Introduction: Politics and Culture in Germany and Austria Today

Frauke Matthes, Dora Osborne, Katya Krylova

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


THE ESSAYS IN THIS VOLUME show the different ways in which cultural production in Germany and Austria engages with contemporary politics. In their discussions of literature, film, theater, and art, they consider a number of interrelated topoi that are both political and subject to politicization: identity, memory, language, nationalism, Europe, transculturalism, globalization, and migration. They highlight how the relationship between culture and politics is marked by the movements and tensions between the national and the European, the local and the global, that define Germany and Austria today. While the eurozone crisis and Brexit have polarized opinion on the European Union and soured relations between European neighbors, both the belief in and abandonment of the European project as postwar legacy are shaped as much by events triggered beyond as within EU borders. The so-called migrant crisis that began in 2015 (the focus of two of the chapters in this volume) has provoked significant political change and division in Germany and Austria. This humanitarian crisis, the debates surrounding it, and the attendant polarization of political positions in both countries have all left their mark on cultural production, whose scope, influences, and reach extend consequently beyond a national paradigm.

Politics and Culture in the Berlin Republic

The significance of transnational events and developments for German identity that is so striking today marks a shift from the 1990s, when, following the fall of the Berlin Wall, the focus was on the emerging, unified, “normalized” nation. The founding of the Berlin Republic also brought with it a profound challenge to the relationship between culture and politics that questioned the relevance of both East and West German legacies of political authorship across media. In 1990, a heated debate broke out in the cultural pages of leading German newspapers that came to be known as the Literaturstreit (literary feud) and criticized the political commitment that was typical of German authors on both sides of the Wall. Influenced by the Gruppe 47 and the events of 1968, literature in West Germany had been resolutely “engaged” in its antifascism. For some, however, the “political contentiousness” of writers in the Federal Republic, to quote Stephen Brockmann, had resulted in a “Gesinnungsästhetik” (aesthetics of political conviction) that rendered literature staid.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPolitics and Culture in Germany and Austria Today
Subtitle of host publicationEdinburgh German Yearbook
EditorsFrauke Matthes, Dora Osborne, Katya Krylova, Myrto Aspioti
Place of PublicationRochester, NY
PublisherCamden House
Number of pages15
ISBN (Electronic)9781787449466
ISBN (Print)9781640140844
Publication statusPublished - 2021


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