Natalie Scholz, an assistant professor of modern and contemporary history at the University of Amsterdam is the speaker at the Utrecht Cultural History Seminar. She will be giving a presentation called "(De-)Historicizing Timeless Modernity: Modern design, the Nazi past and the political in postwar West Germany".
In the postwar period, modern design became a symbol of western consumer democracy. This was especially true for West Germany where modern design also symbolized a new orientation of the country away from the Nazi past. The lecture will attempt to complicate this view by claiming that there existed a, usually unspoken, undercurrent in the way modern design was given political meaning in West Germany after the Second World War. The coding of modern design as both “timeless” and the shape of “the new” made it possible to blur any clear historical understanding of how modern notions of everyday aesthetics had become closely intertwined with organicist and metaphysically loaded ideas of the German people before and during the Third Reich. The lure of the modern consisted precisely in its inbuilt capacity to obscure its own history and de-historicize itself. This phenomenon, however, cannot be separated from the transatlantic context out of which the promotion of postwar modernity arose.
Dr Natalie Scholz is Assistant Professor of Modern and Contemporary History at the University of Amsterdam. Her research focusses on the cultural history of the political in modern Europe (France and Germany) with a special interest in popular representations, including visual, material and memory culture. She has published on the imaginations of the restoration monarchy in early nineteenth century France and more recently on the connection between commodity culture and the political in the postwar period. In her work, she tries to understand the culturally and emotionally mediated intersection between modern political regimes and national, ethnic and gender identities. Together with Josef Früchtl she also coordinates the research group “Emotions and Democracy” at the University of Amsterdam. Currently she is working on a book manuscript provisionally entitled: Transitional Objects. Apprehending the Political in Postwar West Germany.