»But we realized that we didn’t fit in there«. The impact of generational belonging on community building and network formation in post unification Germany
By the example of former COMECON pipeline builders from the GDR, Jeanette Prochnow examines the impact of generational belonging on community and network building under the conditions of social change in post-1989 Germany. Since the 1990s a vivid culture of companionship and remembrance has developed among former pipeline workers. It is kept alive by associations and interest groups claiming to represent the interests of people who were employed with the state-run pipeline project either in 1974-1978 or 1982-1993. Yet, employees of the first construction phase remain noticeably underrepresented in the community. In an attempt to explore this generational segregation, concepts of the Ethnography of Communication are combined with a network analytical perspective and Karl Mannheim’s sociology of generation. The paper is guided by the hypothesis that the »speech community« of former pipeline builders corresponds to a »generational unit« to which employees from the 1970s do not belong because of varying performances responding to events in the socio-historical context.