Astrid M. Eckert

Director of Undergraduate Studies

Winship Distinguished Research Professor, 2015-2018

Associate Professor

Department of History

Office: Bowden 217

Phone: (404) 727-1096

Email: aeckert@emory.edu

Biography

Astrid M. Eckert, Associate Professor (M.A., University of Michigan; M.A. Free University Berlin; Ph.D. Free University Berlin).

I am a historian of modern Europe and modern Germany whose teaching covers German and European history in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. My research and publication activities center on the period after 1945. 

My first book, Struggle for the Files: The Western Allies and the Return of German Archives after the Second World War, was published by Cambridge University Press in 2012 and has recently been released as paperback (2014). It was awarded the 2013 Waldo Gifford Leland Award of the Society of American Archivists. Struggle for the Files is a political history of cultural diplomacy and addresses the history of German records and archives confiscated in the wake of the Second World War, and in particular the tangled negotiations concerning their return to (West) German custody. Because of the symbolic value of the German archives, these negotiations were not just another foreign policy issue for the new Federal Republic. All participants were aware that these files constituted the historical material essential to (re)write recent German history. The book thus highlights the quest of the nascent West German state for sovereignty in the face of Allied occupation and tutelage as well as its confrontation with the Nazi past. Work on this project was supported by the German National Academic Foundation (Studienstiftung) Dissertation Grant, the German Historical Institutes in Washington, D.C., and London, and the Fox International Fellowship at Yale. A podcast interview about the book with the New Books Network is available here

My new book project examines the meaning and consequences of the Iron Curtain for West Germany in economic, cultural and environmental terms by studying the borderlands along the Iron Curtain. I consider these borderlands West Germany’s most sensitive geographical space; like West Berlin, these spaces were artifacts of the Cold War. Starting with the assumption that borderlands are in many ways “fields of heightened consciousness” (Daphne Berdahl), the project seeks to elucidate the economic dimensions of borderland formation and dissolution, offers the first environmental history of the Iron Curtain by highlighting transboundary pollution and landscape change, flags its cultural meaning by studying border tourism, and explains why this Cold War borderland was considered as an ideal location for West Germany’s largest nuclear reprocessing and waste storage project. The study contributes a spatial dimension to current debates on the texture of the “old” Federal Republic by reinterpreting West Germany from its periphery. It also shifts attention away from the iconic Berlin Wall to the long inter-German border between West and East Germany. Provisionally entitled West Germany and the Iron Curtain, this new work reflects my growing interest in environmental history and liminal spaces like borderlands. The project has received support from the American Academy Berlin (AAB), the American Philosophical Society, the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), the Center for Contemporary History in Potsdam, Emory’s University Research Committee, and the Humboldt Foundation. Publications relating to this project are available on my academia.edu page.

My Curriculum Vitae

Education

  • MA, Free University of Berlin
  • MA,University of Michigan
  • PhD, Free University of Berlin

Interests

  • Modern German history
  • Modern European history
  • Environmental History
  • Borderlands 

Current Graduate Students

I welcome honors student projects on any aspect of twentieth-century Central European and German history. If you are considering applying for graduate work at Emory, I recommend that you get in touch well before the application deadline. Establishing contact early allows us to explore the fit of our mutual academic interests and gives me the opportunity to pass along information about our graduate program and graduate training more generally.