This book is about testimony; it is about first-person narratives of personally experienced events and, more specifically, about how they are produced in different media forms. It thus aims to make a theoretical contribution: to establish the role that testimony plays in memory ‘conflicts’ (Irwin-Zarecka, 1994) and what happens to witness accounts when they are mediated in and through different cultural artefacts. In the process, it will provide detailed (first) analysis of a range of texts, exhibitions and films. However, as indicated by the subtitle, it aims to do this in a specific empirical context: memories of the East German State Security Service (Stasi) since unification. But why focus on the German Democratic Republic (GDR)? What can the study of remembering the now defunct East German state contribute to broader understandings of memory, media and individual experience? Memory of the GDR remains disputed and this ‘memory contest’ (Fuchs and Cosgrove, 2006) is being negotiated in a complex interaction between the political, cultural, social and individual levels. First-person accounts of life in the GDR play an important role in each of these spheres, including in cultural representations. In this introductory chapter, in order to demonstrate these dynamics and set the scene for the subsequent analysis of the media of testimony, I give an overview of some of the key public debates that have accompanied negotiation of the legacy of the GDR. I then outline the role that testimony has played in constructing the history and memory of this part of the German past.
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- Introduction: Remembering East Germany: Contested Heritage
- Palgrave Macmillan UK