Sep 19–25, 2007

Transatlantic Dialogues

Lectures and Discussions

A joint event of the House of World Cultures, the Federal Agency for Civic Education (Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung) and the American Academy

In 1989 the House of World Cultures moved into the Congress Hall. A gift to Berlin from the United States, this building on the banks of the Spree River expressed the spirit of the modern age in the postwar West. The 50th anniversary of its dedication, on 19th September 2007, gives pause to consider the future of the German-American relationship in the context of unfolding global cultural developments. On this occasion Federal Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier will open the Transatlantic Dialogues, which will feature a series of one-to-one talks between noteworthy figures who will explore political and economic issues as well as systems of rights and values in a European-American discourse.

The history of the Congress Hall reflects the greater historical change to which the German-American relationship has also been subject. During the Cold War the Congress Hall was a beacon of the ideas of a liberal democracy. With the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the founding of the Haus der Kulturen der Welt, it became a forum for the cultural production of the "Third World". Today the advance of globalisation poses a serious challenge to nation-state-based transatlantic ties as well as to the centre-periphery model of global relationships. New political-economic and cultural geographies are drawing the former periphery increasingly to the centre; alongside modern Western culture and thought, a multitude of other modern currents are demanding ever greater attention.

With the second Iraq war, dissonances arose in German-American relations that could be traced in part to differing understandings of notions such as freedom. "The House of World Cultures is committed to conveying value systems and translating between them," says HKW director Bernd Scherer. "And so it should come as no surprise that on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Congress Hall we embrace the inheritance of the German-American friendship of the postwar era: the spirit of mutual recognition and of the creative exchange of ideas and experience."

The Transatlantic Dialogues are meant to foster a discriminating view of the respective value systems of the USA and Germany, against the background of the two countries' different historical experience and taking into account the changes in transatlantic relations. Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier will launch the lecture and discussion series with a talk on "The Politics of Transatlantic Relations". Lectures by Bruce Ackerman, constitutional law expert at Yale Law School, and Justice Gertrude Lübbe-Wolff of Germany's Federal Constitutional Court will provide a transatlantic perspective on systems of rights and values . Daniel Hamilton, foreign policy expert, and historian Dan Diner, professor at the universities of Leipzig and Jerusalem will examine the critique of the transatlantic dialogue . Economics and religion will be among the subjects treated in the German-American one-to-one discussions.