Links and Functions
Language Selection

Breadcrumb Navigation


Abstract of Christiane Bauer M.A.

"Images of Germanness among the Descendants of German Immigrants to the USA: A Study on the History of Memory of Migration and Identity"

This PhD aims to examine the perception of Germanness and the relationship towards German heritage and Germany itself by German-Americans of the second generation whose parents or one parent came to the USA after 1945. This includes the last (non-Jewish) German mass migration to America from 1945 until about 1960 as well as later migration streams until 1990.

This migration has been dealt with in only a few publications. Moreover, the second generation has not been the topic of research yet, despite of the fact that such research can contribute to a better understanding of migration and acculturation process and the forming and preserving of identity by migrants and their descendants.

This research topic includes interesting questions for general migration historiography: How do people remember migration and identity? How do families pass on their migration experiences and identity? When can acculturation be considered finished within the generational cycle? Here, the focus on the second generation promises to provide answers whilst taking the experiences of the first generation into account. It is hoped that the PhD will serve also to provide an outlook for the third generation.

The objective of this PhD is to examine the individual self-understanding of stakeholders of the German-American cultural life in the US. It is not to exemplify the collective memory of German-Americans on the whole but to show tendencies of who remembers at all, how they remember, what they remember, and what those memories tell us about their self-perception and their depiction of being German-American.

This study deals with the cultural dimension of migration and thus aims to contribute to a better understanding of acculturation and identity of German immigrants and their descendants in the US within the framework of memory research.

My project incorporates an online and archive-based survey of the multifaceted German-American cultural life throughout the USA. By examining the program outlines, I aim to show what images of Germanness are transmitted to the German-American as well as the general American society by the cultural institution such as clubs and societies.

Adding oral history interviews with second-generation German-Americans, the personal dimension of this topic can be analyzed by gaining deeper insight into the individual notion of being German.

The interview partners are asked about their everyday as well as family life, about traditions and rituals kept and transferred within the family, about their participation in German-American cultural life, and their attachment to the community. In addition, the attitude towards Germany, the affinity to the German language, and the interest in the history of Germany after 1945 are of central concern.

In the end, the results achieved by the interview study as well as by the archival research will be discussed by referring to theories of the current German as well as American memory research on collective memory.