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“We always did this for our children”: Motherhood in the GDR between Socialism and Opposition
January 27 @ 2:00 pm - 4:00 pm
Join CES and NC German Studies on zoom for a seminar on Motherhood in the GDR between Socialism and Opposition with Yanara Schmacks.
Yanara Schmacks is a PhD candidate in Modern European History at the CUNY Graduate Center in New York. She is working on a dissertation titled “Reproductive Nation: German Motherhood, Erotics, and Ecology between East and West,” exploring how the maternal served as a space for the renegotiation of both the German past as well as the East-West divide and reunification. Her research was published in Central European History and in Psychoanalysis and History. She is currently a doctoral fellow at the Berlin Program for Advanced German and European Studies at Freie Universität Berlin.
The presentation explores how GDR women dealt with motherhood and thereby, in conversation with and sometimes opposition to the state, renegotiated socialist modernity. East German women writers drew up alternative socialist versions of maternity, framing the mother-child relationship as a platonic partnership between mother and child and, in contrast to their Western counterparts, deemphasizing the bodily elements of motherhood. These positions toward motherhood and children were often politically in line with culturally hegemonic ideas about the socialist family that were promoted by the state. Yet, in the 1980s, motivated by intense maternal concern for their children in the face of growing Cold War tensions and environmental destruction, GDR women’s activists tried to actively intervene at the state level to improve the future of their children, thereby becoming involved in oppositional activities and ultimately contributing to bringing about the Wende.