»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


  • Jeannette Prochnow




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.