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Comrades in Arms: Military Masculinities in East German Culture

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Comrades in Arms

Military Masculinities in East German Culture

Tom Smith

Full Text PDF | Full Text ePUB Made available under a CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 license with support from Knowledge Unlatched.

280 pages, 10 illus., bibliog., index

ISBN  978-1-78920-555-8 $135.00/£99.00 / Hb / Published (February 2020)

Hb View cartYour country: United States - edit   Recommend to your Library Available in GOBI®


“This book is important because it opens avenues of research into queerness in East Germany’s National People’s Army (NVA)… Smith’s book is commendable for breaking barriers in masculinity studies and offering a refreshing second look at the NVA… Highly Recommended. All readers.” • Choice

“With [this book] Tom Smith has made a substantial contribution that will be useful to multiple fields, adding most notably to the research on gender in the GDR. The book is cogently written, comprehensively researched, and theoretically fluent.”  • German Studies Review

“Smith's study is a detailed and interesting analysis of East German masculinities and of the East German military through literature and film, focusing on soldiers’ bodies, retro masculinity, same-sex desire, hierarchies, and more. Comrades in Arms investigates popular and obscure texts to provide an original and useful perspective on the NVA and masculinity in the GDR.” • Nick Hodgin, Cardiff University

“With impressively thorough research and a solid theoretical framework, this book presents significant new insights into the topic of East German masculinity with a focus on the military. Smith impressively engages cinematic and literary primary sources to expand on, revise, or challenge theoretical assertions. He makes a compelling argument for the importance of the sources for broader discussions of East German politics, society, masculinity, and gender.” • Gary Schmidt, Coastal Carolina University


Without question, the East German National People’s Army was a profoundly masculine institution that emphasized traditional ideals of stoicism, sacrifice, and physical courage. Nonetheless, as this innovative study demonstrates, depictions of the military in the film and literature of the GDR were far more nuanced and ambivalent. Departing from past studies that have found in such portrayals an unchanging, idealized masculinity, Comrades in Arms shows how cultural works both before and after reunification place violence, physical vulnerability, and military theatricality, as well as conscripts’ powerful emotions and desires, at the center of soldiers’ lives and the military institution itself.

Tom Smith is a Lecturer in the School of Modern Languages at the University of St Andrews.

BBC Radio interview with Tom Smith about his book

Subject: Cultural Studies (General) Gender Studies and Sexuality History: 20th Century to Present
Area: Germany

Comrades in Arms by Tom Smith is available open access under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) with support from Knowledge Unlatched.

Full Text PDF | Full Text ePUB

OA ISBN: 978-1-78920-463-6


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