Current Institutional Affiliation
Associate Professor, History, Loyola University Chicago

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2006
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
History, University of Michigan
Nourishing Socialism: Food, Bodies, and the Building of a National Identity in Early Cold War East Germany

My research explores the ways in which food was woven into the construction of national identity in the GDR. I am interested in how the socialist government used discourses of food preparation and consumption to redefine notions of private and public spheres, and of individual and collective health. During the first decades of the Cold War, both East and West Germany were engaged in a complicated process of identity construction. In the wake of the Holocaust, the devastating military defeat, and the division of the nation into two self-contained and ideologically opposed lands, the two Germanys redefined themselves both in reference to the (Nazi) past and to their 'other half.' In the GDR, this process was implicated in the explicit attempt to formulate a new model of appropriate consumption and production, something, I argue, bound to the issue of food management. My primary resource is the German Institute for Nourishment Research (DIFE), which organized all policy related to food in the GDR, including work-place meals, the production (margarine versus butter) and distribution (Berlin versus Leipzig) of specific food items, prices and display of consumer goods in stores, and debates over the relationship between diet and physical and psychological health. I will also be analyzing educational programs intended to teach the population what and how to eat. State-published cookbooks redefined a national cuisine within the framework of a community of 'socialist friendship lands,' while museums developed exhibits teaching about 'good' and 'bad' obesity. By exploring the ways in which the GDR self-consciously connected the eating habits of its population with the nation's development, my work hopes to better understand how individual bodies are tied to the process of nation-making, and the particular significance of food to socialism and to modem Germany.