Historical Social Research

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Michael Geyer & Konrad H. Jarausch, The Future of the German Past. Transatlantic Reflections for the 1990s [1989] [Abstract]

The comparative reluctance of German historians to engage the postmodern challenge suggested the need for a reflection on what post-structuralist impulses might have to offer for analyzing the Central European past. In the United States the criticism voiced by Geoff Eley and David Blackbourn had already undercut the hegemony of the Sonderweg paradigm, promoted by the “societal historians” of the Bielefeld school which was slow to respond to feminist and everyday history approaches. Michael Geyer and I therefore set out to initiate a discussion about the deconstruction of “grand narratives” about the German past, in order to create more interpretative space for stories that did not fit into the model of “historical social science.” In the American intellectual climate this objectivist and modernist outlook seemed no longer persuasive enough, since various minorities promoted views that emphasized the constructivist character of historical understanding. Our joint programmatic essay therefore tried to open space for recovering a greater plurality of experiences.