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Bielefeld Graduate School
in History and Sociology
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Niels Ungruhe

Cultures of Violence in the Ruhr Area, c. 1916-1923

Post-World War One Germany was continuously shaped by street violence. The social and cultural historical dissertation studies this violence by focusing on the Ruhr area as one of the most important industrial areas in Germany. The main focus of analysis is Essen. The approach of the project is innovative in two aspects. First, it focuses on cultures of violence. Violence is not regarded as a social pathology that was mostly performed by somewhat disturbed, hateful or over-politicised individuals. Rather, case studies with concrete violent practices on the one hand are studied together with related interpretations and perceptions of these violent acts on the other hand. In doing so the project integrates spatial and gendered aspects, and has received many impulses from Randall Collins' Microsociology of Violence. Second, the project argues against the until now dominant narrow focus of analysis which treats the First World War, the revolution of 1918/19 and the early phase of the Weimar Republic as mostly separate historic episodes.

The project argues against the thesis of a dichotomy of two homogenous collectives fighting each other: the workers/left-wing activists versus Reichswehr/Freikorps and right wing militants. Rather, the events are much more shaped by actions of collectives temporarily united by shared perceptions (fears, imaginations). Moreover, the first research results question the still dominant interpretations of post-World War One violence as being mainly politically motivated. All this shapes my main thesis that the ?Ruhrkrieg? in April/May 1920 cannot be explained as an inevitable escalation of violence which was predetermined by the end of World War One or by the revolution 1918/19.

A broad variety of sources can be considered. Most important to mention are court files, newspapers, files from secret investigations ordered by the ?Wehrkreiskommando? in Münster in combination with official military assessments and orders but also patient's files from hospitals or local private collections and materials of city archives.




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Gefördert durch:

Exzellenzinitiative zur Förderung der Hochschulen
(1. Förderphase 2007-2012,
2. Förderphase 2012-2017)



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