Petra Rethmann: "Right-Wing Populism as Wound: Germany, Russia, Trauma, Nation"

Departmental Seminar Series features Petra Rethmann, Professor in the Department of Anthropology, McMaster University (Canada).

The seminar is followed by informal gathering, at which refreshments are served. All are welcome!


As anthropological analysts and others have observed, at least since the upset of Brexit and the presidential election of Donald Trump our historical moment has been marked by an

 extraordinary pan-European and trans-Atlantic nationalist-populist conjuncture. In 2017 Germany this articulated itself most forcefully when the right-wing party Alternative for Germany (AfD) soared with more than 13% into the country’s national parliament. Within this context, Russian German immigrants and so-called expellees – Germans who lived east of Germany’s post-war borders – have been singled out as particularly enthusiastic AfD voters.

National-public media in particular have pointed up their supposedly natural cultural chauvinism and nationalism. In drawing attention to the political cosmologies of Soviet Russia and the Federal Republic of Germany, I do not only argue that both entities supported nationalist logics and forms of belonging, but also that – in tandem – they helped to set the conditions for interpretations of betrayal and resentment that seemingly mark nationalist populism. In other words, instead of holding that nationalist populism constitutes a recent phenomenon “out of nowhere,” I argue that it was forged in the process of longer histories and memories. I also hold that it is not an articulation of national isolation, but created through transnational Connections.

Research profile

Dr. Petra Rethmann is professor of Anthropology, a faculty member in the Cultural Studies & Critical Theory program, and a member of the Institute on Globalization and the Human Condition.

Professor Rethmann’s research is based in two main areas: Russia and South Africa. Over the past decade, she has devoted her attention to thinking about a number of interrelated issues concerning cultural creativity and agency; the afterlife of particular historical movements and moments; the production of history and the place of art within it; fetishization and the violence of culture. In her writings on all of these issues, she attends to questions of cultural politics and representation. Rethmann is currently working on two book-length projects. The first one examines the Cultural politics of left-wing collectives and movements that emerged in West Germany in the 1980s. The second project involves a critical interrogation of the South African anti-apartheid struggle, examined from a perspective of the future that never came into being.

Rethmann is the author of Tundra Passages (2001) and co-editor ofGlobality: Frictions and Connections (in press), and the author of numerous articles that have appeared in edited volumes and in journals such as American Anthropologist, American Ethnologist, Anthropologica, Cultural Critique, and Anthropologie et Société. Selected publications

Published Dec. 11, 2018 1:56 PM - Last modified Aug. 8, 2019 3:33 PM