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A Very Socialist German Culture?: The GDR’s Use of German Classical Music Heritage for Domestic and International Legitimacy under Honecker (1971-1989)

GUO, YUNDI (2023) A Very Socialist German Culture?: The GDR’s Use of German Classical Music Heritage for Domestic and International Legitimacy under Honecker (1971-1989). Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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In recent decades, with the growth of scholarly interest in GDR social and cultural history, the complexities and contradictions of GDR society have been unveiled. As a result, the conceptualisations of the GDR as, for instance, a ‘participatory dictatorship’ (Fulbrook) and ‘consensus dictatorship’(Jarausch) emerge to debunk the totalitarian characterisation of GDR society. This thesis complicates the GDR as a ‘participatory dictatorship’ by looking at the practices of German classical music heritage during the Honecker era. It asks how the Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED) endeavoured to manipulate the heritage domestically and in the GDR’s trans-bloc cultural exchange with Britain for its political legitimacy and assesses the outcomes. In tracing the interactions between all involved social actors (i.e., state authorities, cultural institutions, the classical music intelligentsia, journalists and critics, and the public), this thesis demonstrates the complexities of all the actors’ relations to the heritage practices. As the thesis shows, significant to the complexities were factors such as the de facto existence of capitalism within GDR socialism, the SED’s reliance on the classical music intelligentsia’s contribution for its power consolidation, the non-state actors’ pursuits of their Eigensinn and hidden transcripts in navigating their relations with the SED government. In summation, this thesis proves that German classical music heritage’s policymaking and implementation in the GDR’s domestic scene and its trans-bloc cultural exchange cannot be understood as solely ‘top-down’ constructs. Instead, they were subject to changing dynamics and shaped by conflict and contradictions, cooperation and reconciliation between all the social actors involved.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Cold War, German Democratic Republic. Cultural History, German Classical Music Heritage, Cultural Cold War, GDR-UK relations, East German musicians, Walter Felsenstein, Götz Friedrich, Joachim Herz, Wende, the Komische Oper, Republikflucht
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > History, Department of
Thesis Date:2023
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:16 Aug 2023 12:55

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