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Bernd Weisbrod


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Bernd Weisbrod

Gerda Henkel Visiting Professor in German Studies, 2011-12


Bernd Weisbrod retired in 2011 as Professor for Modern History at Göttingen University. He was awarded his first degree at the University of Heidelberg and gained his Ph.D. at Bochum University for a prize winning dissertation on “Heavy Industry in the Weimar Republic”. After serving as an associate professor at Bochum and a research fellow at the German Historical Institute in London he achieved his Habilitation with a project on “Pauper and delinquent children in early-Victorian Britain” after which he received an offer for a full professorship at the universities of Konstanz and Göttingen. He was appointed to the chair of Modern History in Göttingen in 1990. His main research interests are political culture and political violence, post-dictatorial transitions and the public sphere, cultures of poverty and welfare reforms, the history of generations and politics of memory. He held visiting professorships at the New School University in New York and Magdalen College in Oxford, the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and the European University Institute in Florence, Rutgers University and the Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in Bielefeld.

During his stay in Stanford Professor Weisbrod will continue to work on two of his most recent projects regarding the history of political violence and the history of generations.  He has most recently founded and conducted a Göttingen graduate school on „Generations in modern history” which looks in detail at problems of generation building and cultures of belonging in time. In particular it seems a matter of contention in German historiography whether the kind of traumatic experience in war and dictatorship does actually help to explain – ever since Karl Mannheim’s classical definition of “generation” - the strong German bias to read generational dynamics into historical change. Building on his contribution to an Oxford conference on European generations Professor Weisbrod will, while in Stanford, work on the publication of a joint conference with the German Historical Institute in Washington on “History by Generations” which will also take into account the American debate about demographic generations. The conference proceedings will be published in English by Wallstein in Göttingen in 2012.

The second focus of attention will be on the symbolic form of politics by violence. This is an issue which Professor Weisbrod has treated in several publications especially with regard to “male fundamentalism” in much of Germany’s inter-war political culture. He has also considered “the religious languages of violence” in the wake of the modern debate on terrorism for a joint conference with the Max Planck Institute of history in Göttingen. Most recently he contributed to a research group on “The Control of Violence” at the Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies at the University of Bielefeld the papers of which were published by Springer (New York) in 2011. In comparing the assassinations of Walther Rathenau and Hanns-Martin Schleyer he re-considered the symbolic aspects of political terrorism over time as part of the new performative turn in cultural studies. It will be his intention to bring these two aspects of his work together in testing the ground for a new theory of “violent generations”. Professor Weisbrod will offer two courses for Stanford students during the next spring quarter: one on “Performance Politics: Political violence and the challenge of Fascism in Europe”, and the other on “Experience and Memory: Generation building in German post-war and post-dictatorial transitions”.