After the Wall
Network members will meet four times over the course of two years, at three two-day workshops and a larger three-day conference. Each of the three workshops will focus on a specific theme, while building on the discussions of previous sessions; the final conference drawing on all three strands, revisiting the initial questions, and identifying future directions.
(Convenor: Arnold-de Simine)
The first workshop will focus on theoretical questions of memory and explore the impact of various memory media on processes of remembrance. How we choose to remember the past is necessarily influenced by the media we use to extend the limited range of our individual memory. The workshop will focus on two central strands: ‘Memory and Politics’ and ‘Memory and Media’, and welcomes keynote papers from Dr Susannah Radstone (University of East London) and Professor Ansgar Nünning (Universität Gießen).
In 2007, Hubertus Knabe, director of the Hohenschönhausen prison memorial, controversially suggested that the battle for the official memory of the GDR is currently being won by so-called ‘perpetrators’ who ‘make light of’ the GDR, with the tacit support of a population which is increasingly too young to have personal memories of the GDR or wants to remember only the positive aspects of it. The two central workshops will examine the two sides of this battle in the light of the theoretical framework established at the first event.
The second workshop, to be held at Bangor, will examine the way in which everyday life (Alltag) and everyday memories of the GDR are represented in contemporary Germany, and ask what motives lie behind different representations. This will include discussion of Ostalgie (e.g. consumer products, tourist attractions, television shows, internet), portrayals of ‘normal’ childhood experiences (e.g. autobiography, film) and the exposition of the everyday (e.g. museum exhibitions, popular publications).
The third workshop, to be held at Bristol, will examine ways in which memories of political repression and narratives of victimhood find representation in the cultural and political spheres (e.g. prison / Stasi museums and exhibitions, memorials to victims of the regime, autobiographies, film, photography). It will ask how far such concerns arise out of a sense of marginalisation in the present, and in response to phenomena such as Ostalgie.
The final event, a larger conference to be held at Bangor, will revisit the questions raised in the initial workshop and draw on the knowledge acquired during the previous sessions in order to establish both the specific and the more broadly applicable nature of memories of the GDR. Discussions will aim to draw initial conclusions on: a) the way in which conflicting memories and representative forms respond to each other, thus shaping the evolving East German memory landscape, and b) the extent to which different phases of evolution can be identified in this landscape since unification, and the causes of any perceptual shifts. The conference will include a final session on ‘future directions’, in which postgraduate students will particularly be encouraged to take part, in order to establish a research agenda for the future, including larger grant applications, and to discuss plans for publication and for the longevity of the website.