Conferences

GSA 2014

At this year’s German Studies Association Conference from September 18-21 in Kansas City, MO, the Third Generation Network organized four panels dealing with the topics of generations and remembrance and forgetting of the German Democratic Republic. During the three days scholars were able to hear about topics that addressed meanings and limits of the Third Generation concept, practices of identity construction and Eigensinn against the backdrop of growing media attention to the Third Generation phenomenon, and Third Generation concepts from a literary perspective represented in autobiographical novels/life-writing texts as well as from an outsider perspective on the Third Generation that challenges current representations of East Germans.

East Germany’s Third Generation (1): Meaning and Ambiguity

Home is Where…? Comparing Germany’s Third Generation East to the 1.5 Generation Concept Melanie Lorek | Doctoral Candidate at CUNY Graduate Center

This paper explores the mechanisms of transference and distribution of knowledge about the GDR by Germany’s Third Generation East utilizing the concept of the 1.5 generation. Based on immigration theories, the 1.5 generation concept describes immigrants who left their home country at an age between 6 and 16, and who continue to be raised in another culture.  Having been socialized in more than one country, migrants of this generation are fluent in the languages of both societies and serve as translators not only with respect to the language spoken, but also regarding societal norms, codes, and cultural values of both countries. Compared to other generations, no other generation is as familiar with both societies as the 1.5 generation.

While third generation of East Germans may not have experienced a physical dislocation, societal and cultural changes triggered by German reunification give rise to features similar to those of the 1.5 generation. In this presentation, in-depth interviews will be used to analyze how members of the 1.5 generations and those belonging to the Third Generation East Germany (born between 1973 and 1983) experience the familiarity of both cultures, how they make use of the knowledge acquired in both societies, and how they navigate their position between generations. By applying the concept of the 1.5 generation to East Germany’s third generation, the paper aims to develop a theoretical concept of dual cultural literacy. MLorek (at) gc.cuny.edu

Dritte Generation Ostdeutschland: unentschieden in ihren Erinnerungen an die DDR? Pamela Heß | Research Assistant in the Department of Sociology at Goethe University Frankfurt/Main

In der individuellen Erinnerungspraxis verschwimmen verschiedene Erinnerungsebenen – individuell, sozial, öffentlich – miteinander. In diesem Sinne hat jeder Mensch seine eigenen, unverwechselbaren Erinnerungen. Personen, die nur wenige persönliche Erfahrungen mit der Vergangenheit haben – wie die in den späten 70er und frühen 80er Jahren der DDR geborene Dritte Generation Ostdeutschland – sind sogar darauf angewiesen, die Erfahrungen anderer entweder zu adoptieren oder sich vermitteln zu lassen.

In fünf Familieninterviews untersuche ich, wie Angehörige der Dritten Generation Ostdeutschland und ihre Eltern die DDR erinnern und wie sie sich mit den öffentlichen Erinnerungen an die DDR auseinandersetzen. Während die interviewten ‚Kinder‘ zunächst zurückhaltend argumentieren und die überwiegend positive Grundeinstellung ihrer Eltern zur DDR weitgehend mittragen, kommt es bei der Diskussion der öffentlichen Erinnerungen zum offenen Widerspruch. In zwei Familien widersprechen die Söhne der Ansicht ihrer Eltern über die DDR zum Beispiel zum Drogenkonsum und zur ideologischen Durchdringung der Gesellschaft. Außerdem beurteilen die Söhne nun – im Gegensatz zu ihren Eltern – die DDR als Diktatur. Eine Tochter reflektiert über verharmlosende Darstellungen der DDR und weist diese zurück. Dabei stimmen die interviewten ‚Kinder‘ den öffentlichen Erinnerungen an die DDR weder ausdrücklich zu, noch lehnen sie diese ausdrücklich ab. Vielmehr erfolgt eine analytische Auseinandersetzung beispielsweise nach Autorenschaft und Lesewirkung.

Im Gegensatz zu ihren Eltern fühlt sich die Dritte Generation Ostdeutschland offenbar von den öffentlichen Erinnerungen, die die DDR negativ charakterisieren, nicht angegriffen und sieht sich nicht gezwungen, die DDR verteidigen zu müssen. Allerdings scheint die Dritte Generation einer abschließenden Bewertung der DDR gegenüber unentschieden zu sein und sich eher als ihre Eltern auf öffentliche Erinnerungen einzulassen. hess (at) soz.uni-frankfurt.de

Is There a Third Generation East? Dr. Martin Weinel | Research Associate at Cardiff University

The term ‘3te Generation Ost’ (Third Generation East) refers to a social and political movement in Germany trying to bind a specific ‘generation’ – those born in the GDR between mid-1970s and mid-1980s – together. While the movement appears to be flourishing and is receiving considerable attention in Germany and beyond, it remains unclear whether there is more to the idea of a ‘generation’ than the loose definition provided by the founders of the movement.

Using a newly developed social scientific method called Imitation Game (Collins and Evans 2007, 2013, Evans and Crocker 2013), we wish to explore the concept of ‘generations’ in the context of East- and West-German identities. While the Imitation Game method has been developed primarily to measure cultural integration between different social groups, we intend to use it to investigate whether there is more to the ‘3te Generation Ost’ than shared birth-dates. In March 2014, we will conduct a series of pilot studies involving East and West German participants from at least two different ‘generations’: those fitting the definition of the ‘3te Generation’ and those born after 1990.

We hypothesize that generational and regional self-understandings can be traced to processes within groups and also to reconstructions by external others. In other words, we expect that shared knowledge and generation-defining experiences, if they exist, will show up in the qualitative data. WeinelM (at) cardiff.ac.uk

East Germany’s Third Generation (2): Vielfalt, Eigensinn…Vereinnahmung?

Being Black, Being East German: Detlef D. Soost’s and Abini Zöllner’s Search for Identity Katrin Bahr | Doctoral Student in German Studies at the University of Massachusetts Amherst

Since Christa Wolf’s 1990 novel Was Bleibt the autobiography has inscribed itself as the leading genre narrating the East German past and its memory today. Although a fair amount of autobiographies have been published and continue to be published, autobiographical writing by Black East Germans and scholarship acknowledging the Black East German experience is still curiously scarce.

However, while one could question the legitimacy of the few existing autobiographies, such as the ones by Detlef D. Soost Heimkind, Neger, Pionier and Abini Zöllner’s Schokoladenkind, since they undergo a commercial marketing process, I delineate that they also illuminate the context of a generational development in which Black East Germans and other East Germans alike engage. Their perspectives of the GDR contribute to recent debates on the importance of third-generation autobiographical writings which challenge the current master narrative of GDR history writing.

I argue that Black East German autobiographical writing allows us to locate and embed the Black East German experience within the discourse of East German Identity which offers a new approach to East German autobiographies from a perspective that is not assumingly white. For this paper, I will draw upon the definition of East German Identity from Anselma Gallinat as construction of “a long and complex moral narrative of the recent past and the united German present.” As I will show, the construction of an East German Identity should be seen in the context of generational, racial, class, gender, political and social experiences. There is no single East German identity, and Black East German writing needs to be acknowledged as a valuable source that sheds light upon the East German Identity and how it is comprised of a collection of shared experiences very specific to the GDR system. kbahr (at) umass.edu

Generationelles Erinnern: Konstruktionen einer ostdeutschen Identität nach dem Mauerfall 1989 Nicole Hördler, Dr. phil. | Freie wissenschaftliche Projektmitarbeiterin u.a. der Gedenkstätte Buchenwald und des Bundesministeriums für Inneres der Republik Österreich/Mauthausen Memorial

In der jüngsten Ausgabe titelte „Die Zeit“ den Generationstransfer in Ostdeutschland mit „Sie sollen Bescheid wissen: Wie erkläre ich als ostdeutsche Mutter meinen Kindern, aus was für einem Land ich stamme?“ Damit ist nicht nur der Transfer von der dritten Generation zur vierten gemeint, sondern die dritte Generation an sich begreift sich mittlerweile selbst als Zeitzeugen einer Epoche, die sie nur als Kinder erlebt haben und an die sie teilweise kaum oder gar keine Erlebnisse mehr haben. Wer ist die also diese dritte Generation Ost? Neben der Begriffsklärung möchte das Papier vor allem Prägungsmuster und Konstruktionen oder vielleicht sogar Selbststilisierungen einer ostdeutschen Identität abheben, die sich wiederum nicht ohne die erste und zweite Generation erklären lässt.

Exemplarisch lässt sich dieser Generationstransfer und Transformationsprozess am Beispiel der ostdeutschen Kleinstadt Prettin/Elbe im Dreiländereck Sachsen, Brandenburg und Sachsen-Anhalt definieren. Übergreifende Zusammenhänge städtischen und ländlichen Wandels münden dabei in folgenden Fragen: Welche Auswirkungen hatte der Umbruch auf das Leben und Erleben der Bürgerinnen und Bürger dieser Kleinstadt? In welchem Maße beeinflussten die Veränderungen die demographische Entwicklung, Bildung und Migration, aber auch die Wirtschaft und das gemeinnützige Engagement vor Ort?

Die Feldstudie kann durch die Kombination historischer Datenerhebungen vor Ort, quantitativer sozialwissenschaftlicher Umfragen und qualitativer ethnologischer Interviews einen Kausalzusammenhang zwischen der Identitätsprägung eines Ostdeutschseins und der empirisch belegbaren wirtschaftlichen und gesellschaftlichen Teilung von Ost und West von 1990 bis 2010 herleiten. Dies gilt gleichermaßen für die dritte Generation Ost, die keine DDR-Prägung mehr besitzt und der dennoch das Stigma einer genuin ostdeutschen Generation anhaftet, ein für die Nachwendegeneration neues und zugleich verstörendes Ergebnis.

Ein zentrales Ergebnis ist, dass die seit 1990 (re-)produzierten Bilder über den deutschen Osten in Wissenschaft und Medien ebenfalls in die Selbstwahrnehmung der Untersuchungsgemeinde übernommen und eingeflochten wurden. Dennoch begreifen sich die Bewohner nicht als „Zonenkinder“ und „Jammerossis“ schlechthin. Im Alltag besitzen die Bewohner eine ausgeprägte Standhaftigkeit, trotz mangelnder beruflicher Beschäftigung in ihrem Heimatort zu verbleiben und dort ausgleichend für einen aktiven Alltag zu sorgen. Zusammenfassend lässt sich zwar der Trend der schrumpfenden Gemeinden auch für den Untersuchungsort belegen, aber das Engagement der verbliebenen und der weggezogenen Bürger für ihren Ort ist von ungewöhnlich hoher Intensität. Regelmäßige Treffen und Unternehmungen über das Vereinsleben hinaus schaffen einen neuen sozialen Überbau, der ein starkes generationsübergreifendes Zusammengehörigkeitsgefühl in der ostdeutschen Nachwendegesellschaft formt. fam.hoerdler (at) web.de

Weder auf noch zwischen den Stühlen. Chancen und Risiken der „Dritten Generation Ost“ für das DDR-historische Gedächtnis Jakob Warnecke

Der Diskurs der “Dritten Generation Ost” bereichert das Gedächtnis an die DDR und kann somit zu einer differenzierten Betrachtung beitragen. Das diese Potentiale aber auch die Gefahr bergen, sich in ihr Gegenteil zu verkehren, zeigen daran anknüpfende Ausführungen zur Gefahr der Vereinnahmung. Wie mit dem methodischen Konzept des „Eigensinns“ historisch die Alltagswelt von „Jungen Pionieren“ erschließbar ist, wird im folgenden Teil beispielhaft veranschaulicht. Daran anschließend werde ich das Engagement und die Erfahrungen ostdeutscher Teenager in der Hausbesetzer/innenbewegung der frühen 90er Jahre thematisieren.

East Germany’s Third Generation (3): Insiders/Outsiders

Beyond Post-Colonialism? Third Generation East German Literature Through the Lens of ”Minor Literature” Derek Schaefer | PhD candidate in Germanic Studies at University of Illinois at Chicago

This project considers Third Generation East German Literature in a “minor realm” (Deleuze & Guattari) simultaneously included in, and separate from, the greater canon of German Literature. After the “Wende” and the resulting collapse of the German Democratic Republic, literary critics and the public alike have attempted to simply position literature by authors who lived in the former German Democratic Republic under the umbrella of “German National Literature.” Indeed this is a result of unification as the end of the GDR marked the end of a “GDR Literature” per se.

There remain, however, almost 25 years later, significant differences in writings by authors born in the former GDR. By examining the post-millennial works of authors of the “Third Generation” (here Ingo Schulze, Antje Ràvic Strubel, Uwe Tellkamp, and Julia Schoch) one can see the continued influence and inspiration found in their experiences and memories of life in the GDR, the Wende, the post-Wende 1990s, and the resulting political and social effects. However, rather than simply “writing back” defiantly in a post-colonial sense, as Paul Cooke put it in his analysis of East German writing in the 1990s (recalling Homi K. Bhabha), there has been an evolution in this subject matter. The legacy of dictatorship, the Stasi, or “Ostalgie” (nostalgia for life in the East) is explored through their relevance in, and effects upon contemporary society. As Ingo Schulze has said, “1989/90 is where our present-day world began.” The East German perspective challenges the dominant literary and political memory of this period in German history and creates an alternative artistic picture of the past and present which contributes to the diversity in German-Language Literature. dschaefer18 (at) gmail.com

“Das Wort Generation kann ich nicht hören” (Clemens Meyer): New perspectives on the GDR Debbie Pinfold | Senior Lecturer in German in the School of Modern Languages at the University of Bristol (UK)

The wave of life-writing about growing up in the former GDR that began with Jana Hensel’s Zonenkinder (2002) achieved broad coherence in the terms of Karl Mannheim’s generational model (1923), simply because the various writers all understood the Wende as an important caesura in their biographies. The authors from the “unberatene Generation” (Lindner 2003) frequently associate the Wende explicitly with coming of age (Hensel 2002; Ide 2007) and this feeds into a self-presentation as the (albeit conflicted) success stories of the Wende.

While the organizers of the 3te Generation Ostdeutschland initiative emphasize the need for a Vielfalt of perspectives when dealing with the socialist past, this paper will argue that those who engage in such initiatives and publish life-writing generally represent a very particular section of German society with considerable cultural capital. Ironically, it was the startling literary debut of an author who explicitly refuses generational labels, Clemens Meyer’s Als wir träumten (2006), that provided a radically new perspective on the former GDR: the voice of young delinquents for whom “die große Wende” was largely irrelevant. Both the wir of Meyer’s title and the date and place of birth of his narrator (Leipzig, 1976) suggest playful allusions to Zonenkinder, but the novel has more in common with coming-of-age narratives from the West. I will therefore suggest that both the novel and (perhaps especially) the film adaptation currently in preparation represent invaluable contributions to a less monolithic, more inclusive cultural memory of the former GDR, and to the wider debates surrounding it. Debbie.Pinfold (at) bristol.ac.uk

Outsiders or Avantgarde? A Sociological Approach to External Perspectives on the 3rd Generation East Germany Anne Schreiter | Ph.D. Postdoctoral Visiting Fellow in the Department of German at the University of California, Berkeley

The central feature of the 3rd Generation East Germany (a concept yet to be theoretically defined) is their determination to scrutinize existing classifications about East Germany. In doing so, it is inevitable for those who ascribe themselves to this generation to start with a self-reflection. Critical voices perceive that as a form of dissection; however, it might be just a first step to something more encompassing: The initially inward-looking activities through autobiographies or biography workshops might be accompanied by a societal and political movement regarding the necessary but still pending transformation processes in Germany and the situation of a multiplex Europe. The challenges young East Germans have been facing are in fact similar to those of other groups in terms of migration, recognition, mediation, and transformation. Paired with the new visibility of these young Germans in media and societal discourses, the 3rd Generation East Germany starts to gradually grow out of solely self-referential and national debates.

In my research, I therefore focus on an outside perspective: How do the western states of Germany as well as other countries perceive this new generation and their representatives? To what extent do these images align to established stereotypes of Ossis (East Germans)? Do classifications indeed lose relevance or even change? Where are opportunities for learning, where are the pitfalls?

To specify and illustrate these general questions, I use an interdisciplinary approach with a focus on sociological methodology (narrative interviews, ethnographical approaches). The paper will outline first results from fieldwork in Germany, Switzerland, and the USA. anneschreiter26 (at) hotmail.com

Remembering and Forgetting the German Democratic Republic

Materiality and Memory: Encounters with the Socialist Past in Contemporary Germany Jonathan Bach | Chair of the interdisciplinary Global Studies undergraduate program and Associate Professor of International Affairs at The New School in New York City

The material traces of the East German socialist regime form a complex assemblage in which overlapping processes of appearance and disappearance impact the contemporary memory landscape. This paper examines four modes of German encounters with ex-socialist materiality: consumption and nostalgia, collecting and museal representation, architectural appropriations, and memorial landscapes, and explores how this affects the practices and discourses of memory and cultural production.

I begin with an examination of what could be called (problematically) the domestic sphere of the everyday, looking at everyday objects from the former GDR, and looks at their conversion into commodities and exhibits. From there I shift to the material afterlife of official spaces, specifically the spatial expressions of GDR state power embodied in the Palace of the Republic and the Berlin Wall. I seek to show how material traces are kept in circulation, rendering the boundary between “dead” objects and “living” memory ambiguous, and thus in play in the construction of contemporary German identity.

Examining how material remains are experienced, appropriated and deployed is important for understanding the role of the GDR past in larger contexts of Germany’s present. It is also a step towards re-theorizing the broader categories through which we think about the cultural afterlife of major political transformations and the relation of memory to its material referents. bachj (at) newschool.edu

Berlin’s Monument for Freedom and Unity Jon Bernd Olsen | Associate Professor in History at the University of Massachusetts Amherst

In 2007 the German Federal Parliament passed legislation authorizing the construction of a new national memorial to commemorate the historic events of 1989 and 1990 – the democratic revolution in East Germany and the unification of the two German states. The path to constructing the so-called Memorial for Freedom and Unity has taken an interesting path. Originally thought to be unveiled to mark the twentieth anniversary of 1989, current plans have been pushed back to coincide with the twenty-fifth anniversary. This paper intends to explore this twisted path and analyze why building a consensus around how best to honor these two different, yet related memories reveal more general trends of memorial culture in united Germany and how the political elite, journalists, and scholars have attempted to shape a post-1990 memory culture. From the beginning of this project, leading figures from 1989-1990 have played a vocal role in shaping their own legacy and influencing how their acts will be remembered by future generations. jon (at) history.umass.edu

“Wir Sind (Immer Noch) Das Volk”? The East German Revolution in Autobiographical Memory, 1994-2013 Jeremy Straugh | Visiting Assistant Professor at Westminster College

A good deal of research has employed methods of oral history in order to reconstruct the different ways in which ordinary individuals experience the same historic events. Most such studies, however, have relied on interview data collected during a relatively brief period. Consequently, less is known about the extent to which, and in what way, individual recollections of a given event might change over a longer period of time.

The present contribution draws on data from a longitudinal ethnography of social memory in the former German Democratic Republic. The sample comprises about 30 individuals who were born in the GDR, witnessed the revolution of 1989 as young adults, and were living in either Berlin or Leipzig during the mid-1990s. Life-history interviews were conducted with each respondent in the sample during the summer of 1994.

During the summers of 2012 and 2013, 23 of the original respondents (77%) were interviewed a second time. At both time points, respondents were asked to recount the most significant events and experiences in their lives, beginning with their birth and continuing into the present. This paper analyzes narratives concerning the period from 1989 to 1990. Stories told during each round of fieldwork are compared in terms of their content, as well as their biographical significance to the respondent at the time of narration.

A question of particular interest will be whether the revolution of 1989 was remembered as a unifying collective experienced five years later and whether its meaning has changed in light of subsequent developments.  Jeremy.Straughn (at) westminster-mo.edu