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Introduction

France in the Age of Covid-19

Éric Touya de Marenne

What does Covid-19 reveal about France today? What are its effects on culture, politics, and society? One of the contentions of this special issue is that measuring its impacts takes on full significance when approached in the context of other crises that have affected the nation in recent years. These include growing inequality and social and political division, and the rise of populism. This special issue examines how these existing predicaments shed light on the impact of Covid-19. It also seeks to explore ways through which we may give meaning to this tragic moment in French history through art and the public humanities.

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Les historiens et leurs ombres

le passé à la première personne du présent

Nathan Bracher

Résumé

L'historien, en tant que sujet, est lié non seulement à son passé familial mais aussi à ses connaissances. L'histoire méthodique prétendait, au début, proscrire toute subjectivité, mettant l'historien à l'écart des recherches et de l'écriture. Or les événements et l'évolution historiographiques ont rendu caduque cette posture scientiste. Ce vingt-et-unième siècle voit les historiens s'impliquer ostensiblement dans leurs ouvrages. C'est le cas notamment avec Quelle histoire: Un récit de filiation (1914–2014) de l'éminent historien de la Grande Guerre, Stéphane Audoin-Rouzeau. Nous verrons qu'un retour sur le choc de la guerre vécu par son grand-père paternel Robert Audoin permet de comprendre l'impact effroyable mais longtemps insoupçonné que celle-ci a eu sur le reste de sa vie ainsi que sur celle de Philippe Audoin, père de l'historien. La perspective ainsi découverte jette une lumière nouvelle sur le calvaire invisible vécu par d'innombrables véterans, mais aussi sur l'orientation des recherches de Stéphane Audoin-Rouzeau.

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The Paris Opera Ballet Dancing Offstage

Work, Grace, and Race

Tessa Ashlin Nunn

Abstract

The spaces in which amateur and professional dancers practiced their art greatly changed during the Covid-19 pandemic due to the closures of theaters and dance studios, yet dance continued to bring people together online. This article studies the media presence of the Paris Opera Ballet (POB) between March 2020 and May 2021 to analyze how the aesthetic and moral concept of grace has evolved. During this difficult year, dance took on a therapeutic role as POB dancers offered free online classes and performed in video work, in addition to taking on a political role as discussions about racism in ballet sparked public debates.

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Pathways to the Chancellorship

The Making of Chancellor Scholz in Perspective

Ludger Helms

Abstract

Olaf Scholz emerged as the Federal Republic's ninth chancellor from a context marked by several “firsts,” including in particular the absence of an incumbent chancellor seeking re-election and a competition between three chancellor candidates. While few, if any, individual elements of Scholz's profile were exceptional, the combination of elements was as unique as the wider political context. Echoing similar experiences from the Merkel years, the 2021 campaign and results suggest that in the German political context, advanced levels of personalization in the electoral arena are not dependent on any particular charisma of the competing lead candidates. In the end, Scholz, who managed to portray himself as a de facto incumbent seeking re-election, profited strongly from the perceived limitations and deficiencies of his contenders. A historical assessment of competitions for the chancellorship also reveals that the stakes for unsuccessful chancellor candidates have risen dramatically.

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Political Ramifications of Covid-19

Inequalities, Divides, Populism

Éric Touya de Marenne

Abstract

The article examines how the current Covid-19 crisis in France crosses into existing socio-economic, political, and existential crises faced by the nation in recent years. It considers the pandemic's impact in the context of the criticism that the French government response provoked in opposition parties regarding its preparedness and strategies. Beyond the multiple budget cuts that have affected the health-care system in France in recent years, and significantly lessen, according to critiques, the country's ability to tackle Covid-19, a growing number of French people link the failure of their government and the rise of violence in society to France's growing dependence on the EU and the decline of French sovereignty in a globalized world. The pandemic's impact is measured through the prism of the current socio-economic crisis, triggered by months of confinements and curfews; the rise of unemployment and populism; and what it could mean for the future of democracy.

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The Quest for Gender Parity

Angela Merkel and the Diversification of Electoral Politics in Germany

Joyce Marie Mushaben

Abstract

Given Angela Merkel's long-standing reluctance to label herself a feminist, many scholars would find it hard to credit her with the increasingly “intersectional” composition of the Bundestag and the Landtage as of the 2021 elections. The last 16 years have nonetheless witnessed major shifts in German policies affecting the rights of women, persons with migration background, and lgbtqia community members. These developments have arguably contributed, directly and indirectly, to voters’ willingness to accept candidates with diverse backgrounds as capable of representing “the people's interests” beyond the needs of their respective identity groups. This article considers multiple factors contributing to increasing diversity among German lawmakers at various levels, including policy shifts that have helped to reconfigure the political opportunity structure and thus the electoral landscape. It concludes with reflections on Merkel's legacy, coupled with the role of generational change in “normalizing” diversity across the Berlin Republic.

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Stages, Streets, and Social Media

Intersectional Feminism and Online Activism in France during the Pandemic

Claire Mouflard

Abstract

At the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, intersectional feminists in France turned to social media to denounce the racism, misogyny, and sexual harassment that have plagued the French film industry and society at large for generations. Although their activism had started long before the pandemic with the Me Too and Black Lives Matter movements, the online debates they initiated during the March–May 2020 lockdown (when it became illegal to march, protest, or simply gather in public) reached new and larger audiences beyond their own feminist and artistic spheres. Social media posts and actions by Aïssa Maïga, Rokhaya Diallo, Noémie de Lattre, and comedy duo Camille et Justine elicited strong reactions from opposing parties, notably the “masculinistes” and the “féministes identitaires.” This article highlights these artists’ intersectional discourses, along with the verbal violence they endure online, and ponders the question of equity in terms of digital access and literacy.

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A Tale of Two Electorates?

The 2021 Federal Election and the AfD Voter in East and West

Michael A. Hansen and Jonathan Olsen

Abstract

Although the AfD is not, strictly speaking, an “eastern” party, its distinct electoral results in the two halves of Germany—underscored once again in the 2021 federal election—are something of a puzzle. In order to explain how and why the AfD performs better in eastern Germany than in western Germany, we analyze district-level results for the AfD vote, employing multiple regression models in order to find correlates with constituency vote share. We conclude that the only socio-demographic variable common to both eastern and western German AfD voters is their level of education. Significantly, we find that eastern AfD voters are both older and more economically secure than western German voters for the AfD.

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Black Lives Matter, a Princess from Zanzibar, Bismarck, and German Memorial Hygiene

Klaus Neumann

Abstract

Following the surge of the Black Lives Matter movement in the wake of George Floyd's murder on 25 May 2020, memorials in remembrance of individuals implicated in colonialism or slavery have come under increasing attack. This article discusses and contextualizes challenges in 2020 to the memorialization of Otto von Bismarck (1815–1898) and Emily Ruete née Salama bint Said (1844–1924) in Hamburg, where the legacy of the German colonial past is particularly palpable. The article argues that proposed solutions—be it the demolition of the city's main Bismarck monument, its restoration and the erection of a counter-memorial adjacent to it, or the un-naming of a street named after Ruete—potentially erase the complexities and contradictions of the lives of historical actors, are often informed by a desire to quarantine the past, and, just as often, fail to engage with its continuation in the present.

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Book Reviews

Thomas Klikauer, Norman Simms, Marcus Colla, Nicolas Wittstock, Matthew Specter, Kate R. Stanton, John Bendix, and Bernd Schaefer

Heinrich Detering, Was heißt hier “wir”? Zur Rhetorik der parlamentarischen Rechten (Dietzingen: Reclam Press, 2019).

Clare Copley, Nazi Buildings: Cold War Traces and Governmentality in Post-Unification Berlin (London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2020).

Tobias Schulze-Cleven and Sidney A. Rothstein, eds., Imbalance: Germany's Political Economy after the Social Democratic Century (Abingdon: Routledge, 2021).

Benedikt Schoenborn, Reconciliation Road: Willy Brandt, Ostpolitik and the Quest for European Peace (New York: Berghahn Books, 2020).

Tiffany N. Florvil, Mobilizing Black Germany: Afro-German Women and the Making of a Transnational Movement (Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 2020).

Ingo Cornils, Beyond Tomorrow: German Science Fiction and Utopian Thought in the 20th and 21st Centuries (Rochester, NY: Camden House, 2020).

Christian F. Ostermann, Between Containment and Rollback: The United States and the Cold War in Germany (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2021).