Eli Rubin

Eli Rubin

Eli Rubin

Dr. Eli Rubin
Ph.D., University of Wisconsin, Madison (2004)
Modern Europe; Germany

Office: (269) 387-4646

Curriculum Vitae

4418 Friedmann Hall

Mailing Address
Department of History
Western Michigan University
1903 W Michigan Ave
Kalamazoo, MI 49008-5334

Dr. Rubin teaches upper level undergraduate courses in modern Europe and Germany, including World War Two in Europe,  Modern Germany and The Holocaust in History and Memory, which are 4000 level baccalaureate writing courses, as well as History 3616: Europe 1919-1945 and History 3618: Europe from the Cold War to the EU, which are 3000-level writing intensive courses.  

He also teaches the general education courses History 1010: Modern Western World which satisfies the Area II (Humanities) distribution requirement, as well as History 3030: World History Since 1500 which satisfies the Area IV (Other Cultures and Civilizations) distribution requirement, both as online, face-to-face, and hybrid courses. Rubin has also taught History 2900: The Historian’s Craft and FYE 2100: First Year Experience .  

Dr. Rubin has taught graduate seminars in historiography, modern Europe, and Europe and the World.  He welcomes applications from prospective graduate students at either the MA or the PhD level. (Click here for more information on applying)

Dr. Eli Rubin specializes in modern European history, German history, material culture, the history of the Cold War, and World War Two. Dr. Rubin is a recipient of the 2005 Fritz Stern Dissertation Award from the German Historical Institute in Washington, DC, as well as a 2-year postdoctoral fellowship from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation (2007-2009) during which time he was a visiting scholar at the Center for Contemporary Historical Research (Zentrum für zeithistorische Forschung) in Potsdam, Germany.  He was awarded the 2011 Western Michigan University Emerging Scholars’ Award

His first book, Synthetic Socialism: Plastics and Dictatorship in the German Democratic Republic (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2008) looked at the role of plastics in the areas of official policy and everyday life inside communist East Germany.  It argued that this simple material, taken for granted in the West, became a highly valued substance within the world of communism for its high-tech potential, its association with modern design, and the fact that it allowed East Germany to build a consumer society apart from the capitalist world. 

His second book, Amnesiopolis: Modernity, Space, and Memory in East Germanyexplores the construction of Marzahn, the largest prefabricated housing project in East Germany, built on the outskirts of East Berlin in the 1970s and 1980s and touted by the regime as the future of socialism. It focuses particularly on the experience of East Germans who moved, often from crumbling slums left over as a legacy of the nineteenth century, into this radically new place -- one defined by pure functionality and rationality -- a material manifestation of the utopian promise of socialism.

Amnesiopolis employs methodologies from critical geography, urban history, architectural history, environmental history, and everyday life history to ask whether their experience was a radical break with their personal pasts and the German past. Amnesiopolis asks: can a dramatic change in spatial and material surroundings sever the links of memory that tie people to their old life narratives, and if so, does that help build a new socialist mentality in the minds of historical subjects? The answer is yes and no -- as much as the East German state tried to create a completely new socialist settlement, divorced of any links to the pre-socialist past, the massive construction project uncovered the truth buried -- literally -- in the ground, which was that the urge to colonize the outskirts of Berlin was not new at all. Furthermore, the construction of a new city out of nothing, using repeating, identical buildings, created a panopticon-like effect, giving the Stasi the possibility of more complete surveillance than they previously had.
Rubin has also published articles in journals such as Central European History, German HistoryThe Bulletin of the German Historical InstituteHistory Workshop JournalThe Journal of Design History and edited volumes such as Consuming Germany in the Cold War edited by David Crew, and The Socialist Car: Automobility in the Eastern Bloc, edited by Lewis Siegelbaum.  He has forthcoming articles in Deutschland Archiv, and Imaginations

Rubin is currently working on a book project titled tentatively The Arc of Destruction: Materiality and Loss in Germany, 1937-1945.   Arc of Destruction focuses on the progressive stages of destruction in the physical, urban environments of Berlin and other German cities and towns beginning with Nazi urban renewal projects and continuing through the bombing and urban combat of the war, and finally the weeks and months immediately after the end of the war.   He is also working on a book of in-class teaching activities for use in Western Civ and AP European History courses with Annemarie Sammartino, entitled Stepping into the Past.   He is also the founder and co-coordinator of the German Socialisms Interdisciplinary Network within the German Studies Association.


Department of History
4301 Friedmann Hall
Western Michigan University
Kalamazoo MI 49008-5334 USA
(269) 387-4650 | (269) 387-4651 Fax