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Political Comedy as Fuel for Populist Rhetoric?

Representations of Politicians and Institutions in the German TV Shows “Eichwald MdB” and “Ellerbeck”

Niko Switek

Abstract

In popular culture, politics are frequently framed with negative stereotypes, and there is some overlap between the anti-establishment rhetoric of political humor and populist challengers. This article probes similarities shared by politicians as presented in the television comedies Eichwald MdB (about a backbencher in the Bundestag) and Ellerbeck (about a kindergarten teacher turned mayor) and supporters of the (right-)populist party Alternative for Germany (AfD). The analysis of the storylines uncovers representations of self-serving and incompetent politicians that align with the fundamental critique expressed by the AfD. However, the negative depictions in the shows are interwoven with positive elements that speak to a responsiveness of democratic institutions. The two case studies help us better understand the specific form of German political satire produced by a public broadcaster and how satirical entertainment oscillates between negativity and meaningful critique of political power.

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The Rue d'Isly, Algiers, 26 March 1962

The Contested Memorialization of a Massacre

Fiona Barclay

Abstract

This article examines the memorial discourses surrounding the massacre that occurred on 26 March 1962 when, in the week following the Franco–FLN ceasefire, French soldiers opened fire on a demonstration of unarmed European settler civilians, killing forty-six and wounding two hundred. Largely unknown among wider French society, references to the massacre have become a staple of the pied-noir activist discourse of victimhood, often advanced as evidence that they had no choice but to leave Algeria in 1962. The article draws on French and Algerian press articles, as well as online, print, and film publications produced by the repatriated European population. It reveals how settlers’ narratives first dehistoricized the massacre and then invested it with a significance that drew on multidirectional memories borrowed from a range of sometimes jarring international contexts. The analysis accounts for why the massacre contributed to the repatriated settler community's sense of identity and relationship to the wider French nation.

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Scandal of the Church, Prison of the Soul

The Problem of Bad Custom in Twelfth- and Thirteenth-Century Canon Law and Practice

Anthony Perron

Abstract

This article explores “bad custom” (prava consuetudo) in Latin-Christian church law of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Drawing chiefly on papal decretal letters and the statutes of local and regional synods, it discusses the theoretical debates over bad custom, how customs came to be regarded as evil, and what prava consuetudo meant in practice. While many usages were labeled “bad,” especially troubling were those that threatened clerical status by implying lay claims to authority in the church, blurring the distinction between laity and clergy, or humiliating the professed religious. The article also asks whether legal concerns over such collective behavior that brought scandal upon the church may have been provoked by a moral discourse over prava consuetudo as sinful conduct endangering the individual soul.

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Staying Local, Going Global

Sustaining German Culture in “Dark” Times

Annika Orich

Abstract

Streaming technology has facilitated the global distribution of foreign-language shows such as Netflix's Dark. The worldwide popularity of Dark, the streaming giant's first original series made in Germany, raises questions about Netflix's business strategy of producing “local stories with global appeal” as well as the international allure of German culture today. This article examines how Dark's pop-cultural engagement with nuclear power connects to Germany's post-war policies on atomic energy and the circulation of the country's sustainability politics on the international stage. The show's particular blend of local and global aesthetics of nuclear power, sustainability, and climate change demonstrates how German culture is now viewed as a fitting medium to reveal, correspond to, and have an impact on today's zeitgeist globally. It also signals a shift in the dynamic between local and global media forms, and thus German film.

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Transnational Politics in Video Games

The Case of German Military Intervention in “Spec Ops: The Line”

Justin Court

Abstract

Political claims about the real world are abundant in video games, and the medium persuades uniquely through procedural rhetoric, the rules of behavior contained in computational code. The transnational scope of the video game industry makes it productive ground for interrogating how a game's persuasion might influence international audiences with nationally situated politics. The 2012 third-person shooter Spec Ops: The Line, produced by the German studio Yager Development, depicts the international concern of a fictional conflict in the Middle East and the atrocities of failed military intervention. The game's core procedural rhetoric, which tasks players to push ahead at all costs, cautions an international audience about the futility of deploying military power abroad, a warning that mirrors particularly German political anxieties. The game's depiction of extreme violence—and the player's participation in it—raises further questions about the cultural status of the medium in the country and abroad.

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TV Journalism, Infotainment, and Reality TV

“Team Wallraff,” “Undercover Boss,” and the 2014 Burger King Scandal in Germany (As Seen on TV!)

Jörg Neuheiser

Abstract

This article analyzes the role of tv formats in the 2014 Burger King scandal in Germany as part of the popular representation of work, work-related conflicts, and the dynamic of power relations in both contemporary German companies and the German economy in general. It shows that investigative journalistic techniques in popular tv formats like Team Wallraff are essentially undermined by the existence of reality tv shows like Undercover Boss that use comparable techniques to present fundamentally different messages about companies, work conditions, and the relationship between employees and employers. I argue that to understand the effect of these representations of politics on the “real political arena,” in Germany and elsewhere, we should consider not only individual films, tv series, genres, and media formats, but also the cross-effects of multiple, often widely differing representations of politics in similar tv formats that can be viewed via identical media outlets.

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Louise K. Davidson-Schmich, Matthew Hines, Thomas Klikauer, Norman Simms, Jeffrey Luppes, Stephen Milder, Robert Nyenhuis, and Randall Newnham

John Kampfner, Why the Germans Do it Better: Notes from a Grown-Up Country (London: Atlantic Books, 2020).

Karen Hagemann, Donna Harsch, and Friederike Brühöfener, eds., Gendering Post-1945 German History: Entanglements (New York: Berghahn Books, 2019).

Daniel Marwecki, Germany and Israel: Whitewashing and Statebuilding (London: C. Hurst & Co., 2020).

Robert Gellately, Hitler's True Believers: How Ordinary People Became Nazis (New York: Oxford University Press, 2020).

Thomas Fleischman, Communist Pigs: An Animal History of East Germany's Rise and Fall (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2020).

Joanne Miyang Cho, ed., Transnational Encounters between Germany and East Asia since 1900 (New York: Routledge, 2018).

Andrew Nagorski, 1941: The Year Germany Lost the War (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2019).

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Lauren Schwartz

Abstract

How, in the aftermath of National Socialism and World War II, was the memory landscape of Munich and Bavaria denazified under the Office of the Military Government of the United States? Supplementing existing cultural approaches and scholarship on denazification in Bavaria, this article considers the execution of Allied Control Council Directive Number 30 by the American occupation government (omgus) in Bavaria, in conjunction with appropriated native Bavarian bureaucracies and bureaucrats, to inventory and assess the built environment in order to register militaristic or Nazi monuments and prioritize their removal or modification. The limitations of the project to renew or restore the monument landscape confront in turn the limitations on the “bureaucratic manufacture of memory” in the modification of individual memory.

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Sebastian Wolf

Abstract

Chancellor Angela Merkel's second grand coalition (2013–2017) was the most successful federal government since 2005 regarding the adoption of anti-corruption measures. This article first gives an overview of recent German anti-corruption reforms. In order to explain the varying policy outputs of Merkel's coalition governments, an analytical perspective drawing on the multiple streams approach is utilized. This theoretical perspective is then applied to the analysis of three major anti-corruption reforms. Mainly on the basis of these case studies, the article concludes that the spd was a crucial policy entrepreneur between 2013 and 2017. In former legislative periods, the Social Democrats could not advance their favored anti-corruption policies. But when the cdu and csu decided not to make full use of their veto power, the spd pushed policy change through. Analyses of anti-corruption reforms should not overlook the constellations of veto players such as coalition parties and their preferred policy options.

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Freed from Sadness and Fear

Politics, COVID-19, and the New Germany

Michael Meng and Adam R. Seipp

Abstract

This article argues that we are witnessing the possible emergence of a Germany confident in the strength of its rational and democratic approach to governance. Thinking about this development through Baruch Spinoza's insights into the centrality of reason to democracy, we suggest that Germany has responded to its past in a salutary manner by building a rational and responsible democracy. Few recent events illustrate this transformation more clearly than Germany's reaction to the covid-19 pandemic.