On the Social Life of Postsocialism

On the Social Life of Postsocialism

Memory, Consumption, Germany
Daphne Berdahl, edited by Foreword by Michael Herzfeld. Edited by Matti Bunzl. Daphne Berdahl
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 12/23/2009
Format: Paperback 1 b&w illus.
ISBN: 978-0-253-22170-4
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Anthropologist Daphne Berdahl was one of the leading scholars of the transition from state socialism to capitalism in central and eastern Europe. From her pathbreaking ethnography of a former East German border village in the aftermath of German reunification, to her insightful analyses of consumption, nostalgia, and citizenship in the early 21st century, Berdahl's writings probe the contradictions, paradoxes, and ambiguities of postsocialism as few observers have done. This volume brings together her essays, from an early study of memory at the Vietnam War memorial in Washington, D.C., to research on consumption and citizenship undertaken in Leipzig in the years before her untimely death. It serves as a superb introduction to the development of the field of postsocialist cultural studies.

Author Bio

Daphne Berdahl (1964–2007) was Associate Professor of Anthropology and Global Studies at the University of Minnesota. She is author of Where the World Ended: Re-Unification and Identity in the German Borderland and editor (with Matti Bunzl and Martha Lampland) of Altering States: Ethnographies of Transition in Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet Union.

Matti Bunzl is Professor of Anthropology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He is author of Symptoms of Modernity: Jews and Queers in Late-Twentieth-Century Vienna and Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia: Hatreds Old and New in Europe.


“Serving as a superb introduction to the field of postsocialist cultural studies, this volume brings together a leading anthropologist's essays, which probe the contradictions, paradoxes, and ambiguities of postsocialism as few observers have done.”

“The wide-ranging themes of this marvelous collection—memory and history, consumption, citizenship, nostalgia, identity, postsocialism—are unified by Daphne Berdahl's sophisticated overarching conception of their interconnections and her splendid gift for ethnography. A valuable and enduring resource for anyone interested in socialism's aftermath.”
 — Katherine Verdery, The Graduate Center, City University of New York

“[Berdahl's] work reinforces the importance of European ethnography and acts as a critical resource on the study of borders, cultural change and social belonging. . . Berdahl’s essays are well crafted, infused with feeling, dotted with specific examples, and evoke larger theoretical questions, not just about Eastern Germany, but about understandings of self, memory and belonging. Her writing manages to capture fleeting moments and movements in postsocialist Germany, and the book is both informative and a joy to read. 28. 1 2010”

“Scholars interested in meaning, memory, consumption and representation of the East German past will greatly benefit from reading this thoughtful volume. 29.2 2011”
 — German History

“As a posthumous publication and deserved labour of love, this compilation understandably has some repetitions and loose ends, but also highly suggestive arguments that remain ours to pursue. It is a pleasure to follow Berdahl's lines of thought and growth as a scholar, her consummate fieldwork and writing. ”
 — Anthropological Notebooks

“This highly readable book spans a full life of research and offers researchers and students alike an opportunity to continue the discussions which Berdahl pioneered as the historical events themselves were taking place. ”
 — German Studies Review

“This collection is an excellent introduction to Daphne Berdahl's generous and insightful ethnography... [R]eaders will be rewarded by her perceptive research, skillful prose, and humanizing insights.April, 2011”
 — H-SAE

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Table of Contents

Preface by Michael Herzfeld
Introduction by Matti Bunzl

Part 1. Washington, D.C.
1. Voices at the Wall: Discourses of Self, History, and National Identity at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

Part 2. Kella
2. Consumer Rites: The Politics of Consumption in Re-Unified Germany
3. "(N)Ostalgie" for the Present: Memory, Longing, and East German Things
4. "Go, Trabi, Go!": Reflections on a Car and Its Symbolization over Time
5. Mixed Devotions: Religion, Friendship, and Fieldwork in Postsocialist East Germany

Part 3. Leipzig
6. The Spirit of Capitalism and the Boundaries of Citizenship in Post-Wall Germany
7. Local Hero, National Crook: "Doc" Schneider and the Spectacle of Finance Capital
8. Expressions of Experience and Experiences of Expression: Museum Re-Presentations of GDR History
9. Goodbye Lenin, Aufwiedersehen GDR: On the Social Life of Socialism


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