Instrumentalising history: on some aspects of the re-nationalisation of Germany's political culture in 2006
Social Geography University of Bayreuth Bayreuth, Germany
During the summer of 2006 the world witnessed an event in the heart of Europe that revealed an unknown phenomenon: the pictures of a happy, colourful and non-aggressive German nationalism in the wake of the Soccer World Championship celebrations. The people were also praised for presenting themselves and the country in a nice and hospitable manner, giving way to a new image of Germany. The consensus in political and cultural commentary was that nobody had ever dared to think about the possibility of using German national symbols in a peaceful and uncomplicated way. Although there was nothing new in showing flags, e.g. after a soccer victory, the commentators were unanimous that this is the manifestation of something »new«: the birth of »happy patriotism« in Germany.
Soon, politics became aware how favourable these tendencies can be used for agenda setting and cultural discourse. Especially the conservative and right wing parts of the country were excited about the fact that the youth acted so »uncomplicated«, showing a »positive« and »innocent« patriotism. At least since the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989, they believe that their time has come to establish a bourgeois and nationalist counter-narration of German post-war history and to overcome the - in their eyes - »anti-German« thinking of the generation of the Achtundsechziger (»68ers«), mainly in the fields of culture and politics. As the »68ers« are the most popular political enemy for the Conservatives, they claim that they represent a »false«, »multi-cultural« Germany. 2006 could have been the year in which the discourse on national identity in Germany changed, and the usage of national symbols as a kind of pop phenomena could turn out to be only the surface of a decisive shifting point in contemporary cultural and political practices. The implications of a new essentialist German agenda would have great impact not only on the politics of the country but also in all realms of life on the country's attitude. I would like to give some empirical data of this process to discuss at the conference.