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Germany and the World: Cultural Exchanges and Mutual Perceptions

Part of the 'Promoting German Studies in the UK' programme

hamburgAbout the project

In exploring how perceptions and prejudices have shifted over time, and how these relate both to political, economic, and social events, this project seeks to demonstrate the ways in which history and memory are central structural elements in contemporary prejudices and stereotypes, but also how they change over time, rather than, as some commentators have assumed, remaining embedded in unalterable cultural structures that date back to the Second or even the First World War. Through exploring how these perceptions have changed and how they interrelate, it is possible to develop a far more nuanced idea of how and why they are formed in the present and how they may be changed in the future. We are proposing a particular focus on reciprocal perceptions and cultural exchanges and their effects, or non-effects, on mutual perceptions. The focus is two-way, examining how German perceptions of other countries interacted with other countries' perceptions of Germany.

The project will explore mutual prejudices and perceptions through the twentieth century to the present, including topics such as British and American perceptions of Germany and the Germans, German perceptions of Britain and America, prejudices and preconceptions in Franco-German, German-Italian and German-Russian relations, German 'orientalism' and views of the East including India and China, German visions of Africa and the Africans in comparison with British ideas, anti-Semitism and other forms of prejudice and exclusion. This includes of course positive as well as negative attitudes and conceptions, such as German enthusiasm after 1945 for American culture, German visions of Britain as a model liberal polity, British admiration for German modernity, science and efficiency at various periods (notably the Edwardian era and the 1970s), German Communist debates about Russian communism, and much more besides. An important part of this programme will be to examine how cultural exchanges have affected mutual perceptions. Is it the case, for example, that they foster mutual understanding? Or do negative stereotypes have a life of their own, unaffected by mutual knowledge? Finally, a key aim will be to work towards a general understanding of how mutual prejudices and perceptions work and how and why they change over time and are stronger in some countries than in others. The project provides two major research schemes:

 

  • A series of Anglo-German exchange seminars. Each seminar will address a different topic under the general heading of the series, linking historical perspectives with contemporary debates.

 

  • Visiting fellowships: Fellowships are provided for academic staff and postgraduate students from any German university, who are involved in research on contemporary German history in a global context and who wish to study for 8 weeks at the University of Cambridge. Postgraduate students of the University of Cambridge who are working on a topic which contributes to our knowledge of ‘Germany and the World in the Age: Cultural Exchanges and Mutual Perceptions’ are eligible for funding to conduct archival research in Germany.

 

The project is funded by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) as part of its programme 'Promoting German Studies in the UK'.

 

About us 

Richard J. Evans is Regius Professor of History and President of Wolfson College, University of Cambridge. His books include The Coming of the Third Reich, the Third Reich in Power, and the Third Reich at War. He is currently working on a history of Europe in the nineteenth century. 

Bianca Gaudenzi a Research Fellow in Modern European History at Newnham College, University of Cambridge. Educated in Florence and Berlin, Bianca received her PhD from Cambridge with a dissertation on the development of modern advertising in Italy and Germany during the Fascist and Nazi dictatorships. Over the course of her Ph.D. she was elected Royal Historical Society Centenary Fellow at the Institute of Historical Research, London, and JWT Fellow at Duke University, NC. Her previous work focused on the social and cultural history of the Fascist and Nazi regimes, the history of consumption and its political implications, the evolution of women’s role and representation during the 20th century and the process of restitution of art works looted by Germany during World War II. Current research projects include the analysis of the commercialisation of the Führer and the Duce in the interwar years and a comparative study of the emergence of the concept of consumer citizenship in Italy and West Germany in the years leading to the ‘economic miracle’. 

Henning Grunwald is DAAD Fachlektor in Modern European History at the University of Cambridge and Fellow of Pembroke College. After undergraduate and graduate study at Cambridge he moved to Berlin as postdoc at the Institute for Theatre Studies of Freie Universität before serving as assistant to the President of Humboldt-Universität. From 2006 he held an assistant professorship at Vanderbilt University, where he also served as Associate Director of the Max-Kade-Center for European and German Studies. Dr Grunwald has published on the history of ‘crisis’, on European memory politics, and on the legal and political culture of Weimar Germany, most recently Courtroom to Revolutionary Stage: Performance and Ideology in Weimar Political Trials (OUP 2012). 

David Motadel is a Research Fellow at Gonville and Caius College, University of Cambridge. He studied history at the University of Freiburg on a scholarship of the German National Merit Foundation and completed his MPhil and PhD in history at the University of Cambridge, where he was a Gates Scholar. He held research fellowships at Harvard and Yale. Dr Motadel works on nineteenth and twentieth century international and imperial history. His current research projects deal with the European tours of Qajar shahs in the era of high imperialism; Islam and empire; and Muslim mobilisation during the world wars.

Seminars

GERMANY AND THE WORLD: CULTURAL EXCHANGES AND MUTUAL PERCEPTIONS

A DAAD conference and research exchange programme organized by the University of Cambridge and Birkbeck, University of London, the Pears Institute for the Study of Antisemitism, and the Wiener Library; in conjunction with the University of Freiburg, the University of Konstanz, the Free University of Berlin and the Zentrum für Antisemitismusforschung at the Technical University of Berlin

 

First Conference, Cambridge 20-22 March 2013:

Anglo-German Perceptions and Prejudices since 1800

Since the early 19th century, Anglo-German relations have been rife with misunderstandings and mutual suspicion, but also laced with envy and half-acknowledged admiration. From the stamp  ‘made in Germany’ to the rhetoric of ‘a place in the sun’, from ‘perfidious Albion’ to the present-day British stereotypes of German holidaymakers, Germans and Britons have been drawn to one another’s contemplation in a curious mixture of fascination and revulsion. More perhaps than relations between any other pair of major European powers, perceptions of the other have impacted the reality and practice of Anglo-German relations. 

Our workshop asks how, over the last two centuries, this rhetorical arsenal of tropes and stereotypes, negative and positive, has been stocked, and in what ways it has impacted industrial, social and political relations. We welcome submissions from historians and scholars from neighbouring disciplines and encourage a variety of methodological approaches. While it is our intention to cover the chosen timeframe in its entirety, papers probing less well-trodden paths of inquiry are particularly welcome. 

Papers will be pre-circulated. The conference languages are German and English.  Proposals of 500 words, accompanied by a short CV, should be sent by 11 January 2013 to:  Henning Grunwald (PromotingGermanStudies@gmail.com) The workshop is open to academic staff and postgraduate students from any British or German university. Finished papers of no more than 4,000 words should be submitted online by 1 March 2013. 

Travel expenses, accommodation and meals will be funded, subject to a cap on the maximum amount. 

This is the first of four planned conferences under the general programme Germany and the World:  Cultural Exchanges and Mutual Perceptions; further conferences will be held in Konstanz (September 2013), London (March 2014), and Berlin (September 2014). Any enquiries should be directed to Dr Henning Grunwald, DAAD Fachlektor in German History at Cambridge University.