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Andrew Demshuk

Associate Professor of History, American University

When did you first develop an interest in Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies? 

The 1986 Chernobyl accident and 1989 Fall of the Berlin Wall were two of my earliest memories of “world historical events” as a child, so in some ways my interests date back to a very early point for me. As a college student, however, my scholarly interest in exploring the consequences of forced migration and the twentieth-century ideal of homogenized nation-states increased as I learned about the expulsion of about twelve million Germans from territories east of what became East and West Germany after 1949. What happened to these millions, I wondered, and why (given official narratives that these Germans were “sitting on their suitcases”) didn’t they destabilize the West German democracy as Weimar had been destabilized in the interwar period? The process of dealing with the loss of Heimat drew my interest to larger questions of grassroots and local activism amid modernizing projects by twentieth-century states in a transnational framework. My new book Bowling for Communism (Cornell UP, 2020) explores the role of urban decay and “urban ingenuity” in evolving civic-state relations at the local level in Leipzig over the years before it became the capital of the 1989 revolution in East Germany.

What support have you received throughout your career that has allowed you to advance your scholarship? 

German Academic Exchange (DAAD), Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, Herder Institut (Marburg), GWZO (Leipzig), Dubnow Institut (Leipzig), among others.

What is your current research project? 

My new book, Three Cities after Hitler: Redemptive Reconstruction Across Cold War Borders (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2021), offers an archivally based comparative treatment of ideology and memory in post-1945 architecture and urban planning in three formerly German cities rebuilt under competing regimes in Poland, East Germany, and West Germany. My next project is in the early phases, but will be offering an ecological biography of Leipzig under Nazis, Communists, and Capitalists.

What does your ASEEES membership mean to you? How has your involvement with ASEEES helped to further your career? 

The networking opportunities at ASEEES have offered invaluable chances to exchange ideas with colleagues in diverse field areas. For instance, it was at ASEEES that I first met and commenced my collaboration with Dr. Arnold Bartetzky (GWZO), who served as my host as a Humboldt fellow and has in the meantime become a close friend and colleague.

How do you envision your current research projects(s) within the broader field of SEEES? 

Three Cities after Hitler breaks down preconceptions about differences between “Eastern” and “Western” European nation-states to illustrate common narratives across Cold War borders in urban spaces after Nazism. 

Besides your professional work, what other interests and/or hobbies do you enjoy? 

I enjoy hiking, biking, and exploring the world with my dear partner and intellectual companion Rebecca Mitchell (Middlebury College) and our two-year-old son Archie.