Institute of Advanced Studies (IAS)


Dr Alexander Petrusek

Alexander Petrusek is a historian of modern Germany, the environment, and the global Cold War. He is a SAVA Research Fellow at PACT, UCL Institute of Advanced Studies.

Alexander Petrusek is a historian of modern Germany, the environment, and the global Cold War. He completed his PhD in History at Rutgers University in January 2022, and holds a BA in History and a BA in Political Science from Arizona State University. His work draws upon methodologies in history, sociology, and social psychology to engage more deeply with the ideals that drove socialist activism, and this activism’s role in shaping our contemporary world.

Alexander’s first book project, Real Existing Ideals: East Germany and the Socialist Imaginary, 1945-1991, examines how socialist ideals, drawn from and developed through a broader socialist imaginary, shaped social, political, and cultural practices in the German Democratic Republic (GDR, or East Germany). This project pays special attention to the tensions between socialist ideals of economic growth and environmental protection, especially in the GDR’s last two decades. His second book project examines East German support for the Namibian independence movement during the Border War in southern Africa, and how the East German practices of solidarity criticized, and at times uncomfortably reflected, the South African state’s self-designated “civilizing mission” in Namibia and its underlying exploitative extractivism.

At the IAS, Alexander will work with the Socialist Anthropocene in the Visual Arts (SAVA) team in presenting distinctly socialist contributions to hitherto West- and capitalist-centric understandings of the Anthropocene. Through the Socialist Anthropocene framework, Alexander will explore East German socialists’ contributions to degrowth theory and activism in the 1970s and 1980s, specifically in utilizing the planned economy to equitably distribute increasingly scarce resources.