The Meaning of 1989 and the (dis)appearance of the German Democratic Republic

Heiko Feldner's picture
Call for Papers
November 29, 2019
United Kingdom
Subject Fields: 
Contemporary History, European History / Studies, German History / Studies, Political Science, Film and Film History



Call for papers

The Meaning of 1989 and the (dis)appearance of the German Democratic Republic

Interdisciplinary conference on 29 November 2019 in Cardiff, UK/Wales


Thirty years on, the fall of the Berlin Wall still exercises the political imagination like few other events in recent history. This is not surprising given that ‘1989’ was arguably as great a caesura as the French Revolution of 1789. However, while the sequence of events leading to the fall of the Wall and the demise of Soviet communism has been well documented, the historical meaning of 1989 remains the subject of intense controversy.


There are good reasons to challenge both the triumphant understanding of 1989 as a victory of free-market economics and liberal democracy and the attendant interpretation of East German history as a mere anteroom to 1989. Such readings not only obscure the deep systemic roots of the eco-economic catastrophe unfolding in uncanny slow motion before our eyes; they also eclipse an important historical experience that foreshadowed the economic slump of 2008. As with the revival of nostalgic visions for a post-capitalist future, such reductive readings of 1989 only perpetuate the binary logic of the Cold War and thereby displace much-needed alternatives to the self-destructive rule of the silent compulsions of the economic.


The conference seeks to enhance our understanding of both the global historical significance of 1989 and the specific historical experience of the German Democratic Republic. We welcome original contributions from all areas and angles – intellectual, political, artistic – which seek to engage with the meaning of 1989 and which depart from now familiar and well-trodden paths. We encourage in particular:

  • critical explorations of conceptual and methodological frameworks
  • challenges to conventional histories of the Cold War conflict
  • international and global perspectives on the revolutions of 1989 and their aftermath
  • new perspectives on East German cultural history and its legacy
  • speculative histories and explorations of alternative endings of the GDR
  • new insights into the resurgence of nationalism in the wake of 1989
  • critical assessments of the idea of communism in the post-1989 era
  • comparative analyses of 1989 with 1789 and other world-historical caesuras

We warmly welcome a wide range of presentation formats, traditional papers as well as creative and artistic papers. These might offer insight and analysis through the use of visual and aural media or through experimental writing.


If you are interested in participating, please send a brief abstract of up to 300 words of your proposed contribution along with a short bio to  by 5 July 2019.


Presentations are expected to be between 20 to 30 minutes. Authors of selected papers will also be invited to prepare extended papers of their work for publication in an edited volume. For further information regarding paper submission and the conference as a whole, please contact .


We look forward to receiving your proposals.


With very best wishes


Heiko Feldner and Nick Hodgin

Conference Organisers



Cardiff University

School of Modern Languages

Cardiff CF10 3AS

United Kingdom/Wales