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Workshop // Anne Pfautsch: Looking at Photographs: Othering and Self-Othering in East Germany



von 12:00 bis 13:00


Vortragsraum 242, II. OG, Katharina-von-Bora-Straße 10, 80333 München

Termin übernehmen

With reunification, the German Democratic Republic (GDR) was integrated into the political, economic and social system of the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) quasi overnight. Furthermore, East German life, culture and politics were rapidly erased from the German public sphere as the FRG ‘was tacitly acknowledged to have “won” the struggle between rival German cultures and ideologies’. [1] 
The GDR quickly became a concluded period of contemporary history and its analysis was subject to Western concepts and ideas, which were oftentimes inadequate or inapplicable and reinforced stereotypes. Emanating from the assumption that forty years of socialist history, culture and socialisation did not vanish into thin air after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the question arises as to whether social and cultural identities associated with the GDR remain in a post-socialist Germany.
Through the lens of photography, in my PhD I explored how these identities persisted after the fall of the Berlin Wall and how they continue to shape and affect photographic practices in post-Wall Germany. Drawing on postcolonial theory and horizontal art history provided a suitable methodology to reveal how a Western perspective prevails in German art historiography. The concepts of ‘peripherality’ and ‘othering’ disclosed how issues of cultural difference and stereotypes, perpetuated by both West and East Germany, persist and raise the question as to ‘who speaks, on whose behalf, and for whom?’[2]
Since a Western perspective prevails, my subsequent research project is concerned with the enduring hierarchy between the former East and West. On the basis of photographers from the ‘Dritte Generation Ost’ (Third Generation East), i.e. people born in the GDR between 1975 and 1985, I aim to reveal how the former GDR impacts current conditions in Germany. The focus here is on the question of whether an ‘othering’ of East Germany is still in effect thirty-five years later. Have social and cultural characteristics associated with the GDR entered the public consciousness and discourse on German identity or are they still regarded as negligible? [3] Human geographer Antje Schlottmann rightfully points out that “as long as localisation principles classify a discourse on German reunification, the ‘wall in people’s minds’ will not disappear.” [4] Accordingly, what can be revealed about East and West Germany and/or a unified Germany today through photography.


[1] Patricia Hogwood, „After the GDR: Reconstructing identity in post‐communist Germany“, Journal of Communist Studies and Transition Politics 16, Nr. 4 (1. Dezember 2000), 46,

[2] Piotr Piotrowski, „Toward a Horizontal History of the European Avant-Garde“, European Avant-Garde and Modernism Studies, Ed. by Sascha Bru and Peter Nicholls Volume 1 (2009): 54.

[3] James D. Herbert, ‘Passing between Art History and Postcolonial Theory’, in Mark A. Cheetham, Michael Ann Holly, und Keith Moxey, Hrsg., The subjects of art history: historical objects in contemporary perspectives, 1. publ. (Cambridge [u.a.]: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1998), 223.

[4] Cf. Antje Schlottmann, RaumSprache: Ost-West-Differenzen in der Berichterstattung zur deutschen Einheit; eine sozialgeographische Theorie, Sozialgeographische Bibliothek, Bd. 4 (Stuttgart: Steiner, 2005), 310.