Events | One Nation – Many Stories: 30 Years of German Unity. A Virtual Panel Discussion

Online | October 10, 2020 | 11:00 AM – 12:30 PM

October 3, 2020 marks the 30th anniversary of German unification. The period between the fall of the Wall in November 1989 and the signing of the Unification Treaty on October 3, 1990 stands for German political ingenuity in reclaiming a unified nation. At the same time, we need to acknowledge that Willy Brandt’s dictum “Now what belongs together will grow together” has been only partially realized. While formal unification took barely a year, it turns out that unity takes generations.

Continuing differences in living standards, pensions, political orientations or democratic values indicate that the process of unifying former East and West Germany is a multi-generational project. In what ways do perceived political, socio-economic, and cultural differences impact how Germans of the old and new Länder see and participate in their country? Have Germans dealt adequately with their separate pasts in order to craft a joint 21st-century political identity? While there is much to celebrate, what is at stake during the next decade of ‘unifying work’? These and other questions will be discussed with three distinguished experts on German politics, society, and culture.

This virtual event will be moderated by Niko Switek, DAAD Visiting Assistant Professor for German Studies at the Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies and the Department of Political Science at the University of Washington.


Marianne Birthler was the spokesperson for the Alliance90/Green Party and from 2000 to 2011 she served as the Federal Commissioner for the Stasi Records, where she was responsible for investigating the past crimes of the Stasi, the former East German secret police. In 2014, Birthler published Halbes Land. Ganzes Lan. Ganzes Leben. Memories, that tell of everyday GDR life – stories out of school and out of resistance. Marianne Birthler is a member of the Green Academy of the Heinrich Böll Foundation and holds several honorary offices and functions: She is a member of the Board of Trustees of the Körber Foundation, the Advisory Board of the Berlin Wall Memorial, the Board of Trustees of the Freiherr-vom-Stein Prize for Social Innovation, and the Board of the Aktion Courage - to name just a few.

Joyce Marie Mushaben recently retired as a Curators’ Distinguished Professor of Comparative Politics at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, where she also served as Director of the Institute for Women's & Gender Studies (2002-2005). She is now an Adjunct Professor in the BMW Center for German & European Studies at Georgetown University and works with Gender5 Plus, an EU feminist think-tank. Beyond her time as a Visiting Scholar in Tübingen, she has taught at universities in Berlin, Stuttgart, Frankfurt/Main, Erfurt, and has been a Humboldt Foundation Fellow. Her early work focused on German national identity, new social movements, and generational change. More recently, she has worked on EU citizenship and migration policies, women’s leadership, Euro-Islam debates, and comparative welfare state reforms. Her latest books include Gendering the European Union: New Responses to Old Democratic Deficits (with Gabriele Abels); and Becoming Madam Chancellor: Angela Merkel and the Berlin Republic (Cambridge University Press, 2017). She currently works on a book manuscript titled The Dialectical Identity of Eastern Germans: Re-assessing the Forces of Exit, Voice and Loyalty.

Michael Zürn is Director of the research unit Global Governance at WZB Berlin Social Science Center and Professor of International Relations at Free University Berlin. Since 2019, he has been the spokesperson of the Cluster of Excellence “Contestations of the Liberal Script” (SCRIPTS), funded by the German Research Foundation. His work focuses on the emergence and functioning of inter- and supranational institutions and organizations as well as on their impact on the global political order. He is a member of the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities and, since 2014, member of the Academia Europaea. From 2004 to 2010, he served as Founding Rector of the Hertie School of Governance. At the University of Bremen, he held positions as Professor of International Relations and Director of the Institute for Intercultural and International Studies. Michael Zürn is a 2021 Thomas Mann House fellow.

Event is free and open to the public. Registration is required. Please use the link to register via the webpage of the Goethe Pop Up Seattle.


The event is co-organized by the Center for West European Studies (CWES) at the Henry M. Jackson School of International studies at UW and the Goethe Pop Up Seattle. It is sponsored by the Department of Germanics at UW and the Germany Embassy to the U.S. It is supported by the Department of Germanics (UW), the Center for Global Studies (UW), the Ellison Center for Russian, East European and Central Asian Studies (UW) and the Thomas Mann House.

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