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Emily Shein '22 Assists Research on German Anti-Nuclear Protests

August 25, 2020 By Emily Shein '22
Emily Shein '22

I spent this summer working as a research assistant for Professor Carol Hager. We are studying three sites of energy protests in Germany, paying special attention to how the conflicts have been commemorated. By using archival newspaper articles, we are able to track mentions of the conflicts and gain a better understanding of public sentiment about the protests. The three sites—Wyhl, Wackersdorf, and Kalkar—represent three very different types of anti-nuclear protests and, as such, they are remembered by Germans in very different ways. We are interested in learning more about these different types of commemoration in order to better understand Germany’s relationship with the energy transition.

We so often assume that Germany’s shift to clean and renewable energy was an unqualified success, but by looking more deeply into how these anti-nuclear protests are remembered and discussed, we complicate the story. By complicating the story, we are able to learn even more about Germany as it exists as a world leader in responding to and fighting climate change.

I learned about this research opportunity through my participation in the Climate Change 360° course cluster. Throughout my spring semester, I studied climate change from the perspectives of math, political science, and philosophy. We focused specifically on how climate change is discussed in the U.S. versus in Germany, which is how I developed my interest in climate protests in Germany.

Before I had even learned about this summer research opportunity, I was already in the process of designing a final project in which I compared the first Earth Day protest in New York City in the late 1970s to the anti-nuclear protests in Wyhl, which took place around a similar time. When Professor Hager told our class that she was hiring a research assistant to study energy protests in Germany, I was so excited to apply for the position. By the end of my semester of studying climate change, I knew I was particularly interested in the language used in protests.

Outside of my work in the 360°, my particular interests in German and philosophy have to do with the role that language plays in processes of reconciliation and commemoration. I applied for the position knowing only that I would be researching climate protests—I had no idea that I would also get to study one of my academic passions from an entirely new perspective. Not only have I spent my summer researching something I care deeply about, I have also had the chance to see firsthand how technology can deepen research in the humanities and social sciences.

Alice McGrath, the tech lead for the project, has helped teach me what digital humanities research can look like. Before starting my research, I really had no idea what sorts of tools existed to support research in the social sciences and humanities. I always thought computer modeling was reserved for the world of STEM, but this research has taught me otherwise.

I am learning a great deal about how technology can support and enhance research grounded in archival research. Furthermore, I am getting a glimpse at what my own future as an academic looks like. As a German and philosophy double major interested in similar questions of commemoration, I know that I will be able to use the skills I have developed this summer and apply them to future endeavors within my own fields of study. The opportunity to hone my German research skills and add new research skills to my toolbox has been invaluable.

Emily's research assistant position was supported by Bryn Mawr's Digital Scholarship program. 

360° Course Clusters

German and German Studies Department

Philosophy Department