Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs

On NPR: Der Derian's Psychogeography of Berlin

November 15, 2011

Institute Professor James Der Derian was recently featured on NPR’s Berlin Journal and “Life in Berlin” series, where he discussed quantum diplomacy, German-American relations, and the “psychogeography” of Berlin. Der Derian, a research professor who focuses on global security and media studies at the Watson Institute, has been a Bosch Public Policy Fellow this semester at the American Academy in Berlin.

On NPR, Der Derian explained how he had become a commentator on a very local matter – albeit with international dimensions – soon after arriving in Berlin. In January, he published an op-ed in Berliner Zeitung on the 50th anniversary of President Dwight Eisenhower’s farewell speech, which discussed the unwarranted influence of the military-industrial complex. In the op-ed, Der Derian observed that while many streets in Berlin had been named after American presidents, including Franklin Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, and John F. Kennedy, none had been named after Eisenhower.

“Why not Ike?” he wrote. “Why no Eisenhower Strasse?”

Soon after the op-ed was published, Der Derian said, a major effort was launched to name a street in Berlin after another American president: Ronald Reagan. Supporters hoped a platz could be named after Reagan where he gave his famous 1987 “Tear down this wall!” speech, in front of the Brandenburg Gate.

The effort sparked controversy, and Der Derian said he soon found himself enmeshed in the issue, even participating in a documentary produced by a German television network on the question of whether the area should be renamed after Reagan.

Der Derian said his involvement in the issue soon led him to alter his research project in Berlin to include German-American relations and the “psychogeography” of Berlin, as well as “quantum diplomacy,” the term for the kind of local-global diplomatic entanglement in which he had found himself.

He also made a televised appearance on the subject on Deutsche Welle.

By Watson Institute Student Rapporteur Lauren Fedor ‘12