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Breaking walls after the Berlin Wall

- Wits University

Which wall needs to fall in society and science?

Wits Professor Dilip Menon joined leading international scientists and scholars on 9 November, the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, to present their breakthrough research, responding to the question: Which are the next walls to fall in science and society?

Erected in 1961 by the East German government, the “purpose of the Berlin Wall was to keep so-called Western ‘fascists’ from entering East Germany and undermining the socialist state, but it primarily served the objective of stemming mass defections from East to West,” according to historical records. The fall of the Berlin Wall 32 years ago is described as a monumental win for social change and the freedom of thought.

To commemorate this day and celebrate the freedom gains, scholars and scientists have converged in Berlin since 2009 for the Falling Walls Science Summit to discuss breakthroughs and the next walls that need to fall.  

On Tuesday, Menon took the stage as the winner of the prestigious international Falling Walls Award for his transnationalism research.

Welcoming him to the stage, Professor Jutta Allmendinger, President of the WZB Berlin Social Sciences Centre described Menon as a scholar whose modesty prevents him from seeing his work as a scientific breakthrough.

She likened Menon to a spiral that expands outwards because of the extent and the scope of his work, which traces the social history of caste, nationalism and communalism in history and expands to encompass literature, South Africa and other localities.

Recently, Menon together with academics from various disciplines collected and reassembled key concepts from Asian, African and Latin American epistemologies to revise the concepts used to talk about the world.

It is Menon’s vast work that led to his  recognition as the winner of the Social Sciences and Humanities category on the Berlin stage.

Menon, the Director of the Centre for Indian Studies in Africa, delivered a talk titled Breaking the walls to a paracolonial paradigm: How humanity’s destiny can be framed by shared heritages through oceanic connections.

Watch and listen to Menon talk about nature's rebellions, social science's response to the crisis before us as well as the concept of times, water, migration and affinity.