Research, Exchange and Visions
The International Walter Benjamin Gesellschaft is dedicated to studying and supporting
the creative and visionary potential of Walter Benjamin’s works, as well
as his unique perspective on the development of modern thought.
We would like to invite you to make a commitment to critical thought processes,
as we investigate the works of the philosopher and literary critic
We provide information about institutions, societies, associations, foundations,
projects, events and research materials.
We would like to foster international communication by providing a forum for expressing
You will find texts about the life and works of Walter Benjamin.
You also have the opportunity to publish. Your publications are then accessible
to an international audience.
We are dependent upon your support, in order to continue developing and expanding
We are grateful for any texts, reviews, or features about institutions and initiatives,
as well as for tips concerning upcoming events related to Walter Benjamin and
Walter Benjamins 'Treue' – true to Walter Benjamin?
International Conference of the International Walter Benjamin Association
and the Internationale Walter Benjamin Gesellschaft
in Antwerp from 14. to 17. September 2009
The afterlife of Benjamin’s writings is remarkable. His texts have kept their
relevance even after the heated controversies about their meaning and ideological
position have subsided. At this point it seems fair to ask whether the question of
how to do justice to Benjamin is still, in some form, alive. Or has the time now
come to describe the polarizing forces of his texts in terms of the divergent orientations
resulting from them in previous decades? “Fidelity” – Treue - is undoubtedly an
over-weighty and uncanny „German“ word, but that is precisely why it captures the
paradoxes inherent in the process of transmitting a thought that resists being turned
into a tradition. These paradoxes have given rise to indeterminacies that often
preclude a clear distinction between fidelity and betrayal.
Benjamin was as familiar with the dialectics of these processes of transmission and
reception as he was with the ironies of fidelity. His theory of criticism as well as his
critical practice both hinge on the paradoxical impetus of preserving in order to destroy
and vice versa. Benjamin remained true to his topics, his intellectual orientation and
even his formulations while integrating them each time anew into the changing constellations
of his thinking. His fidelity of literalness in translation, the „faithfulness to things
that have crossed our lives – an afternoon, a tree, patches of sun on the wallpaper“ –
his practice of collecting and preserving, but also his habit of contemplation and
attentiveness and its „hopeless fidelity to creaturely life” (hoffnungslosen Treue zum
Kreatürlichen) characterize his theoretical attitude no less than construction, destruction
Given the continuing interest in Benjamin und the ever greater differentiation of the research
on his work, his faithfulness to the material at hand is as worthy of scholarly attention as
it is imperative to reflect on the relation one entertains to one’s own readings of his work.
Does the priority today lie in preserving or popularizing Benjamin’s texts? Should one carry
his thinking further, historicize it or project it onto the present and “apply” it? Exploring
Benjamin’s fidelity and the fidelity to Benjamin implies more than the mere objective search
for \the „appropriate“ reading of his work. It challenges the very emplacement and presence
of the reader and forces one to reflect on the unique attraction and resistance of one’s own
position towards Benjamin.
The sections are:
Section 1: Legends of Benjamin (Detlev Schöttker)
Section 2: Materiality of Writing (Davide Giuriato)
Section 3: Faithful to Baroque (Jane Newman)
Section 4: Knowlegde of Art (Sabine Flach)
Section 5: True to the Last Letter (Bettine Menke)
Section 6: Treacherous Faithfulness to Citation (Gerhard Richter)
Section 7 : Legacy and Writing (Burhardt Lindner)
Section 8 : Fidelity, Politics and Fetishism (Jeanne Marie Gagnebin)
Section9 : Popular Benjamin (Justus Fetscher)
Section 10 : Correspondences (Momme Brodersen)
Section11 : Perfidious History (Paul North)
Section 12 : Translations and Transformations (Karl Solibakke)
Section 13 : Religion, Theology and Commemeoration (Vivian Liska, Daniel Weidner)
For a detailed description see: http://benjamin-association.de/german/tagung.htm#english%20version
International Conference "Benjamin’s Frontiers" in Davis CA from 12 to 14 November 2008
conducted by a consortium comprised of the University of California at Davis, the Heinrich Heine Universität
Düsseldorf, the Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie, the Institute for
Jewish Studies at the University of Antwerp and the Goethe Institute (Los
1. Benjamin Beyond Europe
Although Benjamin is considered to be a Eurocentric author, who resisted leaving
the continent until it was too late, he has become a global figure with an international
following. The conference intends to investigate Benjamin’s influence outside of Europe.
Above all, we expect to explore and document the response to the author’s works in
North and South America as well as in the Asian-Pacific area.
2. Transcriptions: Benjamin, the Media and Visual Culture
Since the 1970s Benjamin’s legacy has provided significant impulses for the development
of media theory and the history of new media. While his views on the written word and
literature form the central axis of his theoretical models, he also provides valuable
perspectives on the development of the media and the implications they have for a
global network. These perspectives should be reconsidered with regard to their
relevance for media theory in the 21st century.
Similarly, Benjamin’s writings have been a source of inspiration for the visual
arts during the latter third of the 20th century. The importance of his aesthetics
of images and the significance his theoretical approach has for the visual arts
assume a central role in the conference agenda.
3. Transforming the Present, Models for the 21st Century
The response to Benjamin’s works is often characterized by a number of divergent
and contradictory paradigms: Benjamin … the Marxist, the Jewish mystic,
the philosopher of language, the media theoretician, etc. The issues to be addressed
here involve the frontiers of intellectual thought that can be traced back to Benjamin’s
works and that confirm his influence on global cultural models at the outset of the 21st
Conference agenda Davis
For further information see the homepage from the University of California, Davis
Who killed Walter Benjamin... David Mauas' documentary film about the last hours in the life of
In September 1940, after seven years of exile, Walter Benjamin crosses the
Pyrenees in a desperate attempt to escape the Nazis.
According to the official version, Walter Benjamin did make it across the
French-Spanish border successfully. But when he arrived in the Catalan town of Portbou,
a sudden change in legislation impeded his entry into Spain and he was obliged to spend
the night at a local hotel under the close vigilance of three guards, whose orders were to
deport him the following morning.
In utter despair, Benjamin took his own life, swallowing
and overdose of morphine. The local doctor, however, declared it a natural death and Benjamin
was given a Catholic burial in the municipal cemetery, under a wrong name.
Did the doctor conceal some hidden cause of Benjamin’s death? Was there really a
change of legislation? Was Walter Benjamin aware that Portbou was a pro-Franco town
virtually occupied by the Nazis?
WHO KILLED WALTER BENJAMIN… reaches for answers among the
suspicious circumstances of his death. Giving at the same time, a portrait
of a frontier town anchored between two fronts, constant witness of evasion,
persecution and false hopes.