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Social transformation in the context of familial experience: biographical consequences of a denied past in the Soviet Union

Gesellschaftliche Transformation im Kontext von Familienerfahrungen: biographische Konsequenzen einer verleugneten Vergangenheit in der Sowjetunion
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Rosenthal, Gabriele

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Abstract Looking at research on social change in Eastern Germany and Eastern Europe in the last decade, one finds a dearth of qualitative studies. Particularly lacking are theory of action studies and genetic analyses, i.e. empirical reconstructions of transformations and reproductions of individuals' history of action (exceptions include the biographical analyses by Miethe 1999; Delow 2000). By contrast, a substantial number of empirical socio-structural analyses on transformation in East Germany can be found, especially event history analysis (cf. Berger 1996). Peter A. Berger calls for an analysis of structures from the inside, i.e. from the perspective of the actors. Though this sounds familiar to us as interpretive researchers, analyses of "factual" events of individual life courses tell us little about the autobiographer's own perspective. Such studies based on socio-structural data and measures of institutional change may be able to generate hypotheses about cognitive, mental changes, as well as about changes in habits, but they are not really empirically grounded. In other words, in order to prove or ground such hypotheses empirically, we need interpretive analyses that are designed to capture and reconstruct the selfinterpretations of society members as well as the histories of their actions and of their families. This is exactly the contribution of sociological biographical research in a family-sensitive form. Biographical research can meet the demand for a full understanding and explanation of transformation processes not only by reconstructing post-transformation biographies and societies, but also by retrospectively reconstructing the earlier biographies and societies. This is exactly where there are gaps in our knowledge about the social reality of Eastern Germany and of Eastern Europe in general. We cannot know how social reality was altered after the system changed if we do not know what it was like beforehand.

Die Verfasserin setzt sich zunächst auf theoretischer Ebene mit biographischen Aspekten im Kontext gesellschaftlicher Transformationsprozesse auseinander, wobei sie auch Ergebnisse einer eigenen älteren empirischen Studie heranzieht. Es schließt sich eine Fallstudie an, die den Umgang mit einem Familiengeheimnis aus der Zeit des Stalinismus beschreibt und die Folgen analysiert, die sich hieraus für alle Familienmitglieder bis in die dritte Generation hinein ergeben. Die Untersuchung zeigt, in welcher Weise die Geschichte von Gesellschaftssystemen biographische Verläufe über Generationen hinweg beeinflusst und damit auch Auswirkungen auf Gegenwartsgesellschaften hat. (ICE)
Keywords social change; transformation; USSR; Russia; family; historical development; secrecy; generation; USSR successor state; post-socialist country; narrative
Classification Family Sociology, Sociology of Sexual Behavior; Social History, Historical Social Research
Method empirical; qualitative empirical
Free Keywords biographical research; empirical socio-structural analyses; reconstructing post-transformation biographies; case study; Soviet Union; reinterpretation of past; present and future; Holocaust
Collection Title Biographies and the division of Europe: experience, action, and change on the "Eastern Side"
Editor Breckner, Roswitha; Kalekin-Fishman, Devorah; Miethe, Ingrid
Document language English
Publication Year 2000
Publisher Leske u. Budrich
City Opladen
Page/Pages p. 115-137
ISBN 3-8100-2887-8
Status Published Version; reviewed
Licence Basic Digital Peer Publishing Licence