Reconsidering the cultural history of West Germany from 1945 to unification : a historiographical review of recent works
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This report surveys recent directions in cultural-historical approaches to the historiography of West Germany. While yielding important insights, institutional and economic histories have been preoccupied with the “democracy problem,” concerned with whether it had a chance, how it took root, and when it became successful. More recently, scholars have emphasized the importance of cultural-historical approaches in writing about the Federal Republic, often forging new ways to understand economic history itself. These scholars, including Moritz Föllmer, Anna Parkinson, Paul Betts, Elizabeth Heineman, Dagmar Herzog, and Timothy Scott Brown, have shown that the project of creating individual subjectivities after 1945 was also a cultural project, carved and contested in arenas ranging from industrial design to sexual politics. In reviewing these recent works, I propose that cultural approaches allow us to frame the historical problem less as a project of forming subjectivities in an attempt to be model democrats, which can take on a teleological tone, and more as a project of forming subjectivities in an attempt to distance oneself from Nazism, and in doing so imagine what it could mean to be West German.