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Poetic Visibility: East German Poetry and Blackness in Farbe Bekennen (1986)

In 1986 a group of Black German feminist poets stirred up the West German literary scene. As a result of the encounter with activist and poet Audre Lorde in the mid-1980s in Berlin, May Opitz (later Ayim), Katharina Oguntoye, and Dagmar Schulz published Farbe Bekennen: Afro-Deutsche Frauen auf den Spuren ihrer Geschichte [Showing Our Colors:…

Memory Making and the Marketization of Socialism in East Germany

From NVA-inspired fashion, GDR-themed hotels and restaurants, GDR-product fairs and mail-order companies, to relaunched and newly created GDR brands like Halko’s DDR Schulküchentomatensoße: why do so many consumers in East Germany, and other former socialist societies alike, insist on socialist products and brands today when they were considered inferior alternatives to their western counterparts back…

Why studying the GDR still matters today – The GDR as Lived Experience

In their introduction to the volume The GDR Today: New Interdisciplinary Approaches to East German History, Memory and Culture (2018), the editors Stephan Ehrig, Marcel Thomas, and David Zell ask if GDR studies has run its course. While current research on the GDR (including the aforementioned volume) proves otherwise, there is still room for incorporating…

Kunst und Macht. Lutz Dammbeck in Australia

FEATURED ESSAY How and when do artists become complicit with power, entangled in its strategies that sometimes surpass their awareness? German filmmaker Lutz Dammbeck’s perspective is unique. Perhaps it is the result of Dammbeck being part of a minority of artists that were able to leave socialist East Germany in 1986 for the Western liberal-capitalist…

Traveling Mozambique: Family History and Search for Traces

“For all of us there is a twilight zone between history and memory; between the past as a generalized record which is open to relatively dispassionate inspection and the past as a remembered part of, or background to, one’s own life.” Eric Hobsbawm It is June 5, 2018 and I am preparing for a one-month…

The Art Installation Beyond the Wall – Looking into the Eyes of the GDR Border Regime

Using the biggest, still preserved piece of the Berlin Wall, the 2017 open-air installation Beyond the Wall stretched alongside the back of the East Side Gallery, located at Mühlenstraße in Berlin-Friedrichshain. On the flip side of what forms one of Berlin’s main tourist attraction and background for innumerable selfies, Stefan Roloff’s project re-situates spectators into…