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Title: Socialism remembered : cultural nostalgia, retro, and the politics of the past in the Czech Republic, 1989-2014
Author: Pehe, V.
ISNI:       0000 0004 8497 6165
Awarding Body: UCL (University College London)
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2016
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This thesis explores the political dimensions of representing history through literature, film, and television, offering a wide-ranging analysis of the cultural responses to the period of state socialism in the Czech Republic after the collapse of the former Eastern Bloc. Unlike in Germany, where the memory of the period from the end of the Second World War to the fall of the Berlin Wall has largely been discussed in terms of nostalgia, in the Czech case there is little evidence for nostalgia for either the utopian impulse of the socialist project or its everyday aspects. This research thus challenges nostalgia as one of the main paradigms for the remembrance of the socialist period in the former Eastern Bloc and demonstrates that in the Czech context, an aesthetic fascination with the past is not at odds with, but in fact reinforces an anti-communist rejection of the politics of socialism. My contention is that the object of remembrance in cultural production in the Czech Republic is not the period of state socialism itself, but rather a narrative of its overcoming through resistance and heroism. The retrospective handling of the past through cultural texts and practices hinges on a narrative of progress from the period of socialism to liberal democracy, which ultimately serves to legitimate the present political order. To capture this dynamic, I propose a new definition of "retro" as a relationship to the past devoid of emotional longing, which is predicated on a position of superiority to the past while enabling a vicarious enjoyment of its aesthetics. The project's wider relevance beyond its immediate regional context is a contribution to the understanding of how popular culture and its circulation in the public sphere acts as one of the major structuring forces of collective memory and uncovers the different political agendas to which this memory is harnessed. Combining approaches from literary and film studies with historical and sociological investigation, and close readings of representations with a discourse analysis of public debates, this thesis presents a cultural history of the Czech post-socialist relationship to the socialist past.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available