5 Lessons from Twittering While Academic

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I have been on twitter as a historian for over a year and I’ve put together a few lessons I’ve learned in that time.

  1. Know your audience – the one you have and the one you want

The best way to get the most out of Twitter as an academic is to know whom you are trying to reach. If you just want to keep in touch with a handful of specialists in your field versus bring your research to the masses you will need a very different approach. The more people you want to reach, the catchier you will have to be both in terms of your writing and your visuals. You don’t have to resort to cheap clickbait, it just takes some creativity. I make sure to post daily with an easily legible format that includes pictures and links to more media when possible. This works for me because I find it fun to do and it helps me to expand my knowledge of my research field more broadly. If the people are you are trying to reach most just want the facts and will be turned off by lots of extraneous material, then the public engagement approach may be counter-productive. Figure out whom you are trying to talk to and what you are trying to get out of the experience and tailor your TL accordingly.

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Who’s to Blame for Aryan Jesus? Some Thoughts on Religion, Atrocities, and the Fallacy of Collective Guilt.

Deutsche Christen Flag
Flag of the Deutsche Christen

How does one go about judging a religion when a radical faction uses an extreme interpretation of doctrine to commit atrocities? I speak of course about the Deutsche Christen – the fanatical Nazis who saw the Christian faith, antisemitism and the cause of the Third Reich as one and the same.

The theologians of the Deutsche Christen movement linked together the Protestant tradition (including Martin Luther’s many anti-Semitic remarks) with Nazi theories of Volk and race. They sought the “de-Judaization of the church” and the elevation of their version of an “Aryan Jesus.” Rather than some fringe movement during the Third Reich, the Deutsche Christen numbered 600,000 at its peak including senior members of the Church hierarchy, religious scholars and the laity.

The movement’s Institute for the Study and Eradication of the Jewish Influence on the German Church “redefined Christianity as a Germanic religion whose founder, Jesus, was no Jew but rather had fought valiantly to destroy Judaism, falling victim to that struggle. Germans were now called upon to be the victors in Jesus’s own struggle against the Jews, who were said to be seeking Germany’s destruction.”

For the Deutsche Christen, the cause of Nazism was the logical end point of protestant theology. As Erich Koch, Reichsminister for Ukraine would tell his post-war prosecutors:

“I held the view that the Nazi idea had to develop from a basic Prussian-Protestant attitude and from Luther’s unfinished Reformation.”

Berlin, Luthertag
Luther Day celebrations in Berlin. November 19, 1933

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Both an End and a Beginning: The Long Fall of the Berlin Wall

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The Lichtgrenze commemorating the 25th anniversary of the opening of the Berlin Wall- November 9, 2014.

From our perspective today, it is easy to see November 9, 1989 as the end of the German Democratic Republic. In most of the coverage of the anniversaries, that date is synonymous with the fall of the Berlin Wall, the collapse of monopoly rule by the Socialist Unity Party (SED) and the end of the feared Ministry of State Security, the Stasi. In retrospect, it is clear that the opening of the Berlin Wall on November 9 was a decisive breaking point, after which the SED could never recover its capacity to rule.

But on November 10, 1989, this was far from obvious for all involved. In the early hours that day it was still unclear what exactly had happened overnight. SED officials still believed they could re-impose controls on cross border travel. The Soviet Union had yet to comment on the events or indicate if it would intervene. While earlier mass protests had been tolerated, Egon Krenz, leader of the SED since late October when he had deposed Erich Honecker, had praised the violent crackdown at Tiananmen Square earlier in the year leading some to fear violence could still come. That the opening of the border would usher in a peaceful transition to pluralistic democracy and later reunification was hardly certain.

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Writing Human Rights into the History of State Socialism

Imperial & Global Forum

Ned Richardson-Little
Associate Research Fellow, University of Exeter

One of a number of East German postage stamps commemorating International Human Rights Year 1968. The hammer and anvil represent the right to work. One of a number of East German postage stamps commemorating International Human Rights Year 1968. The hammer and anvil represent the right to work.

The collapse of the Communist Bloc in 1989-1991 is viewed as one of the great triumphs of the human rights movement. But this ignores how socialist elites of the Eastern Bloc viewed themselves: not as the villains in the story of human rights, but as the champions.

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