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Public conference explores the unification of Germany

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September 22, 2005

Source: University of Waterloo:

Public conference explores the unification of Germany

WATERLOO, Ont. -- A University of Waterloo one-day conference next month will explore present-day Germany, a decade and half after the fall of the Berlin Wall, which separated the former West Germany and East Germany.

The public event, titled "15 Years of United Germany: The Effects of Unification," will be held Wednesday, Oct. 5, at the Davis Centre, Room 1302, with scholarly sessions beginning at 1:30 p.m. Experts will look at topics such as changes in the German language, impact on young people and Germany's role in Europe.

The conference is sponsored by the Waterloo Centre for German Studies (based in UW's Germanic & Slavic Studies department), the Goethe-Institut and the Consulate of the Federal Republic of Germany. For more information, visit the centre's website at

Concluding the event later on Wednesday will be a talk on the "Effects of Unification," by Sabine Sparwasser, Chargé d'Affaires/Acting Ambassador, Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany in Ottawa. The talk begins at 8 p.m. in St. Paul's United College, MacKirdy Hall (Room 201), and will be followed by a reception.

"This conference will bring together various scholars in the region who share an interest in things German while at the same time connecting this academic world with the larger German-Canadian community of Waterloo Region," said UW Prof. James Skidmore, Germanic & Slavic Studies, who is co-organizing the event with UW Prof. Gary Bruce, History.

Here are the topics and presenters at the conference's two sessions:

  • Session 1 -- 1:30 p.m. - 3 p.m.

  • "Changing German: Exponate, E-Mails, Eingaben," Mathias Schulze, University of Waterloo. In post-unification Germany, we have seen new words, grammar rules, text types, ways of talking and writing, and heated debates about them, but is the result a unified language?

  • "Reading the Landscape of German Literature since the Wende," Ute Lischke, Wilfrid Laurier University. The paper addresses the repercussions of the social transformation since 1989 in German literature, including the reception of German literature at home and abroad.

  • "Unification: Hour Zero for a New German Cinema?" Gabriele Mueller, McMaster University. After having been declared dead in 1990, German cinema seems to be finding audiences again nationally and internationally. Is this the emergence of a "New" New German Cinema?

  • Session 2 -- 3:30 p.m. - 5 p.m.

  • "The Impact of Reunification on East German Youth," Alan McDougall, University of Guelph. The paper examines the political, socio-economic, and cultural impact of reunification on young East Germans, focusing in particular three themes: unemployment, the rise of neo-Nazism and cultural assimilation with the West.

  • "The Stasi Files as a Source of Unity? Reflections on the Stasi Archives since 1990," Gary Bruce, University of Waterloo. Did the opening of the Stasi files hinder the smooth integration of East and West Germany? An examination of the manner in which the archive has operated and the role that coming to terms with the past has played, and continues to play, in unified Germany.

  • "Germany Reunified: Shifting the Focus to Europe," Lynne Taylor, University of Waterloo. Reunification has forced Germany to re-think itself and its role in the wider world to a degree unprecedented since 1945. It has thrown into question many fundamental assumptions about German identity, and Germany's position within the expanded EU and the rest of the world.

    About the Waterloo Centre for German Studies

    The centre, founded in June 2004, has become one of the three major German-Canadian or German-American research and teaching centres in North America. It focuses on teaching and research in German language and culture, along with providing outreach programs to raise public awareness of the rich Germanic culture in Waterloo Region.

    Besides hosting conferences and lectures, the centre supports the archiving of specialized library materials to complement existing collections of historical papers. It also produces publications to engage scholars and community members alike and serves to link scholars around the world.

    The centre plays a key role in supporting the Department of Germanic and Slavic Studies' mission of offering courses in language, literature and culture, including applied language courses such as German for business purposes, and giving students the opportunity to visit and work in German-speaking communities.


    Prof. James Skidmore, (519) 888-4567, ext. 3687;

    John Morris, UW Media Relations, (519) 888-4435;

    Release no. 208 -- September 22, 2005

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