Andrew Brandel, “Moving Words: Literature, Memory, and Migration in Berlin” (U Toronto Press, 2023)

In the decades since the fall of the Berlin Wall, Berlin has re-emerged as a global city in large part thanks to its reputation as a literary city – a place where artists from around the world gather and can make a life. Moving Words: Literature, Memory, and Migration in Berlin (U Toronto Press, 2023) foregrounds the many contexts in which life in the city of Berlin is made literary – from old neighborhood bookshops to new reading circles, NGOs working to secure asylum for writers living in exile to specialized workshops for young migrant poets. Highlighting the differences, tensions, and contradictions of these scenes, this book reveals how literature can be both a site of domination and a resource for resisting and transforming those conditions. By attending to the everyday lives of writers, readers, booksellers, and translators, it offers a crucial new vantage point on the politics of difference in contemporary Europe, at a moment marked by historical violence, resurgent nationalism, and the fraught politics of migration.

Rooted in ethnographic fieldwork, rich historical archives, and literary analysis, Moving Words examines the different claims people make on and for literature as it carries them through the city on irregular and intersecting paths. Along the way, Brandel offers a new approach to the ethnography of literature that aims to think anthropologically about crossings in time and in space, where literature provides a footing in a world constituted by a multiplicity of real possibilities.

Andrew Brandel is an Associate Instructional Professor of the Social Sciences at the University of Chicago. 

Alize Arıcan is a Society of Fellows Postdoctoral Scholar at Boston University and an incoming Assistant Professor of Anthropology at CUNY—City College, focusing on urban renewal, futurity, care, and migration. You can find her on Twitter @alizearican.

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