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Zwischen Welten (Inbetween Worlds)

With actors Ronald Zehrfeld and Mohamad Mohsen.

Ronald Zehrfeld and Mohamad Mohsen star as Jesper, a German soldier in Afghanistan, and his interpreter Tarik, whose friendship is tested by the bitter realities of the conflict in Afghanistan and by the demands of their respective cultures. When Tarik’s sister is threatened, Jesper is caught between his duties as an occupier and his burgeoning connection with the humanity of the occupied.

Links: IMDB
Genre(s): Drama, War

Posted in Filmography |

Willkommen bei den Hartmanns

With actors Erik Kabongo and Elyas M’Barek.

A wealthy Munich family decides to take in a Nigerian refugee, Diallo (Erik Kabongo), but their open hearts have not prepared them for the reality of Germany’s intolerance. This highly topical comedy attempts to bring both levity and insight to the pressing nexus of issues around Germany’s development as an “immigrant nation.”

Links: IMDB
Genre(s): Comedy; Drama

Posted in Filmography |

Wir sind jung. Wir sind stark (We Are Young. We Are Strong)

With actors Devid Striesow and Jonas Nay.

Director Burhan Qurbani’s drama presents a fictionalized version of the events of the 1992 Rostock-Lichtenhagen riots, in which xenophobic mobs attacked migrant living quarters while thousands of onlookers cheered them. The film’s nuanced characterizations present a complex picture of the participants in the riots, illustrating how the moral fabric of society can break down.

Links: IMDB
Genre(s): Drama, Historical

Posted in Filmography |

Victoria

With actors Laia Costa and Frederick Lau.

Shot in a single take, Victoria follows the title character, an adventurous young Spanish woman who moves to Berlin after failing in her career aspirations as a concert pianist. There, she becomes entangled in the criminal schemes of four men who enlist her help as a getaway driver in their bank heist.

Links: IMDB
Genre(s): Drama

Posted in Filmography |

Tschick

With actors Alexander Scheer and Uwe Bohm.

Director Fatih Akin’s film is an adaptation of Wolfgang Herrndorf’s 2010 novel Tschick (Why We Took the Car), widely considered unfilmable. The film follows two teenagers (Alexander Scheer, Uwe Bohm) who steal a car and take a road trip through Eastern Germany, discovering the country and themselves in a touching and comical coming-of-age romp.

Links: IMDB
Genre(s): Comedy; Drama

Posted in Filmography |

Vor der Morgenröte (Stefan Zweig: Farewell to Europe)

With actors Josef Hader and Barbara Sukowa.

This European coproduction chronicles the exile of Stefan Zweig, the Austrian Jewish author who fled Austria to Brazil in 1936. In South America, Zweig (Josef Hader) struggles to carve out his own nuanced perspective on Germany and the war, independently of the polarization of the political extremes. At the same time, his time in Brazil brings him into contact with a new world that will change his life and writing forever.

Links: IMDB
Genre(s): Drama; Biography

Posted in Filmography |

Nicht ohne uns! (Not Without Us!)

Documentary filmmaker Sigrid Klausmann travels around the world to tell the different stories of children seeking education. Spanning five continents, the film takes us through the disparate, arduous, and sometimes perilous routes young people take in navigating their disparate circumstances, including crime, exploitation, and war, on the way to realizing their basic human right to education.

Links: IMDB
Genre(s): Documentary

Posted in Filmography |

Morris from America

With actors Craig Robinson and Markees Christmas.

When his father (Craig Robinson), a widower and soccer coach, moves to Germany for a job, 13-year-old Morris (Markees Christmas) must adapt to life in a totally new environment. He tries to fit in at his new school, but faces social rejection from his peers. As his father, too, struggles to connect and to move on from his wife’s death, Morris struggles with racism, culture shock, the language barrier, infatuation, and his budding talent for rapping.

Links: IMDB
Genre(s): Comedy; Drama; Romance

Posted in Filmography |

Meyer aus Berlin

With actors Ernst Lubitsch and Ossi Oswalda.

This early silent classic stars director Ernst Lubitsch as Sally Meyer, a young Jewish playboy in Berlin who devises a ruse to convince his wife that he is ill while he pursues erotic adventures in the Swiss Alps. In a twist, he ends up in the Bavarian Alps by mistake, donning the guise of a Tyrolean and becoming wrapped up in a comical web of deception and misunderstanding that comes to a head when Meyer’s wife and fiancée both arrive to crash Meyer’s party.

Links: IMDB
Genre(s): Comedy; Romance

Posted in Filmography |

Fack ju Göhte (Suck Me Shakespeer)

With actors Karoline Herfurth and Elyas M’Barek.

In the blockbuster romantic comedy Fack ju Göhte, Karoline Herfurth and Elyas M’Barek play Lisi Schnabelstedt and Zeki Müller, polar opposites whose paths cross when small-time crook Zeki, just released from prison, takes a job at the Goethe-Gesamtschule as part of a scheme to recover an unsavory creditor’s lost loot. Ms. Schnabelstedt’s hapless classroom management and Mr. Müller’s streetwise rapport with the students put them at odds, but soon enough, sparks begin to fly just as Mr. Müller’s criminal past catches up with him.

Links: IMDB
Genre(s): Comedy; Romance

Posted in Filmography |

Fack ju Göhte 2 (Suck Me Shakespeer 2)

With actors Karoline Herfurth and Elyas M’Barek.

In the sequel to the blockbuster romantic comedy Fack ju Göhte, Karoline Herfurth and Elyas M’Barek return as Lisi Schnabelstedt and Zeki Müller, an unlikely couple of teachers at the Goethe-Gesamtschule. Ms. Schnabelstedt and Mr. Müller, now an item, are tasked with improving the school’s image by taking their students on a trip to a high school in Thailand. As one might expect, things don’t go smoothly, and hijinks ensure.

Links: IMDB
Genre(s): Comedy; Romance

Posted in Filmography |

Kulturelle und Politische Partizipation? Ein Interview with Mutlu Ergün-Hamaz

In addition to English-language translations and original posts, the MGP blog also provides a space for creative and critical work in German that may be of interest to our readers. In this post, MGP contributor Daniel Schreiner talks to German-Turkish scholar, author, performer, and activist Mutlu Ergün-Hamaz on representing marginalization and hybridity and what it means to be “of Color” in Germany . 

Mutlu Ergün-Hamaz

Ähnlich wie Zafer Şenocak, Ferdiun Zaimoglu oder Serdar Somuncu engagiert sich der Berliner Soziologe, Kabarettist, Schriftsteller und Anti-Rassismus-Trainer Mutlu Ergün-Hamaz mit unterschiedlichen Kunstformen und in seinen wissenschaftlichen Arbeiten[1] gegen Rassismus in der BRD. So ist der an der in der Soziologischen Abteilung der London School of Economics promovierende Autor von „Kara Günlük – Die geheimen Tagebücher des Sesperado” beispielsweise als White-Awareness- und Empowerment-Trainer[2] beim Verein Phoenix und als Redakteur bei dem von Deniz Utlu gegründeten Magazin freitext tätig.[3] Gemeinsam mit Noah Sow[4] kreierte Ergün das Satireprogramm „Edutainment-Attacke“, mit dem die beiden in den Jahren 2008 bis 2012 in der Öffentlichkeit auftraten. Seit 2010 betätigt sich Ergün zudem als Mitherausgeber für die Edition „insurrection notes“ im Unrast Verlag, in der Autor_innen of Color ihre Prosatexte veröffentlichen können und unterhält als @sesperado einen Twitter Account zu politischen Themen.

2010 erschien – ebenfalls im Unrast Verlag – Mutlu Ergün-Hamaz´ Debüt-Roman „Kara Günlük[5] – Die geheimen Tagebücher des Sesperado“, in dem sich der namenlos bleibende Ich-Erzähler in einer selbstironischen Weise an die fiktiven Leser seiner Aufzeichnungen wendet, um von seinem persönlichen Einsatz gegen die rassistischen Strukturen der weißen Dominanzgesellschaft in Berlin zu berichten.

Bei dem titelgebenden Begriff „Sesperado“ handelt es sich um einen Neologismus. Das türkische Wort „Ses“/Lärm verändert im Folgenden die Semantik des Wortes Desperado: Der Ich-Erzähler handelt nicht als ein schweigsamer prototypischer „loup solitaire“, sondern schlägt Lärm und weist auf die sozialen Missstände in seiner Lebenswelt hin. Gemeinsam mit seinen Freunden führt er zahlreiche gewaltfreie kulturell ausgerichtete Guerilla- Aktionen durch, die die hegemonialen Mythen und den Dominanz-Anspruch einer auf Kategorien von Blut und Boden beruhenden deutschen Leitkultur auf humorvolle Art und Weise in Frage stellen.

Besondere Originalität erhält der Roman dadurch, dass Ergün-Hamaz den Erzähltext mit Fußnoten versieht, in denen der studentische türkisch-deutsche Ich-Erzähler ergänzende – teils biographische und teils wissenschaftliche – Kommentare einfließen lässt, die intertextuell mit Ergün-Hamaz´ soziologischen Texten und seinen kulturkritischen und partizipatorischen Ansätzen verwoben sind.[6]


DS: Hast du literarische Vorbilder, die dein Arbeiten beeinflussen? Welche sind es?

ME: Literarische Vorbilder habe ich viele. Dies sind Autor_innen wie Octavia Butler, Franz Kafka, May Ayim, Yaşar Kemal, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Chinua Achebe, James Baldwin, Haruki Murakami, Maya Angelou, Toni Morrison, um nur einige wenige zu nennen. Auch die Comics von Aaron McGruder haben einen starken Einfluss auf mein Schreiben und als Kind und Teenager habe ich ganz viel die Satiren von Ephraim Kishon (damals hatte ich natürlich keine Ahnung von seinen politics) gelesen. Ich lese total gerne Science-Fiction oder Speculative Fiction von Autor_innen of Color.

DS: Du beschäftigst dich nicht nur als Autor und Performer mit Ausgrenzungsstrategien, Rassismus und Partizipation, sondern auch wissenschaftlich als Pädagoge und Soziologe mit diesen Themen und hast einige Zeit in England zugebracht, das wie die BRD oder die USA ebenfalls ein Einwanderungsland ist. Inwiefern ähnelt die Situation in UK den Bedingungen in Deutschland. Muss der „Sesperado“ in England ähnliche Kämpfe austragen wie in der BRD?

ME: Ich bin gerade etwas unsicher, ob sich die Frage an mich oder meine Romanfigur, den „Sesperado“ richtet. Auch wenn viele das glauben, sind der „Sesperado“ und ich nicht ein und dieselbe Person. Es stecken viele semi-biographische Elemente im „Sesperado“, aber ob er ähnliche Kämpfe in England auszutragen hat, kann ich nicht sagen, weil ich diesen Teil des Buches nicht geschrieben habe und mit großer Wahrscheinlichkeit auch nicht schreiben werde. Aus meiner persönlichen Erfahrung kann ich natürlich sagen, dass ich in England, ähnlich wie auch in Deutschland Rassismuserfahrungen gemacht habe. Ich sage „ähnlich“, weil der Rassismus in England eine leicht andere Qualität hat, er ist dort wesentlich subtiler. Ich sage immer gerne, der Rassismus in England wurde mir immer mit einer Tasse Tee und einem Tröpfchen Milch serviert. Natürlich schaffen multikulturelle Politiken unterschiedliche Realitäten in England als in Deutschland, welches mehr mit dem Konzept der Assimilation arbeitet. Ich habe manchmal den Eindruck, dass in England der Diskurs zum Thema Rassismus uns in Deutschland hier um circa ein Jahrzehnt voraus ist. Spannend aber finde ich viel mehr, sich die Strukturen anzuschauen: Schaffen diese Diskurse auch andere Strukturen? Und da stelle ich oft fest, dass der strukturelle Rassismus (also Diskriminierung im Bildungssystem, Wohnungsmarkt, Arbeitsmarkt etc.) in England ähnlich stark ist, wie er das in Deutschland ist. Für mich persönlich spielt es keine Rolle, ob ich am Bahnhof Zoo oder London Liverpool Street angehalten werde, um mich auszuweisen, racial profiling bleibt racial profiling.

DS: In den USA ist die Diskussion über „Class & Race“ meines Erachtens nach um einiges klarer und heftiger als in Deutschland und es gibt eine lange Tradition von Bürgerrechtsbewegungen wie dem Chicano-Movimiento, dem Black Civil Rights Movement oder der aktuellen Black Lives Matter-Bewegung. Gibt es ähnliche Bewegungen in Deutschland z.B. auch bei Türk-Deutschen und wenn nicht, warum nicht? Ist der „Sesperado“ alleine?

ME: Die türkisch/kurdisch/anatolische Community ist noch weit von einer Art Bürgerrechtsbewegung, wie sie in den Staaten existiert hat, entfernt. Ich glaube, dass einige von uns vielleicht noch einige Jahrzehnte brauchen werden, um emotional in diesem Land anzukommen. Ehrlich gesagt, weiß ich auch nicht genau, was los ist, vielleicht geht es uns einfach zu gut, vor allem wenn wir dies mit dem Leben in der Türkei vergleichen. Ich glaube, das Sozialsystem in Deutschland, auch wenn es immer weiter runtergeschraubt wird, buffert viel von dem sozialen Sprengstoff ab. Vielleicht haben sich die türkischen/kurdischen/anatolischen Deutschen auch zu sehr der Protestkultur in Deutschland angepasst, die meines Erachtens nicht sehr ausgeprägt ist. Wenn ich das mal etwas sarkastisch ausdrücken darf, so war die einzige wirklich „erfolgreiche“ Revolution in Deutschland die nationalsozialistische. Bei der Gezi-Park-Bewegung haben wir gesehen, wie in der Türkei Protest auch aussehen kann. Ich befürchte leider auch, dass viel dieser negativen Energie, welche durch Marginalisierung und Unterdrückung entstehen, von Salafisten und Co. eingefangen und auf einer Art und Weise kanalisiert werden, welche mir überhaupt nicht passt. Aber abgesehen davon, glaube ich, dass mehr auf der Straße passiert als wir wissen und erfahren sollen. Ich glaube, das ist das viel größere Problem. Die Communities könnten sich zwar noch viel stärker miteinander vernetzen und da gibt es schon einige gute Leute, die sich für Koalitionsarbeit und Intersektionalität einsetzen. Wer weiß, was da noch für kreative Formen des Protestes es bereits gibt und welche noch entstehen werden. Daher glaube ich nicht, dass der „Sesperado“ alleine ist.

DS: In meiner Dissertation zur türkisch-deutschen und zur mexikanisch-amerikanischen Literatur komme ich nicht darum umher, Autor_innen mit einordnenden Begriffen bezüglich ihrer Herkunft zu belegen. Dies möchte ich eigentlich nicht, da das ein diskursiver Vorgang ist und zu unsäglichen Begriffen wie dem „Migrationshintergrund“ führt und den Autoren und Menschen nicht gerecht wird. Für den amerikanischen Bereich ist dies um einiges einfacher, da es hier eine selbstbewusste Tradition mit der Eigenbezeichnung gibt, die sich Fremdzuordnungen widersetzt hat. Was schlägst du vor?

ME: Ich schlage vor: Abwarten und Tee trinken! Vor zwanzig Jahren waren wir noch Ausländer, dann Migrant_innen, danach Menschen mit Migrationshintergrund oder Migrationsgeschichte. Manche arbeiten mit den nationalen oder geographischen Konstrukten, türkische/kurdische/anatolische Deutsche, Afrodeutsche etc. In bestimmten politischen Räumen kursieren auch Begriffe wie People of Color. Ich weiß, es kann manchmal frustrierend oder verwirrend sein, aber ich finde es sinnvoll zu schauen, mit welchen Eigenbezeichnungen arbeiten die Leute und sich zunächst diesen anzunehmen. Ich persönlich finde den Begriff „People of Color“ zurzeit am passendsten. Ich weiß, der Begriff kommt aus dem Amerikanischen und hat seine Grenzen, aber als Kampfbegriff finde ich ihn toll, weil er dieses Teile-und-Herrsche-Prinzip der weißen Vorherrschaft untergräbt, in dem es all das zusammenfasst, was nicht weiß ist. Mir geht es viel weniger um Identitätspolitik, sondern viel mehr um Begriffe, mit denen ich Machtstrukturen benennen und verändern kann.

Ich hatte mal eine weiße Deutsch-Amerikanerin bei mir im Training und sie meinte, die Leute lachen sie aus, wenn sie sagt, dass sie Migrationshintergrund hat. Der dominante Diskurs fasst unter diesem Begriff oft einfach nur nicht-Weiße zusammen, egal wie lange diese Menschen schon in Deutschland leben oder nicht. Aber PoC ist eben auch eine Selbstbezeichnung, ich würde niemanden dazu zwingen sich so zu nennen, das müssen die Leute für sich selbst entscheiden.

DS: Begriffe und Ideen wie People of Color, Critical Whiteness scheinen in der BRD nicht weit verbreitet zu sein und auf das studentische Milieu in Frankfurt oder Berlin begrenzt zu sein. Statt radikaler Reaktion im Sinne des „Sesperado“ scheint man sich eher innerhalb bestehender politischer Systeme seine partizipatorische Nische zu suchen oder organisiert sich religiös. Ist das so, oder kenne ich mich einfach nicht genug aus?

ME: Ich weiß nicht genau, wonach du suchst, aber insbesondere in der Kunst und in der Kultur passieren wahnsinnig spannende Dinge mit diesen Begriffen und Konzepten. Auch gibt es viele zivilgesellschaftliche Vereine und Organisationen, die eine ganz andere Sprache sprechen, als dies der dominante Mainstream tut. Sicherlich ist der Diskurs an den Universitäten manchmal etwas dichter, aber da würde ich es auch nicht nur auf Berlin und Frankfurt reduzieren. Durch meine Arbeit reise ich sehr viel und lerne die verschiedensten Leute kennen. Ich spreche mit immer mehr Leuten diese Sprache. Klar könnten es noch viel mehr sein, aber daran müssen wir eben arbeiten. Ja, noch sind die Religiösen und die „partizipatorischen Nischen“ in der Mehrzahl, aber irgendwann werden sich viele Leute auch von denen enttäuscht abwenden und nach Alternativen suchen. Einige gibt es ja bereits, wie zum Beispiel Phoenix e.V., einer der größten antirassistischen NGOs in Deutschland, der seit über 20 Jahren aktiv ist und bereits mehr als 400 Mitglieder hat. Und noch vieles mehr.

DS: Wie siehst du die Entwicklung der multikulturellen Gesellschaft in Deutschland in Anbetracht von Islamophobie und Manifestationen wie Pegida? Erleben wir gerade eine Medienhysterie, in der die Fragmentierung der Gesellschaft nur zutage tritt, weil eben nur “bad Muslims and bad racists good news” sind oder erleben wir gerade eine Self-Fullfilling-Prophecy des Kampfes der Kulturen? Wie kann man das Ausgrenzen und „Othering“ zivilgesellschaftlich und politisch stoppen?

ME: Ähnlich wie Edward Said glaube ich nicht an einen Kampf der Kulturen, sondern viel mehr an einen Kampf um kulturelle Definitionen. Weiße haben immer noch sehr viel Definitionsmacht und empowern in den Talkshows und Nachrichten, jene Muslime, wie die Salafisten und die IS, die sich nahtlos in ein dualistisches Freund/Feind-Schema einfügen lassen indem sie ihnen viel mehr Aufmerksamkeit schenken und jene Stimmen, die eine, ich nenne es mal, humanistische Lesart des Islam praktizieren, viel zu wenig Aufmerksamkeit schenken – vielleicht weil diese auch anti-islamischen Rassismus zu stark thematisieren. Pegida ist ein Symptom eines verrohenden, menschenfeindlichen Bürgertums, insofern also einer gesellschaftlichen Zerfallserscheinung. Ich glaube, Deutschland muss sich als multirassischer, pluralistischer Staat neu erfinden. Das funktioniert in erster Linie über Selbstrepräsentation von People of Color, politisch und medial. Wir brauchen einen Diskurs in Deutschland, der sich mit der Frage beschäftigt, was ist Menschlichkeit und wie können wir sie allen Menschen in dieser Gesellschaft gewähren. Dabei gilt es nicht wieder denen zuzuhören, welche sowieso die Definitionsmacht haben, sondern jenen, denen Menschlichkeit permanent in unserer Gesellschaft verweigert wird.

DS: Dem „Sesperado“ scheint Religiosität nur in Bezug auf kulturelle Anerkennung wichtig zu sein. Wie würdest du diesen Aspekt für dich definieren?

ME: Ich denke, dass das eine sehr persönliche Frage ist und dass ich das denke, sagt dir sehr viel über meine Religiosität aus, falls das deine Frage ist. Ich denke, dass jeder für sich persönlich auf seine, ihre spirituelle Suche gehen muss. Spiritualität fasse ich hier sehr weit, selbst Atheist_innen können nach irgendeiner Form der kosmischen Sinnhaftigkeit suchen. Religiosität ist mir in Bezug auf kulturelle Anerkennung wichtig, aber ich bin kein Kulturrelativist. Da wo Religion oder Kultur entmenschlicht, da ziehe ich eine Grenze, dass muss ich nicht anerkennen.

DS: Der mexikanisch-amerikanische Autor Richard Rodriguez wurde durch seine Autobiographie „Hunger of Memory” und seiner darin geäußerten Kritik an Programmen zur Bilingualität und Affirmative Action bekannt und zu einem Liebling der Konservativen, während die Vorkämpfer der Chicano-Bewegung[7] in ihm einen „right-wing sell-out“ sahen. Er sagt, dass er erst durch das Heimischwerden im Englischen auch das Gefühl bekam Rechte in der Öffentlichkeit zu haben. Wie stehst du zu Fragen der Bilingualität und zum Konzept der Affirmative Action im öffentlichen Raum? 

ME: Ich finde Mehrsprachigkeit eine tolle Sache, ich bin selbst mit Deutsch und Türkisch aufgewachsen und es ist ein Geschenk für mich beide Sprachen sprechen zu können. Kinder sind total in der Lage mehrsprachig aufzuwachsen, mein Kind spricht bereits mit zwei Jahren drei Sprachen, warum sollten wir das unseren Kindern vorenthalten? Warum sollte es im öffentlichen Raum keine Möglichkeiten geben, die Vielfalt unserer Gesellschaft widerzuspiegeln? Ich persönlich bin ein großer Fan von Quoten und Affirmative Action. Ich hoffe die Frauenquote wird bald für die gesamte Bundesrepublik Geltung haben und nicht nur für Unternehmen, die an der Börse sind. Und warum soll es dann nicht auch eine Quote für PoC geben? Wichtig ist aber auch, dass die Leute nachfühlen müssen können, warum es sie gibt, sonst sehen wir einen „Weißen Backlash“ wie wir dies derzeit in den USA erleben. Es muss über das kognitive Verstehen hinausgehen, das Nachfühlen ist extrem wichtig. Der britische Sozialpsychologe Farhad Dalal sagt, wenn eine Gesellschaft nach „Rasse“ strukturiert ist, dann ist auch unsere Psyche nach „Rasse“ strukturiert und eine nach „Rasse“ strukturierte Psyche reproduziert eine nach „Rasse“ strukturierte Gesellschaft. Ich kann die Strukturen verändern, aber ich muss auch die Psyche der Menschen, die in diesen Strukturen leben und handeln mitnehmen.

DS: Kennst du Murad Durmaz Buch „Panoptikum. Deutschland den Türken: Oder: Wie kann man diese Türken nur assimilieren?” Hat es eine Rolle bei der Entstehung des „Sesperado“gespielt?

ME: Nein, ich kenne das Buch nicht und daher hat es auch in der Entstehung des „Sesperado“ keine Rolle gespielt. Was eine zentrale Rolle in der Entstehung des „Sesperado“ gespielt hat, waren die „tausend worte tief“ Lesungen, welche ich zwischen 2003 und 2006 in Berlin-Kreuzberg, im Cafe :vorWien zusammen mit Deniz Utlu gemacht habe. Da habe ich einmal im Monat ein Kapitel des „Sesperado“ vorgelesen und an einem überwiegend POC-Publikum auch austesten können, was witzig ist und was nicht. Das war eine fantastische Gelegenheit und ohne diese Lesungen und das Publikum hätte es auch keinen „Sesperado“ gegeben.

DS: Wen erreichst du mit deiner Prosa? Der „Sesperado“ ist wirklich ein besonderes Buch, wie wird es wahrgenommen und hast du den Ehrgeiz weiter als Schriftsteller Fuß zu fassen? Welchen Erwartungen begegnest du bei den Verlagen? Kommt es vor, dass Verlage dich typologisieren wollen und von dir Migrationsliteratur erwarten?

ME: Bevor ich das Buch beim Unrast Verlag veröffentlicht habe, habe ich mit einer recht großen Literaturagentur geflirtet. Wer weiß, bei welchem Verlag das Buch hätte erscheinen können. Aber es hat nicht geklappt, da hat etwas ganz klar mit der Kommunikation nicht gestimmt und wer weiß, auf welche Art und Weise sie den Roman hätten verbiegen wollen. Beim Unrast Verlag hatte ich das Privileg den Roman auf eine Art und Weise zu veröffentlichen, wo ich keine inhaltlichen oder politischen Kompromisse eingehen musste. Ich glaube, vielleicht wäre mein Buch auch einfach in einem anderen Verlag untergegangen? Der Unrast Verlag erreicht ein akademisches, linkes, antifaschistisches und auch immer mehr „People of Color“- Publikum. Eine bessere Zielgruppe könnte ich mir nicht wünschen. In diesen Kreisen zirkuliert mein Buch und in diesem Jahr, 5 Jahre nach seinem Erscheinen, werde ich immer noch zu Lesungen eingeladen. Spannenderweise werden es immer mehr. Aber noch bin ich nicht an dem Punkt angekommen, dass ich nur vom Schreiben leben könnte. Ich weiß auch gar nicht, ob ich das will. Das ist mir wohl etwas zu prekär. Außerdem mag ich meine akademische und politische Arbeit auch zu sehr. Priorität hat derzeit meine Familie, danach erst kommen Bücher.

DS: Hast du Akif Pirinçcis „Deutschland von Sinnen” gelesen?[8] Was treibt jemanden wie ihn um? Geht es nur um das Geld? Und warum ist jemand wie Zafer Şenocak im akademischen Umfeld in den USA mehr bekannt als in Deutschland?

ME: Nein, ich habe „Deutschland von Sinnen“ nicht gelesen. Ich nehme an, dass es ums Geld und die Medienaufmerksamkeit geht. Pirinçci und Co. lassen sich halt vom anti-islamischen Mainstream funktionalisieren. Das kann auch mit verinnerlichtem Rassismus zu tun haben.

Zafer Şenocak ist nicht der einzige Autor of Color, der im Ausland bekannter ist als in Deutschland. Woran das liegt? Warum wandern immer mehr Akademiker_innen of Color aus Deutschland aus, die trotz bester Qualifikationen keine Arbeit in Deutschland bekommen – und das obwohl „Fachkräftemangel“ in Deutschland herrscht. Wieder, diese Leute werden im Ausland mit Handkuss genommen, es gibt in Deutschland so etwas wie ein „Brain-of-Color-Drain“. Das hat ganz einfach mit Rassismus zu tun, die Bilder, welche die Weiße Mehrheitsgesellschaft, insbesondere über anatolische Deutsche hat, passt einfach nicht damit zusammen, dass sie auch erfolgreiche Akademiker_innen oder Künstler_innen sein könnten. Ihr Talent wird ganz einfach nicht wahrgenommen. Im Ausland herrschen nicht unbedingt die gleichen Bilder vor und dort kann es dann möglich sein, dass du dort mehr Aufmerksamkeit oder Arbeit findest als in Deutschland. Auch ich bin noch gespannt, wie es weitergehen wird für mich in Deutschland, wenn ich meinen Ph.D gemacht habe.

Auf eine gute Chance auf Erfolg in diesem Land stelle ich mich nicht zwangsläufig ein.

Daniel Schreiner is a PhD student at the Universität Bonn in Germany.


[1] Ergün, Mutlu: Hayal. Poetische Reflektionen zu Weiß-Sein. In: Eggers, Maisha, Kilomba, Gerda, Piesche, Peggy und Arndt, Susan (Hrsg.), Mythen, Masken & Subjekte. Unrast Verlag: Münster, 2005.

[2] Eine Einführung ins White-Awareness Training ist Katz, Judith: White Awareness: Handbook for Anti-Racism Training. University of Oklahoma Press, 2003.

[3] Im Magazin Freitext (Verlag Freitext Hannover) sind folgende Artikel von Mutlu Ergün erschienen: Micheal Muhammad Knight – The Taqwacores: Die Prophezeiung einer muslimischen Punk-Rock Szene. In Freitext, Vol. 16 (2) 2010: S. 20-24.

Rote Pille – Schmerz zulassen: Die Sozialpsychologie der Rassifizierung. In Freitext, Vol. 15 (1) 2010: S. 16-19.

Schwarze Bilder – Schwarze Zeichner – People of Color als Autoren von gezeichneten Romanen (Gaphic Novels) und Comics. In Freitext, Vol. 14 (2) 2009: S. 16-19.

Larissa Lai: Gender in Fantasy – Mythen, Sexualität und Zukunft in chinesisch-kanadischer spekulativer Fiktion. in Freitext, Vol. 12 (2) 2008: S. 30-37.

Octavia Butler: Race in Space. In Freitext, Vol. 11 (1) 2008: S. 19-24.

Kultur: Dominanz und Widerstand. In Freitext, Vol. 10 (2) 2007: S. 36-40.

James Earl Hardy – HipHop & Homosexualität. In Freitext, Vol. 9 (1)2007: S. 8-11.

Tausend Worte tief – Teil 1 – Eine Stimme aus dem post-migrantischen Widerstand. In Freitext, Vol. 9 (1) 2007: S. 34-36.

[4] Noah Sow ist Journalistin, Musikerin und Anti-Rassismusaktivistin. Sow, Noa: Deutschland Schwarz Weiss. Der alltägliche Rassismus. Goldmann Verlag: München, 2008.

[5] Kara ist das türkische Wort für schwarz und geheim. Günlük bedeutet täglich.

[6] Als Beispiel soll dieser Fußnotentext von Ergün-Hamaz dienen: „War letztens auf einer ähnlichen Veranstaltungen der Black-Community gewesen. Es waren nur Leute mit afrikanischem Hintergrund da, daher war ich mir unsicher, wie willkommen ich bin. Aber die Leute waren cool, die Verantwortliche sprach mich an und sagte, sie verstünden „Schwarz“ als einen politischen Begriff, alle Menschen, die von Rassismus betroffen sind und ethnisiert werden, wären damit gemeint. Also mich eingeschlossen. Ich kenne diesen Ansatz und wir kamen gut miteinander klar. Das ist leider nicht selbstverständlich. Viel zu häufig kommt es zu gegenseitigen Diskriminierungen und auf einmal werden Unterschiede, die anerkannt und respektiert werden sollten, zu einer scheinbar unüberwindlichen Barriere. Aber hier schien es wirklich anders zu sein und obwohl ich sozusagen der einzige P.O.C. mit anatolischem Hintergrund in der Runde gewesen bin, war es völlig in Ordnung. Und ich konnte locker sein. Gut, danach bin ich erst einmal ins Solarium gegangen. Nur um auf Nummer sicher zu gehen, nicht dass ich irgendjemand denkt, ich sei Weißer.“ In: Kara Günlük – Die geheimen Tagebücher des Sesperado. S. 25.

[7] Neben der schwarzen Bürgerrechtsbewegungen um Martin Luther King oder Malcom X formierte sich in den 1960er Jahren auch das Chicano-Movimiento im Südwesten der USA. Farmarbeiter, Gewerkschafter, Studenten, Aktivisten und Schriftsteller forderten mit Arbeitsniederlegungen, Sit-Ins, Walk Outs und Demonstrationen die kulturelle und politische Gleichberechtigung für Mexican-Americans. Siehe ausführlich u.A. in Gonzales, Manuel G.: Mexicanos. A history of the Mexicans in the United States. Indiana University Press: Bloomington, 2009. Die türkisch-deutsche mit der mexikanisch-amerikanischen Partizipation zu vergleichen ist äußerst interessant und ergiebig, zumal die Prozesse in Deutschland und in den USA unterschiedlich ablaufen und viel über die Machtdiskurse in den einzelnen Ländern verraten. Eine vergleichende Übersichtsarbeit zur Entwicklung der mexikanisch-amerikanischen und türkisch-deutschen Literatur und ihre Interdependenz mit der jeweiligen politischen Zeitgeschichte in den USA und der BRD ist Schreiner, Daniel: Vom Dazugehören – Schreiben als kulturelle und politische Partizipation. Mexikanisch-Amerikanische und Türkisch-Deutsche Literatur im Vergleich. (Promotion Universität Bonn; voraussichtliche Veröffentlichung Sommer 2017).

[8] Akif Pirinçci war der erste türkisch-deutsche Bestsellerautor. Sein Katzen-Krimi „Felidae“ (Goldmann Verlag) aus dem Jahr 1989 wurde sogar ins Englische übersetzt und verfilmt. Nach Jahren der Erfolglosigkeit ist Pirinçci nun als Verfasser kruder verschwörungstheoretischer „Sachbücher“ einmal mehr erfolgreich. Sein Buch „Deutschland von Sinnen. Der irre Kult um Frauen, Homosexuelle und Zuwanderer. (Edition Sonderwege, Manuscriptum Verlagsbuchhandlung, Waltrop, 2014) und die Folgeveröffentlichungen sind allesamt frauenfeindlich, rassistisch und homophob.

Posted in Kunst und Sonstiges, Uncategorized |

José F.A. Oliver’s First Letter from Istanbul

José F.A. Oliver is a contemporary German-language author of Spanish descent.  In 2013, he received the Stipendium der Kulturakademie Tarabya, spending four months as writer in residence in Istanbul and publishing 21 Gedichte aus Istanbul 4 Briefe & 10 Fotow:orte (2016), a collection of poetry, photography, and prose inspired by his experiences there.

Encountering firsthand the turbulence of the Gezi Park protests and the political persecution of students, artists, intellectuals, and activists in the months that followed, Oliver’s memoirs from this time have striking resonance three years later in the wake of Turkey’s failed military coup. In cooperation with the author, the MGP is pleased to offer a rolling preview of English-language editions of these poignant texts, translated by MGP contributor Jon Cho-Polizzi.

Istanbul – Letter One

It’s often windy on the Bosporus, and this first letter dangles like a fishing lure. I do not yet know how much line I’ll need to cast accurately. With what arc, with what force? Perhaps I am the bait. The water bites incessantly into the land, gnawing memories back into the sea. The fate of this continent-striding, 18 million inhabitant metropolis was ever won upon its waves: The sea! Be it unwarlike, the most beautiful Turkish word is yakamoz: “The moon reflected on the water.” The young men who leap into the Bosporus tonight will one day tell their children of its beauty. But only they. I have, as yet, seen no women bathing here along its shores. I eat fish and bread. The tiny wooden stools become familiar. The mackerels: Made in Norway.

At the quayside of Tarabya lies trampled a deceptively realistic carpet of artificial turf. The illusion all but perfect. Behind it, a concrete café. An ancient sheep dog dozes in the cooling shadow of a mulberry tree. A tangle of wildly matted fur. Tagged ear. Asleep. Unlike the city which never rests. The idle walker is inevitably reminded of the putrid street. Moth-eaten. Dog catchers abound. The hardline policemen are on the hunt, as well. Erratic swarms of yellowjackets. The air in Central Istanbul is heated, while Asia twinkles faint and peacefully matte across the waves. A tower of pearls, spirited away. Rolled out. The lights sparkle midnight blue, henna red, new copper. The quiet of the mosques warns in prophet green, even after the müezzinler fall silent. Sometimes their voices stumble on the air, and then their calls to prayer unfold like tangled cassette spools in the sky.

A short time ago, I heard the words: “Take only half of every story and you will stand within the shadow of the truth.” It dawned on me: Istanbul is not simply one truth, but an atlas of human reality. The margins of a puncture wound. The scars of history.

The Turkish navy have been crossing over the water road for several days now. More openly than usual. Thousands of Syrian refugees are already stranded here. The city has swallowed most: illicit work is cheaper. Istanbul sways with every moment of every age. A lesson in world events on the peripheries of Eurasia. The suppressed point to the prescribed silence. Disappearance paired with time-honored Ata Pride and a religious impress. Only gradually do I develop a sense for the chess rules of the country’s language. Of Turkish grammar. It seems as though one could string together words unendingly. Just as the city opens its maw, devouring the hinterlands. The homeless desperation of the slums; banking house minarets already burnished on the drawing boards. Affluence. Frigidity. Miniature Dubais for those servants of the stock exchange. Plate glass seraglio in Levant or Maslak. The contest of history where Byzantium once braved the Sea of Marmara, becoming Constantinople only to fade in turn. The Greeks and the Armenians are no more. Like so many others in this world congregation. I do not yet wish to speak of churches or of the synagogues. Only the Roma, coerced, resettled. They clamber through the districts and neighborhoods, carting loads of paper scraps like mules. Anatolia resounds throughout. On the İstiklâl Caddesi, the shopping mile, there are even Kurdish customs to observe. Yet this openness is only superficial prayer. Denied by the youth in the side streets and alleyways of Beyoğlu. And by their parents. Gazing westward. Not far from Gezi, nearby Taksim. Present. Just as the incessant tourist steamers drop their heavy anchors at the Golden Horn. A few hours of Orient. A dream bazaar. Most of these passengers know nothing of the god-fearing rituals in some neighborhoods of Fatih, or of the newest migrant language spilling over inevitably into these pious quarters. The gentle tongues of Russian women murmur for the oldest profession in these seaport towns.

In Kadıköy, in Asia—köy means village and kadı means judicial office—there stands a child-sized window mannequin. Wearing the flecktarn camouflage of war, blue-eyed and silent, she whispers of the coming unrest. With crescent moon and star and epaulets. An early start. Some call this newly molting era post-democracy. Not in Istanbul alone.

Posted in Blog, Kunst und Sonstiges |

Framing Migration: Timeline of the seminar

Feb. 17-18 – “Cinco Palmas”

A performance and workshop of the theatrical play about experiences of migration, facilitated by writer-director Martha Herrera-Lasso Gónzalez and dancer-choreographer Juan Manuel Aldape Muñoz, a Performance Studies PhD student and a participant in “Framing Migration.” While the plot follows the journey of an undocumented child from Honduras to Los Angeles, the play uses multiple media and modes of representation – including dance, spoken lines, and written text titles – to give expression to the complex (of) emotions that make up migrant experiences.

Feb. 22 – “Proxies and Placeholders”

This multimedia workshop with German artist and filmmaker Hito Steyerl was hosted by the Berkeley Center of New Media. The workshop, titled “Proxies and Placeholders,” featured excerpts from Steyerl’s work. Most prominently featured was her most recent experimental film Factory of the Sun, which uses a mix of media and modes to reimagine the relationship of human bodies and subjectivities vis-a-vis information and technology, evoking a dystopian vision of desire and protest in a future in which corporations are unfettered in both virtual and physical spaces.

Feb. 23 – “Loops of Migration”

This multilingual workshop with José F.A. Oliver, the celebrated German-born writer of Andalusian descent, was facilitated by seminar participant Jon Cho-Polizzi, who has translated Oliver’s work into English. Using texts that included German, English, and Spanish, Oliver explored the relationship between literature and migration from the 20th century through the present, weaving in his own autobiography as one strand of a looping, polyphonic narrative. Afterwards, the discussion focused, in equal parts, on Oliver’s personal experience and on analyses of nationalism, identity, and cultural production.

March 10-11 – “Actors-Approaches-Affordances: Circulating and Local Knowledges in European Ethnology”

This lecture and workshop with German folklorist and Berkeley alumna Regina Bendix, examined the circulation of nationally- and/or linguistically coded knowledge production within German-language scholarship. Building off of her seminal work In Search of Authenticity, Bendix discusses the ways in which larger facets of the education system canonize and privilege particular narratives—from teacher training to disciplinary categorization, canonical literature to popular cultural representations.

March 17 – “Exhibiting the Art of Migration”

A workshop with German anthropologist Barbara Wolbert on the need for art in exhibits about migration. Wolbert discussed the exhibition Projekt Migration, a collaboration between the art world and academia that “comprised a variety of research projects, art works, events and film programs. The assorted activities focused on the history of labor migration since the 1950s and the accompanying social changes.” In the discussion that followed Wolbert’s presentation, the seminar addressed questions about the ethics of representation in the German (multi)cultural context.

April 14-15 – “How to Identify a Refugee?: Literature and Law”

Our roundtable workshop featured seminar participants Abigail Stepnitz, Charlton Payne, and communications scholar and guest participant Marco Jacquemet.

Jacquemet’s paper focused on the semiotic dynamics at work in the processing of asylum applications – he asks, what information is inferred and implied in the application process itself? Abigail’s talk centered on the intersection of literary and legal testimonials, taking as its point of departure Primo Levy’s accounts of the Nazi concentration camps as well as more recent German performance art around the refugee crisis. Payne’s analysis concerned the representation of refugees in literature, including that of Jenny Erbenbeck.

May 5 – “Framing Migration: A Workshop”

The seminar’s concluding mini-conference featured term paper presentations by seminar participants. The event was emceed by MGP contributors Jon Cho-Polizzi and Abigail Stepnitz, and included papers from MGP contributors Juan Manuel Aldape Muñoz, Lisa Friedrich, Christine KorteAster Hoving and Kumars Salehi.

Posted in Blog, Project Updates (Home Page), Uncategorized |

Framing Migration: Our new blog

The Multicultural Germany Project blog is a project of the UC Berkeley Department of German in collaboration with others working in various fields of study and practice. In this space, the MGP brings together perspectives from different disciplines and backgrounds, all centered on themes of immigration/migration, race/ethnicity, minority experiences, and cultural exchange—hopefully, in a fun way.

The blog itself arose out of a graduate seminar called “Framing Migration” taught by Prof. Deniz Göktürk of the Department of German, which brought together a multidisciplinary group of contributors with specialties in Legal Studies, Performance Studies, Comparative Literature, and more, in addition to German Studies. Seminar participants wrote weekly blog posts on the course website reflecting on curricular and extracurricular materials, from feature films to museum exhibits, and relating those texts to their own scholarly and personal concerns.

As a result, not every post will have a direct connection to Germany or German-speaking societies: The through line is, rather, an engagement with topics that, regardless of their geographical and social specificity, have a bearing on multiple contexts, from the places where we were born to the places where we study to the places where we live.

Our new series of blog posts seeks to illuminate issues with relevance to contemporary debates about migration and immigration, drawing from and commenting on literature, cinema, performance, news media, academic scholarship, and other forms of cultural production.

If you’re interested in having your short (500-2000 word) blog post featured on the MGP blog, contact us via email at mcgermany@berkeley.edu with an idea or submission along with a short bio.

Posted in Blog, Project Updates (Home Page), Uncategorized |

Schlingensief’s remains: Crisis and cruelty

This post was workshopped in the graduate seminar “Framing Migration,” taught by Prof. Deniz Göktürk of the UC Berkeley Department of German. In this post, seminar participant Christine Korte analyzes the way in which a play by performance artist and theater/film director Christoph Schlingensief engages (and provokes) discourses around European cultural politics and the potential of avant-garde art. A version of this post is a part of Christine’s larger dissertation project on the Berliner Volksbühne, which she is currently working on and which will be finished and published soon.

Christoph Schlingensief, the late enfant terrible actionist and director of theatre, opera and film, who died at the age of 50 in 2010, left us with an unsettling legacy. This includes gory excesses, ethically-challenging provocation strategies, and the establishment of an entourage or charismatic community comprised of disabled persons and former Fassbinder stars (with Schlingensief at the helm). We can safely say that no contemporary German artist risked the personal and physical stakes in their artwork in such a public way as Schlingensief: exposing and sacrificing himself in the avant-garde tradition of the artist-as-martyr, albeit always in highly pre-planned actions.

For now, let’s bracket the absence in the current performance landscape in Germany in relation to the refugee crisis with consideration of how he might have responded. Schlingsief’s social type—the enfant terrible, the taboo transgressor, the tricksteris conspicuously absent today amidst more collective and documentary artistic efforts such as the Center for Political Beauty, or the postdramatic theatre of Elfriede Jelinek.

However, we must consider Schlingensief as part of the “vexed legacy” of the European avant-garde, as well as addressing his positionality by looking at the way he dealt with the events of September 11th in his production Atta Atta at the Volksbühne in 2003. Schlingensief’s artistic oeuvre could be summarized as making visible representational frames. His entire body of work is a subversive re-staging of media representations of otherness, from disabled persons to former neo-Nazis to refugees. Each production or action hovered on the edge of cruelty, questionable ethics, and audience assault, but managed to precisely locate the contradictions of the social order.

With Atta Atta, we must grapple with Schlingensief’s unsettling staging of European “Orientalism” and his over-identification with the actions of the suicide bombers. Yet, in spite of my unease with aspects of his work, I am trying to make a case for Schlingensief as avant-garde trickster who still has something to offer us, particularly in terms of destabilizing borders and vivifying social contradictions, as well as conveying the unresolved stakes of highly-gendered vitalist action. For Schlingensief, life-affirming action—or the will to creative agency—is part of a deeply human need to participate in narrating and shaping one’s world and hence to find a productive, sublimated form for fear, aggression and violence. By considering the bombers’ actions through this lens, Schlingensief explores the limits and ethical implications thereof by making himself the object of a working through of these propensities, both latent and overt, within himself.

Atta Atta, which premiered at the Volksbühne on the 23rd of January 2003, was a response to the attacks of September 11th, as well as to comments by the composer Karlheinz Stockhausen, who claimed that September 11th was “the greatest artwork of all time.” This quote—its invocation of simulacra and postmodern malaise—simultaneously re-stated the aims of the avant-garde to fundamentally alter the world. In the tradition of the historical avant-gardes specifically, this meant an “assault” on the Western European bourgeois order and its institutions ailing from decadence, conformism and solipsism. In The Century (2007), Alain Badiou calls this the avant-garde’s “passion for the real” and marks it as definitive for the 20th century.

As Stockhausen’s comment made explicit, Badiou’s observation that “the century does not hesitate to sacrifice the image so that the real may finally arise in the artistic gesture” seemed apt for considering the twin towers bombings as a manifesto-like intervention into the real, replete with the aspiration to martyrdom that defined the avant-garde historically. Stockhausen was obviously berated for the monstrous insensitivity of his comments, in particular by the German Left, who perceived his privileged position as an elite European male composer.

Schlingensief wasted no opportunity to seize upon the scandal and to probe deeply into the relationship between art and violence—between media representation and creative agency—in an “Attaismus” seminar, performance, and film. It was, however, difficult to discern at what level Schlingensief’s conceptual project was operating: a Dadaist mockery of an elite institution seriously “investigating” September 11th as “artwork”? A serious Left-wing interrogation of what Badiou cites as the West’s “desire for the real”?

The title, Atta Atta, for example, conveys Schlingensief’s deconstructive enterprise, his engagement with Derridean différance and Dadaist word play. Mohammed Atta, the name of one of the bombers, was the inspiration for Atta-Atta, which is like Da-da. Attavism (or Attaismus) refers to the avant-garde isms or to atavism, which derives from the Latin atavus meaning “ancestor”. Atavisma term rooted in evolutionary study—refers to instances when an organism possesses traits closer to a more remote ancestor, rather than its own parents. This endless chain of signification reveals shared traces and traits. It implies an ancestral connection between Mohammed Atta and Schlingensief, and anticipates the eruption of aggression and violence in Schlingensief that will further link them (here as elsewhere I am deeply indebted to Brechtje Beuker’s analysis of Atta Atta, which appears in this volume).

The two hour action-performance under discussion was filmed on March 23rd 2003 was comprised of two parts: the first, Part I, was more structured. On stage right: there was a couch for a fictional Prenzlauer Berg “art collective” that Schlingensief and his entourage are a part of. Stage left: another couch representing Schlingensief’s parents’ living room. In the middle: an artist’s painting studio. Two video screens above stage right and left show a group of well-known German actors meeting up “live” at the Brandenburg Gate to begin a march towards the Volksbühne. Shot in black and white, with indiscernible motivations guided by a live moderator, the footage was devised to create a feeling of uncertainty and danger.

The first part of the performance consisted of a series of loosely associated vignettes. We are privy to Schlingensief making an appeal to have his art collective’s film accepted into the Oberhausen festival, whilst making fun of an anaemic, ineffectual Berlin art scene which, in the face social crisis, “sells waffles in galleries at midnight”. His high school girlfriend “Inge” (played by Fabian Hinrichs) is a part of the collective and with her he discusses their traumatic- failed love affair, as well as a violent appendix eruption he had as a teenager that first unleashed his will to creative agency. Failed art projects, failed love and a first experience of excruciating pain launch the artist’s existential crisis and aggression.

The next scene is his parents’ living room. Schlingensief re-enacts his frustrated relationship to the petit bourgeois world of his parents and their inability to accept their son as artist. Failure and crisis in all domains lead Schlingensief to grab a chainsaw and enter a third space, a painting space, where he begins aggressively painting “NO YORK” on a canvas and shouting the slogan, “we have to organize the world otherwise!” The idea behind action painting in the 1950s and 1960s was about “presence”—it was about resisting the framework of the art institution and about the artist’s liveness and gesture. The highly-gendered tradition of action painting is heightened by Schlingensief’s chainsaw (a reference also to his 1990 film, The German Chainsaw Massacre).

Schlingensief undercuts the seriousness of the action first by penetrating his painting with a sausage, and then destroying it in a kind of chainsaw ballet. As such, Schlingensief wavers between a commitment to a retro-modernist and avant-gardiste belief in the pure, anti-institutional art gesture and postmodern self-reflexive parody.

In what seems to constitute Part II of the performance, the more conventionally theatrical set of Part I breaks apart to reveal an open performance space—a morphology which Schlingensief dramatically orchestrates from the top of a tall structure that invokes a minaret with Wagner’s Tannhäuser blasting. Schlingensief dons a North African caftan, a turban, and plays master-conductor over his Gesamtkunstwerk that includes disturbing tropes of the European “Orient”. The performance space has turned into a retro German camping ground (which is obviously meant to invoke the training camps of Al Qaeda).

Ruling over the camp is actor Dietrich Kuhlbrodt playing the Vienna Aktionist Hermann Nitsch, who created the “Theatre of Orgies and Mysteries” in the 1970s—a cathartic, ritualistic theatre using blood and animal sacrifice. Over the next 70 minutes, Schlingensief and company perform various ritualistic actions from the Vienna Aktionist tradition, the point of which is to facilitate abreaction: the acknowledgement and purging of personal, collective or site-specific trauma and violence.

There is a great deal of anarchist chaos and difficult-to-follow-banter in the second half of the performance including Schlingensief’s girlfriend Inge claiming that “Arab media artists are winning 1:0”. If Arab media artists are “winning” in Schlingensief’s Dadaist-absurdist rendering, it is because they have taken up Schlingensief’s earlier appeal to “organize the world otherwise”. This is buttressed by the art theories of Joseph Beuys, whom Schlingensief now channels on stage by holding Beuys’s dead hare and thus re-citing a Beuys performance by explaining “theatre” to the dead animal as a non-rational, sensorial experience.

Moreover, Beuys’s revolutionary concept of the social sculpture (soziale Plastik) conceived every individual gesture as sculpting and changing the world as both an art work and as a form of political engagement. Hence, Part II of Schlingensief’s production has taken the shamanistic and ritualistic principles of Beuys and Nitsch to concertedly and ritualistically work through the aggressive and violent impulses that Schlingensief has located in his own traumatic past.

The inability to shape and creatively impact one’s world is accentuated by banal bureaucratic conceits (that dominate art institutions and festivals) which Schlingensief complained about earlier from the couch of his art collective, as well as the totality of the Western media’s spectacle, which has the monopoly on the world’s pictures. Schlingensief’s answer thereto is to find agency within the German Romantic tradition from Novalis through Wagner to Beuys, wherein “every individual is an artist” and every concerted effort to participate in re-framing the world’s images is understood as participation in the social sculpture.

But what does it mean, ethically, to see the acts of September 11th as a Beuysian social sculpture? Moreover, what about Schlingensief and his ensemble re-enacting inverted Christian rituals and shouting “Allahu akbar” reproducing the tropes of the Orientalist gaze? Schligensief would agree with Edward Said’s premise in Orientalism, namely that, “From the beginning of Western speculation about the Orient, the one thing the Orient could not do was to represent itself.”

In fact, the hegemonies of Western institutional ideals and epistemologies are precisely what are at stake for Schlingensief. He would claim that his performance is a working through of colonial baggage as part of own traumatic inventory. This is part of the abreaction idea behind the Vienna Aktionist movement. It is also part of the associative thrust of his work: to find shared links between Catholic ritual, the historical avant-garde and Islamic concepts of martyrdom and utopia.

The fundamental desire to self-constitute, narrate, change, destroy or negate the frame is, according to Schlingensief, primordial (like the death drive). This is, for the avant-garde artist and for the dispossessed, at the heart of highly-charged transgressive gestures wherein the individual assents to life to the point of death. In other words, to embrace a meaningful life sometimes means to risk or embrace death in a life-affirming event or pure action. In a highly subjective and self-reflexive way, Schlingensief’s Atta Atta dissolves the borders between self and other, East and West, solipsistic self-dissolution and political platform of social justice.

In this way, Schligensief is both trickster and Beuysian shaman, and must be understood in these archetypal categories. Schlingensief makes a neo avant-garde case for actionism and ritual as changing the world, and creates a vision for creative agency and responsible individual catharsis (although the success of his catharsis as ‘responsible’ is sometimes questionable). However, with the rise of more “ethical” or “politically-correct” collective, documentary responses to humanitarian crisis on the current performance landscape in Germany, and the retreat of the anarchist and chaotic terrain of the avant-garde trickster, we lose a living archive and the archetypal transgressor.

The typological feature of this disappearing type is precisely to transgress borders and/or to vivify their arbitrary nature. The trickster enables the obscured, repressed and abjected parts of ourselves and society to come into full relief. This type can expose contradictions by violating the principles of the social order and disrupting normal life, thus holding up a mirror to himself, as well as to the collective society’s complicity in Europe’s crisis at hand.

Schlingenisef’s posthumous retrospective at MoMA Psi in the summer of 2014 transformed him—in a not untypical trajectory—from Till Eulenspiegel-type figure and tabloid favourite, to canonized member of the neo avant-garde actionist lineage.

Christine Korte is a PhD candidate at York University in Toronto, Canada. 

Posted in Uncategorized |

Law, communication, and the discourse of migration

A version of this post was originally written for the graduate seminar “Framing Migration,” taught by Prof. Deniz Göktürk of the UC Berkeley Department of German. In this post, seminar participant Abigail Stepnitz uses legal theory lenses to tie together the strings of multiple readings from the course. An earlier version of this post served as an introduction to Abigail’s seminar presentation on law and refugee status in contemporary Europe. 

The texts Abigail draws on include Gayatri Spivak’s seminal essay of postcolonial theory “Can the Subaltern Speak?”, communications theorist and guest “Framing Migration” participant Marco Jacquemet’s “Transidiomatic Practices”, sociologist William H. Sewell, Jr.’s “Historical Events as Transformations of Structures”, anthropologist Marita Eastmond’s “Stories as Lived Experience”, and author Jenny Erpenbeck’s novel Gehen, ging, gegangen.

Spivak is inviting us to recognize the limits of the Western knowledge-production project – to question the intent behind and the consequence of knowledge and especially its ties to economic and colonial interests. Given that we are thinking about how the western “we” stands in judgement of the knowledge produced by refugees/asylum-seekers, especially, in light of Jacomet’s piece, when the knowledge they are producing is the knowledge about their own lives.

Law is an especially problematic discursive institution. If western knowledge itself is a site in which we must be wary of being complicit in the colonial project, then law is the location most at risk for asserting and defending essentialism and positivism, and for making suspect claims of objectivity.

Spivak draws our attention to two ways to represent: vertreten (“represent” as in political representations) and darstellen (“re-present” as in economic value – two forms she calls “related,” in the project of state formation and subject formation before the law, but are also irreducibly discontinuous, as in subject-predication. “Because ‘the person who speaks and acts … is always a multiplicity’, no ‘theorizing intellectual … [or] party or … union’ can represent ‘those who act and struggle.’ Are those who act and struggle mute, as opposed to those who act and speak” (Spivak, 70).

I feel that Spivak presents before the Western scholar/author the most singular challenge of writing about the subaltern – indeed about the refugee – asking if it is possible or advisable to speak with/for/about (if there is even a reasonable project in disintegration of those words that is other than epistemologically self-serving?)

The Sewell article “Historical Events as Transformations of Structures” is probably the most formative piece I’ve ever read in terms of really shaking up my thinking about how I frame my own research. Sewell’s basic framework is that structures are interactions between cultural schemes, distributions of resources, and modes of power, noting that when they come together they reproduce the aspects of social life that we consider to be legitimate and necessary, over and over again.

Law is a powerful site of ritual and an occasional site of historic event. Everything about engaging with law is highly regulated, from acceptable speech and physical comportment to assumed intention. As such we can see how the law and legal theatre in particular can set off “sequences of ruptures that effect transformations of structure,” and that then the “transformation of structure has the potential of touching off dislocations and rearticulations of overlapping or contiguous structures” (Sewell, 871).

I have also been thinking about Sewell’s notion of ritual, alongside the centrality of space and emotion (in particular in Durkheimian effervescence) in light of other work on ritual as being important in allaying fear and in light of research into how law can limit, manufacture, and direct emotion.

I find Sewell’s discussion of “semantic slippage” (Sewell, 683) in particular to be extremely relevant for the migration context. It is clear that during the current European “crisis” there is a strong sense emerging that the term refugee needn’t be burdened by legal specificity, but instead should reflect social recognition of past suffering, of inequality, of the need to be able to pursue a better life. As an example of “semantic slippage,” this demonstrates a change in the meaning of a widely recognized concept because of a major change in or disruption to social structures.

The social reclamation of the language of “refugees” despite the aggressive and deliberate limitation of what is legally possible shows a desire to build social solidarity between citizens and migrants. As opposed to resulting in a rejection of the underlying cultural and ideological forces which gave the word its original meaning, this process of redefinition actually affirms and rearticulates those forces and their values.

I see Eastmond and Erpenbeck as approaching the way that refugee lives are communicated in two very different ways. As Eastmond writes, “stories are never transparent renditions of reality, but partial and selective versions of it, arising out of social interaction (Eastmond, 250.) In the case of the asylum narrative that selectivity arises out of interaction instead with the law, in the case of the asylum-seeker’s experience, as we read in Erpenbeck’s excerpt, the lived experience also arises out of social interaction.

Abigail Stepnitz is a PhD candidate in Jurisprudence and Social Policy at the University of California, Berkeley. Find out more about her work here.

 

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Reading Erpenbeck at Oranienplatz

A version of this post was originally written for the graduate seminar “Framing Migration,” taught by Prof. Deniz Göktürk of the UC Berkeley Department of German. In this post, seminar participant Lisa Friedrich discusses German novelist Jenny Erpenbeck’s Gehen, ging, gegangen, a German novel that deals with the refugee protest encampment at Berlin’s Oranienplatz (“Oplatz”). An earlier version of this post served as an introduction to Lisa’s seminar presentation on the Oplatz protests and refugee organizing in Berlin in relation to the book’s narrative. 

Jenny Erpenbeck’s novel Gehen, ging, gegangen (“Go, went, gone”) was released in 2015 and shortlisted for the German Book Prize the same year. It was widely discussed in the German media and newspapers, not least because its subject reflected the prevailing zeitgeist in Germany and the discourses around refugees that had been set in motion by the refugee protest at “Oplatz” in Berlin.

Gehen, ging, gegangen tells the story of Richard, an emeritus professor, who lives in Berlin. The novel depicts a rupturous moment in Richard’s life, his retirement. Having had a meticulously structured life that circled mainly around his job and the university, Richard finds himself in a crisis, realizing that he is not needed anymore and unable to think of an occupation to kill the hours that are now at his disposition.

Here the novel seems to draw a parallel: Not far away from Richard’s home, namely at O(ranien)platz, refugees have set up a tent city in order to achieve visibility and to draw attention to their situation. Their life has also been profoundly ruptured: Forced into a situation of limbo, not knowing what their future in Germany will look like and when and if it begins, these people seem to be “fallen out of time” (as Richard describes it), unable to work or study, restricted in their freedom of movement.

A hunger strike at Alexanderplatz catches Richard’s attention. Realizing how little he knows about the refugee protest (and also looking for an occupation) he decides to meet with them and interview them about their lives. Mediated through Richard, the reader learns about these young men: Where they come from, why they had left their homes, how they deal with their precarious living conditions and the harassment they often face in Germany.

Richard begins to teach German to the refugees, gives them piano lessons, and finally also hosts some of them at his place. Drawn to each other because of certain structural parallels in their living situations, in the passage we are reading for class, Richard’s first visit, the clash of different expectations, mediated through the incoherence of the narrative, becomes clear:

“Zair can’t swim either, but as the boat began to tip upside-down, he climbed over the edge of the boat sticking up in the air to its underside, and from there he was rescued. What was your favorite hiding place when you were a child? But 550 out of 800 drowned. The TV now shows a large number of fish on a conveyor belt, women’s hands in rubber gloves pick up each fish and in just a few seconds slice it into filets with a large knife.” (Erpenbeck, 5)

There are numerous points of departure for thinking about Gehen, ging, gegangen as a framing of migration, particularly the experience of refugees. As a political work, the novel clearly pursues a similar aim as the “Oplatz”-protest, namely creating visibility and recognizability for the plight of refugees and their resistance. In addition, but perhaps no less politically, we could say that the stream-of-consciousness style of the book makes it so that the story and the refugee’s experiences are mediated through Richard. What does it mean for the novel to tell a migration narrative from the perspective of a native German?

Lisa Friedrich is an MA student at the Humboldt University in Berlin.

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Migration and museums

A version of this post was originally written for the graduate seminar “Framing Migration,” taught by Prof. Deniz Göktürk of the UC Berkeley Department of German. In this post, seminar participant Aster Hoving reacts to an essay by German cultural anthropologist Barbara Wolbert, “Studio of Realism: On the Need for Art in Exhibits on Migration.”

Wolbert’s piece analyzes the exhibition Projekt Migration, a collaboration between the art world and academia that “comprised a variety of research projects, art works, events and film programs. The assorted activities focused on the history of labor migration since the 1950s and the accompanying social changes.” Aster connects Wolbert’s problem of musealization to the websites of two historical sites, now museums, of migration to the US: the Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation (AIISF) in San Francisco and the Immigration Museum on Ellis Island in New York City, comparing the way they archive and frame migrant experiences. 

Two museums in the United States that provide a national history of immigration, are the AIISF and the Ellis Island Foundation. Both also offer a website through which a visitor can access (part of) the collection of the foundations. In order to compare the way in which the respective museums organize their online material, Barbara Wolbert’s critique of immigration museums is useful. Wolbert’s critique of Projekt Migration in relationship to the Angel Island Foundation and Ellis Island Foundation brings to light that the latter offers a binary narrative of migration, while the Angel Island Foundation succeeds in avoiding this.

Wolbert has argued that using objects in order to represent migrant workers in museums, and the thereby seemingly unchanged appearance of these items, leads to a sense of a “continuation of a reality of labour migration”. While this does move a history of migration into the present of the audience, at the same time it categorizes the museum visitor as subject with non-migration background, putting a dichotomy of us and them into play.

According to Wolbert, the institutional authority of a museum is not capable of providing the stories inscribed in the objects within the “presumed historical distance” that characterizes a museum. A museum transforms “musealized” objects into representatives of a generalized story of migration. Wolbert argues, instead of an authoritative institution providing a grand narrative, for the presence of a clear voice of an author in an exhibition.

This voice is most present in the works of an artist: “[w]hen scholars of contemporary history, academic and other, show objects in order to represent labour migrants’ lives and lifestyles in their exhibitions, they avoid being part of the picture they create with their displays. While an artists name has to appears on the label of an artwork [….]”.

An artist, by intervening and taking responsibility for that which is on display, makes the “cultural space” between object, artist and viewer visible. Wolbert therefore argues that for an exhibition to comment on, or to question reality, it needs to be defined by having a author, and not be overarched by an authority.

In the light of Wolbert’s critique, the AIISF in San Francisco is interesting. The foundation provides visitors with a database of personal narratives of migration. Not represented is the voice of the archivist who composed this collection, which would be missing according to Wolbert’s standard in order to avoid a grand narrative. Even though this is the case, the Angel Island collection is not (as seems to be the case in Project Migration) composed of objects, but of narratives. Even though these narratives might be presented as objects/artifacts, each of the parts of the archive tells a particular story about a particular experience, avoiding the generalization of the migrant experience.

There are two more traits of the archive which can be appreciated. First is the option to “submit your story” on the webpage of the archive. This option breaks with the us and them binary described by Wolbert, and addresses the archive’s audience not as a native part of a pre-established culture, but as a subject with a particular migration experience. The second trait can be found when scrolling through the filter options: in the “year of arrival” category, a visitor can also select the option “born in the USA.” This creates a more multifaceted image of migration, where the migration experience is not one which is figured as a journey from one point to a strange destination, but one that can also be experienced in the country of birth.

A museum website that contrasts with the one of the AIISF is the website of the Ellis Island Foundation in New York. This website also contains an archive of personal stories. In the case of the Ellis Foundation, this archive is not composed of written, but of oral and transcribed narratives. The Ellis Island Foundation systematically collects interviews with migrants to the United States. The website offers the option to filter the archive. A visitor can choose to either browse “immigrant” stories, or “United States government employees” stories.

This organizing of the archive into stories of the stories of “us” and “them”, offering the visitor two sides of a story, emphasizes cultural difference and thinking into binary oppositions. Keeping Wolbert’s argument in mind, this presents the presumed audience of the archive of the Ellis Island Foundation either with the position of the native or universal migrant. This option of the archive is a symptom of what Wolbert would describe as “authority”, and therefore, the Ellis Island Foundation would benefit from taking the website of the Angel Island Foundation as an example.

Aster Hoving is an undergraduate student at Utrecht University in the Netherlands.

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Undocumented pleasures

A version of this post was originally written for the graduate seminar “Framing Migration,” taught by Prof. Deniz Göktürk of the UC Berkeley Department of German. In this post, seminar participant Juan Manuel Aldape lays out the basics of his project in the course, drawing out connections between the theatrical piece Amarillo (a migration narrative that you can stream in its entirety here) and the decolonial feminist theory of Chicana writers Gloria Anzaldúa and Emma Pérez.

My work is focused on undocumented pleasures, (in)visibilities, and choreography: I want to consider the spaces and experiences of subjects who take pleasure in the midst of navigating treacherous geographical terrains and border choreographies. These spaces and experiences of pleasure rest alongside narratives of criminality and victimization.  I will analyze these themes through the performance Amarillo, created by Mexican theater company Línea de Sombra.

Importantly, I have not seen the performance in a theater. Instead, my analysis is concerned with the archive of the video as the performance itself deals with the issues of seeing, recording, and framing pleasures, oppression, and policing. These subjective dimensions are navigated through the narrative of an anonymous individual who leaves Mexico for Amarillo, Texas. Pleasure and desire are central themes throughout the performance. The person’s story sets off a series of personal transformations that ends up online with the documentation of the video and various participant responses collated during the performance’s various iterations in different cities.

The performance appears to have entered circulatory routes of online visibility and representation. These scenarios exist in continuous relation to the various iterations of the performance and the online viewing platform. However, the video, much like the performance, does not move at all times. It rests and is set into motion when the viewer watches the performance online.

It brings to my mind Gloria Anzaldúa’s ruminations on the borderlands and Emma Pérez’s postulations about decolonizing migrant studies. Anzaldúa’s proposals about the borderlands experience resonate since being first shared in the 1980s. From early on, her work underscores the importance of pleasures and care in spite of the persistent effects of the geopolitical demarcation that created a wound across her body, our bodies.

Where Anzaldúa highlights the complexity of life on the borderlands, thereby offering a caring understanding of subjecthood, Pérez stresses the importance of thinking about dispersions rather than linear migrant narratives. Pérez argues for an understanding of the mobility of bodies through a decolonial imaginary. A decolonial imaginary provides a model to consider the gendered/racial pleasures and desires that are privileged as a consequence of the scenarios of colonial desire.

What is more, Pérez’s model offers a frame to circumnavigate the nation-state’s administrative system, the international division of labor. More pressingly, her feminist reading of sexuality in the borderlands interrogates migration discourse. Pérez offers an alternative conceptualization of migration discourse and its emphasis on labor and commodity.

Juan Manuel Aldape is a PhD student in the Department of Theater, Dance, and Performance Studies at UC Berkeley. Find more of his work on his website

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