21st Karlsruhe Dialogues - Speakers

Pluralism in Urban Society: Illusions, Realities, Conflicts


Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Kaschuba


© Mathias Heyde
Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Kaschuba is director of the Berlin Institute for Integration and Migration Research (BIM), member of the Executive Committee of the German Commission for UNESCO and of its Committee of Experts for Intangible Cultural Heritage. From 1994-2015, he was professor for European Ethnology at the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin and executive director of the Institute for European Ethnology; from 2011-2013 Kaschuba served as executive director of the Georg-Simmel Center for Metropolitan Studies. His research, essays, and books focus on European history of the nation state, ethnic belonging, and politics of history, as well as on global developments of metropolitan areas, mobility, and migration in the present. He is member of various scientific boards for journals such as “Geschichte und Gesellschaft” in Germany, “L´Homme” in France, or “Folklore Studies” in China. His publications include: Die Überwindung der Distanz. Zeit und Raum in der Europäischen Moderne (2004), Urban Spaces after Socialism. Ethnographies of Public Spaces in Eurasian Cities (2011), and Einführung in die Europäische Ethnologie (ed., 2012).



1. In your opinion, which “enemies” pose the greatest threat to pluralistic societies?

Without going into details about the broad spectrum of organised and ‘activist’ enemies, from the Islamists to the right-wing populists: all those who are unwilling to negotiate about the different social experiences and needs of others as they would about their own; thus, those who want to live in simple-mindedness and disagreement instead of in diversity and openness.


2. Public trust in elites and the media has been declining in recent years. What do you think can be done in order to restore this trust?

Trust can only be restored if the political and economic elite considers itself committed to a social ethos that calls for public spirit instead of self-interest, openness instead of isolation, and investment instead of speculation – we are thus obviously speaking of a utopia…


3. In pluralistic societies, how can awareness of the advantages of freedom – and the appreciation thereof – be raised, in particular when it comes to those who lack experiences with unfreedom?

PEGIDA, Trump, and Erdoğan are currently making sure that we will become much more aware of the significance of social freedom. The words of good old Goethe thus ring true once more: “Travelling broadens one’s mind!” In any case, it does so for those who make it to Dresden, Washington, or Istanbul.