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Cold War childhood from the margins. Analysing childhood memories across borders
Montag, 14.03.2022:
14:00 - 16:30

Virtueller Veranstaltungsort: Zoom Seminarraum 11

932 6037 0671, J0xYps
1. Historische Bildungsforschung, 3. Interkulturelle und International Vergleichende Erziehungswissenschaft, Sektion 2, Kommission Qualitative Bildungs- und Biographieforschung, Sektion 3, Kommission Vergleichende und Internationale Erziehungswissenschaft, Sektion 8, Kommission Pädagogik der frühen Kindheit, qualitativ, Englisch

ID: 193
Stichworte: Cold War childhood, memory, collective biography, power relations

Cold War childhood from the margins. Analysing childhood memories across borders

Chair(s): Dr. Kathleen Falkenberg (Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Deutschland), Dr. Nadine Bernhard (Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Deutschland)

Diskutant*innen: Prof. Dr. Inés Dussel (Departamento de Investigaciones Educativas del CINVESTAV-IPN, México)

This international and interdisciplinary working group aims at analysing childhood memories of the Cold War from both sides of the Iron Curtain. It draws on collective memory work conducted in a collaborative and international research project, which aimed at fostering a dialogue between scholars and artists from different geopolitical, economic, generational, and cultural backgrounds by sharing and researching childhood memories. Even though memories are selective and reconstructive they can serve as fruitful sources for a deeper analysis of everyday life that can break down existing interpretations of a uniform socialist childhood. At the same time, memory stories, their details, emotions, materialities, and embodiments help to explore how memories are intertwined with notions of childhood prevalent in societies and wider socio-political matrices of power, divisions, and connections.


Beiträge des Panels


Intimate terror: Violence in domestic contexts and children’s subjectivities during the Cold War

Prof. Dr. Kathrin Hörschelmann
Universität Bonn

Departing from the strong current focus on institutionalized and political violence in socialist childhoods, this paper considers the subjectivities of children in conflictual and violent family contexts. It builds on feminist research on ‚intimate terror‘ (Pain 2014) to ask how children’s subjectivities and understandings of interpersonal relationships are impacted by violent relations of power in domestic contexts. Analysing memory stories collected by a collaborative international research project, it also asks how adults make sense of violence through storytelling. The paper considers how the memory stories reflect on embodiment, identities, generational positionings and (the limits of) agency in violent domestic contexts, on the ontological (in)securities emerging from abuse and on its intersections with political and institutional power.

In so doing, the issue of child abuse in socialist domestic contexts is placed in a larger translocal context – drawing connections to global debates on the place of children in violence continuums. Rather than analysing the issue purely through the lens of socialist-authoritarian oppression, connections between different Cold-War contexts are also examined. By comparing the memory stories with interdisciplinary research on violence and its impacts on children’s subjectivities, the analysis thus seeks to contribute to both, the de-colonisation of socialism and childhood.


Between chores, forbidden joys and imagined friends: Collective memory work on Cold War childhood memories in unsupervised times

Dr. Kathleen Falkenberg, Dr. Nadine Bernhard
Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin

In contrast to well established narratives about a supposedly uniform state-organized childhood and the related institutions such as kindergarten, school or political mass organisations in the former GDR, this paper focuses on everyday life experiences of children in order to broaden perspectives on children and childhood in socialist times. We draw on research that employed collective memory work according to Frigga Haug (1990) and additional analysis of memory stories written and collected from international participants of a collaborative research project.

In our analysis we focus on 'marginal times' of the day when institutional access was no longer available and parental supervision could not yet be guaranteed - e.g. weekday afternoons before parents came home from work or weekend hours when children were sent out 'to play'. We ask how these times were filled, what limitations, rules, arrangements there were for these times of the day in order to reflect upon children’s agency, the opportunities, challenges and responsibilities ‘being alone’ comprised for children – and in which societal structures these were embedded. Contemporary narratives, such as the West-German notion of abandoned “Schlüsselkinder”, as well as the complex repercussions gender equality and female workforce had on families’ time management are one angle to analyse those memories to enable insights into (the experience of) childhoods.

Haug, Frigga (1990): Erinnerungsarbeit. Hamburg: Argument


Myths and plastic bags: Carrying childhood memories of the West into post-socialist futures

Prof. Dr. Zsuzsa Millei1, Prof. Dr. Nelli Piattoeva1, Prof. Dr. Iveta Silova2
1Tampere University, Finland, 2Arizona State University, USA

Postsocialism is often discussed in terms of revisiting - and dispelling - the ‘myths’ of the socialist past. We propose, however, that it is more productive to understand (post)socialism in terms of a different type of myth-making, the one associated with the capitalism of the ‘West’ (Peshkopia, 2010). Rather than dispelling the ‘myths’ about socialism, and thus negating or even erasing experiences, we explore ‘myths’ in Cold War memories of childhood from a decolonial perspective by drawing on a collaborative international research project.

The imaginary West was framed by numerous controversial, yet complementary discourses, becoming both a competitor of socialist modernity and its yardstick. A utopian future about what communism in its full form will/might become was produced from the combination of bits and pieces of ‘Western culture’. These included films, music, books, language education and objects of consumption, such as plastic bags with labels fascinating both children and adults (Yurchak 2014). We spotlight in memories how these “myths from the future” produced notions of the ‘normal’, at the margin subverting the dominant ideology, against which to evaluate experiences of both late socialism and post socialism (Fehérváry, 2002). In the absence of this past (socialist) desired ‘normality’ today, there seems to be a challenge of formulating an alternative future, and therefore the past often remains the sole and highly contentious navigating point.