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uni'wissen 1-2013_ENG

fictional works like television series and novels. The 1991 action film Backdraft, which chronicles the exploits of two firefighter brothers in Chicago, still has an enormous influence. All of the recruits interviewed by Hochbruck had seen it, and the members of some firehouses said they watch it together regularly. However, the heroic image is less pronounced in some regions than in others. “In the Northwest, for instance, there are more forest fires than fires in buildings. As a result, firefighting is structured differently there.” In the rural South, the researcher adds, the fire departments are worse off and are held in less esteem since they were established later and often struggle to find enough recruits. Stronger Volunteer Culture in Germany American volunteer fire departments are currently suffering from an alarming drop in membership: Many of them have been combined with other departments, restructured to form pro­ fessional fire departments, or dissolved entirely. The concept of “fameworthiness” was originally the foundation of community service: Volunteers enjoy high recognition and esteem but do not expect any financial reward in return for their services. This concept has lost significance, as Hochbruck has found. While volunteer fire departments are still experiencing an influx of new recruits, many of them join in hopes of improving their prospects of being hired later by a professional department. If they don’t find a job, they often leave the volunteers soon after­ wards. If they do find one, of course, the volun­ teer fire department also loses them. Germany, by contrast, has a stronger culture of volun­ teerism. Still, according to Hochbruck the con­ cept of volunteerism has changed here as well and is no longer in line with the reality of modern firefighting. Volunteer rescue personnel must be willing to take on a great burden, for instance the necessity of being on call at all times and unfore­ seeable working hours. Hochbruck thus recom­ mends distinguishing this kind of volunteering from other kinds and finding a new definition for the concept. In capitalist societies, the researcher argues, the foundation for social behavior based on unselfishness is eroding. We live in post­heroic societies: There is still heroic behavior, but it is Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Hochbruck studied Ger- man, English, and history in Freiburg, Canada, and the USA. In 1990 he earned his PhD at the University of Freiburg, in 2001 his habilitation in Stuttgart. He then accepted a position as a professor at the Braun- schweig University of Technology. In 2003 he returned to the University of Freiburg, where he has since served as professor of North American studies at the Department of Eng- lish. He is academic dean of the Faculty of Philology, director of the master’s program in British and North American Cultural Studies, member of the Centre for Security and Society of the University of Freiburg, and deputy chair of the Carl-Schurz- Haus Freiburg (German- American Institute). He has been a volunteer fire- fighter for eleven years. Photo: Rudi Oswald Further Reading Hochbruck, W. (2013): „Rescue Me“: Das FDNY zehn Jahre nach 9­11. In: Hennigfeld, U./Packard, S. (Eds.) (2013): Abschied von 9/11? Distanznahmen zur Katastrophe. Berlin, pp. 153–172. Hochbruck, W. (in press): Feuerwehr ist kein Ehrenamt. In: Jenki, M./Ellebrecht, N./ Kaufmann, S. (Eds.): Organisationen und Experten des Notfalls. Zum Wandel von Technik und Kultur bei Feuerwehr und Ret­ tungsdiensten. Berlin. Hochbruck, W. (2007): Flashover! The fire­ fighter as one of American melodrama’s favorites. In: Mayer, R./Kelleter, F./Krah, B. (Eds.) (2007): Melodrama! The mode of excess from early America to Hollywood. Heidelberg, pp. 73–94 (= American Studies 145). no longer a part of the social contract. Instead, individual profit and personal economic advan­ tage have pushed themselves into the fore­ ground. The fire department thus has a more important role than ever before as a potentially democratizing element in society. Hochbruck sees it as a system in which the leadership role needs to be negotiated. Normally there will be a person who gives the commands, but group leaders must prove their worth to their col­ leagues in operations. In this regard, there is no absolute hierarchy. Moreover, the fire depart­ ment is a vivid example of democratic together­ ness and group­oriented teamwork in action. This leads to important learning effects: “In a firefighting operation I can’t be worried about whom I’m working with and whether I can stand someone personally,” explains Hochbruck, “and this attitude is transferable to society as a whole.” “In a firefighting operation I can’t be worried about whom I’m working with and whether I can stand someone personally” 23