‘These streets lose themselves in infinity … a countless human crowd moves in them, constantly new people with unknown aims that intersect like the linear maze of a pattern sheet.’
Siegfried Kracauer on Berlin, ‘Screams on the Street’ (1930)
Dislocating the Arab future from the grip of the political bankruptcy and moral morass in the Arab world might appear remote and relegated to the domain of quixotic dreams. But does it need to be that way? As communities are unsettled, resistances triggered, a chorus of voices fired up, waves of bodies set in motion for justice, and a range of emotions roused even when they no longer have an appetite, can the continued onslaught on reality not also reinvigorate political thought? The procession of dislocation that materialised in 2011 has been viciously derailed since. Now, to coherently embark upon a regenerated starting point in this long journey of political redemption, a ‘we’ is required that feeds from new political ideas, collective practices and compelling narratives that are currently re-constructed and brought to life in a distantly safe city.
Berlin is where the newly-arrived Arab suddenly (but not always) recognises that the frightful habit of glancing over the shoulder – painfully inherited from back home – gradually recedes. All the while, a new dawn slowly sets in among the meeting of peers in this new city. As such, Berlin is not just a city. It is a political laboratory that enforces a new type of beginning, one that turns heads in the direction of matters greater than the individual; and it generates a realisation that the grey blur that nauseatingly blankets the future can actually be broken up.
Following the 2011 Arab uprisings and its innumerable tragic outcomes, Berlin was strategically and politically ripe to emerge as an exile capital. For some time now, there has been a growing and conscious Arab intellectual community, the political dimensions of which to fully crystalise is what I wish to explore.