In 2021, we launched the British-German Democracy Forum, a partnership between Goethe-Institut London and Cumberland Lodge.
The three-day forum, held in the inspiring setting of Cumberland Lodge in Windsor Great Park, brought together visionary, engaged young people from across the United Kingdom and Germany, to discuss key aspects of democratic life and shared pasts. Delegates included students, social influencers, artists and cultural producers, politicians, representatives of civil society initiatives, community organisers, writers, intellectuals, and inspiring public figures.
The inaugural British-German Democracy Forum took place between the 25-27th of October 2021. Delegates examined and compared contemporary approaches to Colonialism & Difficult Histories, in the British and German contexts.
Curated by Eric Otieno (social theorist and political economist from the University of Kassel, Germany) and Lord Woolley CBE (former chair of the advisory group for the UK’s Race Disparity Unit), this forum provided a platform for open discussion and debate on how colonialism and coloniality have shaped modern national trajectories, and how democratic societies might constructively confront ‘difficult histories’.
Explorations of the rise of nationalism and uneven citizenship intersected with conversations about the role of arts and the media in helping to rebalance power structures and interrogate narratives of our collective past. Artists, museum directors and post-colonial experts reflected, alongside policymakers and academics, on opportunities to confront contentious issues from the past more constructively, with an eye towards a more peaceful, open and inclusive future.
Discussions were held under the Chatham House Rule, as is the custom at Cumberland Lodge, to encourage frank and open discussions. Guest speakers were asked to waive the rule for their presentations where possible, to allow us to share their contributions with a wider audience, post-event.
Alice Procter is an art historian, museum enthusiast and author of The Whole Picture: the colonial story of art in our Museums and why we need to talk about it (2020). She has also been the host of the irreverent and low-tech podcast called The Exhibitionist, reviewing galleries and museums with friends since 2016.
Uncomfortable Art Tours, unofficial guided tours exploring how major institutions came into being against a backdrop of imperialism emerged from the podcast. She runs these regularly at six sites, exploring the role colonialism played in shaping and funding national collections, looking beyond the surface of paintings to unravel the ideological aesthetics at work. Alice’s academic work concentrates on the intersections of postcolonial art practice and colonial material culture, the curation of historical trauma, and myths of national identity.
Aliyah Hasinah is a curator, writer and filmmaker whose work focuses on decolonial approaches to history and the present day. She produces events, festivals and creative strategies, consults on campaigns/projects and is a facilitator and public speaker. Currently she is producing for black and brown womxn’s platform Heaux Noire and heads Relationships and Partnerships at Maia Group.
She co-curated the internationally acclaimed exhibition ‘The Past is Now’ (2017-18) at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, ‘This is the Gallery and the Gallery is Many Things X’ at Eastside Projects (2018), Bald Black Girls (2019) and a solo exhibition by Olivia Twist at Ort Gallery (2020). Additionally, She contributed to the SAQI Books Anthology: The Things I Would Tell You: British Muslim Women Write edited by Sabrina Mahfouz and was featured in Once Upon a Time in Birmingham: Women who Dared to Dream by Louise Palfreyman.
Andrea Potts is a member of the Museum of British Colonialism (MBC), a network and platform for facilitating global conversations about British colonialism and its legacies. Andrea is a member of MBC's organising committee, and her main focus is communications work. In addition to her work at MBC, Andrea is a PhD researcher, working on the role that museum exhibitions in Europe play in mediating how people engage with the colonial past.
Anna Yeboah is a Project Manager, Architect and Curator. She studied architecture with a focus on cultural theory at the Technical University of Munich and the UPC Barcelona. Anna Yeboah is a lecturer at the Institute for History and Theory of Design at the Berlin University of the Arts. Her research and artistic practice revolves around systems of power in architecture and urban space furthering decolonial spatial strategies. Her research on the subject has been shown at the Venice and Chicago Biennials, among others, and published in international media.
Since May 2020, Anna has been responsible for the project management of the five-year pilot project Dekoloniale Memory Culture in the City on behalf of the Initiative of Black People in Germany e.V.
Arike Oke is the Managing Director for Black Cultural Archives, the home of Black British history. She’s worked in heritage for over 15 years, from the seminal Connecting Histories project in Birmingham, to building Wellcome Collection’s archive, and co-convening Hull’s first official Black History Month.
Formerly Co-Chair of the Association of Performing Arts Collections, she advises the National Archives, BAFTA and the UK government’s Home Office, is a Group Board member at Notting Hill Genesis, and is a fellow of the Arts Council’s Museums and Resilient Leadership programme.
Carola Lentz, born in Braunschweig in 1954, studied sociology, political science, German and education at the University of Göttingen and at Freie Universität Berlin. In 1987 she earned her doctorate at the University of Hanover und qualified as professor (Habilitation) in 1996 at the Freie Universität Berlin. From 1996 until 2002 she was professor of anthropology at Goethe University Frankfurt, and from 2002 until 2019 at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, where she is currently senior research professor. She served as president of the German Anthropological Association (2011-2015) and vice-president of the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities (2018-2020).
Visiting professorships and fellowships have taken her to France, the Netherlands, the United States and South Africa. As a fellow at the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin (Institute for Advanced Study Berlin) she led a focus group on the subject of Family History and Social Change in West Africa (2017-2018). Her research interests include ethnicity, nationalism, colonialism, politics of remembrance, middle classes in the Global South and labour migration. She conducted field research first in South America and, since 1987, regularly in West Africa. Her publications include Land, Mobility and Belonging in West Africa (2013) and Remembering Independence (2018).
Hans Kundnani is a Senior Research Fellow at the Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House) in London. Before joining Chatham House in 2018, he was a Senior Transatlantic Fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the United States and research director at the European Council on Foreign Relations.
He is also an associate fellow at the Institute for German Studies at Birmingham University. He is the author of Utopia or Auschwitz. Germany’s 1968 Generation and the Holocaust (London/New York: Hurst/Columbia University Press, 2009) and The Paradox of German Power (London/New York: Hurst/Oxford University Press, 2014), which has been translated into German, Italian, Japanese, Korean and Spanish.
Kristin O'Donnell is a lecturer in Applied Humanities at Newman University in Birmingham, UK. Her AHRC-funded doctoral research ‘The Cultural Politics of Commemoration: Participatory Art and Britain’s Great War During the Centenary Moment’ (University of Brighton) explores the relationship between commemoration, identity formation, and nationalism in creating and policing boundaries of belonging.
Kristin regularly collaborates with artists and activists, recently working with Dover Arts Development and the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. Through her interest in cultural policy Kristin secured a Cumberland Lodge Fellowship (2019-2021) to work at the intersection of academia, policy, and complex social challenges. In addition to her academic research, she has worked as a historical researcher and consultant in both the heritage and film sectors and produced films exploring the relationship between place, history and identity.
Mirjam Zadoff is Director of the Munich Documentation Centre for the History of National Socialism; previously she held the Alvin H. Rosenfeld Chair for Jewish Studies and was Associate Professor for History at Indiana University Bloomington. She is a member of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences, and was visiting faculty at ETH Zurich, UC Berkeley, HU Berlin and Augsburg University.
Among her publications are: Werner Scholem. A German Life (2018), Next Year in Marienbad. The Lost Worlds of Jewish Spa Culture (2012), and forthcoming, edited together with Nicolaus Schafhausen: Tell me about yesterday tomorrow.
Noah Anderson is a cultural manager, creative concepter and programme curator in the cultural sector and creative industries. He currently lives in Berlin. In his two-subject BA he studied musicology and philosophy at the University of Cologne and Yeditepe University Istanbul. Equipped with a DAAD scholarship he studied ‚arts & cultural management' in his MA at King’s College London and Goldsmiths, University of London. Noah Anderson's work includes topics such as anti-black racism, intersectionality, gender studies, decolonising cultural practices and safer spaces.
He currently works in press and public relations at Each One Teach One e.V. (EOTO), a Black community-based education and empowerment organisation. Noah Anderson is also employed as a project manager in the In[ter]ventions department within the five-year pilot project Dekoloniale Memory Culture in the City.
Oliver Eberl is a Political Theorist at Leibniz University Hanover. He has recently published a book on the colonial legacies in the history of political thought: ‘Naturzustand und Barbarei. Begründung und Kritik staatlicher Ordnung im Zeichen des Kolonialismus’ (Hamburger Edition, 2021). In it, he argues that Political Philosophy transformed its colonial prejudices of non-Europe peoples into political theories of the state. Accordingly, both in the state’s juridification as well as its critique colonial encumbrances can be observed until today.
In a research project at the Technical University of Darmstadt, Eberl and his colleagues examine how political thought has transformed its ‘look downwards’ amid social conflicts from colonial to social practices of degradation (www.demokratiekonflikte.de).
Dr. Olivia Umurerwa Rutazibwa is a Belgian/Rwandan International Relations scholar and Assistant Professor in Human Rights and Politics at the London School of Economics. She holds a PhD in Political Science/International Relations from Ghent University (2013, Belgium), following the doctoral training programme at the European University Institute (2001-6, Italy) and internships at the European Commission in Brussels and the EU Institute for Security Studies in Paris (2003-4).
Before joining the LSE, she was Senior Lecturer in European and International Development Studies at the University of Portsmouth (2013-21, UK). Her research and teaching focuses on ways to decolonise (international) solidarity. Building on epistemic Blackness as methodology, she turns to recovering and reconnecting philosophies and practices of dignity and repair and retreat in the postcolony to theorise solidarity anticolonially.
Born and raised in southern Germany, Samuel Brielmaier graduated with a Bachelor degree in Administration and Political Sciences from the University of Konstanz, focussing on Quantitative Methods and Social Data Science. While pursuing a Master in Social Policy Evaluation at the University of Oxford in 2020, he joined Brand New Bundestag as the Head of Data, supporting progressive candidates and the organisation with political data analysis.
In 2021, he became a member of the Brand New Bundestag core team, working on progressive campaigns during the German federal elections. In his free time, Samuel enjoys outdoor activities, live music and beer with foam on top.
Sinthujan Varatharajah is an independent scholar and essayist based in Berlin. The focus of their work is statelessness, mobility and geographies of power, with a special focus on infrastructure, logistics and architecture. Varatharajah publishes essays and graphics on the topics of colonialism, asylum policy and displacement on Instagram (@varathas).
In 2020, Varatharajah participated in the 11th Berlin Biennale for contemporary art with the installation ‘how to move an arche’. They also co-curated the event series ‘Dissolving Territories: Cultural Geographies of a New Eelam’ in Berlin. Between 2017-2018, Varatharajah was, among other things, an Open City Fellow and a Member of the European Commission’s inaugural European Migrant Advisory Board. Varatharajah's first book will be published next fall by Hanser Verlag.
Suy Lan Hopmann currently coordinates the project “Decolonize Hamburg” on behalf of the Ministry of Culture and Media, Hamburg. From 2018 to 2021, she worked as Curator for Special Projects and Diversity at the Museum am Rothenbaum, Hamburg and as project lead for the EU project “TAKING CARE - Ethnographic and World Cultures Museums as Spaces of Care”.
Before, she was a research fellow in the Collaborative Research Center 700 "Governance in Areas of Limited Statehood" and at the East Asia Seminar of Freie Universität Berlin. She studied Chinese Studies, Sociology and Gender Studies in Hamburg, Beijing and Bristol (UK) with a focus on gender, migration and intersectionality and spent several research stays in Singapore as well as China. She has recently curated the exhibition "Hey Hamburg, do you know Duala Manga Bell?".
Suzanne Alleyne has 25 years experience working across the funded arts and commercial sectors. She is a Cultural Thinker and heads up a cultural consultancy which combines strategic thinking across brand and change management with a cultural incubator. Her current work focuses on leadership, power, difference, wellbeing and society.
She is an inaugural Arts Council England Changemaker and former inaugural Co-Chair of What Next? She is a Churchill Fellow, a Fellow of the RSA and DEMOS, and an Achates brand ambassador. She is currently a visiting Research Associate and guest lecturer at King’s College London.
Yolanda Rother is the Europe Lead for Stiftung Zukunft Berlin and the co-founder of “The Impact Company”, a diversity inclusion business. She is a speaker and moderator on issues relating to digital society, diversity, as well as policy and sustainability. Yolanda organized conferences in Accra, Detroit, and SXSW with re:publica and holds a Master of Public Policy from the Hertie School of Governance. She lived in Brazil, France and the United States, and is now based in Berlin.