Title:
‘REAL-EXISTING’ UTOPIA: CREATING A TECHNOLOGICAL CULTURE IN THE GDR 1945-1989

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Author(s)
Bianchini, Mario J.
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Macrakis, Kristie
Rosenberger, Robert
Knoespel, Kenneth
Schatzberg, Eric
Neumaier, Christopher
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Abstract
This dissertation explores the creation of a technological culture in the German Democratic Republic in order to entice its citizens to not only become state engineers, but also to work toward a state sponsored vision of the future. The result was a promised stateless technological utopia, in the face of sustained state power. This dissertation terms this paradoxical situation a ‘real-exiting’ utopia, and explores both its genesis and consequences. To do this, the dissertation focus on three cultural nodes: education, sport, and hobbies, sites where the state sought to directly intervein in visions of the future and impart technical consciousness. The education segment of the project explores the technological influence on curricula, education practices, and youth ceremonies. East Germany replaced Christian Conformation with the Jugendweihe, where children pledged themselves not in service to god, but rather to the promises of science and scientific textbooks focused on a gleaming technological future. The investigation of hobbies focuses mainly on model trains, chemistry sets, and building toys. The state saw modeling as a way to nurture budding technical talent, as modeling introduced the geometrical, spatial, and physical reasoning necessary for an engineer. Furthermore, the packaging, marketing, and instruction booklets of technological toys served as sites for state companies to extoll the virtues of the technological future. The chapter on sports investigates the technological influence on sport. Sport offered a tangible medium to trumpet the victory of East German technoscience. Specifically, I argue that between 1960 and 1990 the East German ruling party treated sport as a pure science, one amenable to strict regulation, measurements, and experimentation, while treating athletes as scientific subjects ready to be improved by technology, culminating in the doping of their Olympic athletes. Taken together, these case studies elucidate the GDR as a ‘real-existing’ utopia. The GDR remained in a constant state of becoming, never seeking to settle on a fixed idea of perfection lest the state lose its rhetorical claim to be working for a better future. By recruiting the population through the cultural nodes of hobbies, sports, and education, the central party could retain state power while shifting criticism to the future, a time when all current problems would be supposedly solved.
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Date Issued
2022-05-23
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Dissertation
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