome task of making their choices. The programme featured a poetry night, a culinary walk, a stroll through the heart of Berlin, several gallery and museum tours, walks along historical sites and through Berlin’s parks and manifold neighbourhoods.

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Photo: Irina Stelea

Academic year at ECLA is coming to an end. As final paper deadlines were fast approaching, so was the closing event of David Levine’s Studio Theatre class. Students, faculty and external guests gathered to see five different plays that the participants of the course had worked on during the past few weeks.

The concept behind this—very successful—first try of a studio theatre class at ECLA was a very intriguing one. Different tasks had been distributed to each of the students, and as a result there were five directors working on their own plays with seven different actors, many of which rotated and played major roles in several shows in a row.

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Photo: Irina Stelea

On Monday, the 4th of June 2012, both ECLA of Bard’s Politics Club and students from the Democracy seminar had the pleasure of hosting Professor Ran Halévi (EHESS, Paris) for a talk on Israeli Democracy and the Politics of War.

Twelve students and three members of staff gathered with him for a discussion that centred around his main claim, namely that Israel has always been at war, yet has been at the same time a democracy.According to Halévi, these two notions had been, “associated at Israel’s cradle,” already.

Back in the 1920s, (decades before the sovereign state of Israel was established in 1948) there had already been a clandestine army that subordinated itself to political purposes, and up until today, there have been no rebellions by this military.

Halévi, who is not only a teacher of political history, but also a writer, editor and columnist in Paris, then proceeded to briefly introduce us to the past 65 years of Israeli history and to how internal public opinion on its political doings shifted in the early 1980s.

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Photo: Bundesregierung/Kugler

On June 7th, Chancellor Merkel of Germany, PM Cameron of the UK and PM Stoltenbergof Norway took a break from their busy schedules to discuss the future of global and German democracy with local and international students studying in Berlin.

This meeting was part of a bigger initiative aimed at creating a series of dialogues between citizens and the state about the relationship between them, and about issues of national, regional and international importance. The entirety of the event took place at The German Federal Chancellery here in Berlin.

Receiving an invitation for this event was in itself a unique experience. Coming from a political culture where the relationship between the citizens and the state had long been governed by fear, mistrust, and most importantly, great physical and ideological distance, the idea of meeting with heads of governments had never crossed my mind as valuable, let alone possible.

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Students of the Property Core Course had the good fortune to have Professor Andreas Blank conduct a seminar about Samuel Pufendorf’s theory of necessity on May 30th.

Professor Blank is a teacher of early modern philosophy in the University of Hamburg and his expertise was most helpful in comparing Pufendorf’s notions of ownership and necessity with English social contract theorists such as Thomas Hobbes and John Locke.

The 2nd year BA Core Course has so far covered different theories of property and themes that arise from political implications of property such as: slavery, money and sovereignty. The reading of Pufendorf comes when the course takes a turn towards necessity which was a prominent notion in the discussions of Giorgio Agamben’s State of Exception.

Professor Blank began a discussion of Pufendorf’s theory of ownership by introducing the concept of moral entities. Moral entities, as Pufendorf describes, are not found in nature and are at the same time dependent upon and imposed on human beings and their activities. The term ‘moral’ in this case does not necessarily come with ethical allusions and instead refers to a sense that these entities direct action.

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