Rebecca Pates
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Julia Leser
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The ‘East’
Depopulation, deindustrialisation, colonialism
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This chapter provides insights into the broader context of the Eastern German experiences since the reunification in 1989. Post-reunification life in Eastern Germany proves to be a crucial backdrop to explain why people there feel particularly disenfranchised and why this is coming to a head now. The transition to a united Germany was full of broken promises of ‘blooming landscapes’, disappointments and sentiments of one’s own past being devalued by Western Germans. We trace the prevailing narratives about ‘the East’ that have emerged along with massive structural changes. Today the deindustrialised and depopulated landscapes not only provide new spaces for a returning wildlife including wolves but also reveal the complete economic, political and cultural change for millions of people who may have won a peaceful revolution but lost their country in the process. We explore the popularity-gaining narrative depicting the aftermath of the peaceful revolution as a sign of imperialism by Western Germans who have come to take over the East to then move on to despise the locals whom they subjugated. Furthermore, we investigate the narrative that angry, ‘left-behind’ people are to blame for the rise of nationalism in the East, because they have been supposedly more affected by the large-scale transitions since 1989. We argue that the narratives about ‘the East’ we present in this chapter are not the only ones representative of people’s lived and recounted reality, yet they demonstrate the contested nature of ‘the East’ as a narrative trope in searching for explanations for the rise of the right. Eastern Germany is not in dire straits, but many of the circulating narratives claim it to be.

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The wolves are coming back

The politics of fear in Eastern Germany


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