Sara Jones’s doctoral research analysed literary production in the GDR and considered the complex and ambiguous position of socialist writers from across the spectrum of conformity and dissent. The thesis takes an interdisciplinary approach to the topic, combining extensive archival research with literary analysis of autobiographical texts and fiction. This work was published in 2011 as a monograph in de Gruyter’s Interdisciplinary German Cultural Studies series with the title: Complicity, Censorship and Criticism: Negotiating Space in the GDR Literary Sphere.
Professor Jones’s second major project, "Reconstructing the Stasi: Remembering Secret Police Repression in the United Germany", was funded by the Leverhulme Trust (2009-2012). This included a series of journal articles, book chapters, and conference papers that consider the representation of the Stasi in different media forms (literature, film, autobiography and museums). The research culminated in a monograph in Palgrave Macmillan's Memory Studies series with the title: The Media of Testimony: Remembering the East German Stasi in the Berlin Republic (August 2014). Professor Jones’s research takes an interdisciplinary approach to the processes of remembering dictatorship, combining cultural, media and memory studies with sociology and political science
Building on the work of her second monograph, Professor Jones was Principal Investigator for the AHRC network “Culture and its Uses of Testimony”, which ran from July 2016-January 2019. The network brought together scholars from across the humanities and social sciences with non-academic practitioners to consider what role cultural forms of testimony (e.g., autobiographical writing, literature, art, film, documentary and museums) can play in processes of post-conflict reconciliation and justice. This included the co-production of a set of resources for secondary teachers using testimony in the classroom across the curriculum. The network led to a major AHRC-funded follow-on project “Testimony in Practice”, which ran from March 2019-February 2020. The project comprises: an innovative documentary theatre production, made in a collaboration with Catalan theatre company La Conquesta del Pol Sud and Romanian and German novelist Carmen-Francesca Banciu; an online testimonies campaign to collect the stories of Central and Eastern Europeans living in the UK; a co-operation with Central and Eastern European arts space, Centrala, to produce a sound-art installation based on the testimonies; and a series of workshops (youth artist, theatre practitioner, creative writing).
Professor Jones is currently working on her third monograph Towards a Collaborative Memory: German Memory Work in a Transnational Context. The monograph explores how memories of dictatorship are negotiated across borders in political, cultural and social processes. It deploys concepts drawn from relational sociology and examines how these can inform our understanding of transnational co-operation. In the monograph, Professor Jones works with techniques drawn from Social Network Analysis (SNA) to track cross-border collaborations of German memory-political institutions and combines this quantitative research with qualitative analysis to assess the meanings given to such co-operations by the actors involved and the ways in which these activities are used to construct new narratives about the past. Through the empirical work she is refining the new theoretical concept of “collaborative memory”.
She is CI on the major AHRC-funded research project “Knowing the Secret Police: Secrecy and Knowledge in East German Society”. This project overturns the approach of existing research to ask not what the "all-powerful" Stasi knew about society, but what and how East Germans knew about the secret police. It also includes a significant impact dimension working with political foundations, archives, museums and schools. Professor Jones explores literary networks and representations, the PI is Anselma Gallinat (Newcastle, looking at church and social networks) and Joanne Sayner (also Newcastle) is the second CI (looking at political networks). The project started in October 2018 and will run for three years.
Professor Jones is PI on the AHRC-funded project 'Post-Socialist Britain: Memory, Representation and Political Identity amongst German and Polish Immigrants in the UK (Feb 2021 - Jan 2024), working with Charlotte Galpin (Political Science, UoB) and Jenny Wuestenberg (History, Nottingham Trent). The project will explore what happens to the connection between collective memory and political identity in the process of migration, and examine the growth in support for anti-immigrant and Eurosceptic parties across Europe. Focussing on countries with an experience of state socialist rule, the project explores how the popular notion that political extremism in post-socialist countries is underpinned by collective memory of authoritarianism is based on the assumption that those remembering authoritarianism do so in their country of origin. Post-Socialist Britain breaks out of this national mould to explore if and how memory is linked to political identity when the individual moves to a new national context. Project partners include Birmingham-based Central and Eastern European arts organisation Centrala, as well as the Polish Expats Association, Polish Professionals in London, European's Welfare Association, British German Association, and Creative Black Country. The project will result in a series of articles, a monograph, international conference, a photography workshop series, schools resources, policy briefings, and an exhibition and related community-engagement events.