Currently in my third year, my PhD thesis explores how state-sponsored commemorations of major German cultural figures shaped cultural and political memory in the GDR. The research investigates the bicentenaries of Schiller and Beethoven, the centenary of Käthe Kollwitz and the quincentenary of Luther as four comparable case studies spanning a 25 year timeframe, and stretching across different strands of German cultural heritage.
The primary research question asks how these commemorations were designed, executed and received and whether there was a lasting legacy. The central research problem is linked to ongoing historiographical debates on the conceptualisation of the GDR; By including Oral History as one of the research methods, it also adds a relevant social history perspective as original contribution to interpreting what kind of society the GDR was.
The project combines a detailed historiographical study of how cultural commemorations were proposed and negotiated with recent studies in cultural memory. It thereby develops an innovative and original approach to understanding how commemorations as a politically designated instrument of cultural memory are developed over time in a state dominated by a single Party and ideological structure.