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Performing the Modern German

Performance and Identity in Contemporary German Cinema


Matthias Uecker

Since the late 1990s, German cinema has gone through a period of astonishing productivity and success that has made it the focus of scholarly analysis once more. What can contemporary German cinema tell us about current German society and its problems? What are the distinguishing features of filmmaking in Germany today?
This book analyses the representation of individual and collective behaviour in post-unification German cinema. It looks at performances of gender, ethnicity and nationality in a wide range of contemporary German films. Using Performance Theory as a framework, the book discusses how modern German identities are presented as conformist, liberating or subversive responses to external challenges.
Theoretical considerations regarding the efficacy of performance and the dialectical relationship between transgression, resistance and normalization form the background for an analysis that investigates contemporary German films in terms of their function within the restructuring of post-unification German society.


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Chapter 2 When Is a Man a Man? Performances of Conflicted Masculinity


Chapter 2 When Is a Man a Man? Performances of Conf licted Masculinity That a study of performances of character, identity and power structures should take as its starting point the issue of gender must appear almost natural. After all, it has become a commonplace in Gender Studies that ‘being female’ should be understood not as a social, let alone biological fact, but as the result of a protracted, repetitive ‘cultural performance’ which produces the ‘ef fect of the natural’ rather than being its result.1 Such a per- spective construes a critique of gender norms and permits their subversion through deconstruction or parody which question the assumed alignment of sex, sense of self and desire, as well as the binary opposition of female and male characteristics – the ‘heterosexual matrix’ – which is perceived as the basis of unequal gender relations.2 But the notions of the ‘female’ or ‘male’ character have long been in crisis, and their performative adaptation to changing historical, social and legal environments has been obvious long before the inception of Gender Studies. Rather than functioning as the preferred medium for their subversion, the openly avowed performance of gender has in fact often (and perhaps always) been the form in which the dif ference between the sexes – and their inequality – has been acted out and re-af firmed over and over again, albeit in always changing guises. And while it may continue to be necessary to question the notion of ‘what comes naturally’ in gender performances, the demonstration of the...

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