Living utopias: Political persecution, seeking refuge and social commitment in Germany

The one-day workshop “Living utopias” addresses political persecution as a reason for seeking refuge elsewhere and the lives and contributions of a few people who were granted asylum in Germany on account of persecution in their home country. Asylum is a right protected under Germany’s Constitution. People who flee from violence, war and terror in other parts of the world should be granted protection here.

Some of the people portrayed in the Archive of Refuge were politically or socially committed in their country of origin, often in opposition to official government policy, and as a result they experienced physical or mental violence or were threatened with death. In Germany many continued their commitment, either campaigning for better conditions in their country of origin or working with others in Germany for a different society.

The workshop participants explore the “living utopias” of these eye-witnesses and use them as an inspiration and resource to implement their own utopias for our society or the way we live together as a community. They use haptic techniques by building their own miniature world in a box and multiple media with animated 360° photos and AR technology in CoSpaces.


one-day workshop (3 x 90 min + 30 min presentations and evaluation – with 1h break)


15 years and over


migration and flight, reasons for seeking refuge, politics in other regions, asylum law, shaping society, living alongside other, multiperspectivity, transformative learning


  • video / moving image
  • data visualisation
  • digital concept cards
  • non-linear storytelling
  • 360° photography
  • CoSpaces (VR)
  • audio production


  • Internet / online
  • recording devices and headsets (optionally: splitters)
  • 360° camera
  • smartphone with 360° camera app and CoSpaces app
  • VR glasses (not essential if unavailable)
  • laptop per mini group 
  • 1 empty box per mini group and handicraft materials


Creative Commons Lizenzvertrag
This educational content is licensed under a Creative Commons Namensnennung 4.0 International Lizenz.

You can use, adapt and republish this educational material as you wish as long as you indicate the names of those who created it as follows:

CC-BY 4.0; Aleksandar Vejnovic, Katrin Hünemörder, Dr Christine Kolbe, Daniel Seitz, Eva Hasel, Birte Frische, Christine Lordong, Sika Dede Puhlmann, Mohammed Habibullah Scheikani

Bridge to the Archive of Refuge

The “Living utopias” approach is a direct response to the content of selected interviews in the Archive of Refuge. It is about formulating the living utopias of people who had to flee their home country on political grounds and who continued their work in Germany, applying an artistic interpretation to these utopias as the participants understand them.

After an introduction to the Archive of Refuge itself, the participants explore the reasons why people become refugees – and specifically with the motive “political persecution” and the basic right to asylum.

The participants chose one interview out of five biographies of people who fled on political grounds and, based on selected sequences, consider the circumstances that forced them to leave their country. The interview sequences and the narratives these contain serve as a resource and inspiration for creating a miniature world in a box (approx. 50x50cm) out of various craft materials. The contents of the miniature world in the box should be designed to demonstrate clearly the conditions under which people have to leave their countries.

Further sequences from the videos serve as a second step as inspiration for the work in CoSpaces, editing software for three-dimensional virtual reality spaces. Here the participants discover how the eye-witnesses have continued implementing their social ideas and beliefs since living in Germany. In some cases, this can be observed in the commitment and activism of the interviewees, while others have campaigned from Germany for change in their home country.

The interviewees’ “lived utopias” encourage the participants to investigate their own utopias for our society and the way we live together in the community. This personal utopia can be implemented visually on the VR learning platform CoSpaces. A 360° photograph of the miniature world in a box serves as an environment that can be expanded in CoSpaces to display the utopia.

Participants and their audience can use VR glasses to immerse themselves in this extended world and observe on various levels the political reasons for seeking refuge, the reported repression, but also potential for action and ideas for an open society that incorporate this experience.  

Video sequences

Max Welch Guerra

Sequence(s) – beliefs and reasons for fleeing 

progress is possible / education as a motor of progress – 05:24 – 10.36

utopia – changing society – 55:00 – 59:42

police violence – 1:12:56 – 1:17:13

Sequence(s) – social commitment in Germany / utopia

2:06 – 2:19:10

Mila Mossafer

Sequence(s) – reasons for fleeing

32:33 – 48:00

Sequence(s) – social commitment in Germany / utopia

1:05:36 – 1:13:04

Abdulkadir Musa

Sequence(s) – reasons for fleeing

22:45 – 28:48 – Kurdistan as a cultural area / political commitment and risks faced by Kurds

46:38 – 55:33 – minority rights, political boundaries, political activities

Sequence(s) – social commitment in Germany and utopia

1:48:25 – 1:55:10 – integration, working for a Kurdish association 

Freweyni Habtemariam

Sequence(s) – reasons for fleeing

the role of politics in the family – 16:48 – 22:05

return to Eritrea 24:30 – 33:08

slaughter and constantly fleeing – 35:00 – 36:27

Sequence(s) – utopia / social commitment in Germany

1:43:13 – End

Ranjith Henayaka-Lochbihler

Sequence(s) – reasons for fleeing

link between global context and personal circumstances, armed struggle, prison – 31:15 – 46:50

Sequence(s) – social commitment in Germany

literary commitment, activities against the Sri Lankan government, racism in Germany – 2:02:52 – 2:20

Target group and learning settings (recommended)

school students, young adults in schools or out-of-school youth facilities

Suitable for project days in schools or education facilities, libraries

Educational objectives and practical options

Participants understand the historical, political and structural dimensions behind migration  and flight to Germany as a continuous feature of Germany’s history as a country that receives immigrants.

Participants know that there is an individual basic right to asylum in Germany and on what grounds it is granted.

Participants investigate the biographies of people who have been politically persecuted and granted asylum in Germany and who, through their past or present commitment, have enriched and helped to shape German society with their ideas.

Key methods: exploration of the Archive material, creation of a physical miniature world based on selected sequences from the Archive of Refuge on the themes of reasons for seeking refuge and political persecution, extension and animation of this world as a “living utopia” with the aid of 360° photography and CoSpaces

In Germany there are diverse opportunities to campaign for one’s ideals or on certain social issues. The participants learn about these opportunities by investigating the biographies from the Archive of Refuge and can be inspired by these. In the second stage, they can then consider which themes interest them and what they might like to campaign for in our society.


Detailed description of the workshop/module 


Agreement with an education facility to carry out a one-day workshop (or 3 double periods + evaluation)

Consent forms for participants, information for parents

Compile handicraft materials (1 box per group, paper and card, watercolours and brushes, empty packaging, lids, corks, pieces of string, cardboard, post-it notes, scissors, glue and possibly ties, e.g. cable ties, wire, hot glue, plasticene)

Create QR codes for [in German]

Compile information for CoSpaces licences (one access per group)

Adapt slide presentation to the group (if necessary)

Charge 360° cameras and Samsung phones, link to wi-fi

Prepare VR glasses, set up wi-fi connection 

Prepare laptops (one laptop per group, wi-fi connection, CoSpaces website)


Detailed schedule to download

Schedule as text file [.odt]


Max Welch

Mila Mossafer

Abdulkadir Musa

Freweyni Habtemariam

Ranjith Henayaka-Lochbihler


Further information, tools and aids

  1. The outcomes created in CoSpaces can be embedded in the project website, which makes them permanently available. If several groups work with the method, a digital archive of “lived utopias” can grow and go on show as a digital exhibition, e.g. on Mozilla Hubs or another digital platform.
  2. The box creations remain at the facility or school where the workshop was held and can be exhibited there with references made to the digital exhibition and the expanded version of the box in CoSpaces.
  3. As many of the Archive of Refuge interviewees are working in education in Germany (mostly in Berlin), these people can be invited to other events and take part in the discussion. It is also possible, after exploring the Archive of Refuge, to invite along campaign groups or associations that work in Germany on issues like migration and flight, immigration societies, the critique of racism, self-organisation by migrants and other relevant themes, so that the participants can witness and broad range of commitment and possibly take up the chance to join in this advocacy.