"Material Memory in Marzahn"
This project incorporates oral history, architectural history, material culture, environmental history, and memory studies into the backdrop of the political narrative of the SED's attempts to realize the "unity of social and economic policy" by solving the housing crisis through the massive building of huge "settlements" such as Berlin-Marzahn. This research project seeks especially to investigate the impact caused by the radical physical and aesthetic change in the material surroundings of those East Germans who moved into the "Neubausiedlungen" such as Marzahn. Can the construction of Neubausiedlungen in the 1970s be interpreted as a means by which the physical cues of memory were erased—both in terms of memories of family histories, and in terms of the larger metanarratological memories intertwined with historical eras? Was Marzahn — or were similar settlements outside Rostock, Schwerin, Halle, or Leipzig — the future of East Germany, had it survived the crisis of 1989-1990? Would this have meant a total erasure of memory, and thus history, that might have stood as an alternative to the "heile Welt" of the dictatorship?
"The Summer of 1945: Picking up the Pieces in Germany"
This project, along with "Material Memory in Marzahn" and "Synthetic Socialism" is meant to complete a trilogy entitled "Destruction and Replacement in Postwar Germany. It will focus on the physical destruction of Berlin and other parts of Germany, especially in the last months of the war, and the time of transition to occupation and reconstruction. What happened to the physical traces of the old regime, what impact did this have on the survivors and refugees, and on the occupying forces themselves? Numerous popular books and films have documented the destruction of Berlin, especially, during the battle against the invading Red Army, such as A Woman in Berlin or The Fall of Berlin by Anthony Beevor, or the movie "Downfall." Other literary sources have depicted the twilight-like period of confusion as one world passed away and another was yet to take shape, such as Viktor Klemperer's diaries, Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five and Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow. But what really happened to people's belongings? How much really was lost, and with it, how do we really gauge what of German culture was lost? This research will begin in 2009 but will also involve work in military archives in the U.S., the U.K. and France at a later date.