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Larissa Stiglich, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, History

After Socialism: The Transformation of Everyday Life in Eisenhüttenstadt, 1980-Present

My dissertation offers a systematic exploration of Eisenhüttenstadt’s transformation from the thriving socialist model-city to a declining eastern German town on the Polish border. Rather than merely document the deindustrialization of the Eisenhüttenkombinat Ost (Steelworks Combine East, or EKO) or the importation of West German institutions and organizations, my project asks how the citizens of Eisenhüttenstadt experienced this double transition from communism to capitalism, and from a divided to a united Germany. The fall of the Berlin Wall and the subsequent collapse of communism precipitated a series of intertwined processes of change that had profound effects on the lives of residents. This included the privatization and deindustrialization of the EKO, soaring unemployment rates, and waves of outmigration that left entire apartment blocs vacant, affecting not only residents’ experiences of the city, but also their attempts to constitute civil society. Several different dimensions of former East Germans’ daily lives are considered, namely their experiences of (un)employment, their observations of the physical and aesthetic transformations of the city around them, the range of individual experiences based on age, profession, and sex, and, finally, endeavors to construct civil society. While the citizens of Eisenhüttenstadt certainly faced many challenges, my project also explores the new possibilities and opportunities that accompanied the transition to democracy. Ultimately, my dissertation sheds light on life in Eisenhüttenstadt under the East German regime, during the tenuous processes of unification and transformation, and most importantly, after socialism.