Printer Friendly

1968: Handbuch zur Kultur- und Mediengeschichte der Studentenbewegung.

1968: Handbuch zur Kultur- und Mediengeschichte der Studentenbewegung. Ed. by MARTIN KLIMKE and JOACHIM SCHARLOTH. Stuttgart and Weimar: Metzler. 200. vi+323 pp. 49-95 [euro]. ISBN 978-3-476-02066-6.

The German Student Movement of the late 1960s continues to provide a fertile ground for interdisciplinary research. Deftly juxtaposing 'traditional' approaches from history, sociology, political science, and memory research with the 'performative turn' in cultural studies, Martin Klimke and Joachim Scharloth argue that the '68er' movement can be productively understood through its representations and manifestations. By viewing it as a generator of new forms of expression and alternative semiotic systems that had a lasting effect on protest culture, lifestyles, and attitudes, they open up new avenues of enquiry that promise to make sense of a complex web of countercultural practice, alternative value systems, and their interaction with media that simultaneously reflected and constructed the movements identity.

Designed as a 'handbook', the volume presents twenty-four essays, loosely gathered around the headings 'Medien und Offentlichkeit', 'Performanz und Subversion', 'Neue kulturelle Praktiken', 'Gewaltdiskurse', and 'Ruckblicke'. While varying in quality and scope, each essay provides an interesting aspect or case study of the central theme, often with helpful photographs and always with a comprehensive bibliography for further study.

In a contribution based on her ground-breaking study Protest-Inszenierungen (Opladen: Westdeutscher Verlag, 2002), Kathrin Fahlenbach points out that the German Student Movement encountered a 'medienhistorische Schwellensituation' with the transition from print to television. Both media were forced to adapt their modes of reporting in favour of visual and emotional criteria, which in turn influenced the way the Student Movement organized and choreographed its protests. An 'expressiver Proteststil' was created that indicated social demarcation lines, helped to polarize and mobilize protesters, and afforded them the illusion of a 'Kollektivkorper' (p. 14). This shared experience of the 'Einheit von Denken, Handeln und Fuhlen' was the utopian ideal of the 'Kommune 1' in West Berlin, whose members became both expert manipulators and victims of the media.

Henning Marmulla's essay on the Kursbuch rightly stresses the key role of the periodical edited by Hans Magnus Enzensberger that first appeared in 1965 and quickly became the 'zentrale Zeitschrift' for activists and proved fundamental for the formation and mobilization of the 68ers. Several times the Kursbuch provided the 'Stichworte' for the movement, be it the focus on international movements (nos 11 and 13), the investigation into the events around the killing of Benno Ohnesorg on 2 June 1967 (no. 12), or its famous questioning of the social function of literature (no. 21).

Perhaps one of the most original and instructive contributions comes from Mererid Puw Davies, who researches the emphatic function of graffiti in the movement. While the slogans of 1968 in Paris have become museum pieces, their German counterparts remained ephemeral, and survive only in brief allusions in the literary representation of the era, e.g. in Uwe Timm's Heisser Sommer. Davies argues that by reading graffiti in a book, we lose their most vital aspects: their radical, public character and their bold, active intervention in the urban environment. She reads the surreal, challenging, and humorous 'Spruche' by the concept artist Eiffe as a development of the ideas of the Situationist International and a response to alienation in a capitalist world.

Joachim Scharloth views the escapades of the Kommune 1 through the lens of performance theory. In their regular encounters with the West Berlin legal system, the 'celebrities' of the K1 developed a highly effective arsenal of communicative strategies that would unmask/ridicule their opponents and galvanize their supporters. Other forms, such as 'happenings' and street theatre, as well as sit-ins, teach-ins, and go-ins that had found their way to Germany from the USA, are discussed in subsequent chapters.

New artistic forms of expression such as Fluxus and postmodern literature at the avant-garde level, and rock'n'roll and film on a popular level, are duly explored, but their influence on the movement and vice versa is less clear. A much more concrete issue that has waited patiently for discovery is the 68ers' penchant for endless debate. Nina Verheyen does not force this rampant 'Diskussionsfieber' into the corset of Habermas's discourse theory but recognizes it for what it was: conditio sine qua non in view of the intended democratization of university and society, and a means to overcome authoritarian structures. The willingness to debate remains, like the characteristic jargon of the left, a unifying feature of the 68er generation.

Some aspects that are briefly covered in the volume deserve more space--both the essays on the 'sexual revolution' and especially those on the 'culture of violence' nascent in the movement barely scratch the surface and are not necessarily useful as a first introduction. In addition, there is no indication from the editors that the bracketing of German Student Movement and RAF is still highly controversial. Only Martin Steinseifer's essay on 'Terrorismus als Medienereignis' offers the reader a concrete analysis of the role of the media, though, once again, it implies a direct connection to the events of 1968.

The volume concludes, fittingly, with an interview featuring Rainer Langhans, onetime member of the legendary Kommune 1 and past master of media manipulation. Tellingly, he complains that his public image that he helped to create has proven stronger than expected, and that the 'junge Forschergeneration' is in danger of missing the essence of '1968' if it attempts to describe the 68ers' 'radikale Subjektivitat' without a Wissenschaft der ersten Person'. This volume gets as close as possible, without losing its academic credibility.


COPYRIGHT 2009 Modern Humanities Research Association
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2009 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:text in English
Author:Cornils, Ingo
Publication:The Modern Language Review
Article Type:Book review
Date:Jan 1, 2009
Previous Article:Shifting Perspectives: East German Autobiographical Narratives before and after the End of the GDR.
Next Article:Der Rahmen arbeitet': Paratextuelle Strategien der Lekturelenkung im Werk Arno Schmidts.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2022 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters |