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CFP: Secret Police Files as Life Writing

The German Studies Association (GSA) Thirty-Seventh Annual Conference

Denver, Colorado, October 3-6, 2013

Alison Lewis interprets Secret Police files as “hostile biographies” that are unauthorized and illegitimate. Lewis’ very useful term points to questions such as who produced and commissioned these files, who wrote them, and to what purpose. The purpose of these files was always hostile, and while not all informative notes had a hostile character, the officers in charge made sure these notes served the desired purpose of incriminating the person under surveillance. In this sense, Fiona Capp’s term of “incriminating biography”—a biography that fashioned antiheroes rather than heroes—complements Lewis' interpretation. The writers of these files created an alien perspective of the victim’s life—one commissioned by the Secret Police through the gaze of others.

We are seeking contributions for a panel (or a series of panels) that looks at surveillance files from former East Bloc countries as a form of life writing. Topics may include but are not limited to:

-          Stalinist show trials, 1948-1959, that targeted (ethnic) Germans

-          State-sponsored voyeurism

-          Informants as victims and/or traitors

-          The role of German-language writers and intellectuals in the surveillance network

-          Resistance through culture

-          Operations that targeted western radio stations (Radio Free Europe)

-          Post-socialist representations in films and literary texts

-          mea culpa texts: autobiographies; autobiographical fiction; interviews; open letters

Please send one-page abstracts to Corina L. Petrescu ([log in to unmask]) and Valentina Glajar ([log in to unmask]) by February 1, 2013.


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Corina L. Petrescu, Ph.D
Assistant Professor of German

University of Mississippi
Department of Modern Languages
E208 Bondurant Hall
University, MS 38677

Email: [log in to unmask]
Tel.: (662) 915 7716
Fax: (662) 915 1086
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