When war came back to Dresden: Connectivity as a provocation in Manaf Habouni’s Syrian War “Monument”

Authors: Kathrin Hörschelmann*, Leibniz-Institute for Regional Geography
Topics: Cultural Geography, Ethnicity and Race, Urban Geography
Keywords: art, city, war, memory, refugee, Germany
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/7/2020
Start / End Time: 11:50 AM / 1:05 PM
Room: Century, Sheraton, IM Pei Tower, Majestic Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


A week before the 2017 anniversary of the bombing of Dresden, a new sight greeted visitors to the city’s “New Market” square. Opposite the recently reconstructed Church of Our Ladies, three derelict busses had been erected, upright and side by side. Manaf Halbouni’s “Monument” to the war in Syria was placed in one of Dresden’s most symbolic and most contested sites of memory. It provoked an outcry by representatives of right-wing parties and political groups as well as by citizens who felt affronted by the equivalences that the artwork appeared to produce between the war in Syria and the suffering of people in Dresden during the WW2 bombings. For others, the art work accomplished exactly what it set out to do: to provoke debate and reflection on connections between different times and places because of shared histories of suffering.

In this paper, I take the debates on Habouni’s “Monument” as a starting point to reflect on the potential of art to prompt a diversification rather than narrowing down of public discourses in a city where memories of war are not only contested but also a potential source for developing a new politics of propinquity and connectivity (Amin 2002). Based on preliminary discursive analysis, I ask how “dissensus” prompted by art (Rancière 2010) can feed into such a politics of propinquity and connectivity against the odds.

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