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Title: Travels in socialism : East German tourists' experiences, 1971-1989
Author: Muller, Claudia Andrea
ISNI:       0000 0004 2711 9722
Awarding Body: Leeds Metropolitan University
Current Institution: Leeds Beckett University
Date of Award: 2010
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While European tourism as a social practice continues to be interrogated in academic circles, it is generally assumed to be a mark of capitalist societies, and yet, it is not that long ago that large expanses of Eastern Europe were ideologically outside of capitalism. To date few researchers have examined the nature of tourism in Eastern European socialist countries. Partly this is a function of limited access to the recent historic pasts of such countries but arguably it also reflects an assumption/belief in the West that tourism was little practised and, if it was, it was wholly directed by the state. This thesis focuses on holiday experiences in socialist countries prior to 1989 and in particular it explores the experiences of East German tourists who travelled to other socialist countries between 1971 and 1989. The emphasis is upon the role that these holidays played, both for the tourists and for the government of the German Democratic Republic (GDR). This study is framed by an understanding that tourist experiences are not only subject to wider historical developments, such as the Cold War and the dictatorial socialist regime of the GDR, but also contribute to such developments and historical processes. The thesis is situated in the interface of three major debates. The first relates to how the experiences of former East Germans citizens can contribute to the historical knowledge about the GDR. The second relates to the recording and meaning of 'experience' in the context of understanding tourism. And third, it relates to the wider debate on the influence of experience, as an epistemological concept, in historical writing. The experiences of East German tourists are approached through oral history interviews with thirteen individuals who formerly lived in the GDR and spent holidays in other socialist countries before 1989. In addition to the recollections of tourist experiences, the thesis examined archival documents (files from the GDR secret police, various GDR state institutions concerned with tourism, guidebooks and tourism brochures etc.), to gain a deeper understanding as to how personal experiences related to the discourses and political measures controlling tourism and consumption during and after the existence of the GDR. The approach to these different sources stems from the "history of everyday life" ("Alltagsgeschichte"), and it is shown that in order to gain an understanding of a historical process, the relationship between narrative, memory, experience and practice needs to be considered. This analysis revealed both 'ordinary' touristic practices and narratives amongst GDR citizens as well as politicised experience. It is shown that through tourists' comparing the East and the West, East German tourists made sense of what they encountered during their holidays in relation to former experiences and longings. The notion of escape reflects such a longing. It is argued that the focus of an analysis of tourists' wishes to escapes should lie with the tourists' efforts to attain escape. These efforts constituted an important dynamic in the GDR history.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available