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Literati is pleased to welcome Julia Sonnevend in support of her book Stories without Borders: The Berlin Wall and the Making of a Global Iconic Event. Julia will be joined in conversation by Professor William Uricchio. This event is cosponsored by the Global Media Studies Initiative in the Department of Communication Studies and the Sheldon Cohn Fund in the Department of Screen Arts & Cultures at the University of Michigan
What comes to be known and seen as a global iconic event? Focusing on news coverage of the fall of the Berlin Wall and on contemporary retellings of the event, Julia Sonnevend discusses how storytellers build up certain events so that people remember them for a long time. The East German border opening that we know as the "fall of the Berlin Wall" was in fact unintentional, confusing, and prompted in part by misleading media coverage of bureaucratic missteps. But its global message is not about luck or accident or happenstance in history. Incarnated as a global iconic event, the fall of the Berlin Wall has come to communicate the momentary power that ordinary people can have. The event's story, branded as a simple phrase, a short narrative and a recognizable visual scene, provides people from China to Israel to the United States with a powerful social myth. This myth shapes our debates about separation walls and fences, borders, and refugees, and the possibilities of human freedom to this day.
Julia Sonnevend is Assistant Professor of Communication Studies at the University of Michigan. She was a Lady Davis Fellow at the Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace in Israel in 2014 and a Leibniz Fellow at the Center for Contemporary History in Germany in 2015. She is co-editor of Education and Social Media: Toward a Digital Future (forthcoming with MIT Press in 2016). She is author and co-author of articles published in journals including Journalism Studies, Columbia Journalism Review and The New Everyday. Her work also appears in edited collections including Digital Keywords: A Vocabulary of Information Society and Culture (Ed. Benjamin Peters, Princeton University Press, forthcoming in 2016), Iconic Power: Materiality and Meaning in Social Life (Eds. Jeffrey C. Alexander et al, Palgrave Macmillan, 2012) and Theorizing Visual Studies: Writing Through the Discipline (Eds. James Elkins et al, Routledge, 2012). She received her Ph.D. in Communications from Columbia University, her Master of Laws degree from Yale Law School and her Juris Doctorate and Master of Arts degrees in German Studies and Aesthetics from Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest.
William Uricchio revisits the histories of old media when they were new; explores interactive and participatory documentary; writes about the past and future of television; thinks a lot about algorithms and archives; and researches cultural identities and the question of "Americanization" in the 20th and 21st centuries. He is Professor of Comparative Media Studies at MIT, Principal Investigator of the MIT Open Documentary Lab, and faculty director of the MISTI-Netherlands Program. He is also Professor of Comparative Media History at Utrecht University in the Netherlands and has held visiting professorships at the Freie Universität Berlin, Stockholm University, the Georg-August-Universität Göttingen (Lichtenberg-Kolleg), China University of Science and Technology, and in Denmark where he was DREAM professor. He has been awarded Guggenheim, Humboldt and Fulbright fellowships and the Berlin Prize; and is currently Holtzbrinck Fellow at the American Academy in Berlin. His publications include Reframing Culture (Princeton); We Europeans? Media, Representations, Identities (Chicago/Intellect); Media Cultures (Heidelberg); hundreds of essays and book chapters … and, timed to coincide with the Batman-Superman big screen face-off, a forthcoming collection entitled Many More Lives of the Batman (BFI/Palgrave). He is currently completing a book on new forms of documentary; and another on games and playing with history and historiography after post-structuralism.