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Hidden desires, haunted dreamscapes. Postwar West Germany’s consumer culture in a postcolonial perspective
Only few scholars have asked how the dominant consumer ideals of the postwar period in western Europe were entangled with the previous colonialist and fascist politicization of the commercial sphere (Lombardi-Diop 2011). The same holds true for the possible links between the meanings of postwar consumer cultures and the context of decolonization (Ross 1995). Based on a broad range of material stemming from West German consumer culture during the 1950s, the paper will use a number of examples to analyze the affective economies inscribed in consumer imaginaries that constructed an ideal of cultural homogeneity and superiority as well as fantasies of global conquest, while this dreamscape continued to be built on the exclusion of racial “others”. Such imaginaries thereby imbued consumer objects with a socially and politically redemptive quality which simultaneously addressed both the manifest desire to leave the past behind and to silently (re-)connect to past imperial aspirations. In order to understand the affective economy of this constellation, it is necessary to consider how the supposed break with the Nazi past after 1945 in West Germany coincided with the context of a postwar western Europe that had not yet transitioned from the colonial paradigm to a “postcolonial condition” (Young 2012). Finally, the paper argues that because this figuration of imaginaries and affects defies the distinction between a (colonial/imperial) “past” and a (postcolonial/post-imperial) “present”, the scholarly process has involved confronting experiences of “haunting” (Bhabha 1992) linked to the relevant encounters in the archive.