A Wall of Our Own

An American History of the Berlin Wall

By Paul M. Farber

264 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 40 halftones, notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-5508-6
    Published: March 2020
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-5507-9
    Published: March 2020
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-1-4696-5509-3
    Published: February 2020
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-4858-1
    Published: February 2020

Studies in United States Culture

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The Berlin Wall is arguably the most prominent symbol of the Cold War era. Its construction in 1961 and its dismantling in 1989 are broadly understood as pivotal moments in the history of the last century. In A Wall of Our Own, Paul M. Farber traces the Berlin Wall as a site of pilgrimage for American artists, writers, and activists. During the Cold War and in the shadow of the Wall, figures such as Leonard Freed, Angela Davis, Shinkichi Tajiri, and Audre Lorde weighed the possibilities and limits of American democracy. All were sparked by their first encounters with the Wall, incorporated their reflections in books and artworks directed toward the geopolitics of division in the United States, and considered divided Germany as a site of intersection between art and activism over the respective courses of their careers. Departing from the well-known stories of Americans seeking post–World War II Paris for their own self-imposed exile or traveling the open road of the domestic interstate highway system, Farber reveals the divided city of Berlin as another destination for Americans seeking a critical distance. By analyzing the experiences and cultural creations of "American Berliner" artists and activists, Farber offers a new way to view not only the Wall itself but also how the Cold War still structures our thinking about freedom, repression, and artistic resistance on a global scale.

About the Author

Paul M. Farber is the artistic director of Monument Lab and a senior research scholar at the Center for Public Art and Space at the University of Pennsylvania.
For more information about Paul M. Farber, visit the Author Page.


"More than just a Cold War travelogue shadowing the times spent by legendary American cultural figures Leonard Freed, Angela Davis, Shinkichi Tajiri, and Audre Lorde in Berlin during the second half of the twentieth century, the book interweaves history with critical visual analyses to draw comparisons and contrasts across national borders."—ARTMargins

"Intelligently conceived, rigorously researched, and highly insightful, A Wall of Our Own makes a unique and exciting contribution to cultural studies of the United States in the world, U.S. cultural history more generally, and the history of race and gender in the United States."—Melani McAlister, George Washington University

“Paul Farber’s A Wall of Our Own brilliantly draws together the history of leftist politics, internationalism, and the Cold War to make clear the way a robust community of intellectuals understood the essential role of cultural politics in social transformation. This book is both a social history and a theoretical marvel. Farber’s critical dexterity, intellectual rigor, and imagination are exemplary and exciting.”—Imani Perry, author of May We Forever Stand: A History of the Black National Anthem

"This is a work of history the way it should be written: thorough, brilliant analysis coupled with an extraordinary account of extraordinary people and their works in an extraordinary period of time. Highly recommended for everyone with an interest in history, especially the Cold War, and its artistic legacies."--Axel Klausmeier, Director, Berlin Wall Foundation