Devaluation of Biographies: Life-Stories of Older Women from Eastern Germany

Monday, 16 July 2018: 10:30
Oral Presentation
Anna RICHTER, University Kassel, Germany
The characteristics of age and ageing are rarely considered in theory or empirical research of intersectionality. The difference and inequality between East- and West Germany neither. In my recently finished research project, I focused on the intersection of gender, old age and East German belonging, using biographic narrations to examine the subjective appropriation of different socially structured and devaluated positions.

Empirically, the research is based on a sample of four narrative biographic and eight structured biographic interviews with retired women from Eastern Germany at the age of 61 to 86 years. To conceptualize the relation between the different intersectional categories, I used the “both/and-strategy” suggested by Lena Gunnarsson (2017) and Ina Kerner (2009), asking for analogies and differences between the categories as well as for their intersections. Furthermore, I used recognition as an analytical tool to investigate different forms of social appreciation and integration on the one hand, social degradation, stigmatization and exclusion on the other hand.

In my presentation I will discuss this methodological considerations as well as my central results: First, the structural devaluation of East German biographies is highly important for the interviewees identity-constructions. Second, the intersections have differentiated effects, which is a) the interweaving of different positions of inequality can lead to new discrete forms of subjectivation, b) intersectional structured positions are not necessarily linked in the subjective appropriation and c) the coupling of positions of inequality can increase experiences of difference and lead to a higher degree of vulnerability.