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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Unheimliche Heimat: Reibungsflächen Zwischen Kultur und Nation zur Konstruktion von Heimat in Deutschsprachiger Gegenwartsliteratur Strzelczyk, Florentine


The thesis explores the vexed concept of Heimat in recent German culture. Heimat evokes an exclusive group, founded on the idea of the unity and homogeneity of its members. Conflicts arise around the concept because it constructs oppositions between those who belong and those who do not, insiders and outsiders, the domestic and known in opposition to the foreign and strange. Historically, the concept has been used to tell a story about the cohesion of the German nation; it has also, however, been used to assimilate, eliminate, or exile its Others. The thesis examines how the legacies of the concept and its narrative reverberate through the nation-building process of Germany today. The concept of Heimat is active in films, literature, the law and contemporary German society. The argument is that the concept of Heimat still shapes German identity in ways that use old forms and oppositions to respond to recent social changes. It is argued further that the tensions around the concept have not diminished, but are spreading into many different areas of German everyday life. Two films by Edgar Reitz provide the starting point for exploring the tensions around Heimat in contemorary German culture. Following readings of texts by Jewish-German, Austrian- German, Swiss-German, Persian-German, Rumanian-German, East and West German authors show the concept persisting in different forms with different consequences, according to the different cultural contexts. In each of these contexts, the concept of German Heimat produces both social cohesion and social tensions. As much as people are united by the concept, they are also driven apart by its differentiating and disintegrating mechanisms. Motivated by the search for communal intimacy, the concept also has the effect of controlling and manipulating what appears different and alien. As such a network of interests and strategies it is not merely closed, fixed and bounded, as desired perhaps by the dominant cultural groups, but rather open for contestation and negotiation within and across national borders.

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