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Queer Berlin

Queer Berlin - ROLF J COEBEL University ofAlabama in...

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ROLF J. COEBEL University of Alabama in Huntsville Queer Berlin: Lifestyles, Performances, and Capitalist Consumer Society^ I "Ich bin schwul und das ist auch gut so!" When Berlin's Governing Mayor Klaus Wowereit used this memorable phrase during his election campaign to out himself, it seemed that being gay and being a prominent public figure was not only quite compatible but added an intriguing gender aspect to the capi- tal's aggressive self-promotion as a dynamic space for innovative self-inven- tion. In his introductory essay to the collection Die bewegte Stadt, Thomas Kruger, who was a member of the first freely elected GDR Volkskammer and later active in SPD cultural politics, describes Berlin at the end of the 1990s as a "Stadt der Unentschiedenheit," where the social elites of both former part- cities are undergoing rapid delegitimation and aging. Ghetto formation and social tensions are increasing while processes of suppressing harsh realities are beginning. Thus, melancholic and retrogressive attitudes are still dominant in the city. At the same time, however, after reunification many newcomers have appreciated the city as a tabula rasa for their own lifestyles and as a projection screen for new biographies and ideas, creating a professional and international culture of communication: "Berlin bietet in den Neunzigern als schnelles, vielfaltiges und dynamisches Ideen-Labor beste Voraussetzungen fur die individuelle Inszenierung voUig unterschiedlicher und differierender Lebens- stile." Explaining that the diversity of activities is particularly strong in the economic and cultural spheres, Kruger continues: "Das Experiment, das Spontane und Unkonventionelle, das Schrage und Wilde, kurz: das Indivi- duelle ist gefragt" ("Die bewegte Stadt" 22). The author's language, vague and coolly assertive at the same time, seeks to capture the ambiguous and free-wheeling atmosphere of a pluralistic capital in transition that must con- tinually negotiate its path, from the divided city with a ruinous past to its aspiring role as a metropolitan center, actively participating in late capitalist consumer society, cosmopolitan culture, and the global economy. Among the various lifestyles portrayed in Die bewegte Stadt we find Elmar Kraushaar's portrait of Oliver, who escapes from his provincial origins, lands a job in a large advertisement agency and finds himself a stable boyfriend. His The German Quarterly 79.4 (FaU 2006) 484
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GOEBEL: Queer Berlin 485 easygoing lifestyle which features shopping sprees around Kurfurstendamm is suddenly endangered when he is accosted by three young Turkish thugs in the subway. In response to the homophobic assault, Oliver defiantly decides that he wants to stay on in Berlin despite Turks and neo-Nazis, sublimating his anger by focusing on stereotypical aspects of a hedonistic gay consumer culture: "Er fuhlt sich wohl und stellt keine Diagnose. Er ist dabei, sich neu zu entwerfen und will nichts aus der Hand geben. Kein Zufall soil mehr da-
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Queer Berlin - ROLF J COEBEL University ofAlabama in...

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