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The Ampel Coalition's Foreign Policy Challenges

Jack Janes

Abstract

German-American relations have been impacted by the war in Ukraine for reasons that have to do with domestic and foreign policy challenges. Germany is struggling with its responsibilities to increased expectations in Washington and within the European Union. The responses in Berlin to the Russian invasion of Ukraine have resulted in tensions within Europe as Germany tries to shape its policies around what Chancellor Olaf Scholz has called the Zeitenwende (turning point) of German foreign policy. The u.s. has also signaled its expectations that Germany needs to be a partner in sharing the burden of confronting Russian threats in Ukraine and Europe. Another challenge for German-American relations is emerging around relations with China, which may generate friction across the Atlantic as the United States seeks to confront China on the global stage while Germany remains tightly connected to China as its largest trade partner. How and why Germany and the United States need each other is in transition.

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Inertia and Reactiveness in Germany's Russia Policy

From the 2021 Federal Election to the Invasion of Ukraine in 2022

Jonas J. Driedger

Abstract

Despite signs that Russia was preparing an invasion of Ukraine, the newly elected German government stayed with pre-existing approaches that involved engagement and the threat of limited sanctions. However, in February 2022, just before the invasion began, Germany blocked the Nord Stream 2 pipeline system, announced weapon deliveries to Ukraine, and massively increased defense spending. This article shows that inertia and reactiveness heavily influenced the timing, nature, and extent of this massive shift in Germany's Russia policy. German leaders continued the existing policy in part because it had been formed by still influential figures and was in line with societal views. However, at the dawn of the invasion, the failure of previous policies had become undeniable, pressure from Ukraine and nato allies peaked, and societal views finally shifted. Reacting to this untenable situation, key figures in the German elite pushed through a series of measures that nato allies and Ukraine had long demanded.

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Introduction

A Zeitenwende Indeed

Eric Langenbacher

With Vladimir Putin's brutal invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 and the new coalition government's resulting reorientation of German foreign and security policy—an epochal shift that jettisoned 30, even 50 years of policy—the world immediately changed. The consequences and spillover effects of this paradigm shift or Zeitenwende will take years to become truly apparent and will rightfully seize the attention of academics, pundits, and policy analysts. Nevertheless, we should also not neglect other events from the recent past, namely, the most important election in the world in 2021. The September election for the German Bundestag was the most eventful, surprising, and momentous in that country for almost two decades, with an outcome that has already greatly affected Germany, Europe, and the world. It was also a novel election and outcome in several ways: it was the first election since 1953 without an incumbent chancellor running for re-election, and it resulted in the first three-party coalition government in over half a century.

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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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Introduction

Using Popular Culture to Trace and Assess Political Change

Niko Switek

The German federal election in September 2021 marked a significant transformation for German politics. As Chancellor Angela Merkel decided not to run again, the election spelled the end of her 16-year tenure; it also signaled a major shift in the German party system. The right-populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) entered the Bundestag again after their first entry in 2017, implying—for the first time since 1949—the establishment and sustained parliamentary presence of a party on the national level to the (far-)right of the Christian Democrats. The challenges facing the new parliament and government after the election are paramount. The climate crisis looms as large as ever. With the exception of the AfD, all German parties (and a distinct majority of voters) see this as the most pressing issue to tackle. However, the scope of action will be limited as the extensive state debt accumulated through covid-19 relief measures exerts pressure on the specific German model of social market economy. Finally, the international environment has seen drastic changes in the last years: While the election of u.s. President Joe Biden as successor to Donald Trump implies a return to normal for transatlantic relations, the uk exit from the eu shifts the balance between the remaining member states. After the Euro, refugee, and pandemic crises, European solidarity is strained, complicating Germany's role as the eu's “reluctant hegemon” or “gentle giant.” This reluctance or restraint connotes far more than a strategic policy choice: it is deeply rooted in the German history of the twentieth century that witnessed the cruelty and atrocities of the Nazi regime.

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Invoking the “Yolocaust”?

German Memory Politics, Cultural Criticism, and Contemporary Popular Arts

Ralph Buchenhorst

Abstract

The present study understands comedy in relation to the Holocaust as an attempt by Germany's third and fourth generations to create alternative forms of commemoration. Analyzing the country's history of coming to terms with the Shoah, it highlights that recent forms of subversive satire are reacting to a crystallization in official memory politics through counter-discourse to political correctness and the defenders of moralism. The article finds that it is possible to combine comedy and Holocaust memory if Jewish victimhood is not spoofed and the limitations of official memory politics are debunked. Finally, it contends that not every historical assessment based on a local/national context can serve as a global blueprint. The recognition of national historical guilt and the establishment of distinct collective memories are still crucial for understanding specific pasts. Accordingly, German popular culture referring to the Nazi past differs from u.s. comedy dealing with the Holocaust.

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Introduction

A White Republic? Whites and Whiteness in France

Mathilde Cohen and Sarah Mazouz

Abstract

France is an overwhelmingly majority-White nation. Yet the French majority is reluctant to identify as White, and French social science has tended to eschew Whiteness as an object of inquiry. Inspired by critical race theory and critical Whiteness studies, this interdisciplinary special issue offers a new look at White identities in France. It does so not to recenter Whiteness by giving it prominence, but to expose and critique White dominance. This introduction examines the global and local dimensions of Whiteness, before identifying three salient dimensions of its French version: the ideology of the race-blind universalist republic; the past and present practice of French colonialism, slavery, and rule across overseas territories; and the racialization of people of Muslim or North African backgrounds as non-White.

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Introduction

Innocence and the Politics of Memory

Jonathan Bach and Benjamin Nienass

Innocence is central to German memory politics; indeed, one can say that the German memory landscape is saturated with claims of innocence. The Great War is commonly portrayed as a loss of innocence, while the Nazis sought, in their way, to reclaim that innocence by proclaiming Germany as the innocent victim. After World War II, denazification and courts established administrative and legal boundaries within which claims of innocence could be formulated and adjudicated, while the “zero hour” and “economic miracle” established a basis for a different form of reclaiming innocence, one roundly critiqued by Theodor W. Adorno in his essay “What Does Coming to Terms with the Past Mean?” In the 1980s, Chancellor Helmut Kohl's famous pronouncement of the “grace [Gnade] of a late birth” (also translatable as “mercy,” “pardon,” or “blessing”) became the touchstone for a resurgence of war children's (Kriegskinder) memory. In the 1990s, the myth of the Wehrmacht as largely innocent of atrocities was publicly challenged. Today, right-wing critiques that cast Holocaust remembrance as a politics of shame draw upon tropes of innocence, of German air war victims and post-war generations, while right-wing images of migrants are cast in classic forms of threats to the purity of the “national body” (Volkskörper). The quickening pace of contemporary debates over Germany's colonial past pointedly questions the innocence of today's beneficiaries of colonialism, drawing attention to the borders and contours of implication.

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Women's Lives in Colonial and Postcolonial Maghrib

Etty Terem

Abstract

This introduction to the special issue highlights dominant approaches to the study of women's and gender history in colonial and postcolonial Maghrib. Moreover, it delineates the analytical agenda that frames our inquiry, and reviews the essays in this collection.

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Introduction

Ireneusz Pawel Karolewski, Julian Pänke, and Jochen Roose

Germany's role in Europe and the world is changing fundamentally. For about five decades West Germany's and reunited Germany's position was very much aligned with the European integration project.

Despite its hegemonic potential, Germany defined its role as a partner of the other EU member states. Within the EU framework and globally, it mostly acted jointly with European partners, particularly France. Although Germany's situation altered significantly after unification, it still refrained from exercising its increased power and was rather seeking the role of a “gentle giant.” This was largely the case despite some exceptions, such as the unilateral recognition of Croatian and Slovenian independence in the early 1990s, and criticism that Germany might tend to single-handed foreign policy—the “Alleingang.”