Collective myths and their transgenerational impacts

Principal investigator: Prof. Dr. Gabriele Rosenthal
Research assistants: Dipl-Sozw. Viola Stephan, Sonja Owusu Boakye, M.A.
Graduate assistant: Dipl.Sozw. Niklas Radenbach
Student research assistant: Marieke Ulrich

Sponsored from 2007 – 2011 by German Research Foundation (DFG). Pilot study sponsored from 2005 – 2006 by the Evangelische Kirche (Evangelical Church in Germany)

This study deals with the family histories and life stories of three generations of ethnic German migrants from the former Soviet Union and their family members, who live in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and in the Ukraine. It examines the factual interdependence between the collective and family histories as well as its possible consequences regarding their past, present and future lives. Biographical and family interviews are conducted in order to examine the transgenerational effects of their collective and family history on their present lives. Furthermore, this study will look into the question how the younger immigrants (up to 20 years of age) come to terms with not only their migration as such, but also with the ever-changing reconstructions of the collective and family histories which are often observed amongst them. Moreover, it is being examined if the visible difficulties of integration and building of “ethnic counterworlds“ within this generation is due to the transgenerational effects of the past. A contribution will also be made in the form of an analysis of the collective we-images and the images created by others in the context of their biographical development, reproduction and transformations. A pilot study has elucidated the important function of the construction of a collective history for the definition of „belonging“ which is not a feature of the communicative memory. Research on this empirical finding will continue. The interviews conducted so far show a conspicuous emphasis being placed on the construction of ethnic belonging, be it Russian or German. Besides this, a strong emphasis is also being placed on „masculinity“ and „femininity“. In the course of future research, it would be necessary to pursue the question as to what effect such an emphasis of „natural capital“ will have on the biographers.