Towards a Historical Materialist Approach to Racism in Post-'Unification' Germany
AbstractThis paper problematizes the subtext of ‘race’, which underpinned the contradictory process of German ‘unification’. The following question guides my inquiry: how and why have ‘white’ East German workers in post-‘unification’ Germany come to think of their ‘Germanness’/’whiteness’ as meaningful? Clearly drawing from the work of David R. Roediger, I argue that ‘white’ East German workers were paid the ‘wages of Germanness’. The concept is fleshed out as I interrogate three interrelated dimensions of changes pertaining to the lived experiences of (‘white’) East German workers: (1) German citizenship regulations with its lines of inclusion and exclusion; (2) the qualifier East denoting the existence of various degrees of Germanness; (3) individualized market dependence giving rise to conflicted emotions. Setting in motion a process of extensive and complex change, ‘unification’ had an impact on social relations of power, lived experiences and cultural means. The concept ‘wages of Germanness’ expresses the connections between political, ideological and economic aspects of ‘unification’, and further brings into focus the historical legacy of racialized notions of Germanness. Using the framework of historical materialism, this paper articulates a critique of hegemonic ideology, which suggests that racism in post-‘unification’ Germany was, by and large, spatially confined to East Germany.
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