Dissertation Abstracts

'Being Jewish' and 'Being German' in Love Relationships in Contemporary Germany

Author: Ina Schaum, schaum.ina@gmail.com
Department: Sociology
University: Goethe University Frankfurt am Main, Germany
Supervisor: Prof. Helma Lutz, Prof. Lena Inowlocki
Year of completion: In progress
Language of dissertation: English

Keywords: love , gender , Jewish studies , Biography research
Areas of Research: Biography and Society , Racism, Nationalism and Ethnic Relations , Religion


The focus of my PhD project is the development of a feminist theory of love relationships as sites where identities, belongings and differences are (de)constructed and negotiated – and particularly in Germany’s post-National Socialist society. The specific intersectionally constituted identities and differences – and the entangled histories that connect them – will be empirically reconstructed by the conduction and subsequent analysis of biographical-narrative interviews with young Jewish adults who are asked to tell their life story and relate it to experiences in love relationships. The dissertation has two starting points. The first is to turn to love as an independent research focus of feminist analysis. In love relationships, gender relations and other differences and inequalities are (re)produced, altered, abandoned or legitimized. At the same time, love can also be a creative and liberating force (e.g. hooks 2000). Thus, gender in intersection with other sociocultural categorization will be the category of analysis. The second point of departure is psychoanalyst Kurt Grünberg (2006: 42) observation in his analysis of the experience of “the second generation”, the children of Shoah survivors in Germany that love relationships probably represent the most intimate contact between former victims and perpetrators of the Shoah, a contact that takes place in a very concrete and embodied way. Furthermore, historian Dagmar Herzog (2005) posits that sexuality is a key site for managing the memories and legacies of National Socialism and the Shoah after 1945. In the relationships, not only the partners meet but also their respective families’ pasts. Against the background of the Shoah and the Nuremberg Laws of 1935, which included the so-called "blood protection law" and the prohibition of marriages and sexual intercourse between Jews and non-Jews, the question arises which affects, emotions and memories are passed on to subsequent generations and how intimate relationships and love relationships are (not) influenced by it. Today approximately half to two-thirds of Jews in Germany choose non-Jewish life partners and the Jewish community diversified and increased in number. The arrival of so-called “quota refugees” from countries of the former Soviet Union in the 1990s as well as the migration of Israelis to Germany since the 2000s significantly changed the composition of Jewish communities in Germany and of family narratives, memories and migration stories that shape Jewish life in Germany. The two starting points will be brought together in order to adopt a critical, intersectional feminist perspective on love as well as on the identity and difference constructions and to conceptualize love relationships as sites of Gegenwartsbewältigung and in Dagmar Herzog’s (2019: 73) sense as “a doubleness”: “It's about the thing itself and it's about more. Much, consciously and unconsciously, is co-processed”. Moreover, ethical considerations are to be developed with regard to theoretization processes, methods and representation of research results in relation to the conditions of representation in a post-National Socialist society on the one hand and a feminist epistemology of situated knowledge on the other hand. A reflective and self-critical positioning of myself as a (non-Jewish) researcher is thus required.