An evaluation of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) as a symbolic resource within contemporary Germany

  • M. Weaver

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

Abstract

This study investigates how the use of a specific symbol, the German Democratic Republic (GDR), assists the alignment of individual and dominant interests within contemporary Germany. Based upon a conception of hegemony as a continuous, negotiated process as the main ordering principle within contemporary society, the study focuses upon the ways in which the GDR is constructed within individual narratives and contemporaneous local press reports as a means of examining specific instances of the hegemonic process. Moreover, the analysis of the discursive construction and instrumentalization of the GDR is also able to identify and evaluate the power of contemporary dominant ideologies to order discourse, marginalise ideological alternatives and hence control the nature of historical representations. Competing constructions of the GDR are analysed by drawing upon theoretical and methodological approaches within discursive psychology and Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) which aim to investigate links between linguistic representation and the patterns and sources of knowledge-producing and social power. The discursive dynamics of press coverage and those of individual accounts are compared in order to arrive at an original insight into the context and processes by which individuals orientate themselves to their perceived environment. From the theoretical and methodological standpoints, this study develops previous interdisciplinary approaches to studies of situated symbolic exchange, building upon 'media effects' models through the use of CDA. It also relates its findings to critical perspectives within the field of radical media criticism to show how individual discursive activity relates to dominant interests. Thus the combination of these theoretical approaches and the study's qualitative evidence is used to provide a fresh insight into power dynamics within contemporary Germany through an illustration of the mutually reinforcing relationships between the discursive construction of the GDR, alignment with dominant interests and the ideological cleansing of discourse.
Date of Award2004
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Nottingham Trent University

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