Modern Europe Colloquium: Noah’s Ark for Future Generations or Genetic Imperialism?

Event time: 
Monday, February 13, 2023 - 4:00pm to 5:30pm
Humanities Quadrangle HQ See map
320 York Street
New Haven, CT 06511
Jennifer Allen, Associate Professor of History, Yale University
Event description: 

The Modern Europe Colloquium presents “Noah’s Ark for Future Generations” or Genetic Imperialism?: The Dilemma of the Seed Bank in Postwar German History by Jennifer Allen, Associate Professor of History, Yale University
HQ (Humanities Quadrangle), Rm 107, 320 York St.
The Modern Europe Colloquium is generously sponsored by the Edward J. and Dorothy Clarke Kempf Memorial Fund; the European Studies Council of the Yale MacMillan Center
Bio: Jennifer Allen is a historian of modern Germany with a particular interest in late twentieth-century cultural practices. Her first book, Sustainable Utopias: The Art and Politics of Hope in Germany (Harvard University Press, forthcoming) charts the history of Germany’s relatively recent efforts to revitalize the concept of utopia after the wholesale collapse of Europe’s violent utopian social engineering projects by the end of the twentieth century. She argues that, contrary to popular accounts, German interest in radical alternatives to existing society had not diminished. By braiding together case studies from three different milieux—the Berlin History Workshop, the German Green Party, and a loose collection of artists of public space—Allen demonstrates that Germans chose to resist an increasing sense of political disenfranchisement, social alienation, and cultural impotence in the 1980s and ’90s. Instead, they pursued the radical democratization of politics and culture in everyday life through a series of grassroots cultural projects. These groups not only envisioned a new German utopia but attempted to enact their vision. In doing so, they reclaimed utopian hope from the dustbin of historical ideas. In a related article (, Allen traces how Germany’s grassroots commemorative practices became a model for international communities as diverse as Moscow, Buenos Aires, and Washington D.C., over the past thirty years.