Encounter: The Shape of a pocket: History Walk: Sonnenallee with Promona Sengupta and Jorinde Schulz

Date: Wednesday, July 24th
Start: 6 PM, Hermannplatz (The walk is open for a maximum of 10 people. If you would like to join, please send an email to the.shape.of.a.pocket.24@gmail.com by no later than 20 July and we will share the starting point and other logistical information. )

History Walk: Sonnenallee

History is as much a science of speculation as it is of exactitude. While it remains in the hands of the powerful, it becomes a tool of creating and enforcing consensus. However, history is no one’s private property. In such a world, of profound socio-political inequality, practising public history becomes a question of survival, of evidence, documents, memories and myths whose existence threatens the status quo.

The land mass between Hermannplatz and Weichselplatz, pierced through by the concrete serpent of the mighty Sonnenallee, is one of the busiest neighbourhoods of Berlin. Over the course of its recent history, Sonnenallee has come to be a site of many complex sociopolitical formations. Favoured by working class Arab migrants and refugees for living and for business, the street is easily distinguishable from the rest of the city by its people and how they claim the roads and curbsides for themselves, and their daily struggles to create a homely, familiar environment seeped in cultural values that are considered alien within the racist integration discourses of European border regimes. The exceptional approach towards Sonnenallee, reaching military action-like proportions during raids on shisha bars and anti-genocide protests by Palestinians and their allies, plays out in broad daylight, unfolding especially at the three cardinal chicken shops – Risa, Azzam and City Chicken, witnessed by the locals as a daily reality while being regularly overlooked and normalized by the rest of the city.

Join the local public history duo of Promona Sengupta and Jorinde Schulz on a historical walk through Sonnenallee, accompanied by resident chicken aficionados of the neighbourhood. Together we will embark on a food crawl from Hermannplatz to Weichselplatz, learning about local culinary histories, political legacies of resistance and hidden archaeologies of the mythical chicken deity and its apocalyptic prophecy.


Promona Sengupta is an artist, academic, activist, and curator. She recently completed her PhD at the International Research Center: Interweaving Performance Cultures at the Freie Universität Berlin. Her creative practice engages with decolonial speculative imagination as a means for radical politics. She co-created and co-flies the deeep space exploration vehicle — FLINTAQ+ Spaceship Beben, as its serving Captain and chef. She co-curates Radio Kal, as a part of the transoceanic longform artistic project kal, and was the resident artist at District Berlin in 2020. She has shared her multidisciplinary creative practices at the Maxim Gorki Theater, Berlin, District Berlin, English Theater Berlin and other spaces. She co-founded the Berlin–Delhi based progressive cultural politics pop up Mo’Halla. She lives and works in Berlin.

Jorinde Schulz (1989) is the author of “Die Clubmaschine (Berghain)”, a speculative literary essay exploring the myths and machinery of a legendary Berlin club, and the editor of the anthology “Generalverdacht” (General Suspicion), a multidisciplinary critical anthology about racist criminalisation targeting migrant communities and neighbourhoods in Germany. As part of the team of the non-profit organisation Gemeingut, she organises processes of resistance against privatisation, especially in the fields of urban politics, public transport, and health care. As an activist, she is part of initiatives against racist police violence and urban securitisation. She is a crew member of the artist collective Spaceship Beben.

The walk is open for a maximum of 10 people. If you would like to join, please send an email to the.shape.of.a.pocket.24@gmail.com by no later than 20 July and we will share the starting point and other logistical information.


The Shape of a Pocket is a platform dedicated to articulations of voids and absences in social, epistemic and geographic landscapes.

The pocket is an intimate hollow, a ‘pocket of resistance’ or a vessel that carries multiple materials and stories. The ‘shape’ alludes to the imaginary lines that are drawn between the unknown and the known, and to what is revealed or obscured, connected or separated by these demarcations. The void is both the deepest trench and the horizon.

The project confronts absence not as an epistemological deficit, but as rich and generative in its indeterminacy. This does not mean that the unknown is a resource to be mined, located or exploited, but rather it is a necessary resistance to Western thought’s demand for clarity and unambiguous identification. This call to turn towards the unknown relates to ‘absences’ that include enforced silences, extractive practices, linguistic gaps, and erasures in archives and culture. In all its shapeshifting mutations, the void resists totalising systems and makes way for a multiplicity and an excess that cannot be contained by the constraints of absolutes or certainty.

Colonialism uses the notion of ‘empty’ space as a pretext to justify the occupation of land, genocide and subjugation. The continuous coloniality of societal structures requires an undoing of this claim over emptiness. Capitalism exploits and extracts human labour and geological matter, causing cultural erasure and ecological catastrophe, with dire consequences for human and more-than-human life. This project aims to unlearn and undo the claim that coloniality makes on ostensibly empty spaces, and to challenge the persistent omissions in hegemonic historical narratives and divisive identitarian determinations. While the concept of the ‘void’ speaks of absence, it cannot be reduced to a mere abstraction, rather, it is material and situated in the world: it has flesh, geography and history.

There are also voids and obfuscations whose contours are less easy or impossible to grasp but must be preemptively imagined to not perpetuate patterns of erasure. Following Saidiya Hartman’s approach, this project embraces the challenge of telling impossible stories while amplifying the impossibility of their telling. In this sense, The Shape of a Pocket works with the double bind of the necessity to be present to absences while resisting imposed silencing. Depending on positionality and context, silence or absence can be constructed as spaces for emancipatory political imagination and relationality or, conversely, as sites of oppression and erasure.

Together we ask: Can we trace the contours of these so-called voids without reenacting the violences of cartography? Who holds the capacity for articulation, about what, and from where? If, as Glissant says, the abyss serves as an alluvium for metamorphoses, how can we contribute to the emergence of languages that are born from places of irreparable trauma and loss and give rise to forms of solidarity, resistance and transformation?

The Shape of a Pocket is an invitation to reimagine our margins, shared unknowns, cavities, and rifts as meaningful grounds for rupture and connectivity.

The platform runs from May to November 2024 and offers a series of encounters with Kandis Friesen, Jessica Zïada Korp, Kitso Lynn Lelliot, Listening at Pungwe with Memory Biwa and Robert Machiri, Hn. Lyonga, Constanza Mendoza, Eleni Mouzourou, Miguel Rodríguez-Casellas, Promona Sengupta and Miya Yoshida. The project culminates in an exhibition, opening on 31 October 2024. The Shape of a Pocket is initiated by Shoufay Derz and Talya Lubinsky at The Institute for Endotic Research.

*The Shape of a Pocket is the title of a book by John Berger published in 2002.

With support from the Berlin Senatsverwaltung für Kultur und Gesellschaftlichen Zusammenhalt.