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Revolutionary Archives: Post-1989 Literature, Film, and Theory

GER 575
The Stasi left behind 160km of files, dossiers and tapes on about 6m people (Getty Images)

Professor: Anke Pinkert

Meets: Thursdays 3-5 pm (108 Bevier Hall)

In this seminar, we examine the relationship between archives, memories and artistic forms in the postrevolutionary era since 1989. After the collapse of the German Democratic Republic, the Federal Stasi Records Agency took over massive amounts of files, the East German Secret Service had compiled spying on their citizens. Narratives about the GDR-Stasi archive and the all-pervasive surveillance in East Germany have shaped collective memory to the point that the revolutionary uprising in 1989 is largely forgotten. Indeed, archives wield power over memories in the public sphere. In this course, we study theories of the archive (e.g., Foucault, Derrida,Taylor) and the anarchival force (e.g., Foster, Buck-Morss, Gumbs) in conjunction with post- 1989 texts (e.g., Erpenbeck, Heise, Epperlein/Tucker, Çağatay) to explore alternative “revolutionary archives.” These archival spaces explore the revolutions that unmoored the East- West European Cold War order but they also self-reflexively play with archival forms. We will discuss a range of post-1989 literature, film, and memorials to reexamine the so-called Peaceful Revolution and the interval year of ’89-90. More specifically, we ask what kind of cultural memories of street activism, resistance, and alternative social vision were left behind by the uprising in the GDR that official institutional archives cannot contain. Most scholarship in the last two decades has associated the legacies of 1989 with the fall of the Berlin Wall and Germany’s reunification, viewing this historical break in terms of trauma, defeat, and takeover. Instead, we take our cue from memory studies which is currently shifting from a focus on violence and trauma to more hopeful legacies of social justice and political responsibility.