"The Private Is Becoming Political"—Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Autobiographical Writing in the Horizon of the Culture of Remembering and Contemporary History

  • Carsten Heinze Universität Hamburg
Keywords: biographical research, autobiography, life-writing, commemorative culture, political history, memory-building, communication research


This essay focuses on autobiographical life-writing as a part of commemorative culture, i.e. in East and West Germany. It looks at the literary genre from a sociological point of view. Whereas in literature studies autobiography is seen as a blurred genre, it can be asserted that it functions in public discourse. Hence, autobiographies are an important medium in political and contemporary historical context and are seen to be effective within that context. This essay assumes that published autobiographies are an intentional form of social communication, within the context of and affected by the public culture of remembering. The autobiographies themselves influence these cultures of remembering from the subjective point of view. In this regard, life-writing is not an individual or autonomous act of narrating one's life but rather a social communicative act of writing and narrating life stories in public contexts. Therefore life-writing is a public form of self and contemporary history representation and is politically charged. In other words, "the private becomes political" by addressing it to the public. URN: http://nbn-resolving.de/urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs110294


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Author Biography

Carsten Heinze, Universität Hamburg
Carsten HEINZE ist wissenschaftlicher Mitarbeiter (LfbA) an der Universität Hamburg.