Call for papers: Wende ohne Ende? Representing the East German revolution and transformation years

A call for papers for a University of Leeds conference examining the continuing impact of the Wende in German culture has been issued.

While the events of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the official reunification of Germany retreat gradually into the past, their significant impact on questions of identity and belonging in Germany remains ever-present.

In particular, for many people socialised or living in East Germany, the process of change and adaptation that began in 1989/90 is not yet over: the Wende is not a closed period of history but a complex and ongoing process that is simultaneously experienced and remembered.

While the fall of the Wall and reunification are remembered each year and were celebrated with particular emphasis at their thirtieth anniversaries in 2019/2020, less public attention has been paid to observing and acknowledging the processes of adaptation and change that followed in the wake of these events and to the establishment of a collective memory of the Wende during the 1990s.

A closer look at these changing social and cultural representations offers insights into the origins of the widespread dissatisfaction and alienation among East Germans that have fuelled, amongst other things, the rise of Far Right mentalities and radicalism since 2015.

In the UK, the post-1990 transformation of East Germany has recently become a reference point for politicians and media outlets discussing the government’s ‘Levelling Up’ agenda, but such references often reflect the view that, firstly, the Wende is concluded, and secondly, that economic performance indicators are the measure of success.

Now more than ever, it is important to account for the wider and longer-term socio-cultural implications of the Wende that brought about fundamental change in the lives of millions of Germans.

About the conference

The conference, to be held 30 March- 1 April 2023 at the University of Leeds, seeks to turn a critical gaze on the continuing impact of the Wende in German culture and society. Confirmed keynote speakers include Peggy Piesche (Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung) and Christina Morina (University of Bielefeld).

The aim is to invite interdisciplinary discussions and initiate new lines of inquiry to explore how representations of and responses to the Wende have evolved over time, in different social groups and communities and across different media and artistic practices.

Abstracts for 20-minute papers in English or in German are welcome from scholars at any stage of their careers, and are particularly encouraged from researchers who work on representations and memory initiatives among marginalised communities.

Suggested areas of focus may include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Socio-economic perspectives
  • The reverberation of the Wende through changes in the political landscape
  • The evolving representation of the Wende in the media
  • Literary and filmic representations
  • Representations and memory initiatives amongst marginalised communities
  • Impact on physical landscapes and cityscapes
  • Reflections from outside Germany

Interdisciplinary approaches are encouraged.

Abstracts in English or German and of no more than 250 words should be submitted to by Friday 4 November 2022, and should be accompanied by a short biographical statement.

It is envisioned that the conference will take place in person, but attempts will be made to accommodate colleagues who wish to attend and are unable to travel. If circumstances prevent a face-to-face event, we will revert to an online format. If you are not able to attend in person, please indicate this on your abstract submission.

Picture via Unsplash/Yc Liao.