Envisaged Futures at the End of the Cold War: The National Self-Understanding in the German East-West Transformation Process, 1989-1995


German reunification brought about differing experiences in the (German) East and West respectively, leading to specific expectations regarding future unity (on both sides). This PhD project is aimed at examining concepts of the future that occurred in the course of the German East-West transformation process between 1989 and 1995. This period of transition was initially marked, in large parts of Germany, by a sense of euphoria and hope for a free, democratic future and a reformed German Democratic Republic following the Peaceful Revolution. However, in the course of the reunification process, these sentiments were – not only in Eastern Germany – soon followed by fear and disappointment, which increased with the onset of economic upheaval in the GDR, growing unemployment, and racist riots. The efforts of the newly reconstituted Federal Republic of Germany to find its place on the international stage correlated with the quest for “inner unity” within Germany’s society in transition.

This PhD project focuses on the issue of a new national self-understanding of the German people. The project’s approach draws on the history of emotions and, by studying fears and hopes, relief and disappointment, aims at a better understanding of the different perceptions and ways of confronting and handling this situation of transition occurring among the German general public. The study will analyze public discourses on expectations and visions of the future in regard to the ideas about a united, common German identity and/or various identities within Germany, thereby taking into account various groups of actors from politics, media and society.

The project is supported by the Federal Foundation for the Reappraisal of the SED Dictatorship (Bundesstiftung zur Aufarbeitung der SED-Diktatur).

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