Social conflicts and radicalization in contemporary Germany take very different forms but both implicate the existential need for belonging. Belongings are socially and politically contested and strongly shaped by present and past conflicts. We aim to explore more closely how belonging is determined by transgenerational historical experiences of ongoing reconciliation processes in Germany (including the transformation process, the German Democratic Republic and its inner contradictions and the national socialist regime). To address this topic, we will focus on both the psychological and the social experiences of belonging of young people and their families in Germany.

Our theoretical framework draws on theories of dealing with the past and social-psychological concepts which understand subjective experiences as intertwined with sociopolitical processes. The core theoretical concept is belonging. We understand belonging as a psychosocial phenomenon which encompasses ideological, political and emotional dimensions. Finally, we aim to broaden the concept of belonging beyond these dimensions by integrating biographical accounts.

Project team

Project lead: 
Dr. David Becker

Project members:
Leonard Brixel, MA., Sara Paloni, Mag.a.phil. Mia Neuhaus, MA., Lukas Müller, BA., Theo Fehse, BA.


The research sample consists of two groups of young adults attending vocational schools in Berlin and Brandenburg. The research design is composed of two strands: The first strand consists of an explorative qualitative approach, using group discussions and biographical interviews, that enables us to grasp the complexity of the development of biographically-shaped and affective social belongings and their contradictions. The second strand relies on an action-oriented research approach in the form of workshops, which are designed to support the young adults’ critical engagement and analysis throughout the research process to collectively envision approaches to conflict transformation.

Question(s) and hypotheses

The following research questions are central to the project:

  • How do young members of the post-wall-generation experience belonging and what is their relationship to the life experiences of their parents and grandparents?
  • What are the affective qualities of these experiences of belonging and how are they subjected to historical and contemporary conditions of recognition and misrecognition?
  • What possibilities for transformation are fostered for young adults in dealing with their (personal and societal) past?

Scientific and practical relevance

This project adds an innovative contribution to peace research and policy consulting by focusing on conflict dynamics in a Western and highly industrialized country in Europe and by applying existing theoretical perspectives from peace and conflict research to this under-scrutinized region. Moreover, in the spirit of action-oriented research, it is our goal to develop approaches of conflict transformation together with our research participants. This endeavor requires building, in a more participatory way, an understanding of the affective experiences of belonging of young people in present-day Germany.

Funding body

Deutsche Stiftung Friedensforschung

Project duration

15 April 2021 – 31 January 2023

If you are interested in the research project, please contact