Portrayals of Socialism and Capitalism in East German Film: The films of Deutsche Film Aktiengesellschaft (DEFA), 1946-1966




Shutt, Lauren

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The study of national identity formation in the German Democratic Republic (GDR) vis-à-vis the binary oppositions extant in contemporary socialist and capitalist political systems has been almost entirely unexplored in anthropology. Despite welcome augmentations in topical research, the problem today becomes increasingly one of memory and official history; and in turn, the utilization of traditional anthropological research methods becomes less useful, even obsolete. In order to overcome this challenge, films of the formative period between 1946 and 1966 have been selected from the archives of the Deutsche Film-Aktiengesellschaft (DEFA), the East German state film production company, which reflect the development of East Germany’s sociopolitical ideals, and the construction of the socialist Self against the menace of the capitalist Other. Through cinema, DEFA filmmakers engaged simultaneously in artistic expression and cultural production. The analysis presented here employs a combination of interpretive techniques borrowed from visual anthropology, and previously existing research to answer the question of how these films represented this encounter, as well as their personal creative and individual viewpoints that informed the film.



DEFA, Anthropology of media, German Film, East German Identity