Historical Social Research

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John T. Hamilton: Conspiracy, Security, and Human Care in Donnersmarck’s Leben der Anderen. [Abstract]

Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s acclaimed film, Das Leben der Anderen (2006), affords a provocative opportunity for investigating the relation between conspiracy and security. Although state-sponsored conspiracies breed insecurity among the citizenry, they nonetheless also provide the ground for epistemological security, insofar as the threat can be decisively located. In pressing the literal definition of security as “the removal of concern,” this article interprets the film according to shifting modalities of care. Considered as a vast conspiratorial network against its own populace, the East German Ministry for State Security (the Stasi) represents a mechanized, dispassionate ideal that strives to eliminate concerns about whatever may jeopardize the regime. To counter this security project, Donnersmarck presents us with characters who display a fundamentally human care that is instigated by governmental practices and yet ultimately works against state-oriented securitization and legitimation.