Sweeping the German Nation: Domesticity and National Identity in Germany, 1870-1945

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Is cleanliness next to Germanness, as some 19th century nationalists insisted? This book explores the relationship between gender roles, domesticity, and German national identity between 1870-1945. After German unification, approaches to household management that had originally emerged among the bourgeoisie became central to German national identity by 1914. Thrift, order, and extreme cleanliness, along with particular domestic markers (such as the linen cabinet) and holiday customs, were used by many Germans to define the distinctions between themselves and neighboring cultures. What was bourgeois at home became German abroad, as “German domesticity” also helped to define and underwrite colonial identities in Southwest Africa and elsewhere. After 1933, this idealized notion of domestic Germanness was racialized and incorporated into an array of Nazi social politics. In occupied Eastern Europe during WWII Nazi women’s groups used these approaches to household management in their attempts to “Germanize” Eastern European women who were part of a large-scale project of population resettlement and ethnic cleansing.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"In this excellent social history of German identity, Reagin expertly uncovers the ways in which German women imagined and participated in the national community from the imperial through the National Socialist eras. A groundbreaking history of national identity from below.... Overall, Reagin makes a substantial contribution to a wide range of fields, including the history of nationalism, the social and cultural history of Germany during the age of total war, and gender studies."
-Jason Crouthamel, Department of History, Grand Valley State University, H-German

"Sweeping the German Nation is a deeply researched and carefully argued book that makes a very mportant contribution to the ongoing research on German national identity. It is to be hoped that its emphasis on the domestic sphere as an important facet of nationalism will attract broad attention."
-Bertram Troeger, H-Nationalism

"Reagin's scholarship is stunning, her findings chilling..."
Alison Owings, Journal of Interdisciplinary History

"...the book's organization and style make it accessible to general readers and undergraduates as well as scholars....it is an inspired and compelling history of everyday life that connects the "private" space of women's domestic labor to the public political developments of Germany history."
—Kirsten Belgum, University of Texas at Austin, German Quarterly Book Reviews

"...Groundbreaking study....biblioraphy is excellent....good for its readbility and has appeal to scholars who pursue gender issues, the role of women in Germany, and the development of nationhood and also to anyone of German descent who actually experienced the extremes of German domesticity through interactions with grandparents, and parents in Germany....Nancy Reagin is to be lauded for creating an original scholarly book on a complex topic that also has widespread appeal to the lay reader with an interest in Germany or gender issues."
—Belinda Carstens-Wickham, Southern Illionois University, German Studies Review

"...Reagin's book provides a new perspective on the relationship between the public and the private in twentieth-century Germany." -Annette F. Timm, Journal of Modern History

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521744157
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 10/6/2008
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 262
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Nancy R. Reagin is professor of history and director of the Women's and Gender Studies Program at Pace University. She received her Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University. She previously taught at the University of Texas, Austin. She is the author of A German Women's Movement: Class and Gender in Hanover, 1880–1933 (1995) and is co-editor of The Heimat Abroad: The Boundaries of Germanness (2005). She has been awarded fellowships by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Deutscher Akademischer Austasuchdienst.

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Table of Contents

1. The habitus of domesticity; 2. Domesticity and German national character; 3. The politicization of housework; 4. Domesticity and Volksgemeinschaft; 5. Ersatz, whole grain, or homemade: Autarkic households and the four year plan; 6. Domesticity and 'Germanization' in occupied Poland.

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