CFP – East German Studies Between Biography and Research Objectivity

45th Annual German Studies Association Conference, Indianapolis, IN

September 30-October 3, 2021

(Roundtable Discussion)

At the time of German unification, many East German scholars who were employed in the higher education sector, particularly those engaged in the Social Sciences and Humanities, were replaced by West German colleagues. Consequently, knowledge production post-1990 has been largely concentrated on a West-German discourse of meaning-making. This dynamic is slowly changing. Increasingly, scholarship and literature about East German matters is being produced by those who were born in the GDR. Here, scholars often draw from insights and experiences of having lived through changes and tensions that accompanied German reunification and life in two different social and cultural systems.

What role does or should a scholars’ biography, social and cultural formation play in studying a research subject and its environment? Do individual experiences or memories facilitate access to a research matter or does it hinder an objective stance? In what ways may a rigorous focus on research objectivity perpetuate dynamics of oppression and privilege?

Our round table discussion aims to explore how socio-demographic background may shape, facilitate, or frustrate knowledge production, i.e., access to sources, choice of topics, and methodologies when it comes to studying contemporary East German issues.

Possible topics include (but are not limited to):

  • Reflections on one’s own social positionality and intersectionality when studying the GDR and/or post-1990 East Germany.
  • Explorations of access to knowledge and/or “ways of knowing“ that are expressed outside of academia as a result of the dynamics of knowledge production.
  • Examinations of the tension between research objectivity/ value neutrality and one’s own understanding of the research subject.
  • Examinations of the ways in which current work on East Germany has been produced in a context that centers on whiteness, heteronormativity and/or able-bodiedness.

The roundtable format will be a brief (5-10 minutes) reflection on the relationship between one’s social position and research of each participant, followed by 45-60 minutes of discussion.

Please submit a 200 to 250-word abstract and a short CV (no more than two pages) to Melanie Lorek ( and Katrin Bahr ( by February 5, 2021.