Knowledge, Power, and Discipline: German Studies and National Identity

Knowledge, Power, and Discipline: German Studies and National Identity

Knowledge, Power, and Discipline: German Studies and National Identity

Knowledge, Power, and Discipline: German Studies and National Identity

Synopsis

An essential critical history of German studies as an academic discipline. German studies has confronted many crises, as well as severe criticism and self-criticism, and yet it has managed to maintain its disciplinary system through every upheaval--the revolution of 1848, the establishment of the Second Reich in 1871, the Weimar Republic, the Nazi Third Reich, the Second World War and the reconstruction era, the creation and reunification of the two German states. Pier Carlo Bontempelli focuses on this continuity, dating back to the early nineteenth century, when the "founding fathers" of Germanistik secured its status by grounding it in a set of fixed principles, revived by each successive generation of scholars in order to legitimize their position of power--and to ensure their capacity for cultural reproduction. Using the works of Michel Foucault and Pierre Bourdieu, Bontempelli investigates the institution and principles of German studies and critically reconstructs its history. Mindful of the mechanisms of choice and domination operating at every turn in this history, his book exposes the repressed social and political history of German studies.

Excerpt

The purpose of this book is to analyze German Studies as a disciplinary system. Accordingly, this is not a historical account of representative authors, currents, and methods, but a critical history addressing the institutional and exclusionary practices that have constituted and established German Studies as a discipline. As should be clear from my title, the theoretical framework of my study has been provided by the works of Michel Foucault and Pierre Bourdieu, whose critical insights have helped me define my object and offered the conceptual tools for my investigation and interpretation of the history and development of German Studies.

Having thus briefly stated the scope and object of my work, let me now outline in more detail the discursive context that frames it, the questions that it addresses, and the circumstances—both personal and historical—that have produced it. In other words, let me justify the need, not at all to be taken for granted, for yet another book on German Studies.

Indeed, the question of German Studies as a discipline is by no means a new one. In the fields of both research and teaching, it has under gone severe criticism and self-criticism for the past three decades or more. The defeat of the Third Reich and the related downfall of its educational system and its apparatus for the production and circulation . . .

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