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Surveillance and control: an ethnographic study of the legacy of the Stasi and its impact on wellbeing

Neuendorf, Ulrike L.; (2017) Surveillance and control: an ethnographic study of the legacy of the Stasi and its impact on wellbeing. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

This ethnographic field study examines East Germans’ experiences and perceptions of state surveillance in the former German Democratic Republic. Through ethnographic accounts and in-depth life histories, this study illustrates the long-term effects state control has had on the wellbeing of individuals and society as a whole. Here, several key themes emerged which are explored in detail: ideology and state control; betrayal and distrust; and trauma and resilience. Life in a dictatorship and exposure to repressive techniques of the state created complex socio-cultural dynamics that are still palpable for victims today. Over 40 years of Stasi surveillance and the extensive use of unofficial informants within the population created a self-perpetuating surveillance culture. Along with the unique conditions that followed Germany’s reunification, this has impacted East Germans’ interpretation of their own wellbeing negatively (albeit to varying extents), accumulating traumatic experiences and compounding human suffering. The social dynamics created continue to impact East German’s lives, their sense of self, and their regional identities. This thesis explores through various accounts how traumatic experiences are understood and coped with. It concludes that state surveillance leads to collective trauma that at times causes continued suffering, but in certain cases is interpreted positively eliciting a narrative of resilience.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: Surveillance and control: an ethnographic study of the legacy of the Stasi and its impact on wellbeing
Event: UCL (University College London)
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Dept of Anthropology
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10040339
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