The Unbuilding of East Germany: Excavating Biography and History

Molly Andrews 

In 1992, I conducted interviews with 40 East Germans, most of whom had been leading critics of the East German government, and played an important role in contributing to the bloodless revolution of 1989. The 1992 study was supported by the Max Planck Institute of Berlin.  Twenty years later, supported by the Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin für Sozialforschung and the University of East London, I conducted a follow-up study with 15 of the original 40 participants.  This group included artists, actors, religious leaders, scientists, and politicians.  The same translator, Birgit Schmitt, was used for the 1992 and 2012 interviews. In addition to talking about the changes in their personal lives and their thoughts on aging, we discussed their perception of East German identity, the meaning of forgiveness over time, generational transmission of knowledge, and popular representation of historical events. 

We have audio files and transcripts in both German and English for all of the interviews of these 15 participants which were conducted in 1992 and 2012. These materials, along with commissioned portraits and images from the Robert Havemann Archives will be the basis of an exhibition and one-day conference to be held at the German Historical Institute London in October 2014, to mark the 25th anniversary of the opening of the Berlin Wall. 

Personal Narratives of Academic Immigrants in London

The research draws on interviews with academic immigrants who chose London to pursue postgraduate degrees, and latterly professional careers. The communities of academic immigrants have been growing within the European context. The arguments that position this group as the new European elites usually focus on their professional career pathways. This research aims to explore how this specific group of skilled immigrants constructs their individual narratives as a form of re-positioning in relation to multiple contexts between which they physically and discursively move, in relation to broader immigrant communities, and in relation to academic communities in which they study and work.  In this project, I employ a Foucaldian approach to narratives in order to explore the interrelations between micro-narratives and grand political, socio-cultural narratives; and the effects of discursive networks and power relations surrounding skilled immigration, otherness and belonging within the European context.  

Social Movements and Legislative Processes: Violence against Women in Morocco

The study aims to locate Moroccan women's activism in the context of both Morocco and of transnational women's activism. I use the theory of Sally Engle Merry of vernacularisation of global norms into local practices in examining the processes of activism in the political and cultural context of Morocco. Main themes that arise from my fieldwork with women's NGOs in Morocco in 2011 are democratisation and modernity. Moroccanness, Islam and transnational women's rights movement all inform the competing narratives of activism, modernity and democracy. These narratives are central to defining organisations' referential and guiding their actions. 

Narratives, citizenships and popular cultures

Corinne Squire's narrative research currently focuses on personal and cultural narratives of HIV, in both the UK and South Africa, in relation to citizenship and everyday lives. She is also interested more generally in narratives and social change, and the effects of narratives. 

As a CNR partner in NOVELLA (the ESRC funded National Centre for Research Methods node, Narratives of Everyday Lives and Linked Approaches), Squire is in addition working with Heather Elliott, Rebecca O'Connell and NCRM MODE colleagues on 'Recipes for mothering', a project researching women's blogs about mothering, food and scarcity.  

Currently, Squire is working on a BA Leverhulme funded project investigating the resource contexts of people living with HIV in the UK, Zambia, Brazil and South Africa. This project has now been extended to investigate the impact of COVID-19.

Background with needles: a genealogy of the seamstress

This is a British Academy funded life-history research project, which traces, collects, archives, analyses and discusses auto/biographical narratives of home-based dressmakers and women working in the garment industry. The project spans a range of geographies, histories and disciplinary fields and focuses on the force of narratives in illuminating interrelations between women's labour and its memory, personal, domestic and public spaces, migration histories, political activism, adult education and women workers' forceful intervention in the cultural and intellectual life of the twentieth century. There are currently two published  papers from this project: 'Educating the Seamstress: Studying and Writing the Memory of Work', in History of Education, 2013 and  'Not everything that the bourgeois world created is bad': aesthetics and politics in women workers' education' in Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education, 2014 and one forthcoming:  'The female self as punctum: Fannia Cohn's archival technologies of the self' in the British Sociological Association Auto/Biography Yearbook, Vol. VII, 2014.

Love, Gender and Agonistic Politics

This project looks into epistolary narratives of women political theorists and activists, including Rosa Luxemburg, Emma Goldman, Rose Pesotta and Hannah Arendt, and explores links between politics as action and love as an existential force. The project involves archival research at the New York Public Library Manuscripts and Archives Division with Rose Pesotta's papers and at the University of California Berkeley with Emma Goldman's papers. There are currently three papers from this project: 'Love, Narratives, Politics: Encounters between Hannah Arendt and Rosa Luxemburg' in Theory, Culture and Society, 2013; 'Good night and good-bye: temporal and spatial rhythms in piecing together Emma Goldman's auto/biographical fragments' in the British Sociological Association  Auto/Biography Yearbook, 2013 and 'imagining and living the revolution: an Arendtian reading of Rosa Luxemburg's letters and writings', in Feminist Review, 2014