Berlin in Transit(ion)
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This study establishes how rail transportation systems and their filmic and literary representations form and inform culture and identity, particularly in the new German capital and by extension its new Berlin Republic. Where, how, and by whom mobility is practiced influences the city and vice versa. Historically, Berlin’s U-Bahn and S-Bahn system, have mirrored physical and emotional changes in the urban landscape. They have also been an important platform for the exchange of cultural information through networks of shared knowledge among Berlin’s diverse groups of citizens. This situation continues into today. Both studies about urban rail transport and more traditional cultural texts suggest the communicative possibilities of such public mobility infrastructure. Interactions that occur on the Bahn system can engender possibilities for a new nation based on a multicultural society and constitutional patriotism, rather than one based on blood-and-soil type ideologies. Theoretical and fictional work also suggests that public rail transport is a litmus test, registering, for instance, the significant tensions of unification including increasing economic disparity and a resurgence of racialized violence. Cultural texts in particular sketch a mass exodus of citizens from the Bahn system and depict an increase of privately owned vehicles and bicycles being used to access the city. How does the figurative and perhaps real world removal of these travelers from the culture-building dialogues that occur on Berlin’s rail transportation signify for the future? Cultural representations of the Bahns provide unique perspectives into the past, the present, and the prospective future of Berlin. As ciphers, they participate in the rich cultural code of Berlin, a city between worlds and central to German national identity.