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After the Event

After the Event: The Transmission of Grievous Loss in Germany, China and Taiwan

Stephan Feuchtwang
Copyright Date: 2011
Edition: NED - New edition, 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 246
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  • Book Info
    After the Event
    Book Description:

    Two of the most destructive moments of state violence in the twentieth century occurred in Europe between 1933 and 1945 and in China between 1959 and 1961 (the Great Leap famine). This is the first book to bring the two histories together in order to examine their differences and to understand if there are any similar processes of transmission at work. The author expertly ties in the Taiwanese civil war between Nationalists and Communists, which included the White Terror from 1947 to 1987, a less well-known but equally revealing part of twentieth-century history. Personal and family stories are told, often in the individual's own words, and then compared with the public accounts of the same events as found in official histories, commemorations, school textbooks and other forms of public memory. The author presents innovative and constructive criticisms of social memory theories in order to make sense both of what happened and how what happened is transmitted.

    eISBN: 978-0-85745-087-6
    Subjects: Anthropology, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
    (pp. vi-vi)
  4. Introduction

    • Chapter 1 Transmitting Loss
      (pp. 3-19)

      This book is about the transmission of massive loss over two or three generations. The loss in each of the three cases that will be described was caused by state violence, which has also been responsible for all the worst cases of human loss in the twentieth century. Since the loss transmitted was massive, it was to some extent shared. But of course, the loss was also personal and individual. So this book is about the interplay between personal transmission, including full and felt silence, and more public forms of transmission, commemoration and teaching, including omission that is partly registered.¹...

    • Chapter 2 Comparing the Incomparable: The Third Reich and a Phase of Maoism
      (pp. 20-42)

      One balmy evening in Berlin I sat at a table in a garden café on Fasanenstrasse, waiting with Tsypylma for someone I had arranged to meet in this pleasant and neutral space. It became one of the most difficult and dramatic interviews in our project. The person for whom we were waiting was a therapist of first and second generation survivors of the attempted annihilation of Jews. I wanted to ask her view of the psychological transmission of loss. She arrived eventually, accompanied by another woman who she never fully introduced to us, but who seemed from what she eventually...

    • Chapter 3 ‘Communism’ in Mainland China and Taiwan: Official Transmission of the Great Leap Famine and of the White Terror
      (pp. 43-68)

      Whatever the character of the political change that induces apology and recognition, public memory remains hierarchical. It is established and amended by an honouring and a denigrating power of authoritative recognition. As a result, narratives that are interpersonally transmitted, whether habitually or consciously, have a ranked or even completely excluded possibility of recognition in public memory. This is the thrust of what Jacques Derrida (1996) has described as ‘archive’. Exclusion can give rise to the demand for inclusion, which is to demand a new establishment of public memory. The feeling of such a demand can be long-lasting and a version...

  5. Part I The Great Leap Famine

    • Chapter 4 Moral and Political Dilemmas from the Great Leap Famine
      (pp. 71-91)

      In the course of the First Five-Year Plan (1953–57) all residence, production, distribution and exchange in the People’s Republic of China had been brought into a single organisational system. The Great Leap Forward then added domestic life, the raising of domestic animals and vegetables and the cooking and consumption of food, into this system in a further collectivisation. Domesticity and therefore the distribution of cooked food itself was collectivised into dining halls instead of home kitchens and eating was according to want, not according to work. People were urged to eat their fill. The organisation of production was directed...

    • Chapter 5 Implicit Transmission: The Generation Gap after the Great Leap Famine
      (pp. 92-110)

      Possibly because of the shame, possibly because of the prevalent sense of its being a shared past, our inquiries into the personal transmission of Great Leap famine losses did not include long individual interviews, as the research in Berlin and Taiwan did. So we have none of the individuated cases of family repair that will be the subject of chapters on those other two places. Instead, what has been impressive is the number of implicit, sometimes historically allegorical, references to the times of hardship across the gap between the Mao and post-Mao generations. They include the basic act of feeding...

  6. Part II The Luku Incident of the White Terror

    • Chapter 6 Disruption, Commemoration and Family Repair in Taiwan
      (pp. 113-135)

      As for Mainland China in the previous two chapters, this chapter on Taiwan will stress the involvement of kinship with history as material culture and as a narrative of events of change; in other words, with the history characteristic of nationalism and of modern states alongside the reproduction of families. Monuments that commemorate events mark a landscape with rallying points of belonging, just as tombs do for families. When names are associated with such monuments, or are engraved in them, they are personal rallying points for the families of those named, in addition to their houses and graves. But the...

    • Chapter 7 Gesture and Monument in a Tourist Landscape: The Generation Gap in Taiwan
      (pp. 136-150)

      In October 2004, we went to interview a sturdy old man in the rundown house of his childhood and early manhood. At this time he lived in town with one of his children, but spent days at his old house in the mountains, pottering around. He used part of the old house as a sty for one pig. Outside was part scrapyard, part chicken run. Further from the house was his garden where he grew ginger and bamboo shoots. With me were three Taiwanese friends, all in their thirties or forties, one a neighbour of his, another from the same...

  7. Part III The Third Reich

    • Chapter 8 Acknowledgement of the Third Reich in Postwar Germany
      (pp. 153-173)

      This chapter will set the scene for the following two chapters about families and their transmission of losses created by the Third Reich, the twelve years of Nazi rule that committed Germany to a European war of conquest, the enslavement of Slav populations, and the annihilation of the Jews in Europe. It is now more than sixty years after the defeat of the Nazi regime and its armed forces, which led to the occupation of Germany by the Allied forces of the USA, the Soviet Union, France and the UK, dividing Germany into their four zones – sixty and more...

    • Chapter 9 Disruption, Commemoration and Family Repair: Some Jewish German Families
      (pp. 174-189)

      I and the other subjects I will introduce pose this question to ourselves: ‘Belonging to what?’. All of us are in families that mix Jewish with non-Jewish traditions. Two Jewish imperatives demand our attention. One is the command to remember that we are Jewish, which comes in contrasted histories, in the biblical story that we are bound in a compact with God, however that might be interpreted, and in the history of Christian civilisation that we are in families that have been subjected to anti-Semitic attacks. The other is the famous principle of inheritance of Jewish identity through the mother....

    • Chapter 10 Recalling the Third Reich and the Holocaust after Two Generations: Some German German Families
      (pp. 190-206)

      Many non-Jewish Germans avoid open talk about guilt and about Jews. Sometimes a distant relative is identified as a Nazi and becomes a rod for the lightning accusation and guilt that might otherwise have struck the closer family. Otherwise such Germans do not talk and do not want to know about the annihilation of the Jews or about the Third Reich in general.¹

      Hans Steinmüller, a student and intellectual from a peasant-farmer family in Bavaria, tells of his cohort in the 1990s:

      Many students and intellectuals continuously want to speak about the Holocaust and point out the continuities to contemporary...

  8. Conclusion

    • Chapter 11 Beyond Bad Death
      (pp. 209-227)

      Let us agree to indicate by the word ‘ghosts’ those who are between life and death, forgotten or problematic victims, alive or dead, partly excluded but at a threshold of being recalled, as an often unwanted reminder. The unwanted are, of course, defined by stipulations of the wanted or the desirable, the good dead and the good subject or citizen, by ritual, familial, historical, memorial, museological, ceremonial and other – including legal and political – institutions of recognition. Ghosts are a good way into the dynamics of transmission of grievous loss.

      Chapter 2 argued that the conditions of state violence...

  9. References
    (pp. 228-234)
  10. Index
    (pp. 235-240)