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Wafa at a student artwork exhibition on campus (credit: Tamar Maare)

Wafa at a student artwork exhibition on campus (credit: Tamar Maare)

Wafa was arrested in 2011. The protests against the Assad regime had begun to heighten in frequency and intensity, with riots regularly breaking out in different Syrian cities. The Syrian authorities launched a nationwide crackdown on protesting in an effort to quell the rising dissent against the government, arresting many civilians. Amongst these were students who were dragged into prison for their activism, including Wafa Moustafa, now a BA1 student in the HAST program at BCB. “It was hard,” she says to me. “At this point, they didn’t arrest girls very often, so they had no idea how to deal with us appropriately.” After being beaten many times for disobedience, she decided that she would go on a hunger strike. But that, combined with serious asthma and an undiagnosed stomach condition, didn’t end well. “They summoned a doctor who force-fed me with syringes. Doctors here don’t help you, they’re all a part of the regime.”

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In 1948 Mr Westhoff was asked if his farm located in Marle could be transformed into a voting station during elections. His son and daughter-in-law continue the tradition up to this day by transforming their living room into the smallest voting station in the Netherlands. (Credit: Rene Lunshof)

In 1948 Mr Westhoff was asked if his farm located in Marle could be transformed into a voting station during elections. His son and daughter-in-law continue the tradition up to this day by transforming their living room into the smallest voting station in the Netherlands. (Credit: Rene Lunshof)

A question on the exit polls during the US presidential election was which “presidential quality” mattered most. Interestingly enough, it was not experience, nor good judgment that people deemed the most necessary quality for a president: it was their ability to “bring needed change” (39%). That was also the only quality where Trump, lagging behind Hillary on all others, scored highest, at 82%. Among those who Clinton (in the biggest error of her campaign) described as a “basket of deplorables,” there seemed to be a lot of people who just really wanted change.

After the Dutch election, Europe let out a sigh of relief, with headlines exalting that the tide of populism had turned because far-right politician Geert Wilders hadn’t won. This shouldn’t have been big news, as the polls running up to the election had already indicated that Wilders, leader of the right-wing extremist Freedom Party (PVV), was not going to. Most narratives concluded that populism in the Netherlands was subsiding due to this modest gain of the PVV: an easy conclusion but a questionable causal relation. Equating the electoral result of rightist-extremist parties with the degree of populism in a country is not only faulty: it is dangerous. Still this happens on a regular basis and has been prominent in the reporting done on the Dutch election as well as the upcoming elections in Germany and France.

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Die Glühbirne: the lightbulb, literally the “glowpear”

Die Glühbirne: the lightbulb, literally the “glowpear”

After about four months of classes and 5 months in Germany,  I find myself in German A2, well aware that German — with its random articles and various cases, not to mention the seemingly impossible sound that lingers in the gap between ‘sh’ and ‘ch’ — is a difficult language to learn. But there is good to be found in the language learning process. German relies heavily on compound words, which anyone can invent and use whenever they so desire, while still remaining grammatically correct. This allows for amazing specificity and has resulted in many odd, whimsical sounding names for various objects and ideas.

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New No’s” Poster (Credit: Paul Chan and Badlands Unlimited)

New No’s” Poster (Credit: Paul Chan and Badlands Unlimited)

I left New York City for Berlin on the 24th of January. The days before my departure were saturated with a dissociative pain that stemmed from their proximity to the inauguration of President Trump, which took place on January 20th. Mostly I was aware of a void-like sadness. This void enveloped my singular self, everyone I loved, communities experiencing oppressions that I as a cis white woman will never be subject to, and communities that I belong to as a queer person and survivor of sexual violence. The effect was tangible in the city, between and across neighborhoods, a dull reverberation. The fact that this collective mourning was distributed unequally due to the diverse lived experiences and levels of social privilege of those affected complicated the act of articulation. I found myself and my peers falling into spells of isolation, or, conversely, dispersing articles, posts, and personal rants at a frantic pace via the constantly replenishing outlets of social media. Neither of these tactics left me with any feeling of agency or productivity: The nature of voids is that they swallow and calcify anything dynamic, leaving their subjects in a state of vertigo.

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This article originally appeared on Public Seminar and has been republished here with their kind permission.

deste gosto (Credit: Ponto e virgula | Flickr)

deste gosto (Credit: Ponto e virgula | Flickr)

Earlier this week, and in advance of the inauguration of Donald Trump as the 45th President of the United States, Andrew Sullivan produced a video for BBC Newsnight, detailing how the election campaign and Trump’s success reminded him of Socrates’ account of the rise of a tyrannical regime in the eighth book of Plato’s Republic. The video has made it into pretty heavy circulation, and as someone who has taught this particular text in part or whole just about every year since the inauguration of President Bush (43, not 41 — I’m not that old yet) I’ve been asked by a more than a few people “How accurate is Sullivan’s presentation?” and “Can we or ought we derive a different lesson from Socrates’s analysis?” This post is my reply to those questions.

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► Monday: Transit Havanna – New Heroes of the Cuban Revolution

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This documentary depicts Mariela Castro’s, the Cuban president’s daughter, view on the completion of the 1959 revolution. The documentary focuses on Cuba’s assistance of  the medical process transgender people undergo and explores such themes as emancipation and self-realization. The filmmakers document the lives of 3 transgender figures to better understand and convey the reality of being transgender in Cuba, a country with many paradoxes from seeming open-mindedness to religious repression and sexism.

  • When: 20:00
  • Where:  Babylon Cinema – Rosa Luxemburg str. 30, 10178
  • Admission: 9€ for 2 tickets
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► Monday: Brazilian Film Festival 

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For all the cinema and movie lovers, take note: the annual Brazilian film festival brings to the screen a diversity of stories, styles, humans and lifestyles. The movies screened are of various lengths, budgets, a wide range of topics and genres. From documentaries to musicals, to suspense, drama, and biographies, the film festival is sure to cater to everyone’s interests. Make sure to check out the program for the day’s movies!

  • When: 18:00-24:00
  • Where:  Babylon Cinema – Rosa Luxemburg str. 30, 10178
  • Admission: 8€
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“The Wait” is a short fiction piece by guest contributor Elena Gagovska, a BA2 student in the HAST program at BCB

Christina felt bored waiting in line at the insurance office and tapped her little finger against her chin obsessively. She was there to renew the health insurance for her  two-year-old. It wasn’t a complicated procedure, really, but, just as I would be, Christina was scandalized at the fact that she had to physically go to a place to get something that she thought could easily be computerized. Actually, Christina had a lot of thoughts about a lot of things. But she just worked as tech support for a small law firm and lacked a column or blog-type platform  on which to express and publish her thoughts. When the urge to tell the world how she perceived it started overwhelming her a few years ago, Christina opened a Twitter account under the alias “ITBoredom”. It was more of a way to express her dissatisfaction with her job and current affairs than an intellectual megaphone.

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