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Conversations on Europe. Hearing Race and Music in Communist East Germany

Kira Thurman, assistant professor of Germanic languages and literatures and history, U-M

Kira Thurman Kira Thurman
Neo-nazism, racism, xenophobia, PEGIDA, and skinheads: East Germany has earned a reputation lately as a place hostile to immigrants and to racial and ethnic difference. But, historians point out, the region wasn't always this way. Before the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the communist German Democratic Republic prided itself for its anti-racism and commitment to international solidarity. How, then, do we understand the stark contrast between East Germans under communism and today? How were generations of East Germans taught to understand racial and ethnic difference? This presentation explores how the East German state was and was not the anti-racist state they claimed to be. Championing African American performers as heroes in the fight against imperialism, the East German state and the audiences attending African American musical concerts nonetheless found ways to valorize and demonize musical and racial difference.

Kira Thurman is an assistant professor of German and history at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. She earned her PhD in history from the University of Rochester in 2013 where she also pursued a minor field in musicology through the Eastman School of Music. Her research, which has appeared in "German Studies Review," the "Journal of World History," "Opera Quarterly," and the "Journal of the American Musicological Society" (JAMS), focuses on the relationship between race, music, and national identity in Central Europe. She is currently writing her first book, which is titled, "Singing Like Germans: Black Musicians in the Land of Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms."
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When and Where

Map School of Social Work Building - 1636

January 2017

12:00pm - 1:30pm

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