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After the Red Army Faction

After the Red Army Faction: Gender, Culture, and Militancy

charity scribner
Copyright Date: 2015
Pages: 312
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  • Book Info
    After the Red Army Faction
    Book Description:

    Masterminded and led by women, the Red Army Faction (RAF) terrorized West Germany from the 1970s to the 1990s, and afterimages of its leaders persist in the works of pivotal artists and writers, including Gerhard Richter, Elfriede Jelinek, and Slavoj Žižek. Why were women so prominent in the RAF? What does the continuing cultural response to the German armed struggle tell us about the representation of violence, power, and gender today? Charity Scribner engages critical theory to address these questions and analyze signal works that point beyond militancy and terrorism. These works of art and literature expose the failures of the German Far Left and register the radical potential that RAF women actually forfeited.

    As Scribner demonstrates, the most compelling examples of postmilitant culture do more than repudiate militancy; they investigate its possibility, particularly in the realm of sexual politics. Scribner analyzes as-yet untranslated essays by Theodor Adorno and Jürgen Habermas, as well as novels by Friedrich Dürrenmatt and Judith Kuckart. She also examines Johann Kresnik'sTanztheaterstück Ulrike Meinhofand the blockbuster art exhibitionRegarding Terrorat the Berlin Kunst-Werke. Scribner gives special focus to German cinema, offering incisive interpretations of films by Margarethe von Trotta, Volker Schlöndorff, and Fatih Akin, and discusses the recent international box-office success ofThe Baader-Meinhof Complex. These readings reveal dynamic junctures in national and sexual identities, the disciplining of the militant body, and the relationship between mass media and the arts.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-53829-9
    Subjects: Art & Art History, Performing Arts, History, Philosophy, Film Studies, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xvi)
  4. introduction: Beyond Militancy
    (pp. 1-24)

    Shortly after September 11, when Berlin curators announced plans for a blockbuster exhibition of art about the Red Army Faction, or RAF, alarms went off across Germany. Masterminded by women, the Rote Armee Fraktion had splintered off from the New Left in 1970, turning from protest to armed resistance. The group’s misguided take on Marxism and its flawed efforts to redress Nazi crimes devolved into a campaign of terror in the German Autumn of 1977. This season was darkened by hijackings and suicides, the proliferation of wanted posters, and the reinforcement of state surveillance. More than thirty years later, many...

  5. part 1. militant acts

    • 1 The Red Decade and Its Cultural Fallout
      (pp. 27-52)

      In 1971, when the Red Army Faction was just over a year old, the members Holger Meins and Jan-Carl Raspe began to make a film about liberation movements and world politics. They sought out Dierk Hoff, a sculptor and welder with ties to Frankfurt’s leftist circles, and asked him to design props for the project: fake hand grenades, pretend pipe bombs, and the like. The film was going to be aRevolutionsfiktion, a tale of insurgency that would awaken its viewers to the international struggle of the urban guerrilla. This job led to further collaboration, including Hoff’s fabrication of a...

    • 2 Damaged Lives of the Far Left: Reading the RAF in Reverse
      (pp. 53-72)

      Adorno sketches out a minor ethics for mid-century Europe in his treatiseMinima Moralia, published in 1951. “Es gibt kein richtiges Leben im falschen,” he writes.¹ A true life cannot be lived within one that is false. As the postwar decades moved on, many aspects of German society were set right, but members of the RAF found themselves torn between two lives. The government conducted dragnet searches, and the militants hid under an array of costumes, including business suits, sunglasses, and wigs. For some radicals, this masquerade took over the most personal aspects of their lives. Both Meinhof and Ensslin,...

    • 3 Buildings on Fire: The Situationist International and the Red Army Faction
      (pp. 73-94)

      In Guy Debord’s late filmIn girum imus nocte et consumimur igni(1978), a correspondence between the Situationist International (SI) and the Red Army Faction comes into view. In the middle of the film, the camera rests on two photographs: the exterior of the Stuttgart-Stammheim maximum-security facility, where the leaders of the RAF’s first generation committed suicide in 1976 and 1977, and an earlier press shot of Andreas Baader and Gudrun Ensslin on trial in 1968. “La plus belle jeunesse meurt en prison,” reads the narrator. The flower of youth dies in prison.¹ From these two documents of RAF history,...

  6. part 2. postmilitant culture

    • 4 The Stammheim Complex in Marianne and Juliane
      (pp. 97-116)

      For eight months, from 1972 to 1973, Ulrike Meinhof was held in solitary confinement in the Women’s Psychiatric Section of the Cologne-Ossendorf Prison. While incarcerated, she wrote many notes and letters. On a typewritten page from that time she describes her reduced life in thetoten Trakt, or dead section of the prison.

      Wardens, visits, courtyard seem made of celluloid—


      flashes . . .

      the feeling that time and space are interlocked[,]

      that you are caught in a time loop—


      Meinhof’s incarceration put a halt to her engagement in the armed struggle. Constantly exposed to fluorescent light,...

    • 5 Violence and the Tendenzwende: Engendering Victims in the Novel and Film
      (pp. 117-136)

      The German Autumn peaked with the RAF-backed abduction of Lufthansa Flight 181 in October 1977. Hijackers from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) overtook the plane and its ninety-one passengers and crew, detouring the Boeing 737 from Mallorca to Dubai and onward to Bahrain, Yemen, and finally to the runways of the airport in Mogadishu, Somalia. When negotiations between the PLO, the RAF, and West German security reached a stalemate, the terrorists shot one of the Lufthansa pilots and doused the passengers with alcohol, preparing them for immolation. Then they started a countdown to death.

      Back in...

    • 6 Anatomies of Protest and Resistance: Meinhof, Fischer
      (pp. 137-160)

      Ulrike Meinhof’s body was found hanging from the window grillwork in Stammheim Prison on the morning of May 9, 1976, Mother’s Day. Investigators ruled the cause of death as suicide. Two days later Meinhof’s sister called for a second postmortem, but the official report remained the same. Protesters expressed incredulity and outrage; many saw Meinhof’s death as a covert execution. Demonstrations denouncing the report broke out across West Germany and retaliatory bombs were set off at the U.S. air base in Frankfurt and as far away as Paris and Nice. Thousands came to mourn when the RAF leader was buried...

    • 7 Regarding Terror at the Berlin Kunst-Werke
      (pp. 161-188)

      In anArtforumreview in 1997, the historian Anders Stephanson speculated that “hijacking may continue, but its historical moment (in a Hegelian sense) is over.”¹ Written twenty years after the German Autumn and almost ten years after one of the last massive terrorist attacks—the Libyan bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland—the review discussedDial History(1997), Johan Grimonprez’s film about air traffic, militancy, and death. WhenDial Historybecame the hit of documenta X, the international exhibition of contemporary art held in Kassel, Germany, the tempest of transnational terrorism and its attendant media surge seemed,...

  7. afterword: Signs of a New Season
    (pp. 189-204)

    Hari Kunzru’s novelMy Revolutions(2008) begins with an epigraph from “The Concept of the Urban Guerrilla,” the founding statement of the RAF, written by Ulrike Meinhof in 1971: “The question of what would have happened if . . . is ambiguous, pacifistic, moralistic.”¹ Meinhof had no patience for the logic of “if . . . , then . . .” With the RAF she wanted revolution and she wanted it right away. Kunzru sets his novel in contemporary Britain but derives much of its texture from the documents and legends of the Baader-Meinhof group. Part of the cultural fallout...

  8. notes
    (pp. 205-256)
  9. works cited
    (pp. 257-278)
  10. index
    (pp. 279-294)