Apr 28, 2022

Die Zivilisationsfrage – A conference on imperialist narratives of civilization and the possibility of social change

May 27–29, 2022

The conference takes the book The Dawn of Everything by David Graeber and David Wengrow as a starting point to radically question imperialist narratives of civilization. From May 27 to 29, activists and researchers from history, archaeology and anthropology will discuss new empirical findings and emancipatory practices.

Is there no alternative to the current social order? Or could it be that long outdated basic assumptions about the development of human society prevent us from implementing the changes that are now necessary for our survival? In their book The Dawn of Everything, David Graeber and David Wengrow outline a new human history that turns our conventional understanding of the past on its head. The authors draw on often revolutionary insights from archaeology, anthropology and the knowledge of resistance movements and connect them in novel ways. What’s at stake is nothing less than new answers to the question: What does it mean to be civilized?

Organized by Anselm Franke and Bernd Scherer together with David Wengrow and Erhard Schüttpelz.

With contributions by Christina von Braun, Mirjam Brusius, Claudine Cohen, Rana Dasgupta, Nika Dubrovsky, Forensic Architecture, Alfredo González-Ruibal, Karin Harrasser, Brian Holmes, Robin D.G. Kelley, Jamie Kelsey-Frey, Barbaro Martinez-Ruiz, Angela Melitopoulos, Dirk Moses, Johannes Müller, Robbie Richardson, Brigitte Röder, Elif Sarican, Savitri D, Alain Schnapp, Erhard Schüttpelz, Jacques Servin, Alpa Shah, Liv Nilsson Stutz, Margarita Tsomou, David Wengrow

Please send accreditation inquiries and interview requests to


Day 1 | Friday, May 27 2022

2 pm
Anselm Franke, Bernd Scherer

2.30 pm
Material Histories: Evidence Against the Standard Narrative
With presentations by Alain Schnapp, Liv Nilsson Stutz, Forensic Architecture, Johannes Müller, Alfredo González-Ruibal, Mirjam Brusius

6.30 pm
David Wengrow
Followed by a conversation with David Wengrow and Alpa Shah

9 pm
Robin D.G. Kelley, Christina von Braun, Erhard Schüttpelz

Day 2 | Saturday, May 28 2022

2 pm
Case Studies
Brian Holmes, Barbaro Martinez-Ruiz, Robbie Richardson, Elif Sarican

4.30 pm
Imperial Realism
With presentations by Rana Dasgupta, Dirk Moses
Roundtable discussion with Rana Dasgupta, Dirk Moses, Elif Sarican, David Wengrow

6.30 pm
Violence and Care: The Making of Gender in History
Roundtable discussion with Margarita Tsomou, Brigitte Röder, Claudine Cohen, Angela Melitopoulos, Karin Harrasser

Day 3 | Sunday, May 29 2022
Lower Foyer

5 pm
Fight Club
Performance with Nika Dubrovsky, Jamie Kelsey-Frey, Savitri D, Jacques Servin

More Information: hkw.de/zivilisationsfrage

More on the Book

The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity
By David Graeber and David Wengrow.
Macmillan USA, 2021, 704 pages

German: Anfänge. Eine neue Geschichte der Menschheit, Klett-Cotta, 2022

For more information, please visit the publisher's website: us.macmillan.com

Visitor Information

Current hours: Daily except Tue, 12 noon–8 pm

Wearing a (valveless) FFP2 mask is required throughout HKW. Before your visit, please go to the relevant event webpage to see information about the Covid rules in effect on the given day.

Updated information for visitors at hkw.de/visit


Part of The New Alphabet (2019–22) supported by the Minister of State for Culture and the Media due to a ruling of the German Bundestag.

In cooperation with Klett-Cotta.

Haus der Kulturen der Welt is supported by the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media and by the Federal Foreign Office.

Press Contact

Jan Trautmann
Head of Press and PR

Haus der Kulturen der Welt
John-Foster-Dulles-Allee 10
10557 Berlin
T + 49 (0) 30 39787-192