Dissertation Defense: Joshua Seale
Candidate Name: Joshua Seale
Advisor: Friederike Eigler, Ph.D.
Title: Between Austria and Germany, Heimat and Zuhause: German-Speaking Refugees in Austria and the Politics of Memory
This dissertation explores the memory of postwar German-speaking refugees in Austria through an analysis of diverse media, cultural practices, and their reception. Part I of the dissertation examines postwar memorials and their reception in newspapers, as well as the role of pilgrimage, religious ritual, and public responses of defacement. Part II focuses on post-Waldheim literature and its reception, specifically examining the literary genres of novels and travelogues describing German-speaking refugees’ trips to their former homes. In examining these memorials and literature as well as their reception, I show how static and marginalized the memory of German-speaking refugees has remained throughout the history of the Second Republic, even after the fragmentation of Austrian memory in the wake of the Waldheim affair. While Chapter 1 posits four reasons for this marginalization, the continuance of this marginalization into the present can be summed up by drawing on Oliver Marchart’s concept of historical-political memory and by pointing to the politicization and tabooization of the memory as a far-right discourse. Identifying a gap between the vast cultural memory of German-speaking refugees on the one hand, and the dearth of scholarship dealing with the subject on the other, I argue that it is time for these memories to be taken seriously and not be dismissed as uncritical or otherwise problematic representations of the past. At the same time, however, they cannot be accepted as-is without placing them in the proper historical context. Consequently, an analysis of narrative strategies and the role of memory in making the past present is timely and important.