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Jennifer A. Yoder

In the decade since German unification, there has been a tendency by scholars and politicians alike to frame discussions of this event in terms of west-east or old states-new states, treating the five new states of Germany as one homogeneous entity. Moreover, the underlying assumption of many such studies is that the goal of political development is convergence, whereby the east catches up to or emulates the west in terms of economic prosperity, values, and levels of political participation. Unification, in other words, should lead to uniformity in institutional as well as political-cultural terms. Indeed, in its stated goal of striving for “Einheitlichkeit der Lebensverhältnisse” (uniformity of living conditions), the Grundgesetz provides some basis for expecting relative uniformity. Although a decade is not a long time, it is enough time to move beyond assumptions of uniformity and consider that unification has resulted in greater diversity in German politics and society.

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Nadia Malinovich

Drawing on archival material, oral interviews, and memoir literature, this article explores the changing meanings of France, the French language, and French colonialism for francophone Sephardic Jews who immigrated to the United States in the post-World War II years. Initially, both francophonie and a larger sense of connection to France and French culture were points of positive connection that set Jewish immigrants from the Muslim world apart from the Ashkenazic American mainstream. By the turn of the millennium, however, Sephardic francophonie in the United States had become largely attenuated. While this was due in part to demographic factors, it was also the result of changing attitudes towards France and francophonie on the part of both Sephardic immigrants and their descendants, as well the general American and American Jewish population more broadly.

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Shirin Housee

This article explores the everyday experiences of minority ethnic students at a university in the West Midlands. Based on interviews with 23 second-level students taking Sociology modules, it seeks to highlight the key social, personal and pedagogic issues for this group of minority ethnic students and to deepen understandings of cultural identity and exchange on campus. The students' multiple narratives and voices are central to the article, as is the possibility that there are multiple ways of experiencing teaching and learning at a university.

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Ulrich Eith

On 9 November 1989, the government of the German Democratic

Republic decided to open the Berlin Wall, effectively signaling the

collapse of the socialist system in East Germany. The subsequent

transformation of the country’s political structures, and in particular

that of its political parties, took place in two phases. In the first

phase, directly after the fall of the wall, the GDR’s political system

underwent a radical democratic and pluralistic overhaul without

West German involvement—although the existence of a second German

state, the Federal Republic of Germany, naturally influenced

the goals, strategies, and scope of action of the actors concerned.

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Pamela Fisher

In December 1989, the ruling communist party of East Germany,

the Socialist Unity Party (SED), was reconstituted when it adopted the

name Socialist Unity Party-Party of Democratic Socialism (SED-PDS),

which was simplified on 4 February 1990 to the Party of Democratic

Socialism.1 The brand of Marxism-Leninism that had prevailed in the

German Democratic Republic (GDR) appeared to be irredeemably

discredited, and the new leadership of this successor party was

obliged to create an alternative vision of socialism and to redefine

their political goals. The PDS program of 1990,2 with its clear adoption

of a feminist agenda, constituted a breach with the party’s political

past. Whereas the Marxist-Leninist theory underpinning SED

policy had been based on the principle that inequality is economically

determined, the new PDS program acknowledged patriarchy

as a separate issue.

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Beverly Weber

As the current debates about the headscarf in Germany and France

demonstrate, “Islamic” veils and headscarves garner attention for

minority women in Europe to an unparalleled degree.2 For centuries,

Islamic veils and headscarves have served as powerful symbols in

Orientalist discourse, functioning as markers of the Oriental woman’s

supposed eroticism as well as convenient tropes for philosophers.3

Recent kidnappers’ demands in Iraq that France lift its headscarf ban

demonstrate the complex appropriations of Muslim women for fundamentalist

discourses as well.

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Factors in the Development of Spatial Cognition in Boys and Girls

Assessing the Impacts of Biology and Navigational Experience

Mariah G. Schug

Spatial cognition represents one of the best-established sex differences in cognitive science. There is a pervasive tendency for males to outperform females on multiple spatial reasoning tasks. While prenatal hormones may provide a foundation for these differences, childhood experience also plays an important role. This current article examines how biological factors may interact with environmental and cultural factors. Of particular interest is the cross-cultural literature in which children’s naturalistic experiences exploring their environments can be linked to the development of spatial skills. Based on the examined research, children who gain more navigational experience tend to perform better on spatial tasks. Because boys typically have greater opportunities to explore and navigate, this difference in experience may contribute to the observed sex differences in spatial performance.

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We are pleased to present in this open issue of German Politics and

Society four contributions on issues central to the current debate in

German politics. In our lead article, Louise Davidson-Schmich offers

original data and innovative interpretations concerning the similarities

and differences in the political behavior and attitudes of party

elites in post-Wende Berlin. In some cases, Davidson-Schmich’s findings

confirm the expected east-west divide. In others, similarities and

conformities prevail, and differences emerge over other fault-lines.

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Rethinking Universalism

Olympe Audouard, Hubertine Auclert, and the Gender Politics of the Civilizing Mission

Rachel Nuñez

Building on Joan Scott's argument that the struggles of feminists since the Revolution have been rooted in the paradoxes of republican universalism, this article explores how two nineteenth-century feminists—Olympe Audouard and Hubertine Auclert—sought to escape the problem of sexual difference through engagement with the civilizing mission. They criticized the civilizing mission as chauvinistic and misogynistic to reveal how republican universalism had failed to address inequalities of both sex and race. They also proposed more inclusive forms of universalism: in her writing on Turkey, Audouard advocated cosmopolitanism, in which all peoples, regardless of race or sex, could contribute to civilization, while Auclert, in her writing on Algeria, supported assimilation as a way to endow both French women and Arabs with the rights of French men. Yet their versions of universalism were no less paradoxical than republican universalism. Through cosmopolitanism and assimilation, they invoked new others and worked strategically to displace sexual difference with racial, national, and religious difference.

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Ludger Helms

While the Federal Republic has been famously characterized as a "grand coalition state," the Merkel government, formed in the after-math of the 2005 federal election, is only the second CDU/CSU-SPD coalition at the federal level since 1949. A comparison of the present administration with the first grand coalition government (1966-1969) reveals a wealth of differences that include some of the basic parameters of governing and governance in Germany, such as the structure of the party system and the overall public climate. Also, the personnel features and patterns of informal coalition governance under Chancellors Angela Merkel and Kurt-Georg Kiesinger display major differences. Arguably the single most important difference between the two administrations, however, relates to the level of public policy, with the Merkel government seeking to reverse some of the key decisions of its historical predecessor. Such u-turn dynamics have been particularly tangible in the field of federal system reform.