On Wednesday 14 September 2016, the All-Party Parliamentary British-German Group hosted a seminar of the Institute for German Studies (IGS) at the University of Birmingham in the Palace Building at the Houses of Westminster. The seminar was held as part of the ongoing DAAD-funded research project “(Not) Made in Germany. Imagining Germany from the Outside” and focused on Polish perspectives on Germany.
Established 20 years ago as a partnership between the DAAD and the University of Birmingham, the IGS is part of an active network of eighteen similar centres in the USA, Canada, France, the Netherlands, Poland, Russia, Israel, China, Japan and Korea. The research activities of the IGS are diverse and cross-disciplinary, encompassing the culture, history, politics and economics of contemporary Germany in its European context. A central part of the IGS’s mission is to support postgraduate and postdoctoral researchers by bringing them together with experienced scholars and international thinkers on Germany and Europe.
The current research project “(Not) Made in Germany” analyses how images of contemporary Germany are constructed “from the outside” in the areas of economics, politics, education, history and culture.
The participants were welcomed by MP Paul Farrelly who chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Group. Professor Pawel Karolewski, chair of political science at the Willy Brandt Centre for German and European Studies of the University of Wroclaw, reflected on Polish perceptions of Germany as “threatening hegemon or new rescuer of the EU”. He highlighted the ambivalence of Polish-German relations while analysing perspectives of various Polish governments in the last 20 years. PhD candidate Justyna Snoch (University of Wroclaw) introduced her project on “the role of Germany in the EU’s image of normative power” and pointed at interesting parallels between Berlin and Brussels in projecting their power. In the third presentation, PhD candidate Maren Rohe (IGS, University of Birmingham) shared her conceptual ideas about “studying country perceptions as narratives” by referring to Polish examples. In her project she explores how strongly individuals are influenced by elite and media representations and how they make sense of changes and fluctuations in them. Finally, the discussant Dr Katarzyna Zechenter of the School of Slavonic and East European Studies at UCL shared her observations of all three presentations and emphasized focal points of a Polish national identity constructed in the last 800 years. In the end, the speakers had the opportunity to answer a series of questions posed by the audience.
The final outcomes of the project will be published in a volume of essays with the title “(Not) Made in Germany: Imagining Germany from the Outside”. The essays will be authored by the participating scholars and UK researchers, and edited by Nicholas Martin, Sara Jones and Julian Pänke. In addition, the main findings of the project and a set of policy recommendations will be published in a policy report.