Accepted paper:

From GDR-resistance to New Right bohemia. Activating the socialist past in east German local elite responses to migrants and refugees.


Julian Gopffarth (LSE)

Paper short abstract:

This paper looks at how memories of past resistance to the socialist east German state are activated by intellectuals to frame present support for the populist and far right.

Paper long abstract:

The literature on local responses to migrants and refugees often focuses on places where migrants and refugees settle. A common view is here that immigration is largely accepted by well-educated and economically well-off populations while it is rejected by those poorly educated and "economically left behind". Economic competition with refugees and migrants in those areas is, so is often argued, the main reason for an anti-immigrant backlash and the support of populist far-right parties. Against this common view this paper looks at the local responses of well-educated and well-off intellectuals in Loschwitz, a small neighbourhood in Dresden, Germany, where no recent immigration has taken place. Drawing on ethnographic data I argue that the so-called 2015 refugee crisis facilitated the emergence of a local "New Right bohemia" supportive of xenophobic views as well as parties and movements that are largely seen as far right populist. The data shows that to frame the present these intellectuals activate nostalgic individual and social memories of a non-conformist anti-regime bohemia that formed against the repressive state of the German Democratic Republic in the 1980s. Activating this past against the imagination of a dystopian future, i.e. the emergence of a new repressive regime and scenarios of "immigrant invasions" facilitates the politicisation of local intellectuals and their support of so-called far right populism. The activation of individual and social pasts to frame present imaginaries thus serves as a powerful resource for far-right mobilisation not only of the "economically left-behind" but also of local elites.

panel P162
Materializing the past and imagining the future