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. We are please to provide you with all the abstracts of the papers that were presented. If you want to read the full paper, please get in contact with the presenter.

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

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. Read full abstract

Dritte Generation Ostdeutschland: unentschieden in ihren Erinnerungen an die DDR?, Pamela Heß

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. Read full abstract

Is There a Third Generation East?, Martin Weinel

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. Read full abstract

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

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. Read full abstract

Generationelles Erinnern: Konstruktionen einer ostdeutschen Identität nach dem Mauerfall 1989, Nicole Hördler

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. Read full abstract

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

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. Read full abstract

“Das Wort Generation kann ich nicht hören” (Clemens Meyer): New perspectives on the GDR, Debbie Pinfold

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. Read full abstract

Outsiders or Avantgarde? A Sociological Approach to External Perspectives on the 3rd Generation East Germany, Anne Schreiter

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. Read full abstract

Remembering and Forgetting the German Democratic Republic

Materiality and Memory: Encounters with the Socialist Past in Contemporary Germany, Jonathan Bach

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. Read full abstract

Berlin’s Monument for Freedom and Unity, Jon Bernd Olsen

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 reveals 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.

“Wir Sind (Immer Noch) Das Volk”? The East German Revolution in Autobiographical Memory, 1994-2013, Jeremy Brooke Straughn

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. Read full abstract