Memorial jurisprudence: public art as peripatetic restitution in the neighbourhoods of Berlin

Stream: Panel 58 - Political Theory: Politics of Memory, Mourning and Repair 
Date: Tuesday, 27 September 2016
Time: 4.00 pm – 5.30 pm


The creation of public art memorials can be a gesture of restitution, an attempt to take responsibility for events in the past. In this paper I look two examples of what it means to attempt restitution after the Holocaust on a neighbourhood level in Berlin: the public art installation commissioned by the municipality of Schöneberg and created by artists Stih + Schnock (Orte des Errinerns) and the other by an individual, initially illegally but now sanctioned, the Stolpersteine by Gunter Demnig. I am interested in the form of these memorials – the way they are rhetorically and materially put together. The Stolpersteine function as a return of people’s names and fates to their last known address, a recognition of their last place in the neighbourhood. In Schöneberg, the memorial works as a simulation, a process of making visible legal texts from the time of Nazi Germany. Further, I describe these memorials as fragmented and incomplete: they carry within them the spectre of someone that ‘walks’. I posit that walking through these neighbourhoods in Berlin is set up to be a restitutive practice, a tracing of visible and invisible paths of jurisprudential affect.


Laura Petersen (Presenter), University of Melbourne
Laura Petersen is a PhD candidate in the Institute for International Law and Humanities in the Melbourne Law School. Her PhD project combines her research background in law, German studies and aesthetics to examine forms and techniques of restitution and justice in post-Holocaust Germany. Before returning to Melbourne, Laura completed a MA at the Freie Universität Berlin.