Current Affairs

From language to society – contributions from cultural life

Current Articles

Universal Basic Income A Utopian Pipedream or a Necessary Paradigm Shift?

The idea of guaranteeing everyone an unconditional basic income seems tempting to many people. But laypeople and experts alike have been arguing for many years about whether – and, above all, how – it might work. A pilot project in Berlin is now looking for new answers to these and related questions, which could rekindle the debate in Germany.  

Photo (detail): Ennio Leanza © picture alliance / KEYSTONE The Swiss Basic Income association took the idea all the way to a referendum – but the Swiss people voted against it.

Sudan Revolutionaries’ Struggle for Freedom Five Years and the Battle Is Still On

The people in Sudan are fighting the fifth year in a row after the revolution in 2018 for their freedom. Wini Omer spoke with revolutionaries in Khartoum about their hopes and reasons to keep fighting.

Photo (detail): © Wadah Omer Amna Bihiry leads a protest in Khartoum on 30th September 2021 and holds the photo of her son Kisha Abdelsalam.

Feminist Men “Most men have a sadomasochistic relationship to masculinity”

An interview with Leipzig feminist and publicist Kim Posster about masculine ideals and the suffering they inflict. He is convinced that feminist critique is indispensable in helping men come to terms with themselves and models of masculinity.

Photo (detail) © Viktoria Mokrezowa Feminist and author Kim Posster speaks about masculine ideals.

Belarussian Art in Poland A Journey to Białystok

On the Polish border to Belarus, Belarusian artists exhibit art which they would no longer be able to show in their homeland. Around the corner is the war in Ukraine. The “taz”- journalist Julia Hubernagel went there for first-hand impressions.

Photo (detail): © Galeria Arsenał Overall view of the exhibition “When The Sun Is Low – The Shadows Are Long”

Language and Literature

Book Fairs Emotions Are Running High

The Leipzig Book Fair – after the Frankfurt fair the most important annual convention in the sector – was cancelled at short notice in 2022 because of the pandemic. The discussion that flared up as a result is only the beginning of a fundamental debate on the future of book fairs.

Photo (detail): © picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild/Sebastian Willnow A sign with the inscription “Kein Eingang. No entrance” can be seen in the glass lobby of the exhibition centre: the Leipzig Book Fair was cancelled in 2022 for the third time in a row because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Radicalisation of Language “Populist Slogans Linger Much Longer in People’s Minds”

In his debut novel, the writer Lukas Rietzschel describes the lack of perspective and the radicalisation of two brothers who grow up in East Germany. In the interview he talks about populism and the brutalisation of language.

Photo (detail): © picture alliance/dpa/Jens Büttner In Schwerin in 2015 supporters of the right-wing nationalist “MVgida” movement (Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania against the Islamisation of the Occident) demonstrated against the reception of refugees in Germany.

Literary Translations Did a Murder Take Place Here or Was Only a Corpse Photographed?

Translating literature is an art, as it is about much more than literally transferring a text into another language. Find out what makes literary translations so complex and why artificial intelligence cannot do the job.

Photo (Detail): © picture alliance/NurPhoto/Artur Widak Mural of James Joyce with a quote from his novel “Ulysses”, a prime example of a literary text that is difficult to translat.

Film and Music

Brazilian Music The Charm of Freedom

The ideal of freedom is reflected in hundreds of Brazilian songs and it was a central theme of Brazilian popular music in the first half of the 20th century. Especially because samba originated in the 1910s in the country’s Black communities, for whom freedom was doubtless the most treasured ideal of all.

Photo (detail): Andre Borges © picture alliance / NurPhoto Members of a Samba School perform at the Marques de Sapucai Sambadrome during Carnival Parade 2022 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on 24th April 2022.

Kronendal Music Academy in South Africa “The good thing about music is, when it hits you feel no pain”

South African writer Lindokuhle Nkosi visits the Kronendal Music Academy in Hout Bay, a suburb of Cape Town, which provides musical education for children. In a personal exchange with founder Dwyn Griesel they speak about the hardships of the corona pandemic and the consequences for the children, but also about the healing power of music.

Photo (detail): © Thabang Radebe Music lessons at the Kronendal Music Academy, South Africa.

Berlinale 2022 The Most Important Thing is Openness

International, emotional, immediate: the Berlinale “Panorama” section tracks down some outstanding works on the international cinema scene. In this context, the focus is on bold and unconventional feature films and documentaries that occupy a space close to the social and political zeitgeist. Michael Stütz, head of the Panorama section, talks about the most important themes and trends – and tells us what’s so special about his work.

Photo (detail): © The Myanmar Film Collective Of course things get political at the Berlinale as well, such as here in “Myanmar Diaries” by the Myanmar Film Collective.

DEFA Film Heritage “Did They Really Allow Things Like That?”

The films of the GDR’s state film production company, DEFA, always bore the stigma of being permeated by propaganda. That, however, is only part of the truth. When it comes to feature and animation films, fairy tales and documentaries there is a valuable artistic film legacy to be found. The DEFA Foundation wants to make them more easily available digitally.

Photo (detail): © DEFA-Stiftung Entrance area of the Babelsberg film studios in Potsdam during GDR times, when the state-owned DEFA company’s (Deutsche Film AG) studios were located here.

Visual and Performing Arts

Photography Between Fiction and Documentary

Photographer Tobias Zielony is known for his photographs of young people from disadvantaged urban regions. An interview about his work and the boundaries between realism and reporting.

Photo: Courtesy KOW, Berlin © Tobias Zielony “Make Up” (2017) from the “Maskirovka” series by Tobias Zielony

Social Discourses

Political Commitment Freedom and Activism in Japan

What is the state of freedom in Japanese society today? What does the term “freedom” mean to her personally? Answers from Japanese activist Momoko Nojo, who is campaigning for greater political participation, especially among younger people in her home country. She is considered the voice of her generation and is active in many areas, such as gender justice and refugees, poverty and the effects of climate change.

Screenshot; © Goethe-Institut e. V. Screen of a mobile phone showing the Instagram presence of “No Youth No Japan”.

Self-determination The Price of Freedom

At a time when freedom in the world is on the verge of collapse due to restrictions by authoritarian systems and the Corona pandemic, it is becoming clear how public space is rapidly shrinking. What role do artists play in the defence of freedom?

Photo (detail): Ronald Kabuubi © picture alliance / ASSOCIATED PRESS A Ugandan artist painting a mural, on which the shape of Africa is drawn and filled in with colour.

War and Seeking Refuge

Feminist Futures Only Utopias Are Realistic

Why do we attach so much importance to gender? What would society look like without it? In this opinion piece, sociologist Alice Rombach dreams of a more diverse world. 

Photo (detail): Isaac Esquivel © picture alliance / EPA A group of protesters in a square on which the word “Juntrans” is painted multiple times.

Latvia and the Legacy of the Soviet Union Memory Speaks for Us until We Hear Others

In 1990, Latvia regained its freedom after several decades behind the Iron Curtain. Russian-born Deniss Hanovs, who has been a Latvian citizen for twenty years now, asks, “Who am I to my Latvian compatriots who survived the Soviet occupation? What do I have to do to be accepted here and become part of Latvia?” He believes a shared future in freedom is possible – provided that people are alive to one another’s pain.

Photo (detail): Melanie Kintz© picture alliance / Westend61 Freedom Monument in the Latvian capital Riga

Hannah Arendt Thinking is Dangerous

Hannah Arendt dedicated her life to understanding the most pressing political questions of the 20th century. Author Samantha Rose Hill explores the life and work of one of the world's most important thinkers of her time.

Hannah Arendt, Passport Photo (sheet of four). 1933.

Modern Society Freedom

The limit of my freedom is the freedom of others – what does that mean, especially today, for our modern, complex society? Armin Nassehi talks about the concept of freedom in a world that is being rocked by one disaster after another.

Photo (detail): Katrin Requadt © picture alliance/dpa A painted sign in the colors of the Ukrainian flag with the words "peace" and "freedom" hangs on a garden fence in the Schwabing district of Munich.

Youth Protests An Opportunity for Change

Fridays for Future, BLM, MeToo, #Leavenoonebhind: the fact that young people feel compelled to protest in the streets is first and foremost the expression of a fundamental dissatisfaction with politics. But it’s also a signal that they haven’t yet given up their belief in change. Another way this can be seen currently is through demonstrations of solidarity with Ukraine.

Photo (detail): © Adobe Young people haven’t given up hope yet: teenagers become more involved in politics if they believe they can have an influence and that their concerns will be heard.

Journalism in Russia “Distinguishing between Facts and Fiction”

The hope of an editor-in-chief that journalists in Russia may die of old age points out the risks facing the profession there. Journalist and media scholar Ksenia Luchenko writes about the gruelling business of reorting and free expression in her home country and the crisis of traditional journalism.

Photo (detail): © Kirill Zharkoy on Unsplash The press in Russia - between government restrictions and the side effects of the digital transformation

Ideas of Freedom and Self-Determination “Freedom Needs to Be Thought About Historically”

How might one consider the concept of freedom? Where do neo-liberalists differ from fundamentalists? How are both ideologies shaping our freedom today? In an interview with Ekkehard Knörer, Professor Juliane Rebentisch addresses the question of the dual movement of freedom, of selfie culture, love and art.

Photo (detail) © picture alliance / Westend61 | Eugenio Marongiu  Young adults take selfies with the smartphone.

For Better Inclusion The Way People with Disabilities See Themselves

Am I disabled? Will I become disabled? Is “disabled” the right word at all? Journalist Henning Schmidt has been living with some restrictions since he was born. He feels that in order to help people feel integrated into society, the focus should not be on language and terminology.

Photo (detail): © picture alliance / Frank May Am I disabled, or am I disabled by my environment? Being dependent on a wheelchair is not a problem until you come across a staircase.

Art Accessibility Overcoming Invisible Barriers

Due to her involvement in accessible art projects in China, author Chen Si’an was able to ask people with disabilities on how inclusion could be reached. In an interview, Peng Linqian, Tian Yunfan and Guo Wancheng tell her how to achieve real communication and equality.

Photo (detail): Jason Lee © picture alliance / REUTERS Physically disabled Chen Liting and an instructor practise modern dance at a disabled persons activity center in Beijing.

Inclusion Seeing Deaf People, Hearing Their Demands

Neither top nor bottom of the class, Canada is slowly but surely moving towards accessibility for the deaf community.

Photo (Detail): Justin Tang © picture alliance / Governor General Mary Simon claps in sign language for Veronique Leduc of Montreal after she received the Meritorious Service Medal (Civil Division) at the Presentation of Canadian Honours at Rideau Hall in Ottawa on 17th September 2021.

Writing Contest Pug Noses and Powerful Spices

What does a child feel who sees no children like itself in the cinema, in books or on television? Who is far too often busy trying to overcome distances? Only in the big city does Lara Shaker see herself represented and taken care of – and she is happy that diversity has become a little more “normal” in the meantime.

Illustration: © Tobias Schrank Illustration Story für Zeitgeister

Writing Contest What a Diverse Society Needs

As of 2021, the Earth is home to 7.9 billion people. 7.9 billion people mean different cultures, numerous faith and religions, ethnicities, genders, beliefs and sexual orientations. The society that we live in is often labelled as “diverse”.  But what exactly does a diverse society consist of? 

Illustration: © Tobias Schrank Contest: Essay for Zeitgeister

Writing Contest The Diversity Within Us

When we talk about diversity in our society, we often look outwards or at what seems “foreign” and “different” to us personally. But it is worth changing our perspective from the outside to the inside and discovering that the diversity within ourselves gives us a better understanding of the diversity of the world.

Illustration: © Tobias Schrank Paintings for Zeitgeister

Writing Contest Dear Majority Society

Again and again the offensive question "Where are you really from?" Yasemin Kamisli answers the majority society - with a poem. 

© Tobias Schrank Contest: Poem for Zeitgeister

Satire Political Commentary in Words, Images and the Stroke of a Brush

The art form of the caricature has never been more visible than it is today. It was the classic drawing that dominated the scene for a long time, but this has now been joined by cartoons, memes and TV formats. This is a short history of caricature culture in Germany.

Photo (detail): © picture alliance/dieKLEINERT/Martin Erl Are the Germans simply better at laughing at themselves these days or are there just more opportunities? The fact is that caricatures, cartoons and memes have become an indispensable part of everyday life. The corona pandemic also provided and continues to provide an opportunity for satire.