Emily Bereskin (Université Libre de Bruxelles / Technische Universität Berlin)
Modern Rural Landscapes in Contemporary Heritage Imaginaries:
The Case of Germany’s Southern Oderbruch
Examining the region of the Southern Oderbruch, this paper investigates the presence and representation of the modern rural landscapes of the German Democratic Republic within the region’s contemporary heritage and tourism landscape. Following a situational analysis of institutions, initiatives, and extant discourse production, the paper argues that although the unique landscapes developed in concert with the collective farms (landwirtschaftliche Produktionsgenossenschaften-LPG) of the GDR remain very much in situ, the history of the LPG remains largely invisible in the heritage and touristic representation of the Oderbruch, which tends to focus on more traditional manifestations of “pastoral beauty,” as well as on historical events and daily life preceding the founding of the GDR.
This paper first identifies several reasons for this conspicuous absence, some of which concern larger structural issues, while others reflect the particularity of regional memory culture; these include: ongoing legal disputes, a planning focus that prioritizes the LPG’s adaptive re-use over heritagization, and a longer pattern of erasure of GDR history in Germany’s heritage landscape. Moreover, the paper argues that local historical interest is primarily focused on precisely those elements eradicated or diminished by the LPGs. This range of factors highlights the complexity of the situational landscape surrounding the production of heritage, in terms of political, economic, social and symbolic aspects.
The final section of the paper examines a selection of contemporary initiatives, including the TRAFO – Model for Culture in Transition project led by the German Ministry of Culture and the network European Cultural Heritage Oderbruch in order to analyse how through the creation of broader institutional networks, local actors are currently working to create a new narrative agency and identity for the region.