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Title: Global GDR? : sovereignty, legitimacy and decolonization in the German Democratic Republic, 1960-1989
Author: Bodie, George
ISNI:       0000 0004 9353 0974
Awarding Body: UCL (University College London)
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2020
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In the two decades following its demise, the GDR—in both historical and popular representation—was largely depicted as an isolated, autarchic entity. A recent wave of research into the global Cold War has begun to challenge this assertion, highlighting the GDR’s links to the extra-European world. Such perspectives nevertheless retain some of the older tropes of the isolationist narrative, viewing the GDR’s engagement with these countries through the narrow lens of a search for legitimacy among its own population. This thesis seeks to expand the scope, viewing the GDR’s relations with what was viewed as a “proto-socialist” world in Africa, Asia and Latin America not a simplistic, historically-fixed policy directed toward a domestic audience, but rather as part of an active political project to reshape global relations. GDR elites viewed their state as fundamentally unviable without international integration: once the project for a united Germany was abandoned in the 1960s, the GDR’s global ambitions took on paramount importance. Rather than an attempt to build legitimacy, this turn was rather imagined through the lens of sovereignty; legitimacy was not a concept in GDR elite’s political arsenal, but they did worry about their nation’s sovereignty, and sought to buttress it through engagement with the proto-socialist world. This thesis examines such engagement from five different vantage-points: looking at how the ideological basis for the project was constructed by foreign policy elites; how the GDR sought to create foreign adherents to the project through educational exchange; how the proto-socialist world—specifically Cuba—became a site for socialist leisure; how citizens engaged with domestic solidarity campaigns which sought to turn them into active participants in the project; and how the proto-socialist world was depicted on television. In doing so, it will show how early hopes for a global socialist world in the 1960s metamorphized as the Cold War progressed, fragmenting into an archipelagic network of increasingly isolated states by the 1980s.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available