Course Description

The Berlin Internship Seminar accompanies third-year students’ undertaking of an internship or period of practical training. The seminar offers a range of theoretical and analytical tools for thinking critically about how and why we work, and how work affects our daily lives and the places where we live. Over the course of the seminar, we will talk about contemporary ways of working and living in Berlin and beyond, asking: What do we mean when we talk about work? Do we need to love what we do? What renders work in/visible? How is work gendered and classed? How is work organized temporally and spatially, and how does that, in turn, affect a city and its residents? What distinguishes the spaces where we live and work today? Which new forms of work have emerged in Berlin recently? Which of them seem to thrive? What is the future of work?

One of the major issues we will tackle in class is the very phenomenon of unpaid internships and what it means for you to be working for free. We will address this question by discussing the precariat, creative industry, and affective labor. Drawing from Kathi Weeks’ work, we will consider what the problem with work actually is, and why we tend to define and value ourselves through what we do professionally. We will dissect Steve Jobs’ mantra (“Do what you love”), and discuss how work and love are interwoven. We will approach contemporary working cultures from an intersectional perspective, remaining sensitive to the workings of inequalities in structural, hegemonic, and interpersonal domains.

Besides in-class discussions, invited lectures, and off-campus visits, the seminar offers a platform for the regular exchange of observations, reflections, and comments on students’ internships. The assigned readings, too, will be discussed in class in the context of students’ internships. Students are required to keep an internship journal and provide regular updates on the progress of their internship.




Your preparation, attendance, and participation are crucial. Please complete the required readings, be on time for each class, and contribute energetically and meaningfully to the discussions. A class participation mark will be awarded on the basis of your engagement in class discussions. As this seminar convenes only once a week, only one absence will be excused. Missing more than one class will affect your participation grade for this class. Please consult the Student Handbook for BCB’s policy on absences. This mark makes up 30% of the final grade.

A course reader is required for this class, but keep in mind that some of the readings we will be discussing are not included. Though all the texts you will be required to read are included in the syllabus (and listed on the course website), the highly topical nature of this course means that we will also be sending around up-to-date articles, essays, and videos to enrich our discussions. Students are encouraged to do the same.


Writing Assignments

Students are required to write two 1,000-page papers and one blog post. Please see below for more details including deadlines. Both papers are to be submitted to the course instructor by email. The blog entries are to be posted on the course website.


Internship Course Website

The website accompanying this seminar features the syllabus, online readings, some additional materials on the seminar’s main subjects, as well as blog posts created by students. Students are encouraged to comment on each other’s blog posts and upload images to the website gallery (this will also be considered when determining their participation grade). The website facilitates students’ exchange of reflections on their internships and the assigned readings beyond the classroom.


Internship Journal

Students are required to keep an internship journal in which they regularly (at least once a week) reflect on their work experiences. The journal should be kept in electronic form on Google docs and shared with the seminar instructor. The goal of this journal is twofold: not only does it provide students with important material with which to reflect back on their internship experience when they are writing their final papers, but it also provides a discreet way for the instructors to make sure the internships are going well (or step in should issues arise). For more details (and examples) see the Internship Journal Handout.


Policy on Late Submission of Papers

Essays that are up to 24 hours late will be downgraded one full grade (from B+ to C+, for example). Instructors are not obliged to accept essays that are more than 24 hours late. If we agree to accept a late essay, it must be submitted within four weeks of the deadline and cannot receive a grade higher than a C. Thereafter, the student will receive a failing grade for the assignment.


Grade Breakdown and Deadlines

Class participation: 30%

Assignment 1 (blog post): 15% // 17 September 2017

Assignment 2 (midterm paper): 25% // 20 October 2017

Assignment 3 (final paper): 30% // 20 December 2017



Class 1: September 6, 2017 – Your Internship: Practicalities & Expectations

This class will address the practicalities of commencing your respective internships. We will go over the internship documents for the semester: the “Internship Guidelines,” your “Internship Agreement,” and the “Internship Time Sheet.” This class addresses the course content, pedagogical goals, and grading requirements too. You will also be introduced to the website accompanying this class, as well as the internship journal. No readings are required for this session.


Class 2: September 13, 2017 – The Elephant in the Room: The (Many) Problems with Unpaid Internships

GUEST LECTURE BY MADELEINE SCHWARTZ (New York Review of Books/Robert Bosch Stiftung Fellow)

ASSIGNMENT 1 (15% of final grade)

What did you know about Berlin before coming here? What were your associations? What do you know about Berlin now? What makes Berlin ‘the place to be,’ as one of its marketing slogans claims? How can what you now know about the city be related to the two assigned texts? Give it a title and add at least one image/video (a photo you took, a drawing, a short clip from YouTube, etc.) to illustrate your piece. Post it to the course website by midnight September 17 latest. 500 words.


Class 3, September 20, 2017 – An Introduction to Berlin (It’s Not All About Sex)


Class 4, September 27, 2017 – The Problem with Work

  • Kathi Weeks, The Problem with Work: Feminism, Marxism, Antiwork Politics, and Postwork Imaginaries. Excerpts.
  • Miya Tokumitsu, “In the Name of Love,” The Jacobin 2014.


Class 5, October 4, 2017 – Work, Class, Precarization

  • Guy Standing, The Precariat: The New Dangerous Class (2011). Excerpts.
  • Isabel Lorey, State of Insecurity. Introduction + Ch1.


Class 6, October 11, 2017 – Creative Labor, Creative Class

  • Richard Florida, “Cities and the Creative Class,” City and Community 1 (2003): 3-19.

ASSIGNMENT 2 (25% final grade)

Write a short essay in response to two readings we have discussed in class. The purpose of this paper is not to summarize the readings, instead it should engage with the readings and take positions in support of, or against, the points of view their authors express. Where possible, these responses should draw on your internship or work experiences and use these to shed light on the reading materials. It is entirely up to you which class readings you would like to respond to. Each response should be 1,000 words, double-spaced in Times New Roman, size 12, and emailed to your professor by midnight October 20, 2017.


Class 7, October 18, 2017 Making a Living in Creative Industries – GUEST LECTURE (tbc)

Angela McRobbie, Be Creative: Making a Living in the New Culture Industries. 33-59, 70-86.


Class 8, October 25, 2017 – Affective Labor

  • Arlie Russell Hochschild, The Managed Heart (1983). Chapter 1.
  • Angela McRobbie’s Be Creative: Making a Living in the New Culture Industries. 103-114.

*** FALL BREAK ***


Class 9, November 8, 2017 – Space Invaders

  • Nirmal Puwar. Space Invaders. Intro + Chapter 3.
  • Sara Ahmed. Living a Feminist Life. Chapter 5.

HOMEWORK 1: Watch Office Space (dir. Mike Judge), 1999.


Class 10, November 15, 2017 – The Office

  • Nikil Saval, Cubed: A Secret History of the Workplace. 278-311.


Class 11, November 22, 2017 – Startups

  • Excerpts from Start Up Berlin. 14-21, 52-55, 102-103, 119-131.
  • Doree Shafrir, Start Up. Prologue, Chapter 1, Chapter 7.


Read Holm’s chapter and the two shorter articles assigned for Class 13, note down comments and questions, then go for a walk or take the tram and explore a Berlin neighborhood or street. Take pictures of what you think are signs of gentrification. Choose one of the pictures and post it on our course website. Make sure to include the location where the photo was taken. The deadline for this post is midnight December 3.


Class 12 – Visit to a co-working place (DATE TBA)


Class 13, December 6, 2017 – Gentrification: Who owns Berlin?

  • Andrej Holm, “Berlin’s Gentrification Mainstream” (2013).
  • Rebecca Solnit, “Get Off the Bus,” London Review of Books, 20 February 2014.


Class 14, December 13, 2017 – Work and/in the Future

  • David Frayne, The Refusal of Work, Chapter 8.
  • Nick Srnicek & Alex Williams, Inventing the Future. Postcapitalism and a World Without Work. 2016. Excerpts.

ASSIGNMENT 3 (30% of final grade)

Go through your internship journal, your reader, and the course website in preparation for your final paper. Write a 1,000-word essay reflecting on your internship experience. Make sure to refer to at least two readings we have covered during the semester. Interdisciplinary and creative approaches and methodologies are encouraged. Deadline for submission of the final essay is midnight December 20, 2017.





*The schedule is subject to change. You will be informed about any changes via email. Please always update your calendar accordingly.