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Maren Rohe talks about her research work at the IMLR, as a Sylvia Naish Visiting Scholar

I joined the IMLR as a Sylvia Naish Visiting Scholar from September to December 2018. During this period, I developed the final draft of my PhD thesis entitled “Constructing the Other: Polish and Russian perceptions of Germany between media influence and individuality.” Thanks to the generous support of the IMLR, I was able to focus on my PhD work during this period, and submitted the thesis for examination in February 2019. In particular, in the months of my scholarship, I drafted the comparative chapter as well as the introduction and conclusion of my thesis, and revised my literature review and theoretical framework.

The comparative chapter of my thesis compares perceptions of Germany in Poland and Russia, in particular pointing to differences regarding the way alternative narratives are dealt with by individuals. While in both Poland and Russia, alternative narratives on Germany are present in news media, individuals in Poland are much more likely to pick up these alternative narratives and engage in controversial discussions. By contrast, Russian study participants tended to ignore such alternative narratives and instead follow the narratives presented in state-controlled media much more closely. The chapter analyses potential factors contributing to these differences, such as the political and media system, education system, and real and perceived divisions in the society. It furthermore discusses the significance of Germany as an Other for Poland and Russia as a potential cause for such different ways of discussing Germany: Germany plays a much more significant role and is perceived as much more dominant in Poland than in Russia. Therefore, narratives on Germany are more relevant for the definition of Polish national identity, and there is a clear division between Poles who favour stronger engagement with Germany and those who favour a more cautious approach. By contrast, in Russia, other Others such as the US and the West are more relevant, and Germany is relevant for national identity discourses mainly in so far as it is perceived as more or less associated with the US and the West.

Beyond developing these arguments as well as the other sections mentioned above, my scholarship at the IMLR also gave me the opportunity to connect with the IMLR Graduate Forum, where I presented my research in March 2019.

Maren Rohe, Sylvia Naish Visiting Scholar, Sept-Dec 2018