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The Local Aufarbeitung (Re-Working) of the SED-Dictatorship: Governing Memory to Save the Future

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Anselma Gallinat



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC-ND).


The East German past has been the focus of much debate and scholarly work in Germany since unification in 1990. The government-sponsored discourse on this past, Vergangenheitsaufarbeitung, the ‘re-working of the past’, presents the GDR as the ‘SED-dictatorship’. In constructing the East German past as part of Germany’s dictatorial past the discourse of Aufarbeitung legitimizes German unification and the transition to democracy. This paper explores how local governmental institutions attempt to realise the national and authoritative discourse of Aufarbeitung. Drawing on ethnographic research it will discuss two projects realised by the ‘Working Group Aufarbeitung’ on the topic of everyday life in socialism which provides both a challenge – to the categorical certainties of the discourse’s narratives – and an opportunity – to attract a wider audience – for this political field of memory-work. The paper will highlight how in this sphere memory-work has become tied to the governmental aim of the further development of democracy that however ties past, present and future together in uncomfortable binary relationships.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Gallinat A

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: European Politics and Society

Year: 2017

Volume: 18

Issue: 1

Pages: 96-109

Online publication date: 22/12/2016

Acceptance date: 29/04/2016

Date deposited: 16/01/2017

ISSN (print): 2374-5118

ISSN (electronic): 2374-5126

Publisher: Taylor & Francis


DOI: 10.1080/23745118.2016.1269448


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