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Aleksanteri Conference







Dennis, Mike:

Over the Wall: Football and Agency in East Germany

The paper examines how, after the building of the Berlin Wall, football was instrumenntalised by East German fans and clubs to undermine official prescriptions on private contacts with West German supporters and team officials. In doing so, they kept alive notions of a common footballing heritage and, whether consciously or not, contested the ruling party's thesis of the development of two separate German nations - one socialist, the other capitalist.

Drawing on SED and Stasi archival sources and published interviews with East German fans, the paper will focus on: the close links across the Wall between supporters of Hertha Berlin and 1. FC Union Berlin; the evolution since the 1970s of an East-West German autonomous fan culture; football hooliganism, with an underpinning skinhead militancy in the 1980s, as a form of East-West interaction; East European grounds as sites for inter-German exchanges; the East German terraces as opportunities for variegated expressions of allegiance to a common ('imagined')German identity; the political challenge to the East German authorities of international football matches on the territory of the GDR; and, despite a comprehensive system of surveillance and coercive measures, the failure of the Stasi and the police to eliminate non-conformity and autonomus activities.

The paper will conclude with an analysis of why football was so effective as a cultural agent in overcoming obstacles to communication over the Wall.

Friday 30 Oct 16.15-18.15 SESSION 6
Panel: Backchannels of Cooperation