Architectures of Colonialism Constructed Histories, Conflicting Memories

International Online Conference, 16 to 19 June 2021 BTU Cottbus-Senftenberg

19 June 2021 12:40 Keynote Lecture

De-Subjectivizing Colonial Prisoners of War: The Wünsdorf Camp near Berlin, 1915–1918

Reinhard Bernbeck (FU Berlin)

In this paper, I discuss the political abuse of colonial prisoners of war for imperialist goals in World War I. The explicit aim of the treatment of Muslim PoWs from French and British colonies, as well as from Tsarist Russia, was to turn prisoners into jihadists to fight against their colonial overlords. An examination of the means to do so reveals a whole program that I call “privileged abuse”. I discuss this program by referring to the camp’s architecture and photographs as a means of propaganda and anthropological “research” practices as contributing to a racist de-subjectivation of the prisoners. Finally, I will briefly trace the subsequent history of the camp’s location and some of its material remains.

Reinhard Bernbeck teaches Western Asian archaeology at the Freie Universität Berlin. He previously taught at Bryn Mawr College and Binghamton University before returning to Germany. He is co-editor of Ideologies in Archaeology (with Randall H. McGuire, 2011) and Subjects and Narratives in Archaeology (with Ruth van Dyke, 2015). He has conducted excavations in Iran, Turkmenistan, Turkey, Jordan and Germany. His interests include past political economies and the archaeology of the 20th century in Germany.