• Nationality and Colonial Strategies: Germany and America – How the American Expansion Resonated in Germany

    Tom Durwood (see profile) , Jens-Uwe Guettel
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    empire, America, expansionism
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    We all tend to see what we want to see — in ourselves, in our friends, in our culture, and in other cultures. In his dissertation, Jens-Uwe Guettel takes a penetrating look at how Germany viewed America over the course of the 19th century, the period of America’s great expansion westward. In the following interview and excerpt, you will find highlights of Prof. Guettel’s wide-ranging consideration of the many authors, themes and images which were part of this cultural “moment.” In the dissertation itself, you will find a deeper look at the novels and writings which reflect the complex attitudes and ideas of the times. Germans certainly noticed what Americans were doing as they expanded the nation westward, but not always the same we saw ourselves. What makes this dissertation so explosive (to me, anyway) is what comes next – what is off-screen, so to speak. When Prof. Guettel brings up the concept of lebensraum, we realize that his thesis is by no means an obscure topic of study: the colonial attitudes of the 19th century can be seen to lead directly to the German nationalism of the modern era and to the rise of the Third Reich. Most certainly, German views of American colonialism formed the roots of the two world wars which dominated the 20th century. Understanding the deeper cultural roots of war is important to all of us. As I write this, our entire nation is at war – two wars, actually – and each and every citizen is part of that decision. We need to understand why these conflicts have happened in the past, are happening today, and may break out again soon.
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