Reconstruction of Collective Memories about Eastern Germany: the Case of ‘Ostalgie’ Phenomenon
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This Master of Arts thesis discusses how reconstruction of collective memories about Eastern Germany functions in the case of ‘Ostalgie’, nostalgia about positive aspects of life in the former GDR. It surveys different expressions of the phenomenon and seeks its reasons. Ostalgie is seen as a result of a sudden denunciation of East German experiences and as defence mechanism against the predominantly negative GDR discourse in post-unification Germany. Many East Germans find it easier to identify with the GDR material culture rather than with the oppressive regime and Stasi surveillance. The research examines three recent German films, depicting life in the former GDR, Sonnenallee (1999), Good Bye, Lenin! (2003) and The Lives of Others (2006). The choice of films is explained by their distinct polarization. While, Sonnenallee and Good Bye, Lenin! were criticized for nostalgic and trivial depiction of life in the GDR, The Lives of Others was praised for finally elaborating on the topic of the notorious Stasi. The research discusses the aspects of the GDR life in those films, which reconstruct distinct East German collective memories and identity. The thesis is based on the content analysis of the actual films as well as scholarly and mass media debates around them. It shows how these two levels interact with each other, and altogether act as mediators of a bigger process of social (re)construction of East German collective memories and identity. It is, therefore, a study of (re) construction of collective memory on the example of the Ostalgie phenomenon rather than the phenomenon itself.
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