- Fellowship year:2010-2011
- University: University of Michigan
- Dissertation Topic/Category: Modern Europe
- Dissertation Title: In and Out of War: Space, Pleasure and Cinema in Hamburg, 1938-1949
My dissertation reinterprets the relationship between film and the Nazi state in a locally grounded study of Nazi cinema. Trying to understand the simultaneity of genocide and normality, of racism and 'family values,' of wartime brutality and the everyday pursuit of pleasure in Nazi Germany, I argue that cinema was an important venue for the negotiation of popular consent. Focusing on Germany's second largest city, Hamburg, and its complex national and international context, I show that the discussions of individual films, the intellectual debates over cinema as a National Socialist art form, and the actual practice of going to the movies invited functionaries, activists, and consumers in Hamburg to maintain locally specific visions of Nazism.
These local visions were not always in congruence with the ideological imperatives of the Reich. Local voices, idiosyncratic and critical as they were at times, never posed an ideological challenge to the racism underpinning the murderous expansionism of the regime. They do, however, illustrate that terror and repression notwithstanding, even the tightly coordinated and top-down administered realm of film and cinema invited and provoked constant negotiation on the ground. Local actors, rather than merely consenting to a pre-articulated version of Nazism, deliberately attempted to shape its character. Tracing the role of film in Hamburg through the celebratory mood following economic recovery, the victories of war, the subsequent disintegration of the Volksgemeinschaft, defeat and postwar occupation, I suggest that film nurtured hopes for local prosperity and aspirations of world recognition in and out of war.