Dr Joanne Sayner LLB, MA, Ph.D, PGCHE

Photograph of Dr Joanne Sayner

Department of Modern Languages
Senior Lecturer in Cultural Theory and German Studies

Contact details

Ashley Building
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

I am based in the Department of Modern Languages. I teach courses on media, cultural and German studies. I have been at the University of Birmingham since 2004.


I studied for a degree in Law and German at Cardiff University before going on to do an MA in Literature in European Cultures. I completed my PhD in 2002 and held my first academic post at the University of Bath before coming to Birmingham.


I teach undergraduate modules on European cultural and media studies, and undergraduate modules in German Studies (focussing on gender, literature and history). I currently lead the modules ‘European Cultural Theory’ and the ‘Politics of Remembering: Germany and the Nazi Past from 1945-present’. I am co-convenor of the MA Holocaust and Genocide, with specialist input on ‘Gendercide’. I supervise dissertations on memory studies, media and cultural studies and gender.

Postgraduate supervision

I am happy to supervise postgraduate dissertations on memory studies (particularly focussing on different media of memory), gender, life-writing, and on German literary and cultural history since 1933.


  • Rosemary Campbell: The Representation of Women in GDR Museums (due to complete 2017).
  • John Francis, Memory: Utopian Thought and Globalisation (completed July 2013).
  • Samina Amin, Gendered Memories of the Spanish Civil War (completed Sept 2012).
  • Jun Gao, Structuralism and Poststructuralism in the Work of Roland Barthes (completed 2010).
  • Katharina Boehmker, The Army as a National Institution and the Concept of National Identity (completed 2010).
  • Hannah Rachel Simpson, Cinematic Representations of Women in France and Germany, 1918-1933 (completed 2009).
  • Sebastian J. Martin, The Hitler Humour Movement: a Study of Contemporary German Hitler Humour and the Deconstruction of the Hitler Myth (completed 2008).
  • Robert Dennes, Representations of Wehrmacht Experience in GDR War Literature, 1950-1957 (completed 2007).


  • Olgaokan Okan, Representations of Female Suicide (due 2016).
  • David Zell, Major Cultural Commemorations and the Construction of Cultural & Political Identity in the GDR, 1967-1987 (due 2016, AHRC-funded).
  • Dietlinde Schmucker, Travelling Childhood Memories of the Second World War: German-American Women’s Participation in the US-American Contemporary Memoir Boom (due 2016). Distance learning.
  • John Francis, Spectres of The Crisis (due 2016).
  • Marlene Schrijnders, From London to Leipzig and back: Goth scenes in the GDR between Endzeit and Revolution (due 2017, AHRC-funded)
  • Alex Brown, Rethinking the GDR Opposition: Reform, Resistance and Revolution in the Other Germany (due 2018, AHRC-funded)


My research specialism is in the media of memory, with particular emphasis on the gendered dimensions of remembering. My research interests combine media and cultural studies, gender studies and cultural history.

I am Co-investigator with the AHRC-funded World War One Engagement Centre, Voices of War and Peace.

I have lead two cross-sector networks looking at the Significance of the Centenary and Silence, Memory and Empathy in Museums at Historic Sites.

I am a member of the Sexuality and Gender Studies network at the University of Birmingham.

I am a member of the After the Wall network.

Other activities

Principal Research Grants and Research Leadership

  • 2017, AHRC Standard Grant ‘Knowing the Secret Police: Secrecy and Knowledge in East German Society’. Co-Investigator and Convenor of ‘Memory Work’ strand (approx. £700,000), currently in preparation in collaboration with Anselma Gallinat, Newcastle University and Sara Jones, University of Birmingham.
  • 2016, AHRC WWI Engagement Centre Award: ‘Voices of War and Peace’. Co-Investigator and Convenor of ‘Commemoration’ strand (£500,000), currently in preparation.
  • 2014, AHRC WWI Engagement Centre Award: ‘Voices of War and Peace’. Co-Investigator and Convenor of ‘Commemoration’ strand (£372,000).
  • 2013, AHRC Exploratory Award, Care for the Future: ‘The Significance of the Centenary’. Principal Investigator. Steering Group: University of Birmingham, Cardiff University, Sheffield University, Historic Royal Palaces, National Library of Wales (£27,671).
  • 2011, AHRC Networking Grant: ‘Silence, Memory and Empathy in Museums and at Historic Sites’. Principal Investigator. Steering Group: University of Birmingham, Cardiff University, Imperial War Museum, Historic Royal Palaces (£33,345).
  • 2011, DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service) Research Grant: ‘Zeitgeist: What does it Mean to be German in the Twenty-first Century?’ Co-investigator and Convener of ‘History and Memory’ strand (£64,000).
  • 2011, AHRC Early Career Fellowship: September-December, Principal Investigator (£26,842).

National and International Conference Invitations/Invited Talks

  • ‘Memory Going Nowhere? The Problems and Persistence of Theory’, Thinking Through the Future of Memory, Amsterdam, forthcoming December 2016.
  • Blood-Swept Lands and Seas of Red at the Tower of London and on Tour’, co-written with Jenny Kidd, Reimagining Challenging History, Cardiff, forthcoming June 2016.
  • ‘I’m not into poppies, I’m into lessons’: The Significance of the Centenary and the Poppy as a Symbol of Remembering’, co-written with Jenny Kidd, Revisiting Commemoration: Practices, Uses and Appropriations of the Centenary of the Great War, Paris, March 2016.
  • ‘Happy Anniversary? Measuring the Impact, Success and Legacy of Centenary Events’, Museums and Heritage Show, May 2014, with Alex Drago, Historic Royal Palaces.
  • ‘Memory, Gender and Genre’, Aberystwyth University, July 2014.
  • ‘Memories of Germany and German Memories’, HEA workshop ‘Commemoration and Conflict: Challenges for HE Practitioners in History, Area Studies and Philosophical and Religious Studies’, University of Birmingham, 19 February 2014.
  • ‘Preparing to Commemorate’, Centenary network, Cardiff University, October 2013.
  •  ‘Remembering Anna Seghers, Remembering Antifascism’, Association of German Studies, University of Sheffield, April 2013.
  • ‘Life Writing: Genres of Memory’, Cardiff University, March 2013.
  • ‘Reframing Antifascism: Memory, Genre and the Life Writings of Greta Kuckhoff’, After the Wall Conference, University of Bangor, 8-10 September 2011.
  • ‘Communicating History: The Archived Letter and Memories of “The Red Orchestra”’, German Studies Association Conference, California, 7-10 October 2010.
  • ‘The Politics of Pedagogy: Educating the Educators of Memory’, Transcultural Memory, University of London, 4-6 February 2010.
  • ‘Wir werden ihr Andenken stets in Ehren halten’: Antifascism, Greta Kuckhoff and Memories of Resistance. ‘GDR 20 Years on’, University of Bath, 14-16September 2009.
  • ‘A Cult of Dead Male Heroes? Remembering the “Red Orchestra” since 1989’. Identity and Landscape after Communism. Department of Geography, University of Birmingham, 7-9 September 2009.
  • ‘Erinnerung an den Widerstand, Erinnerung an den Holocaust: Greta Kuckhoff und die Rote Kapelle’. Geerbte Geschichte? Faschismus und Krieg in Literatur und Film um 1969, University of Postdam, Germany, 21-23 November 2008.
  • ‘“Sie gehörte zu den Aktivisten der ersten Stunde”: Greta Kuckhoff’s political engagement in the immediate post war period’. Impact: German-Language Culture and its Reception. University of Liverpool, 23-25 July 2008.
  • ‘Building the Mosaic: A Contribution to the Cultural History of Antifascism’. Cultural Memory: Forgetting to Remember/Remembering to Forget. University of Kent, 10-13 September 2008.
  • ‘Living Antifascism: Greta Kuckhoff’s writings in Die Weltbühne’. Writing under Socialism. University of Nottingham, 11-12 July 2008.
  • ‘Inge Scholls Die Weiße Rose’, Potsdam Memory Colloquium, University of Postdam, Germany, May 2008.
  • ‘In twenty years we will all be victims: Memories of Nazism and the Challenge of the Autobiographical’. Re-Calling the Past, University of Tampere, Finland, 1-2 December 2006.
  • ‘Ein Stoff wie der unseres Buches stößt jetzt auf Widerstand. Hilde Hupperts und Arnold Zweigs Fahrt zum Acheron’. Geteilte Erinnerung? Faschismus und Krieg im europäischen Kontext 1950, University of Potsdam, Germany, 24-26 November 2006.
  • ‘Ich hatte ein Ziel. Ich widerstand!: Greta Kuckhoff's Autobiographical Memories of Antifascist Resistance’. University of Nottingham German Department, 21 October 2005.
  • ‘The Wrong Germans: Gender and Generation in Rachel Seiffert’s The Dark Room’. International Conference on Contemporary European Writers: Gender and Generation, University of Bath, April 2005.
  • ‘Remembering Resistance: Greta Kuckhoff and “The Red Orchestra” in German Cultural Memories’. The Politics of Cultural Memory, Manchester Metropolitan University, 4-6 November 2004.
  • ‘Ich lebe nicht wirklich in dieser Zeit’: Negotiations of Local and National Identities in Elfriede Brüning’s Jeder lebt für sich allein’. Women in German Studies Conference: Local and Global Identities, University of Bath, 1-3 September 2003.
  • ‘Memories of Student Resistance to Nazism: Rethinking Inge Scholl’s Canonical West German Text The White Rose’. Women’s Studies Centre, University of Bath. 7 May 2003.
  • ‘Bekenntnisse einer Zeitzeugin: Elfriede Brüning’s Und außerdem war es mein Leben (1994)’. Nottingham Trent University: Ich will anders sein: Difference in Contemporary Germany. 4-6 July 2002.
  • ‘Depictions of Fascism in Women’s Autobiographies in German’. British Federation of Women Graduates Annual Conference, London. 20 April 2002.
  • ‘Memories of a survivor – the Publishing History of an Autobiography’. Women in German Studies Conference, Leeds University.10 November 2001.
  • ‘An Autobiography of Avoidance. The Construction of Memories about Fascism in Melita Maschmann’s Autobiography: Taking Stock. My Journey within the Hitler Youth (1963)’. Women, Gender and the Extreme Right in Europe 1919-1945, Cardiff Univesity. 4-6 July 2001.
  • ‘For Whom Does One Remember? Autobiographical Perspectives on Fascism’. Imagining the Future – Remembering the Past, Rutgers University (NY). 22-23 February 2001.

Conference/Workshop Organisation

  • ‘Reimagining Challenging History’, Cardiff University, 30-31June 2016, Co-organiser.
  • ‘The Uses of Testimony’. University of Birmingham in collaboration with University of Nottingham. 23 June 2014, Co-organiser.
  • ‘The Journal as an Agent of Socio-Political Change: Publishing and Intellectual Networks in the German Democratic Republic (GDR)’, Workshop, June 2014, Co-organiser, with Universities of Manchester and Reading.
  • ‘Happy Anniversary? Measuring the Impact, Legacy and Success of Anniversary Events’. May 2014, Hampton Court, Co-organiser. Funded by AHRC.
  • ‘The GDR Today’, Postgraduate Symposium, University of Birmingham, 13 January 2014, Co-organiser with Universities of Bristol and Bangor.
  • ‘Memory and Genre’, University of Birmingham in collaboration with University of Nottingham. September 2013, Co-organiser.
  • AHRC network, ‘The Significance of the Centenary’:
    1 day conference, ‘The Success of Centenaries’, University of Cardiff, October 2013, Co-organiser.
    1 day conference, ‘Centenaries in Practice’, Tower of London, July 2013, Co-organiser.
    1 day conference, ‘Comparative Centenaries’, University of Sheffield, May 2013. Co-organiser.
    1 day conference, ‘Contextualising Centenaries’, University of Birmingham, April 2013. Co-organiser.
  • DAAD project: ‘Zeitgeist: What does it mean to be German in the twenty-first century?’
    2 day Conference, ‘Cultural Politics/Politics of Culture’, University of Birmingham, December 2013, Co-organiser.
  • AHRC network, ‘Silence, Memory and Empathy in Museums and at Historic Sites’.
    3 day Conference, 'Challenging Memories: Silence and Empathy in Heritage Interpretation', July 2013, Co-organiser.
    1 day workshop, 'Negotiating Spaces for Silence', April 2013, Co-organiser.
    1 day workshop, 'Negotiating Empathy as Learning', June 2012, Co-organiser.
    1 day workshop, 'Negotiating Silence', March 2012, Sole organiser.
  • Institute for Advanced Studies (UoB): 'Languages of Memory', June 2012, Sole organiser.
  • DAAD Postgraduate Summer School, June 2012, Team leader.
  • Women in German Studies Annual Conference, November 2009, Sole organiser.


  • ‘I’m not into poppies, I’m into lessons: The Significance of the Centenary and the Poppy as a Symbol of Remembrance’, co-authored with Jenny Kidd, Cultural Trends [In preparation, submission January 2017].
  • ‘Intersections of Silence and Empathy’, International Journal of Heritage Studies, special issue, co-edited with Jenny Kidd. To include co-authored editorial with Jenny Kidd and ‘Memory, Silence and Engagement in the Museum’, co-authored with Rhiannon Mason. [In preparation, submission December 2016].
  • ‘Gendering “the other Germany”: Resistant and Residual Narratives on Stauffenbergstraße, Berlin’, co-authored with Rhiannon Mason in Gender and Heritage: Performance, Place and Politics (Key Issues in Cultural Heritage, Routledge), eds Wera Grahn and Ross Wilson. [Accepted for publication].
  • ‘Experiencing Mixed Emotions in the Museum: Empathy and Memory in Visitors’ Responses to Histories of Migration’, co-authored with Rhiannon Mason, Katherine Lloyd, Areti Galani, in Emotion, Affective Practices and the Past in the Present (Key Issues in Cultural Heritage, Routledge), eds. Laurajane Smith, Margaret Wetherell and Gary Campbell [Accepted for publication].
  • ‘Tendentiousness and Topicality: Buchenwald and Antifascism as Sites of GDR memory’, co-authored with Helmut Peitsch, in ‘The Importance of Being German: Narratives and Identities in the Berlin Republic’, special issue of German Politics and Society, Spring/Summer 2015 (33:1), 100-118.
  • Reframing Antifascism: Memory, Genre and the Life Writings of Greta Kuckhoff, Palgrave Macmillan, 2013, 284 pp. ISBN 9780230368750
  • ‘Communicating History: The Archived Letter and Memories of “The Red Orchestra”’, in Becoming East Germans: Socialist Structures and Sensibilities after Hitler, ed. Mary Fulbrook and Andrew Port, Oxford: Berghahn, 2013, pp. 79-98
  • ‘Verehrter Gen. Ulbricht: Negotiations of Self and Socialist Identity in Greta Kuckhoff's Letters’, in The Self in Transition: East German Autobiographical Narratives, ed. David Clarke and Axel Goodbody, Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2013, pp. 33-46.
  • ‘Reframing Antifascism: Greta Kuckhoff as Author, Commentator and Critic’, in ed. Anna Saunders and Debbie Pinfold, Remembering and Rethinking the GDR: Multiple Perspectives and Plural Authenticities, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013, pp. 51-66.
  • ‘Gendering the Memoirist: Antifascism and The Politics of Life-Writing’, in Life Writing and Political Memoir – Lebenszeugnisse und Politische Memoiren, ed. Magnus Brechtken, V & R unipress, 2012, pp. 243-58.
  • ‘Educating Educators of Memory’, Journal for Educational Media, Memory and Society, 2011, 3 (2), 137-154.
  • ‘Between Denigration, Idealization and Historicization: Memories of Nazism and Everyday Antifascism’, in Remembering the German Democratic Republic: Divided Memory in a United Germany, ed. David Clarke and Ute Wölfel, Basingstoke: Palgrave McMillan, 2011, pp. 237-248
  • Living Antifascism: Greta Kuckhoff’s writings in Die Weltbühne’, in Writing Under Socialism, ed. Meesha Nehru & Sara Jones, Nottingham: Critical, Cultural and Communications Press, 2011, pp. 75-91.
  • ‘The Organic Intellectual: The Public and Political Impact of Greta Kuckhoff 1945-1949’, in Cultural Impact: Theoretical and Practical Issues of Reception in the German-Speaking World, ed. Rebecca Braun and Lyn Marvyn, Rochester, New York: Camden House, 2010, pp. 227-242.
  • ‘“Ich schäme mich meiner Augen”: Photography and Autobiographical Identities in Grete Weil’s Leb ich denn, wenn andere leben’, in German Life Writing in the Twentieth Century. A Volume of Essays,ed. Birgit Dahlke, Dennis Tate and Roger Woods, Rochester, NY: Camden House, 2010, pp. 105-120.
  • ‘The Personal and the Political: Remembering Adam Kuckhoff, Remembering Resistance’, in Antifaschismus Revisited: Geschichte – Ideologie – Erinnerung, Special Issue Zeitschrift der Auschwitz-Stiftung Brüssel, Éditions Kimé, Paris, Nr. 104, ed. Carola Hähnel-Mesnard, 2009, 122-36.
  • ed. with Nigel Harris, The Text and Its Context. Studies in Modern German Literature and Society, Oxford; New York; Frankfurt am Main: Lang, 2008, pp. 356.
  • Women Without A Past? German Autobiographical Writings and Fascism. Amsterdam and New York: Rodopi. 2007, 381 pp. ISBN 9042022280
  • ‘Memories of Victimhood: Nazism and the Challenge of the Autobiographical’, Forum for Modern Language Studies, 43, 2007, 301-315
  • ‘Ich lebe nicht wirklich in dieser Zeit: Negotiations of Local and National Identities in Elfriede Brüning's Jeder lebt für sich allein’, German Monitor, 68, 2007, 317-332.
  • Man muß die bunten Blüten abreißen…: Memories of Fascism in Melita Maschmann's Fazit’, Forum for Modern Language Studies, Special Issue, Representations of War, 41, 2005, 213-225.
  • ‘Constructing Identities and Remembering Fascism: The Published Letters of Elisabeth Langgässer’, in Gender, the Letter and Politics, ed. by Caroline Bland and Maire Cross, Aldershot: Ashgate, 2004, pp. 241-252.
  • ‘Eine Existenz aus Erinnerung: Grete Weils Leb ich denn, wenn andere leben’, in Zwischen Trivialität und Postmoderne: Literatur von Frauen in den 90er Jahren, ed. by Ilse Nagelschmidt et al., Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 2002, pp. 95-112.