Materializing Visibility, Preparing Recognition: The 'cultural' politics of GDR-India relations, 1952-1972
The German Democratic Republic was officially recognized by the Indian government
in 1972. However, the trade representations established in 1956 became the 'official
mouthpiece' of the GDR in India. Contacts between actors from both the sides can
thus be traced much before official recognition was materialised. This project will
present a social history of the vareigated encounters, entanglements and exchanges,
that existed among actors from both India and the GDR and are categorised under
the larger umbrella theme of 'cultural relations' in state narratives.
From the perspective of the GDR state officials, cultural contacts with India were
state-initiated and clearly 'political' in their objectives. They were seen as a means,
a soft tool to stage and realise the political ambitions of official recognition.
The main question posed by the project is:
How were these relations between varied actors from India and the GDR effected
by the fact that the GDR was formally not recognised as a sovereign state by the
government of India until 1972, and how did they in turn impact the question of
A first working hypothesis is that an immediate concern was the question of visibility. How to make the GDR known to the people of India, so that they could push for it
to be recognised officially? Prominent examples of the same are how Bertolt Brecht
was popularised in India as the 'face of the GDR' and how the Indo-GDR Friendship
societies toiled to render the GDR visible for Indians.
Instead of looking at India as the space where Inter-German Cold War politics was
staged, this project will test a second working hypothesis: How did individual Indian
actors in the field of socio-cultural encounters capitalize on the situation beyond the
sphere of formalized politics?