Student Research Partnership in German: Representations of Motherhood and Childhood in DEFA films of the 1970s and 1980s

22 February 2023

During winter break 2022 Jeremy Fong ’23 worked with Juliane Schicker, assistant professor of German on her research project Representations of Motherhood and Childhood in DEFA films of the 1970s and 1980s. Jeremy shared his experience as an SRP with the Humanities Center.

“This winter break I worked with Professor Juliane Schicker on her project, Representations of Motherhood and Childhood in DEFA films of the 1970s and 1980s. Since this was the beginning stage of her research, my principal responsibilities for Juliane centered on helping her find material for her to use for her project. However, before I started sifting through possible material, I spent time familiarizing myself with the historical and political context of Juliane’s work by reading some pieces that influenced her to start this research project. Having spent a semester in Berlin and taken a class on German history through a gendered perspective, I had a fairly good foundational knowledge to help Juliane with her work. After this initial literature review, I read various articles/journal pieces that Juliane had gathered that she thought might have important insight for her article. She had not read these herself, so it was my responsibility to report back my thoughts and whether I thought they might fit into her research. Many of them did not and I think this is due to the unique perspective Juliane is taking with her research. I think it was clear after reading those articles that she was filling a gap in the literature.

Once this part of the project was completed, I began to search through the DEFA database to find possible films that might showcase mother-and-child relationships. This part took a while as I started my search with very narrow guidelines. However, Juliane noticed that I did not have that many films, and she told me to be more liberal with the depictions (e.g. the film did not need to focus on these relationships, just feature them somewhere). Once the final list was procured, with various important aspects of the films noted on a spreadsheet, I started watching films on the list. Since it was towards the end of my hours, I was only able to watch one and a third of the movies on the list. However, I created detailed notes for Juliane, highlighting various themes and making note of important quotes.

Overall, assisting Juliane in her research was incredibly illuminating. I really felt like her research assistant through the work I did. In many ways, the suggestions that I made and the feedback I gave could make their way into the final project. My notes had weight because they could move her research in one direction or another. I think it was also very interesting to see the nitty-gritty of the research process from someone whose job is to do research. Like myself with comps, Juliane had an idea that she wanted to pursue, and it was my task to help her to figure out how to do it. The topic itself was super fascinating to me as well, and it was great to immerse myself again within German culture and media. This research experience for me was amazing. I am so grateful to Juliane for taking me on and I learned so much from her.