Accepted Paper:

The Culture State: German theatre, Bildung, and Political Self-cultivation  


Jonas Tinius (Humboldt-Universit├Ąt zu Berlin)

Paper short abstract:

Germany boasts an exceptionally rich tradition of publicly funded theatres that is deeply entangled with the self-fashioning of the modern German state. This paper explores the notion of Bildung to unpack this reciprocal relation between public artistic institutions and federal cultural politics.

Paper long abstract:

The German 'theatre landscape' has emerged through phases of republicanism, centralisation, and decentralisation that have shaped Germany over the last 200 years. Recognised by the UNESCO as intangible world cultural heritage, its theatres are part of the country's political self-fashioning as a modern state. As "products of collective memory work" (Macdonald 2013) and "administrators of cultural memory" (Kaiser et al. 2010), the idea of the German 'culture state' (Kulturstaat) reflects Germany's long tradition of state patronage for the arts and, moreover, of theatres as sites for self- formation and political commentary that, in turn, legitimised their public role. This paper investigates the pivotal role of 'Bildung' or self-cultivation, which originated among the Romantics as a liberal political notion that regarded the state as a facilitator of personal self-development of aesthetic sensibilities, rather than a dictator of artistic styles. To what extent does this notion still hold value in a postwar, post-fascist, and post-socialist Germany, and how does its contemporary cultural politics envision the cultivation of citizenship through the arts today? How have artistic institutions as ethical traditions shaped modern German statehood, and how have changed and challenged conceptions of 'German-ness' over the course of the 20th century affected the role and value of the country's artistic institutions, especially theatres?

Panel P065
The state of the art: the anthropology of art and the anthropology of the state