Transboundary Natures: The Consequences of the Iron Curtain for Landscape

March 13, 2018, 5-6:30 pm PST
Lecture at GHI West (201 Moses Hall)
Speaker: Astrid M. Eckert (Emory University)

Astrid M. Eckert will investigate the ecological footprint of the Iron Curtain and the consequences of the border regime for landscape and wildlife. This talk is part of a joint lecture series organized by GHI West and the Center for German and European Studies at UC.

Astrid M. Eckert moves beyond the quotidian claim that the Iron Curtain divided ecosystems and landscapes by arguing that the fortifications and all activities that kept them functional became causal – in direct or in mitigated fashion – to changes in the natural environment adjacent to the border. Of central focus is not the fact that a border runs through a landscape but the consequences for the landscape. The talk’s vanishing point is the Green Belt conservation project that materialized on the heels of the GDR’s (East Germany’s) collapse which this talk seeks to historicize. It makes clear that the Iron Curtain was first and foremost a military installation with a political function that was placed into Central European landscapes that had themselves been shaped by human interference for centuries. The border’s effect was neither purely detrimental nor exclusively beneficial for nature and wildlife, hence neither a declensionist nor a creationist narrative captures the dynamic influence of the border regime. 

Astrid M. Eckert is Associate Professor of Modern European History and Winship Distinguished Research Professor (2015-18) at Emory University in Atlanta. (M.A., University of Michigan; M.A. Free University Berlin; Dr. phil. Free University Berlin). Before moving to Emory, she was a Research Fellow at the German Historical Institute (GHI) in Washington, D. C. She published The Struggle for the Files. The Western Allies and the Return of German Archives after the Second World War with Cambridge University Press (2012, Pb. 2014), which had previously appeared in German with Steiner Verlag Stuttgart. She held several prestigious fellowships, including at the American Academy Berlin and a Humboldt Research Fellowship. Her current book project explores the meaning and consequences of the Iron Curtain for West Germany in economic, environmental, and political terms, thereby re-reading the history of the Federal Republic from its Cold War periphery.