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Selective memory: channelling the past in post- GDR society Patricia Hogwood, University of Westminster.

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Presentation on theme: "Selective memory: channelling the past in post- GDR society Patricia Hogwood, University of Westminster."— Presentation transcript:

1 Selective memory: channelling the past in post- GDR society Patricia Hogwood, University of Westminster

2 Selective memory: channelling the past in post- GDR society  Beyond the classic ‘trauma’ studies  New research agendas  Case study: ‘selective memory’ in post-GDR consumer behaviour: - findings - implications for memory research

3 Beyond the classic ‘trauma’ studies  Contributions of German ‘trauma’ studies of the National Socialist period include: - understanding family and institutional channels for collective memory - the development of key concepts including ‘victimhood’ and ‘normalisation’  Need to reconsider findings in application to post-GDR transition studies.  ‘Victimhood’: - self-perceptions of ‘victimhood’ not necessarily universal; may be differentiated. - perceptions of ‘the perpetrator’ may differ (e.g. SED state, FRG government). - ‘victimisation’ may be experienced as a temporal phenomenon rather than a group phenomenon. - differentiated memories of victimhood may prompt different collective responses.  ‘Normalisation’: - important to avoid linear and essentialist accounts that assume a developmental ‘progression’ to a western ideal (Smith and Jehli č ka, 2007). East Germany may adopt internal or external benchmarks for ‘normality’.

4 New research agendas  Insights from cognate disciplines may be useful in determining new research concepts and agendas for transition societies such as east Germany.  Memory research on the GDR has imported historians’ preoccupation with the validity and integrity of recounted memory.  Political science sees greater significance in the influence of memory on political identity, social values, modes of participation and institutional and policy design.  In mediating between historical experience and contemporary behaviours, memory can be simultaneously unreliable and yet potentially significant in social development.  It is not memory preserved intact that drives social development, but ‘selective’ memory: a distillation of perceptions and constructs that might correspond to a greater or lesser extent to lived experience.

5 …  Implies a shift in methodological focus from collecting and evaluating recounted memory to tracing and evaluating evidenced behaviour.  A focus on evidenced behaviour helps to strengthen contextualisation and the potential for the wider application of findings.  The importance of context: e.g. Ostalgie consumerism may be confused with more common, cross-cultural experiences of ‘lifecycle’ nostalgia. What distinguishes Ostalgie is the political context in which it operates: the ambivalence of the social and political relationship between east and west Germany; and the fact of the formal dissolution of the GDR, leaving Ostalgie items as relics of a past with a finite end point.  Application of findings: - the relevance of the post-GDR experience for transitions to democracy in other central and eastern European countries; - working not only with representational practitioners (heritage sector, writers and artists) but also with those involved with the impacts or uses of memory representation – media, politics, education, psychology etc.

6 Case study: ‘selective memory’ in post-GDR consumer behaviour: findings  Since unification, east German households have approximated their private consumption with westerners’ in a series of spending waves: food, household goods, basic white goods, luxury white goods, electronic goods for home entertainment.  However, differences in brand preferences between eastern and western consumers can be found in every branch of the retail industry: consumer goods, investment products, services, and media.  Also, eastern and western Germans respond very differently to advertising messages.  The previously dominant ‘practical-acquisitive’ usage of consumer goods is being displaced by their ‘symbolic-communicative’ (or status-conferring) usage typical of capitalist societies (see Merkel, 1999). However, east Germans still prefer the acquisition of these objects to be justified in practical-acquisitive terms and/or with reference to GDR traditional values.  East Germans cope with a cognitive dissonance between socialist and capitalist frames. They retain emotional attachments to ‘old’ values, but at a cognitive level, adopt behaviours that ensure individual survival under capitalist economic structures.

7 Case study: implications for memory research  Under the GDR, east Germans were used to operating under cognitive dissonance. State identity had largely failed to assert itself, leading to increasing mistrust of the SED leadership. Self-legitimation and positive identification had developed largely at the popular level, where socialist values had a strong resonance (Hogwood, 2000).  Since unification, lasting values associated with popular culture have helped East Germans to adapt to a new compromise at state level, this time with the late capitalist values embodied by the unified FRG. Here memories of popular culture, while not entirely consistent, are sufficiently recognisable to individuals to link them within a values collective (see Nünning, 2009, point 4).  This illustrates the importance of the relationship of memory to forgetting (Sturken, 2008). In undergoing their transition experience, east Germans have arguably selected the most appropriate balance of collective remembering and forgetting to secure social integrity, stability and adaptability (Connerton, 2008).  Re ‘normalisation’: east German transition is linked to west German references, but does not follow a linear trajectory towards a west German model.

8 Case study: implications for memory research  The synthesis of ‘old’ and new’ values in east German culture came about because of the ‘second Wende’, the disillusionment following the initial unification euphoria (Mackat, 2007). However, the channels of remembering and forgetting were embedded in the structures of the GDR past which made cognitive dissonance and the forging of identity through popular culture such fundamentals of life in the GDR (McFalls, 1999: 6-7).  Potential for generalisation: contributes to understanding ‘normalisation’ and identity formation under the liminal experience of regime transition  Potential for understanding of popular/collective identities (between individual and state identities)  Path dependence theory, first elaborated within economics but now also being adapted by political scientists, provides some useful analytical tools for understanding these relationships, particularly through its concepts of ‘positive feedback’ and the importance of timing and sequencing in social and political developments (Arthur, 1994; Levi, 1997; David, 2000; Pierson, 2004).

9 References W. B. Arthur (1994) Increasing Returns and Path Dependence in the Economy (Ann Arbor, University of Michigan Press). P. Connerton (2008) ‘Seven types of forgetting’ Memory Studies 2008 1(1): 59-71. P. David (2000) ‘Path dependence, its critics and the quest for ‘historical economics’’ in P. Garrouste and S. Ioannides (eds) Evolution and Path Dependence in Economic Ideas: Past and Present (Cheltenham, Edward Elgar). P. Hogwood (2009) ‘Consuming ambition: consumption and East-West differentiation in post-unification politics and society’ PSA GPSG Annual Workshop 2009, ‘Germany 20 years after reunification: Still in search of ‘inner unity’?’ Technische Universität Chemnitz, 12 November 2009. P. Hogwood (2010) ‘Political learning and consumer behaviour in post-GDR society’ Workshop ‘New Directions in Political Socialization Research’ ECPR Joint Sessions of Workshops, Münster 2010 M. Levi (1997) ‘A model, a method, and a map: rational choice in comparative and historical analysis’ in M. I, Lichbach and A. S. Zuckerman (eds) Comparative Politics: Rationality, Culture and Structure (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press: 19-41).

10 References L. McFalls (1999) ‘Eastern Germany Transformed. From Postcommunist to Late Capitalist Political Culture’ German Politics and Society 17, 51(2): 1-24. A. Mackat (2007) Das Deutsch-Deutsche Geheimnis (Superillu Verlag). I. Merkel (1999) Utopie und Bedürfnis: Die Geschichte der Konsumkultur in der DDR (Cologne Böhlau) P. Pierson (2004) Politics in Time. History, Institutions and Social Analysis (Princeton University Press, Princeton and Oxford). J. Smith and P. Jehlička (2007) ‘Stories around food, politics and change in Poland and the Czech Republic’ Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 32: 395-410. M. Sturken (2008) ‘Memory, consumerism and media: reflections on the emergence of the field’ Memory Studies 2008 1(1): 73-8 J. E. Twark (2007) Humor, Satire and Identity. Eastern German Literature in the 1990s (Berlin, New York, Walter de Gruyter).

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