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The GDR Today

New Interdisciplinary Approaches to East German History, Memory and Culture

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Edited By Stephan Ehrig, Marcel Thomas and David Zell

The GDR Today promotes interdisciplinary approaches to East Germany by gathering articles from a new generation of scholars in the fields of literary and visual studies, history, sociology, translation studies, political science, museum studies and curating practice. The contributors to this volume argue that it is necessary to transgress disciplinary boundaries to escape the gridlocked categories of GDR scholarship. Exploring East German everyday life, cultural policies, memory and memorialization, the volume aims to reinvigorate the study of the GDR. Through the combination and juxtaposition of different approaches to East Germany, it overcomes intra-disciplinary conceptual binaries and revitalizes debates about the very concepts we use to understand life under late twentieth-century state socialism.

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Socialization, Downgrading and Othering: The Formation of Identity of Young ‘East Germans’ (Daniel Kubiak)

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DANIEL KUBIAK

Socialization, Downgrading and Othering: The Formation of Identity of Young ‘East Germans’1

ABSTRACT

This chapter uses the innovative sociological method of Imitation Games to examine the formation of an ‘East German’ identity for young adults born in Germany between 1990 and 1995. Based on Imitation Game experiments in Berlin, Bremen and Rostock and group discussions in four other German cities, it reveals that there are three typical narratives through which ‘East German’ identities are formed: the socialization of the parents, the downgrading of ‘East German’ biographies and the othering of ‘East Germans’. By exploring these three narratives, the chapter offers insights into mutual interdependence and shifting meanings of East and West German identities three decades after reunification. ← 195 | 196 →

Introduction

The transformative period between autumn 1989 and spring 1990 briefly provided the opportunity to openly discuss what being German was supposed to mean. One discourse argued for the creation of a homogeneous country and suggested that East Germans should try to be like West Germans in order to achieve complete reunification. An opposing discourse called for the creation of a unified country in which national identity reflected the diversity of the people. The first discourse was centred on the notion of assimilation, while the second one favoured diversity, heterogeneity and plurality. In this brief period in 1989/90, an opportunity arose to construct a symbolic discourse of a new, inclusive German identity. However, this opportunity...

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