Manuela Achilles

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

(434) 924-7091
Nau 255
Office Hours: MW 10:00am-12:00pm, and by appointment

Field & Specialties

Transnational German History and Culture
European 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


I am an Associate Professor of German and History with a joint appointment in the Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures, and the Corcoran Department of History. My current responsibilities include the directorship of the Center for German Studies and, more recently, of the European Studies Program at UVa. I hold a PhD in German and History from the University of Michigan, and an MA in German Literature, History, and Linguistics from the Free University of Berlin. 


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.

"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.

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

"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 in Weimar Germany. Building on my earlier work on the discursive forms and symbolic practices of Weimar democracy, and driving the historiography forward, my book explores the republic as the birthplace of German constitutional patriotism. The metaphor of the “invisible fatherland,” coined by German law professor Gustav Radbruch in 1922, captures the challenge that faced the young democracy: to rally the nation around legally coded principles and ideas—such as equality and justice—that are as such are imperceptible to the senses. The symbolic politics of the republican state and nation endeavored to make these norms and ideals visible and concrete, thus drawing the contours of a centrist alternative to extremist politics the interwar period also engendered.

Entering Weimar constitutional patriotism into the global record of democracy, while also asking unsettling questions about the resilience of (liberal) democracy, requires a deeper appreciation of its centrist embrace of normalcy and compromise. We need, as the organizers of a conference on Weimar 2020 write, to go beyond the filters of an “intervening century of … regrets, and unfinished business.” In fact, I would argue that we need to normalize Weimar democracy. Only then can we grasp with full clarity the consequential fact that any (liberal) democracy can fail in the face of the fascist threat, even our own.

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 the German Green 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, published in Palgrave Macmillan’s Climate, Energy and the Environment Series, targets a broad audience of interested, non-specialist readers. 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.

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 – the seminar challenges students to consider the construction and deconstruction of images of the “enemy” from different angles. My seminars on German and Jews, Germany and the Environment, and Hitler in History and Fiction also practice the careful multi-disciplinarity that characterizes this course. My larger survey classes include German History, Nazi Germany, and Western Civilization. Together with Kyrill Kunakhovich, I am developing the concept for a large undergraduate lecture course on Fascism in Global Perspective. In general, my teaching gravitates toward a co-creative style of instruction that pays particular attention to the affective logics and representational regimes that shape our understanding of the past. My classes at UVa include:

  • Modern German History (HIEU)
  • Germany in the 20th Century (HIEU)
  • 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)
  • German Crime Stories (Deutsche Krimis, GERM)
  • German Conversation (GERM)
  • Intermediate German Topics: German History (GERM)