Accepted paper:

Socialist biography and post-socialist ethnography: doing anthropology at home

Authors:

Grit Wesser (Newcastle University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores the strengths and limitations of ethnography on a contemporary secular coming-of-age ritual that is closely associated with the former German Democratic Republic (GDR/East Germany) and also part of my own biography.

Paper long abstract:

This paper explores the strengths and limitations of ethnography on a contemporary secular coming-of-age ritual that is closely associated with the former German Democratic Republic (GDR/East Germany) and also part of my own biography. Through my socialisation and participation in the ritual in the GDR I can draw on my experiences, leading to a heightened awareness of continuities and changes, their contextualisation and a more thorough reflection on socio-cultural norms. However, as historical subject I also experience doubts and anxieties that arise through doing fieldwork at home and in a society that has formerly become infamous as 'Stasiland'. To what extent then is the research limited by emotional bonds to my 'own people' and my desire to portray them as likeable; but also by ethical implications emerging from the parallels of the anthropological project with that of an unofficial member of the former state security?

panel P07
Reason and passion: the parallel worlds of ethnography and biography