Document Type

Honors Project

Publication Date



The Humboldt Forum, a reconstructed Prussian palace, is uniquely entangled in the ongoing debates around Germany’s relationship with its colonial past. As early as 2007, NGOs such as “NoHumboldt21!” formed to protest the palace, which would house the state’s ethnography collection, entailing an estimated 500,000 stolen artifacts. Upon opening in 2020, the Forum had come to embody the controversy surrounding its construction. Words adorned the façade of the building contrasting enlightenment ideals with colonial exploitation and a permanent exhibition—“Berlin Global”—sought to address the nation’s colonial past.

The Humboldt Forum can thus be conceptualized as a reactive object, one that resituates critique from engaged postcolonial activist groups in an institutional context, therefore synthesizing societal discourses on Germany’s relationship with colonialism. Given the Humboldt Forum’s embodiment of current societal discourses on colonialism, my research project asks: How does imagery in the Humboldt Forum’s “Berlin Global” exhibition integrate colonial atrocity into Germany’s historical narrative? Because historical narratives serve constitute their subjects’ understanding of self in a linear temporal order, my project therefore also asks: What effects does this narrative have on the German nation’s modern identity? Which trajectories does this narrative imply for the Republic? Which futures are enabled or precluded?

Level of Honors

summa cum laude




Alison Guenther-Pal