What Remains

Everyday Encounters with the Socialist Past in Germany

Jonathan Bach

Columbia University Press

What Remains

Google Preview

Pub Date: August 2017

ISBN: 9780231182706

272 Pages

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $30.00£24.95

Pub Date: August 2017

ISBN: 9780231544306

272 Pages

Format: E-book

List Price: $29.99£24.95

What Remains

Everyday Encounters with the Socialist Past in Germany

Jonathan Bach

Columbia University Press

What happens when an entire modern state's material culture becomes abruptly obsolete? How do ordinary people encounter what remains? In this ethnography, Jonathan Bach examines the afterlife of East Germany following the fall of the Berlin Wall, as things and places from that vanished socialist past continue to circulate and shape the politics of memory.

What Remains traces the unsettling effects of these unmoored artifacts on the German present, arguing for a rethinking of the role of the everyday as a site of reckoning with difficult pasts. Bach juxtaposes four sites where the stakes of the everyday appear: products commodified as nostalgia, amateur museums dedicated to collecting everyday life under socialism, the "people's palace" that captured the national imagination through its destruction, and the feared and fetishized Berlin Wall. Moving from the local, the intimate, and the small to the national, the impersonal, and the large, this book's interpenetrating chapters show the unexpected social and political force of the ordinary in the production of memory. What Remains offers a unique vantage point on the workings of the everyday in situations of radical discontinuity, contributing to new understandings of postsocialism and the intricate intersection of material remains and memory.
In this wonderful book, Jonathan Bach shows the complexity of East Germans' adjustment to their new reality. Examining preferred consumption items, personal museums of things from the past, demolitions and rebuildings, and memorializations of the Wall, he goes well beyond fashionable invocations of "nostalgia" to explore unification's assaults on personhood and identity, on senses of place and history. A must read! Katherine Verdery, the Graduate Center of the City University of New York
What Remains is a perceptive and—perhaps more crucially—a very sympathetic account of multiple ways through which ordinary people try to take hold of their politically controversial past. Bach creates an intricate but highly accessible story about the past that is not quite gone. Serguei Oushakine, Princeton University
Jonathan Bach weaves his way elegantly and insightfully through Berlin’s postunification landscape, highlighting the absences, unsettlements, and inheritances from the past. In doing so, he shows not only the potency of what remains but also the creativity with which it is addressed and new futures forged. This is a wonderful, highly readable, yet deeply sophisticated book. Sharon Macdonald, Institut für Europäische Ethnologie, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
What Remains traces a quarter century of present pasts—a minefield of forced dispossessions and reappropriations in the struggles of forging German unification. It offers a vibrant encounter with the residues of Germany’s first socialist state and concludes with a moving tribute to a current generation of Nachgeborenen haunted by the failures and the promises of the past. Andreas Huyssen, Columbia University
List of Illustrations
Acknowledgments
Introduction
1. "The Taste Remains"
2. Collecting Communism
3. Unbuilding
4. The Wall After the Wall
Epilogue: Exit Ghost
Notes
Bibliography
Index

About the Author

Jonathan Bach is associate professor and chair of global studies at the New School. He is the author of Between Sovereignty and Integration: German Foreign Policy and National Identity After 1989 (1999).