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Reviewed by:
  • Fear in the German-Speaking World, 1600–2000 ed. by Thomas J. Kehoe and Michael G. Pickering
  • Waltraud Maierhofer
Thomas J. Kehoe and Michael G. Pickering, eds., Fear in the German-Speaking World, 1600–2000. London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2020. 298 pp.

Fear in the German-Speaking World, 1600–2000, edited by Thomas J. Kehoe and Michael G. Pickering, which is aptly placed in the series "History of Emotions," is advertised as "the first collection that centers fear in the historical analysis of Central Europe since 1600," demonstrating "the importance of emotional experience to the study of the past" (back cover). From fear of vampires to that of the loss of national sovereignty, pestilence, gypsies, and criminals to the fear of fear itself the chapters reveal how fear was understood and negotiated in a wide range of historical contexts, and how people coped with it. Despite different analytical frameworks and the particularity of the case studies, the collection's goal is to show connections between the disparate constructions of fear in (predominantly) German-speaking countries over four centuries. (Switzerland is not examined.) Beyond the individual focus of each chapter, the editors suggest "an evolving construction of fear" in these countries that is "likely in part universally human, and contextualized culturally and historically in this specific space" (8).

Only one chapter has a specific Austrian focus: "Vampires, Ottomans, and the Specter of Contagion: The Intersectionality of Fear on the Periphery of the Habsburg Monarchy" by Michael G. Pickering (Chapter 3). Pickering investigates the origins of the vampire "debate" in the early eighteenth century with three cases of suspicious deaths in two Serbian villages and one town, all on the southern frontier of the Habsburg empire. An investigation by military officials revealed that "vampires were, in one sense, harbingers of impending plague, and that they represented a form of pathogenic infiltration of and incursion into the Habsburg territories" (42). Pickering reads the archival sources as contributing to an emergent construction of fear in a specific time span (1725 to 1732) and across a variety of documents. He sees in the narratives deeper fears of incursion or infiltration and destruction at work, fears that [End Page 139] included elements of the fantastical (applying Lyndal Roper's use of the term in her research on witch hunts) as opposed to anxieties which he understands as founded on rational concerns. (Not all chapters in the book differentiate fear and anxiety in the same way.) Concerns of contagion and depopulation intersect with a new enemy, "the blood-thirsty dead and their capacity for unchecked infiltration and destruction" (57). Pickering suggests that it was the genre of the autopsy report that shaped the discourse on vampires. He concludes that medicalization was able to "neutralize 'fear' and transform 'anxiety' into a specific, localized threat; a threat that could be contained and confronted" (57). On the other hand, the vampire came to represent a threat to the cultural and political order of the Habsburg empire from the Ottoman Empire, a threat of invasion from Slavic countries, embodying superstitious beliefs and primitive forces.

Other chapters, on political fear, specifically fear of French cultural incursion in the late seventeenth-century Holy Roman Empire during the wars of Louis XIV (Chapter 2 by Kirsten L. Cooper) and gender and fear in the Third Reich (Chapter 7 by Sebastian Huebel), subsume Austrian aspects. Cooper argues that the French armies inspired anxieties that were expressed in pamphlets as imminent conquest and political ruin and that led to representations of the fear of turning French. Huebel investigates how the Nazis targeted German-Jewish men as racial invaders in the proclaimed "Aryan" state and the resulting impact on men's emotions.

Most of this book investigates the role of fear in nineteenth- and twentieth-century Germany, Nazi Germany, and the divided Germany of the Cold War: in an eighteenth-century Southwest German town (Chapter 4 by Dennis Frey), "gypsy hysteria" in the nineteenth century (Chapter 5 by Charissa Kurda), "the image of the SA and the presence of propaganda" in the public during the late Weimar Republic (Chapter 6 by Jacob Berg and Richard Scully), the "criminal archetype" in post–World War II Western Germany...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2327-1809
Print ISSN
2165-669X
Pages
pp. 139-142
Launched on MUSE
2021-09-03
Open Access
No
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