Religion and the Secular in Eastern Germany, 1945 to the present


The radical process of religious change in eastern Germany poses a real challenge to social researchers. Common explanations view either the socialist past or larger scale processes of modernization to be the cause of eastern German secularization, but fail to address historical contingencies and individual agency. This book focuses on the interplay between local bureaucracies and individual lives. Contextualizing individual choices is essential in order to gain insight into how religious meaning is produced, reproduced, contested, discontinued, and disrupted. Bringing together the disciplines of anthropology, history, political science, and sociology, what unites the articles is their qualitative approach. The collection of articles lays out an impressive mosaic of the religious and the secular in the GDR and contemporary eastern Germany.

Contributors are Irene Becci, Anja Frank, Uta Karstein, Anna Körs, Esther Peperkamp, Małgorzata Rajtar, Thomas Schmidt-Lux, Nikolai Vukov, Kirstin Wappler, and Monika Wohlrab-Sahr.

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Esther Peperkamp, Ph. D. (2006) in Anthropology, University of Amsterdam, is lecturer in anthropology at Breda International University of Applied Sciences. She has published on religion in Poland and Eastern Germany, and is currently engaged in the anthropology of leisure.

Małgorzata Rajtar, Ph.D. (2006) in Sociology, Polish Academy of Sciences in Warsaw, is Associate Member of the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology in Germany. She has published on morality and religion in Poland and eastern Germany.
Notes on Contributors
Map of eastern Germany

Introduction, Esther Peperkamp & Małgorzata Rajtar

1. Science as Religion: The Role of Scientism in the Secularization Process in Eastern Germany, Thomas Schmidt-Lux
2. Secular Rituals and Political Commemorations in Eastern Germany, 1945-1956, Nikolai Vukov
3. The Limits of Politicization of the Schools in the SED State: The Catholic Eichsfeld Region and the Protestant Erzgebirge – A Comparison, Kirstin Wappler
4. Positions and Pathways of Families within the Religious Field of East Germany: Three Catholic Case Studies, Uta Karstein
5. Between Menschlichkeit and Missionsbefehl: God, Work, and World among Christians in Saxony, Esther Peperkamp
6. Religious Socialization in a Secular Environment: Jehovah’s Witnesses in Eastern Germany, Małgorzata Rajtar
7. Young Eastern Germans and the Religious and Ideological Heritage of their Parents and Grandparents, Anja Frank
8. The Rehabilitation of Ex-Offenders in Eastern Germany: A Religious-Secular Configuration, Irene Becci
9. Church Buildings in Eastern Germany: Houses of God or Tourist Attractions?, Anja Körs

Conclusion: Dealing with Two Masters’ Commands – Explorations of the Complexities of Religious Life under a Dictatorial Regime, Monika Wohlrab-Sahr

All those interested in anthropology, sociology and history of religion, the history of everyday life, church - state relations in socialism and postsocialism, as well as scholars working on East Germany.