Manuela Achilles

Associate Professor of German and History
Director, European Studies Program
Director, Center for German Studies
Director, German Undergraduate Programs

(434) 924-7091
Nau 255
Office Hours: MW 11:00am-12:00pm, and by appointment

Field & Specialties

Transnational German History and Culture
European and Environmental Studies
History and Theories of Fascism
Democracy Studies
Critical Theory
Cultural Studies
Historical Political Culture of Green Ideas and Practices


M.A. Free University of Berlin, 1996

M.A. University of Michigan, 1996

Ph.D. University of Michigan, 2005


Nationalism, Nativism, and the Revolt Against Globalization, Special Issue of EuropeNow (Journal of the Council for European Studies); co-edited with Kyrill Kunakhovich and Nicole Shea; February 2018.

Environmental Sustainability in Transatlantic Perspective: A Multidisciplinary Approach, edited volume, with Dana Eley (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013 (Climate and Energy series).

"Anchoring the Nation in the Democratic Form: Weimar Symbolic Politics beyond the Failure Paradigm”, in: German Modernities from Wilhelm to Weimar: A Contest of Futures, ed. Geoff Eley, Jennifer Jenkins, Tracie Matysik (London, New York, Bloomsbury, 2016), 259-281.

"Nuclear Power? No, Thank You!" Germany's Energy Revolution Post-Fukushima," in: Achilles and Elzey (eds.), Environmental Sustainability in Transatlantic Perspective, (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013), 104-127.

"The Economy Under the Nazis: Keynesianism Avant La Lettre?", 2013, Darden Business Publishing, UVA-GEM 112 (with Peter Debaere).

"With a Passion for Reason: Celebrating the Constitution in Weimar Germany," Central European History, Volume 43, Number 4 (December 2010), Special issue on the Culture of Politics / Politics of Culture in the Weimar Republic.

"Reforming the Reich: Democratic Symbols and Rituals in the Weimar Republic," in Kathleen Canning, Kerstin Barndt, and Kristin McGuire (eds), Weimar Publics / Weimar Subjects: Rethinking the Political Culture of Germany in the 1920s (New York: Berghahn Books, 2010), 175-191.

"Nationalist Violence and Republican Identity in Weimar Germany," in David Midgley and Christian Emden (eds), German Literature, History and the Nation. Papers from the Conference: "The Fragile Tradition" (Cambridge 2002), Oxford 2004, 305-328.

"Blutdurst' und 'Symbolhunger': Zur Semantik von Blut und Erde", in Walter Delabar, Horst Denkler, Erhard Schütz (eds), Spielräume des Einzelnen: Deutsche Literatur in der Weimarer Republik und im Dritten Reich, Berlin 2000, 185-315.

Review of Benjamin Ziemann, Contested Commemorations. Republican War Veterans and Weimar Political Culture (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2013), European History Quarterly, 46:1 (2016), 203-204.

Review of Shulamit Volkov: Walther Rathenau. Weimar's Fallen Statesman. German History 2015.

Review of Mark Edmundson, The Death of Sigmund Freud: The Legacy of his Last Days. H-German, H-Net Reviews. August, 2011.

Review of Christian Emden, Walter Benjamins Archäologie der Moderne: Kulturwissenschaft um 1930 (Munich: Wilhelm Fink Verlag, 2006), H-German (October 2007).

Review of Pamela E. Swett, Neighbors and Enemies: The Culture of Radicalism in Berlin, 1929-1933 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), Social History (November 2006).

Review of Lawrence A. Rickel's Nazi Psychoanalysis,"H-German (April 2004).

Current Research

My research combines the historical study of German culture with theoretical analyses. I have published broadly on the political culture of Weimar democracy and am currently completing my manuscript, Invisible Fatherland: Constitutional Patriotism and the Desire for Democracy in Weimar Germany. The book revisits the still widely-held assumption that Weimar democracy lacked the symbolic appeal necessary to win popular support and thus was doomed to collapse. My study challenges this “failure paradigm” by reconsidering the symbolic politics and defining moments of the nascent Weimar democracy. The shift in perspective from failure to possibility allows me to recover a largely forgotten, legally coded civic mode of national identification that transcended homogenizing notions of class, religion or race, thus offering a pluralist alternative to the extremist politics the interwar years also engendered. In this context, the metaphor of the "invisible fatherland," coined by German Law Professor Gustav Radbruch in 1922, captures a major challenge this particular mode of national belonging faced: Seeking to rally the nation around constitutional principles and ideas, the proponents of Weimar democracy had to render abstract principles perceptible to the senses. I argue that this necessity to symbolically legitimate the republican nation-state inspired a labor of democratic representation that was no less compatible with German traditions than Nazi ideology. The Grundgesetz-patriotism of the Federal Republic, as well as constitutional patriotisms from Sternberger to Habermas, are clearly prefigured in the legally-coded democratic nationalism that developed under the Weimar Republic.

My second research interest revolves around the idiom and culture of sustainability or Nachhaltigkeit. In the United States we sometimes struggle to imagine what it takes to become a more sustainable society. Germany is widely regarded as a frontrunner in environmental policy and practice. I have put together an edited volume that explores and contextualizes these policies and practices, with the aim to engender a fruitful transatlantic discussion as to which of these interventions are transferable to the United States. The initial lecture series that produced this body of work was connected to Generation Green, a pilot undergraduate course cross-listed in the Department of Science, Technology & Society (School of Engineering) and the German Department (College of Arts and Sciences). The resultant book targets a broad audience of interested, non-specialist readers, and can serve as undergrad textbook for classes in sustainability, as well as for German and European studies courses -- the manuscript was published in the Palgrave Macmillan series 'Climate, Energy and the Environment.' My own contribution explores the German energy revolution with an eye to the country's decision to phase out nuclear power within the next decade. I expect to develop this exploratory essay into a book-length historical study of the German culture of sustainability.

Awards & Honors

  • 2018: Collective Response: Moving Forward Grant, UVa College of Arts & Sciences
  • 2017: Campus Weeks Partnership Grant, Office of Foreign Affairs of the Federal Republic of Germany
  • 2017: Language Technology Incubator (LTi) Grant, with Ammon Shepherd (UVa)
  • 2017: UVa Center for Global Inquiry and Innovation Grant
  • 2017: Page-Barbour Interdisciplinary Scholarship Grant, with Asher Biemann
  • 2013: Global Activities Grant, UVa Center for International Studies
  • 2011: Honorable mention, best interdisciplinary course, H-German Syllabus Contest
  • 2010: Page Barbour International Scholarship Grant, with Volker Kaiser
  • 2009: Faculty Curriculum Development Grant, UVa Center for International Studies
  • 2009: Page Barbour International Scholarship Grant
  • 2005: Rackham Dissertation Fellowship, University of Michigan.
  • 2002: Trans-Atlantic Summer Institute Fellowship in German and European Studies, University of Minnesota
  • 1998: Mellon Fellowship, University of Michigan
  • 1996: Alan P. Cottrell Prize in German Studies, University of Michigan
  • 1993-1994: Shurman Assistantship at Cornell University, Ithaca, NY
  • 1993-1994: Fulbright  Grant to the USA (Cornell University)

Courses Taught

Teaching is an enjoyable and rewarding component of my academic work. Neighbors and Enemies, one of my signature courses, explores the tension in Germany between a chauvinist belief in German racial or cultural superiority and moments of genuine openness to strangers. Drawing on a variety of different materials – from history and philosophy to film and literature – this course challenges students to consider the construction and deconstruction of images of the “enemy” from different angles. My seminars on German and Jews, History and Fiction, and Germany and the Environment also practice the careful inter-disciplinarity that characterizes this course. My survey lecture courses include Modern German History and Nazi Germany. Classes at UVa:

  • Germany After 1918 (HIEU)
  • Modern German History (HIEU)
  • Germany in the 20th Century (HIEU)
  • Postwar German Literature and Culture (HIEU and GETR)
  • Nazi Germany (HIEU and GETR)
  • Hitler in History and Fiction (HIEU and GETR)
  • Germans and Jews (HIEU and Jewish Studies)
  • Democracy and Violence in 20th Century Germany (HIEU)
  • Postwar German Literature and Culture (GETR)
  • Neighbors and Enemies (HIEU and GETR)
  • Western Civilization (1600 to the Present, HIEU)
  • Intro Sem Post 1700 Euro History (HIEU, various topics)
  • Generation Green: Germany and the Environment (German and STS)
  • Business German Topics: Umwelt und Energie (GERM)
  • German for Professionals (GERM)
  • German Crime Stories (Deutsche Krimis, GERM)
  • German Conversation (GERM)
  • Intermediate German Topics: German History (GERM)