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October 24, 2013

CFP: Colloquium on the history and memory of GDR politics

Deadline: November 8, 2013


Papers are invited for a 1-day postgraduate colloquium focusing on the
history and memory of GDR politics, culture and society. The event will be
held at the University of Birmingham on 10 January 2014 and is sponsored
by the Institute for German Studies and the Graduate Centre for Europe.
Prof. Helmut Peitsch (Universität Potsdam) and Prof. Dennis Tate
(University of Bath) will act as discussants for the student
presentations, alongside the organisers Dr Sara Jones and Dr Joanne Sayner
(University of Birmingham), Dr Debbie Pinfold (University of Bristol) and
Dr Anna Saunders (Bangor University).

When Stefan Heym claimed, in 1990, that the GDR would become nothing more
than a ‘footnote in world history’, few could have anticipated the
importance of its legacy in shaping the cultural, social and political
spheres of the united Germany. The opening of previously inaccessible
archives resulted in an upsurge in historical analyses of the East German
state and thereby new insights into its politics, culture and society.
However, the availability of new material did not result in historical
consensus about the nature of the socialist system. The revival of
totalitarian theory, with its focus on the instruments of repression and
control, was challenged by models that sought to understand GDR society
from the inside, as a ‘participatory dictatorship’ (Fulbrook), in which
individuals negotiated a ‘normal life’ within the boundaries of the
regime. The debates surrounding the GDR from the perspective of history
are rivalled by the contentious nature of its representation in memory.
The 1990s saw the controversial trials of those implicated in the old
regime and the often shocking revelations of Stasi files. These may now
have given
way to more varied accounts of state socialism; however, this part of the
German and European past remains fiercely contested, as different mnemonic
communities vie to have a voice in the debate and to determine the image
of the GDR that will remain in collective memory.

In recent years the spate of round anniversaries – 20 years of the ‘fall’
of the Wall, 50 years of the building of the Wall and 60 years of the 1953
uprisings – has given unprecedented prominence to GDR history in
contemporary Germany. 2014 represents yet another anniversary, as we mark
twenty-five years since the end of state socialist rule in Central and
Eastern Europe. In this context, the Universities of Birmingham, Bangor
and Bristol will host a one-day postgraduate symposium, in which we will
take stock of scholarship on the GDR today, as well as identify areas for
future research. The event will bring together postgraduates working on
the history, memory and culture of the GDR with the aim of examining not
only what the GDR was, but how its memory continues to influence attitudes
policies today. The intention is to provide a productive forum for the
exchange of ideas in the presence of established experts in the field.

Questions that we might consider include, but are not limited to:
- How do scholars of history understand the state socialist system
25 years after transition?
- What can analysis of particular aspects of GDR history or culture
contribute to an understanding of the whole?
- What is the relationship between the history and/or culture of
the GDR and its representation in memory?
- What patterns can be identified in the memory debates of the last
twenty-five years?
- Is there a discernible shift from communicative to cultural
memory? Are these even the right terms for understanding memory in the
twenty-first century?
- To what extent has our understanding of concepts such as
victimhood and perpetration become modified over time?
- Why have different memory media proven to be particularly
productive at different points in time, and to what effect?

We invite proposals for papers of no more than 10 minutes examining any
area of the history, memory or culture of the GDR, including film,
literature, museums, politics and the built environment. Students may
choose to present an overview of their thesis as a whole, or an aspect of
it on which they would particularly like feedback. Funding is available
for eighteen students to attend the colloquium, including travel within
the UK and lunch/refreshments throughout the day. Places will be allocated
on a competitive basis. Abstracts of no more than 150 words should be
submitted to Dr Sara Jones at s.jones.1@bham.ac.uk by the 8 November 2013.

For further information, please contact one of the organisers: Dr Sara Jones
(s.jones.1@bham.ac.uk), Dr Joanne Sayner (j.sayner@bham.ac.uk), Dr Debbie
Pinfold (Debbie.Pinfold@bham.ac.uk) or Dr Anna Saunders

Posted by jmkirsch at October 24, 2013 02:46 PM