GCS Fellowship Recipients 2013

The Chair in German-Canadian Studies is proud to announce the following fellowship recipients of the 2013 competition. For further information about their work, please read their individual blog entries.
German-Canadian Studies Research Scholarship (Ph.D.): Frauke Brammer (Free University of Berlin) and Christine Kampen (University of Waterloo).
German-Canadian History Research Scholarship (M.A.): Karen Brglez (University of Winnipeg/University of Manitoba)
German-Canadian Studies Research Grant: Joel Penner (Winnipeg) and Allison Penner (Winnipeg)
German-Canadian Studies Dissertation Prize: Roswita Dressler (University of Calgary)

Remembering Klein Kanada: The Canadian Military Diaspora in West Germany, 1951-1993

My dissertation project aims at exploring the social and cultural history of everyday life on and around the former Canadian NATO bases and their surrounding civilian settlements, built and maintained in the Federal Republic of Germany between 1951 and 1993. I am particularly interested in the cultural hybridity of encounters (and non-encounters) of local German residents and members of the Canadian military diaspora in the semi-permeable borderlands between the “Kleine Kanadas” (or Little Canadas) and the surrounding German communities – and how these are being remembered today. In this sense, my research project aims to serve as a contribution to Canadian, (West) German, and German-Canadian post-war history alike.

Social and cultural historiographic studies in both Canada and Germany have hitherto neglected the history of the Canadian Forces in Europe. In order to close this research gap, I have conducted more than 50 Oral History interviews with different actors on the German and Canadian side who lived and worked on or off the Canadian Army and Air Force bases between the 1950s and the 1990s. I have included different generations of military members, civilian employees, local residents, and family “dependants” alike. In addition, I have analyzed commemorative sites in digital media and existing Oral History collections. In order to contextualize these ego-documents, I have consulted records and official publications of the military, administrative authorities, and government agencies as well as newspaper articles in German and Canadian archives. Taken together, these sources open up a fascinating history of (temporary) transatlantic migration, German-Canadian concord and conflict, and the significance of overseas deployment for the life stories of individuals, thereby shedding light on the social and cultural ramifications of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the Canadian deployment to Cold War Europe.

Through the support of the German-Canadian Studies PhD Scholarship, I have not only been able to travel to remaining German archives and former Canadian bases in their different localities in Germany, but also to go back to Canada once more. Here, I was able to conduct additional interviews and to consult remaining primary sources, some of which had to be opened through ATIP. I also presented my research in front of academic audiences and was able to get important feedback from eminent scholars. A collaboration is also taking shape with Vancouver-based artist Michael T. Love, whose work The Long Wait consists of photographs of abandoned Canadian bases in Germany. With these exciting plans ahead, I am extremely thankful for the renewal of the German-Canadian Studies PhD scholarship, which will enable me to successfully conclude my dissertation.

Frauke Brammer
John F. Kennedy Institute for North American Studies
Department of History
Freie Universität Berlin

Overlapping spaces: An examination of immigrants’ space and identity constructions

Since receiving the Spletzer Foundation Research Grant last year, my dissertation project has evolved somewhat. The Research Grant funding allowed me to undertake a pilot study that has since become the primary focus of my dissertation.

I had planned to examine the ways in which German-speaking Paraguayan Mennonite migrants to Manitoba construct spaces through language, and how these spaces in turn construct their identities. I wanted to conduct a pilot study to test out various aspects of my methodology, especially focus group interviews. However, there are not many German-speaking Mennonite migrants from Paraguay in the Waterloo Region in Ontario, where I live. There are, however, many Low German or Old Colony Mennonite migrants in the region, many of whom have come from Mexico. I decided to conduct my pilot study with Old Colony Mennonite migrants, and those connected to the Old Colony community.

While developing relationships with members of the community, I quickly learned that the time and effort I was investing in building relationships of trust with my participants, and the additional questions that came up during focus group interviews, would be worth a much larger project than could be encompassed in a pilot study. As a result, my new dissertation project focuses on the ways in which Low German-speaking Mennonite migrants from Mexico to Canada construct spaces through language with special attention to the attitudes they form towards multiple languages they speak, as well as the complicated relationship they have with literacy, and how these spaces and attitudes in turn construct their identities.

In order to examine issues of space and identity and how they relate to and are expressed by language, I will conduct oral interviews in two phases, including both focus group discussions and individual interviews. The interviews, which will be to a large extent open-ended, will focus on participants’ experiences of migration to Canada, including specific experiences relating to language. Additionally, some participants will record family communication events in their home to provide an additional source of data in terms of how participants position themselves and others when they speak. I plan to examine the data from a number of perspectives, including code-switching tendencies, use of deictics and place references, as well as narrative and conversation analysis.

This project has previously been generously supported by an Ontario Graduate Studies Fellowship, a University of Waterloo President’s Scholarship, and the German-Canadian Studies Research Grant. I am extremely grateful to the Spletzer Foundation for helping me get this project off the ground, and for its continued support through the Doctoral Fellowship.

Christine Kampen Robinson
PhD Candidate in German
University of Waterloo

Canadian Policy Towards German Unification, 1989-1990

My name is Karen Brglez and I am in the second year of the Joint Master’s Program at the University of Winnipeg/University of Manitoba. My thesis project aims to explore the role of the Canadian government in the international diplomatic process of German unification from 1989-1990. I am interested in the Canadian government’s interactions and policy choices concerning the various political, economic, and social aspects of unification. The question of German unity at the end of the twentieth century was connected to the international community. The German division began with the defeat and occupation of the Third Reich by the Allied forces in the Second World War. The Four Power occupiers were assigned special rights and responsibilities over the vanquished nation, but disagreements between the allies cemented the German partition turning it into the center of the Cold War confrontation. Over the years, repeated efforts to appease the East-West conflict failed. The international community slowly grew accustomed to the German division until the dramatic year of 1989 when pressure for unification increased.

A vast amount of historical scholarship has been devoted to the subject of the international politics surrounding German unification that occurred during 1989-1990. The work tends to focus on the diplomacy between the two German states and the Four Allied powers. However, few scholars have paid attention to the role of the ‘middle power’ countries, particularly the role of Canada and its foreign policy position on German unification. My thesis project will investigate whether and how Canada influenced the German diplomatic process. It will consider the foreign policy debates that existed within the Canadian government over the key components that surrounded the complex issues of German unification.

This project aims to make a contribution to the growing scholarship on transatlantic relations with Germany in Canadian foreign policy in the twentieth century. It will explore themes of global and national security, human rights, and international diplomacy in Canadian foreign policy. To complete this study I will draw from oral history interviews conducted with Canadian politicians, government records, debates from the House of Commons and the Senate, and dignitary speeches made by former government officials. With this project, I hope to understand how Canada utilized its ‘middle power’ status in the international sphere to negotiate German unification and the subsequent end of the Cold War period. I am very thankful to the Spletzer Family Foundation for partly funding this research project.

Karen Brglez
University of Winnipeg/University of Manitoba

Intergenerational Memories: An Oral History of the Spletzer Family

I recently graduated from the University of Winnipeg with a History Honours B.A. My project, “The Spletzer Family: Intergenerational Memories of a German-Canadian Family,” uses life history interviews to provide researchers with narratives of refugee experiences, narratives of first- and second-generation German-Canadians, and narratives of intergenerational memory within a family. Building on an already-conducted interviews with family members, I will conduct further life story interviews with members of the first and second generation. These interviews will be transcribed and archived at the University of Winnipeg Oral History Centre and the Provincial Archives of Manitoba.

The 20th century has seen vast numbers of displaced persons and refugees relocating to new homes around the world, with no evidence of abatement in the 21st century. While social scientists have conducted studies examining the psychological, educational, material, and cultural issues faced by refugees, historians have not often addressed these significant refugee movements nor have they developed archives documenting the experiences of these forced migrants. The Spletzers came to Winnipeg, MB as post-war German refugees in the early 1950s, raised a family, and started a successful construction company, eventually becoming one of the pre-eminent German families in Winnipeg. The Spletzer family, along with three other members, also established the Chair in German-Canadian Studies at the University of Winnipeg.

Interviews with the Spletzer family provide narratives about the experiences of German refugees who resettled in Canada as well as an opportunity to examine the intergenerational aspect of the refugee experience within a family. Without being presented as representative of the experiences of all refugees, or even of all German post-war refugees, their interviews will contribute to our understanding of the experiences of refugees as well as the ways that German refugees have responded to their new home environment in Manitoba. The interviews with members of the second generation will demonstrate how memories of previous homelands and refugee experiences are passed down within this family as well as how second-generation German-Canadians have been negotiating their identity in a Canadian context.

Allison Penner
The University of Winnipeg

An Online Documentary Project on the Recent Influx of German Immigrants into Winkler, Manitoba

My name is Joel Penner, and I recently completed my B.A. in German Studies at the University of Winnipeg. My project that is supported with a generous grant from the Spletzer Family Foundation focuses on the significant, yet little-known recent trend of large numbers of German immigrants settling in the Manitoban city of Winkler. The project is based on filmed interviews with first and second generation German and ethnic-German immigrants to Winkler, as well as research into the city’s historical demographic shifts. My first interviewees are students found via the school liaison at Garden Valley Collegiate, who works with new German immigrants to help them integrate into Canadian society. Family members of the students will also be interviewed, as well as members of the greater community who will be contacted through organizations such as churches. Sections of discourse from the various interviewees will be spliced together into videos that delve into specific themes, such as the differences between how first and second generation German immigrants relate to their German heritage, and the struggle to maintain a sense of cultural identity in the midst of the more multicultural Canadian context. Focus will also be given to the relationships between different groups of ethnic Germans, such as Mennonites from Latin America and Eastern Europe and Germans from Germany.

These videos will be presented on an engaging and accessible website alongside small textual and photographic introductions to each of the interviewees. Subtitles for the interviews will be supplied in both English and German to improve the project’s linguistic accessibility. Background information such as immigration statistics will be provided. The project will offer online visitors greater understanding of the personal, cultural, and historical aspects of the changing demographics in Winkler, while also providing insight into the role that language and cultural practices play in terms of how we conceive of ourselves in relation to a world in flux.
Joel Penner

Best Dissertation in German-Canadian Studies 2013 Explores Canada’s Bilingual Schools

My dissertation examines the linguistic diversity of students in German Bilingual Programs. In these programs, students receive instruction in German for up to 50% of the school day. The curriculum was written for students who have English as a home language. However, some of the students in the program have different home languages, including German. As a result, teachers adapt their teaching to meet very diverse learning needs. I gave a questionnaire to the families in the school, interviewed the teachers and administrators, observed several classroom lessons, and visited some families in their homes. The children in the focus classroom also did three tasks to show their language learning. In the school I studied, I learned that the teachers team teach and used creative ways to provide the children with opportunities to hear and speak German. The children saw themselves as emerging bilinguals. The remaining challenge is for teachers to find additional ways to meet the needs of those children who already speak German, since their German is at a different level, and those children who speak a different home language, since they are learning both English and German for the first time at school. I recommend curriculum changes to address this diversity and provide teachers with more guidance for teaching linguistically diverse students. This study was funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. I am honored to receive the 2013 Dissertation Prize from the Spelzer Family Foundation.

Roswita Dressler
Research Associate, Language Research Centre
University of Calgary