Re-defining the meaning of place: a discourse analysis of the Hauptstadtdebatte
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Since the reunification Germany has been closely connected to Berlin as its capital and also one of the main representative symbols of the state. However, it became the capital of the reunited Germany only after a 12-hour-long debate at the German Bundestag on June 20, 1991. Only couple of days ago in unofficial pools Bonn was leading, which meant that the arguments expressed at the debate were of the highest importance for the deputies as legislators and the representatives of the German people. In this regard this thesis analyzes the Hauptstadtdebatte as a case study chosen to present how meanings could be attached to places and interpreted in relation to the particular purpose, which in this case was the reunification process where the debate symbolized a turning point in the way how Germany and Germans perceived themselves and their country. Thus, this thesis argues that people create place out of space and attach meanings to this place by observing and interpreting signs that this environment has. In this context the aim of this study is to explore, what meaning did Berlin and Bonn obtain at the debate and whether it has changed in the course of time. The author has tried to answer to this question by interpreting the topic from the perspective of urban semiotics as a theory focusing on the semiotic meaning in the urban forms and its interpretation through signs. Accordingly, Berlin and Bonn are perceived as signs that represent Germany and, at the same time, they are also sign systems for people who perceive both cities as unique environments connected to particular habits and experiences exercised there. The discourse analysis of the debate focuses on three interrelated narratives that will present what meaning both cities had from the past, what meaning did the deputies at the debate attach to them and, eventually, through looking at secondary sources from printed media the author provides a temporal perspective on presenting whether and how this meaning has changed in the course of time. Eventually, This thesis manages to verify the hypothesis and argues that the meaning attached to both cities at the debate was constructed as a narrative about the anticipated future development of Germany in relation to both cities as signs for it and, thus, deriving from the meaning that they already had. Furthermore, this meaning since the debate has a bit changed, particular for Bonn, which was not chosen as the capital city and had to reinvent itself anew.