Research in Leipzig
28th June 2013
Professor Gerrit-Jan Berendse has been awarded a grant of the German Academic Exchange Service, the DAAD, to conduct research at the University of Leipzig over the summer. The purpose of his research is to determine the various ways writers in the German Democratic Republic published their work in the second half of the 1980s. This period, shortly before the (then unforeseen) end of the communist regime in 1989, is unique for various reasons. In cultural terms this timeframe presents a fertile case study in East European media studies because for the first time the till then strict communist directives in GDR’s cultural world were in disarray – writers, musicians and visual artists worked in unpredictable and chaotic times.
When in 1985 Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev started to reshuffle the political cards in USSR and radically changed its landscape this also affected the ways party functionaries in the GDR transmitted the directives of its (former) big brother. Writers openly discussed matters of censorship and the publishing world in East Germany fundamentally changed. As a result the previous black-and-white conditions dissolved and a more realistic, i.e. confused situation was instated: Writers were no longer allocated to either an official publishing house in the GDR or published solely in the West, or were marginalized to the samizdat in the Underground in the East.
The research will tell which writers experienced the many-sided cultural scene that blossomed for a limited time in the cultural political chaos. What strategies did they acquire? Some of Berendse’s research outcomes on his topic have already been presented in his article ‘Laughing back to life’ in The Times Literary Supplement of 31 May 2013.