Posts tagged ‘germany’

24 February 2011

Presuppositions and the GDR

A discourse analytical moment: Reading about a survey of perceptions of the GDR. Very critical study of how the “east Germans” are oh so nostalgic about the GDR and simply won’t accept the view of these west German scholars that the free, democratic FRG was the much superior state. The study led to a good deal of controversy in its time (2007).

One of the questions in the survey (Agree/Disagree as possible answers):

Sich in einer Gemeinschaft oder Gruppe unterzuordnen wie in der DDR, ist für mich grundsäzlich wichtiger, als meine eigene Persönlichkeit zu entwickeln.

To subordinate oneself to a community or group, as in the GDR, is more important to me than developing my own personality.

And here, once again, analysing presuppositions comes into its own. The explicit statement, to be supported or negated, is “X is more important to me than Y”.

It takes a lot more work to negate the presuppositions. Indeed, within the frame of the survey it is not possible to question the presuppositions.

Presupposition 1: In the GDR one subordinated oneself to the community/group.

Presupposition 2: This subordination hindered the development of one’s own personality.

Well, as long as we know what our “common knowledge” is.

19 February 2011

“hier bei uns”

Connection of the day: Reading a lot of good work about memory and remembering at the moment. Harald Welzer, Sabine Moller and Karoline Tschuggnall, for instance, on the dynamics and contradictions of remembering in families (“Opa war kein Nazi”). Very interesting study on how memories are passed on – including, for instance, how a gran’s vague ambiguous memory of certain events becomes ever more concrete and definite as it passes down through the generations.

One of the things Welzer and colleagues critique is that in remembering WWII, very often a distinction is drawn between “the Germans” and “the Jews”. An us/them dinstinction is made, even when nothing malicious or discriminatory seems to be intended.

Is that so very surprising, given today’s constellations of group identies? Today I am reading a valiant attempt in the weekly newspaper Die Zeit to point out how the revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt etc. could “improve the world – from Kreuzberg to Peking and Ramallah”.

And what do they say – bearing in mind this is an entirely well-intentioned article, and bearing in mind that Muslims living in Germany are often of the third generation born here. Writing about the dramatic contradiction between the imagined Muslim of “the Sarrazin year” (Muslims in this hugely problematic view are uneducated, violent, dole scrounging machos who mass produce babies to get more dole money) and the Muslims of the recent revolutions(democratically engaged, equality promoting, intelligent), Die Zeit writes:

Immerhin könnte es sein, dass man sich getäuscht hat. Die Vermutung war, dass die meisten Schwierigkeiten, die es in Deutschland und Europa mit Muslimen gibt, aus deren Kultur, aus Rückständigkeit und Religion entspringen. Nun legen die arabischen Ereignisse nahe, dass es eher an den Umständen liegt, unter denen die Muslime dort unten und hier bei uns leben.

“Hier bei uns” (“Muslims living down there and here with us”)? So, despite generations of living together, Muslims in Germany are still not the “us” of …what? White/Christian/atheist Germans? And, once again, as with Welzer and co’s study: An us/them dinstinction is made, even when nothing malicious or discriminatory seems to be intended.

(And, yes, more could be said about the previous sentence in thw quote: “The assumption was that most of the difficulties that Europe and Germany have with Muslims stem from their culture, from backwardness and religion”. Paul Chilton write beautifully about the packaging involved in this kind of statement. Even though the author explicitly presents “culture, backwardness and religion” as a flawed assumption, he (implicitly) reproduces the presupposition that it is Europe and Germany which have (currently) “difficulties” “with” “Muslims”, i.e. which positions Muslims as causing the difficulties, rather than any particular forms of social organisation, exclusion, discrimination, etc.)

4 September 2010


I really didn’t want to write anything about Thilo Sarrazin and his racist comments which have been swirling round the German media. But today I finally found a gap in the discourse. And it’s even in Die Zeit, a newspaper not known for its pro-Muslim or pro-“foreigner” (referring to the ridiculous legal situation in which people born in Germany are still considered and called “foreigners”) or for rendering a complex picture of migration in Germany. Not online, but in the Feuilleton (“Das Letzte”, p.59 on 2. Sept. 2010).

In a story about the Mainz university hospital in which three newborn babies died two weeks ago, Die Zeit tells its readers that the hospital is enjoying its refound innocence. It was not to blame; cost-cutting or incompetence was not to blame. To blame was a bottle. A bottle with a fine splinter which was not visible to anyone and which let the germs get in to the babies’ feed. The article ends:

Und es ist noch schöner. Es war keine deutsche, es war eine ausländische Flasche. Keine gute ehrliche Flasche, sondern eine tückische, ihren feinen Riss berechnend verbergende Ausländerflasche. Da stellt sich doch wirklich die Schuldfrage neu, nicht wahr. Wer hat diese Flasche einwandern lassen – und wann? Waren das vielleicht die Gutmenschen in ihrem multikulturellem Überschwang? Und welche Gesetze haben das möglich gemacht? Und wie kann es sein, dass man Thilo Sarrazins Thesen über die Verkeimung der deutschen Gesellschaft durch Ausländer zurückweist, aber bei verkeimten Flaschen die ausländische Herkunft nur wie nebenbei erwähnt?

Das darf doch alles nicht wahr sein! Ist das ganze Land denn blind geworden für seine Gefährdung? Weil es kein Brillenglas, sondern nur noch Flaschenglas auf den Augen hat? Eines ist jedenfalls gewiss: Deutschland wird sich am Ende wirklich abschaffen, wenn es sich von Flaschen tauschen lässt.

11 April 2010

Integration and the discourse of “concreteness”

The debate on integration in Germany continues. But certain aspects are aggressively excluded from the discussion.

Today a round table discussion on “Tacheles” on Phoenix (state-funded public television channel). Participants discuss, among other things, “positive examples” of educational projects to assist integration. One is a bilingual primary school in which all kids learn subjects in both German and Turkish.

After some comments on the project, Cem Gülay

Cem Gülay

Cem Gülay

says that it is important to remember that education is not the only important aspect to integration. There are over 20,000 young people of Turkish background with university degrees in Germany, but when it comes to getting professional jobs, they are clearly discriminated against. He starts to give concrete numbers: 1 to 3.

The moderator jumps in: wait, wait, wait, we’re talking about this concrete project. And cuts Gülay off, turning to the next participant.

Discursive strategy of “concreteness”: using “the concrete” to disrupt mention of larger systemic issues such as institutional racism. Yet Necla Kelek was not interrupted when she translated the specific project into a mention of women’s position in Muslim societies.

Unfortunately, Gülay’s comments on this topic are not included in the range of clips available on Phoenix’ website.

Hamideh Mohagheghi

Hamideh Mohagheghi

Practical critical discourse analysis on “Islam”

Hamideh Mohagheghi, Chair of the Muslim Academy in Germany, does a nice bit of practical critical discourse analysis (in the video summary below at around minute 3:30) by drawing attention to the moderator’s use of “young people with a Turkish background” and “young people with a Muslim background” as synonyms.

Around minute 7:50 she takes apart the concept of “highly religious people” – what on earth is “highly religious”, she asks. How are we supposed to measure that?

24 February 2010

Russia Europe’s largest economy by 2050

New term to add to LEDC, NIC, LDC, etc. Someone recently termed Germany one of the NDCs: Newly Declining Countries. A recent report by PricewaterhouseCoopers provides support:

PricewaterhouseCooper’s head of macroeconomics, John Hawksworth, believes by 2050, Russia will be Europe’s largest economy, while China, the US and India will lead globally.

PwC predicted that Russia would become Europe’s largest economy by 2020. What are the underlying assumptions of this forecast?

In terms of purchasing power parity, which corrects for variations in price levels, Russia’s GDP is already the second largest in Europe after Germany.

Germany’s economic growth, especially given its ageing population, is projected to be less than 2pc per annum over the next 20 years, allowing Russia to catch up by 2020. The price of natural resources should remain relatively high because of demand from India and China and should support Russia’s growth. (Report by Artem Zagorodnov on Russia Now.)

4 October 2008

‘Spooky’ GDR

‘Reunification Day’. Domestic news in Germany was dominated today (3 Oct) by coverage of the annual national holiday. Extensive television coverage of reunification issues. The films Das Leben der Anderen and Goodbye Lenin were on national tv. Chancellor Angela Merkel is shown saying how positive it is that she – from the former GDR – can become chancellor of the whole of Germany. A good number of cafe, pub and street interviews ask how people feel about East Germany.

Interesting discourse moment:

  1. If this day celebrates ‘German reunification’, it’s interesting that the coverage is primarily about the former GDR and not pre-1990 BRD.
  2. As a result, the media covers primarily negative memories of the GDR. Haven’t yet seen anyone recalling their positive childhood memories, or teenage memories or first boyfriend, wedding day, social networks, first flat… the normal things normal people do, and remember doing, in the course of their lives. Hegemony has been achieved by the the kind of comment made by one teenager interviewed ARD’s Tageschau: ‘I don’t remember much about it’, he says to camera, ‘I wasn’t born at the time. But my parents have talked about being over there and how spooky [gruselig] it was.’
  3. His comment reminds me of an exhibition I saw in Berlin’s Checkpoint Charlie museum a few years ago. Shoolchildren had been asked to draw images of the Berlin wall. Several rooms were devoted to their pictures. These were kids aged around 10, all born several years after reunification. All (I mean all) the pictures showed something along the lines of coloured flowers and happy smiling families on one side of the wall, and grey/black barbed wire unhappy people on the other side.
  4. Not to pretend that everything was rosy in East Germany. But what happens to historical understanding if only one side tells the story? As even the most basic of introductions to history now regularly say:

However, history could always have been different. Whenever a history is told, it creates another side of the story, so the question of who gets a chance to speak – the politics of representation – is crucial to our understanding of history.

Also today, international news was focused primarily on the debate between Joe Biden and Sarah Palin. My favourite comment:

From via Stefan Niggemeier.

10 September 2008


play08 Potsdam – Workshops // Creative Gaming Lab // Exhibition
17.-20. September 2008 // Schaufenster der FH Potsdam

Creative Gaming Lab is organising four days of workshops, activities and discussions for young people and teachers to explore the potentials of computer games. Here’s their description:

In den ein- und zweitägigen Workshops lernen Schüler/innen und Pädagog/innen, was man mit Computerspielen, neben dem Spielen, sonst noch machen kann. Die Regeln werden geändert und das Spiel wird zum Spielzeug. Einen Film drehen in einem Computerspiel, ein eigenes Spiel entwickeln oder nach der Verbindung von virtueller und realer Welt suchen – das alles ist während der Workshops möglich. Die SchülerInnen lernen für bekannte Spiele neue Nutzungsmöglichkeiten, während die Lehrer/innen erfahren, wie sich die Programme im Unterricht einsetzen lassen. Die Workshops werden als Lehrerfortbildung anerkannt. Die Teilnahme an den Workshops kostet 5 EUR pro Person, zahlbar vor Ort. Das Werkstattgespräch ist für alle interessierten PädagogInnen offen. Außer den angekündigten Workshops wird es am Do., 18. September ein Werkstattgespräch des geben. Die Workshopplätze sind begrenzt. Veranstaltungsort: Schaufenster FH Potsdam, Friedrich-Ebert-Straße 4, 14467 Potsdam.

Um Anmeldung wird gebeten unter: e-Mail: info…(at)…, Andreas Hedrich, jaf – Junger Arbeitskreis Film und Video e.V., fon. 0172 928 03 76 oder auf