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Jonathan Bach

Associate Professor, New School for Social Research


Bach is Associate Professor of International Affairs and Chair of the interdisciplinary Global Studies undergraduate program at The New School in New York. He is working on a book project on the cultural politics of the socialist past in Germany, and at CES will focus on two aspects: debates over the former Palace of the Republic/Royal Palace and the planned Humboldt Forum in the center of Berlin and on museums of everyday life under socialism. He has published works on the post-socialist transition in Germany, Eastern Europe, and China in Public Culture, Theory, Culture and Society, Cultural Anthropology, Studies in Comparative and International Development, and Geopolitics and is the author of Between Sovereignty and Integration: German Foreign Policy and National Identity after 1989 (1999). Project Description: My current research concerns the cultural politics of the socialist legacy in united Germany. I am writing a book, tentatively entitled \'The GDR Never Existed\': Traces of the East in United Germany, which examines how cases of material inheritance shape the post-socialist present. The project examines three spheres that connect material culture to everyday life: consumption, museums, and the built environment. The book draws on research over the last decade, parts of which have been published as a Public Culture article, where I looked at nostalgia for communism in the form of \"East Products\" (consumer items produced, or seemingly produced, in the East), and a book chapter examining the reappearance of the GDR in the World Wide Web as a new form of publicly private memorialization. At CES I plan to work on two further cases that will become part of the book, both drawing from research conducted last year on a DAAD grant. The first is on the plans in Berlin to rebuild a version of the Prussian imperial palace on the controversial site where the original was torn down by the Communists and replaced by the (now demolished) \"Palace of the Republic.\" In the draft chapter I identify three modes of inheritance that entwine the material terrain of the site with the symbolic terrain of the nation. I will revise an existing article version this fall for Comparative Studies in Society and History. Along with this, I will work on a new chapter that examines the phenomenon of private museums devoted to everyday life under socialism. These museums emerge as a site of contestation over the socialist “everyday” as a political and private sphere in the context of contentious debates over the comparison of East Germany to the Nazi period.