45th Annual German Studies Association Conference
Indianapolis, IN, September 30-October 3, 2021
Since the publication of Jana Hensel’s Zonenkinder (2002), a younger generation of East Germans has published a wide range of literature. Those scholarly, autobiographical, semi-autobiographical, and auto-fictional writings establish a “Generationszusammenhang” (Mannheim 1964), formed by common experiences of the social, political, cultural, and economic changes of the Wende (1989-1990). Their focus was not only their childhood and youth in the German Democratic Republic (GDR) but also their life changes experienced after 1989. These narratives often detailed their quests for identities and practices in order to understand where they came from and what it meant to be of East-German heritage.
While works from white East Germans dominate today’s literary scene, a few publications by Black East Germans have also made it onto the book market with the recent publication of Olivia Wenzel’s 1000 Serpentinen Angst (2020). Indeed, Wenzel joins previously published Black East German authors such as Peggy Piesche, ManuEla Ritz, Albini Zöllner, Patrice Poutrus, and Gert Schramm. These authors’ works differ from those of white East Germans due to their different understandings of and experiences with belonging, heritage, racialization, and sexuality. In addition to literary writings, the Dritte Generation Ost (a network for a younger generation of East Germans) publications not only expanded into the academic field, but they also showed how the representation of a white Dritte Generation manifests and normalizes itself in the social and cultural history of the GDR. Challenging this white narrative and the question of what it means to be German, Özlem Topçu, Alice Bota, and Khué Pham published their book Wir Neuen Deutschen: Wer wir sind, was wir wollen (2012), writing about their experiences as children from immigrant families in the country.
This panel seeks contributions that examine different critical perspectives of East German experiences that do not center white East Germans. Our panel asks several questions: how do non-white East Germans challenge and/or affirm East German historical narratives? How also do East German Jewish narratives complicate history? In what ways do historical actors perform and/or embody East German identity? What types of activism and self-preservation happened in the GDR and post-socialist East Germany among minoritized communities? What forms of culture and politics helped minoritized communities carve out spaces for themselves in the GDR? How did discourses and practices of race, discrimination, and solidarity politics contribute to contemporary understandings and misunderstandings of racism in former East Germany? By rendering diverse minoritized communities visible, our panel hopes to showcase works that decenter whiteness and value intersectionality in East Germany.
Please submit abstracts of no more than 250-300 words to the organizers by February 1, 2021. We particularly encourage submissions from junior, LGBTQI, and BIPOC scholars.
This panel is sponsored by the Black German Diaspora Network, the Socialism Network, and Third Generation Ost.