Achilles

Manuela Achilles

Director of the Center for German Studies & Associate Professor of German and History

New Cabell Hall, Room 233

Office Hours: Mondays, 11:00-1:00PM,, and by appointment.

Fields & Specialities

Transnational German History and Culture
European Studies
History and Theories of Fascism
Democracy Studies
Critical Theory, and Cultural Studies
Historical Political Culture of Green Ideas and Practices

Biography

I am an associate professor of German and history with a joint appointment in the Department of German, and the Corcoran Department of History. I addition to the Center for German Studies, I direct the European Studies Program at UVa. I hold a PhD in German and History from the University of Michigan, and an MA in German Literature, History, and Linguistics from the Free University of Berlin. My teaching includes classes on Weimar and Nazi Germany, Germans and Jews, Hitler in History and Fiction, Fascism in Global Perspective, Cultures of Memory, and Transatlantic Environmentalism.

Books and Journals

Environmental Sustainability in Transatlantic Perspective: A Multidisciplinary Approach, edited volume, with Dana Eley (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013 (Climate and Energy series).

Nationalism, Nativism, and the Revolt Against Globalization, Special Issue of EuropeNow (Journal of the Council for European Studies); co-edited with Kyrill Kunakhovich and Nicole Shea; February 2018.

Articles and Book Chapters

"Memory, Responsibility, and Transformation: Antiracist Pedagogy, Holocaust Education, and Community Outreach in Transatlantic Perspective." Coauthored with Hannah Winnick (Heinrich Boell Foundation/Obama Foundation), Journal of Holocaust Research, 35/2 (April 2021). Special issue on “Confronting Hatred: Neo-Nazism, Antisemitism, and Holocaust Studies Today."

"Anchoring the Nation in the Democratic Form: Weimar Symbolic Politics beyond the Failure Paradigm”, in: German Modernities from Wilhelm to Weimar: A Contest of Futures, ed. Geoff Eley, Jennifer Jenkins, Tracie Matysik (London, New York, Bloomsbury, 2016), 259-281."Nuclear Power? No, Thank You!" Germany's Energy Revolution Post-Fukushima," in: Achilles and Elzey (eds.), Environmental Sustainability in Transatlantic Perspective, (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013), 104-127.

"The Economy Under the Nazis: Keynesianism Avant La Lettre?", 2013, Darden Business Publishing, UVA-GEM 112 (with Peter Debaere).

"With a Passion for Reason: Celebrating the Constitution in Weimar Germany," Central European History, Volume 43, Number 4 (December 2010), Special issue on the Culture of Politics / Politics of Culture in the Weimar Republic.

"Reforming the Reich: Democratic Symbols and Rituals in the Weimar Republic," in Kathleen Canning, Kerstin Barndt, and Kristin McGuire (eds), Weimar Publics / Weimar Subjects: Rethinking the Political Culture of Germany in the 1920s (New York: Berghahn Books, 2010), 175-191.

"Nationalist Violence and Republican Identity in Weimar Germany," in David Midgley and Christian Emden (eds), German Literature, History and the Nation. Papers from the Conference: "The Fragile Tradition" (Cambridge 2002), Oxford 2004, 305-328.

"Blutdurst' und 'Symbolhunger': Zur Semantik von Blut und Erde", in Walter Delabar, Horst Denkler, Erhard Schütz (eds), Spielräume des Einzelnen: Deutsche Literatur in der Weimarer Republik und im Dritten Reich, Berlin 2000, 185-315.

Current Research

My research combines the historical study of German culture with theoretical analyses. I have published broadly on the political culture of Weimar democracy and am currently completing my manuscript, Invisible Fatherland: Constitutional Patriotism in Weimar Germany. Building on my earlier work on the discursive forms and symbolic practices of Weimar democracy, and driving the historiography forward, my book explores the republic as the birthplace of German constitutional patriotism. The metaphor of the “invisible fatherland,” coined by German law professor Gustav Radbruch in 1922, captures the challenge that faced the young democracy: to rally the nation around legally coded principles and ideas—such as equality and justice—that are as such are imperceptible to the senses. The symbolic politics of the republican state and nation endeavored to make these norms and ideals visible and concrete, thus drawing the contours of a centrist alternative to extremist politics the interwar period also engendered.

Entering Weimar constitutional patriotism into the global record of democracy, while also asking unsettling questions about the resilience of (liberal) democracy, requires a deeper appreciation of its centrist embrace of normalcy and compromise. We need, as the organizers of Weimar 2020 write, to go beyond the filters of an “intervening century of … regrets, and unfinished business.” In fact, I would argue that we need to normalize Weimar democracy. Only then can we grasp with full clarity the consequential fact that any (liberal) democracy can fail in the face of the fascist threat, even our own.

My second research interest revolves around the idiom and culture of sustainability or Nachhaltigkeit. In the United States we sometimes struggle to imagine what it takes to become a more sustainable society. Germany is widely regarded as a frontrunner in environmental policy and practice. I have put together an edited volume that explores and contextualizes the German Green policies and practices, with the aim to engender a fruitful transatlantic discussion as to which of these interventions are transferable to the United States. The initial lecture series that produced this body of work was connected to Generation Green, a pilot undergraduate course cross-listed in the Department of Science, Technology & Society (School of Engineering) and the German Department (College of Arts and Sciences). The resultant book, published in Palgrave Macmillan’s Climate, Energy and the Environment Series, targets a broad audience of interested, non-specialist readers. My own contribution explores the German energy revolution with an eye to the country's decision to phase out nuclear power within the next decade. I expect to develop this exploratory essay into a book-length historical study of the German culture of sustainability.

Teaching

Teaching is an enjoyable and rewarding component of my academic work. Neighbors and Enemies, one of my signature courses, explores the tension in Germany between a chauvinist belief in German racial or cultural superiority and moments of genuine openness to strangers. Drawing on a variety of different materials – from history and philosophy to film and literature – the seminar challenges students to consider the construction and deconstruction of images of the “enemy” from different angles. My seminars on German and Jews, Germany and the Environment, and Hitler in History and Fiction also practice the careful multi-disciplinarity that characterizes this course. My larger survey classes include German History, Nazi Germany, and Western Civilization. Together with Kyrill Kunakhovich, I am developing the concept for a large undergraduate lecture course on Fascism in Global Perspective. In general, my teaching gravitates toward a co-creative style of instruction that pays particular attention to the affective logics and representational regimes that shape our understanding of the past. My classes at UVa include:

  • Modern German History (HIEU)
  • Nazi Germany (HIEU and GETR)
  • Hitler in History and Fiction (HIEU and GETR)
  • Germans and Jews (HIEU and Jewish Studies)
  • Democracy and Violence in 20th Century Germany (HIEU)
  • Postwar German Literature and Culture (GETR)
  • Neighbors and Enemies (HIEU and GETR)
  • Western Civilization (1600 to the Present, HIEU)
  • Generation Green: Germany and the Environment (German and STS)
  • German Crime Stories (Deutsche Krimis, GERM)
  • Intermediate German Topics: German History (GERM)

Internet and Popular Press Publications, Media Appearances, and Outreach

In my capacity as the Director of the Center for German Studies at UVa, I have organized and hosted a great number of events on a variety of themes, reaching from the Car and its Future to The Politics of Fear, and Migration, Sanctuary and Belonging,

In response to the white supremacy attacks on Charlottesville in 2017, I have built an ongoing multi-year research and teaching partnership with the Heinrich Böll Foundation North America on Memory, Democracy, and Transformation. This transatlantic initiative invites UVa faculty and students to work with German scholars, artists, and activists on difficult chapters of history from slavery and segregation in the United States to colonialism, genocide, and dictatorship in Germany. The initiative also provides the wider Charlottesville community an opportunity to engage in constructive dialogue on the topic of historical inequality, injustice, and responsibility. Click [here, 2018] and [here, 2019] for documentation and press coverage.

I was a guest on Apropos of Something radio show on October 21, 2017. Co-hosted by Ellen Daniels in Charlottesville and Nancy Laurence in New York City, the interview revolved around the topic of German history and sliding from democracy into dictatorship more generally.

Together with Kyrill Kunakhovich and Nicole Shea, I co-edited a Special Issue of EuropeNow (issue 14, Feb. 2018) on the topic of "Nationalism, Nativism, and the Revolt Against Globalization" The issue featured a Campus Spotlight on UVa and its response to the events of August 11-12, 2017.