Papers are invited for a one-day postgraduate colloquium focusing on memories and histories of GDR politics, culture, and society. The event will be held at Newcastle University on 13. September 2018.
Confirmed discussants are: Dr. Stefan Ehrig, Dr. Sara Jones, Dr. Debbie Pinfold, Dr. Anna Saunders, and Dr. Marcel Thomas.
Rather than fading with the years, the GDR remains central to debates about identity and shared cultural values in the Berlin Republic. Prolonged controversy about appropriate memorials to remember the GDR on the one hand and revelations about the Stasi past of high-ranking politicians on the other continue to trigger public discussions about whether the reunified Germany has truly ‘come to terms with’ (aufgearbeitet) the socialist past. Most recently, new divides have been opened up along the former Iron Curtain with the refugee crisis, as the East German past has been blamed for hostility towards refugees in the new federal states.
In addition, the GDR continues to be a popular topic of academic research. Over the last two decades or so, scholars have made significant progress to challenge top-down images of the GDR as a totalitarian Stasiland which dominated the years immediately following reunification. Since the late 1990s, they have increasingly turned away from the focus on the repressive state apparatus and have instead begun to explore everyday life and GDR culture in its full complexity. This new research has helped to counter simplistic top-down approaches and reveal the inherent tensions in socialist society. Recent volumes have increasingly used memory as a lens through which to examine the GDR. They have thus not only firmly established a counter-perspective to the one-dimensional approaches to East Germany which dominated the early 1990s; they have also encouraged a fruitful engagement between past and present in our understanding of socialist East Germany and its afterlives.
The colloquium is the fourth in the series of ‘The GDR Today’, which was launched in 2014 at the University of Birmingham and was subsequently held in 2015 at the University of Bristol and at Bangor University in 2017. The series has so far brought together a range of researchers from across Europe and North America. The papers presented previously exhibited a wide range of fresh approaches to conceptualising the GDR and its legacy in contemporary Germany from several disciplines. Like its predecessors, this colloquium is designed as a forum for postgraduate researchers to discuss the state of scholarship on the GDR and identify areas for future research. We are keen to hear again from those who presented previously in the series, but also warmly invite new postgraduate students, who are studying for a Doctorate or Master’s degree and working on the GDR, to present their research and join the debate.
Questions that might be considered include, but are not limited to:
How can particular aspects of East German history and culture contribute to an understanding of the GDR as a whole?
What patterns can be identified in the memory debates of the last twenty-five years, and how have these shaped our views of the GDR? How has the way we research the GDR changed over time?
To what an extent has our understanding of concepts used to describe life in East Germany changed over time?
What can comparisons with other states, societies and cultures tell us about the nature of society in the GDR?
To what extent has reunified Germany ‘come to terms with’ (aufgearbeitet) the socialist past of the GDR?
We invite proposals for papers of no more than 15 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. Abstracts of no more than 200 words should be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org by 27th of July 2018.
The GDR Today colloquium will close on 13 September with an evening keynote by Dr Elaine Kelly and a conference dinner. On 14 September there will be a one-day conference on the wider theme of ‘Eastern European Imaginaries’ with contributions from national and international scholars. Attendees of The GDR Today IV are welcome to attend both events.
The cost of the GDR Today IV colloquium, attendance at ‘Eastern European Imaginaries’, accommodation on 12 September, and the conference dinner will be fully-funded for PGR paper-givers. Subject to demand, a contribution to accommodation on 13 September and to travel costs may be provided at the discretion of the organisers if you are not able to draw on funds from elsewhere.
Elizabeth Emery, University of Bristol, Faculty of Arts; <email@example.com>
Dr. David J Zell, Associate Research Fellow, Institute for German Studies, University of Birmingham; <D.J.Zell@bham.ac.uk>
The colloquium and conference are being funded by the School of Arts and Cultures, Newcastle University and the Institute for German Studies, University of Birmingham. The GDR Today IV is also being organised in collaboration with Bangor University and the University of Bristol.