Workshop on Migration & Memory

The Multicultural Germany Project would like to invite you to

A Workshop on Migration & Memory


2.00 p.m. – 4.00 p.m.

282 Dwinelle

For Fall 2011, the Multicultural Germany Project chose “Migration & Memory” as an umbrella topic for ongoing research, discussion, and events. This choice is partly inspired by public commemorations of 50 years of Turkish migration that are being staged in various German cities. Memories of migration continue to pose a challenge when it comes to framing national history. The workshop discussion will address some of the following questions:

•Where are the archives of migration?

•What is the place of multilingual memories of migration?

•How are histories of cross-border mobility and immobility contained in national historiography (as framed in history books, curriculums, canons)?

•What concepts and methods are useful in analyzing public performances of cultural memory (i.e. speeches, literature, film and video, exhibitions, museums, festivals)?

•What are productive ways of addressing questions of memory beyond a politics of recognition and a traveling festivalization of cultural diversity, which tends to rely on competitive advocacy for given ethnocultural groups?

•What are the media of remembrance? How do changing mediascapes and new forms of communication (internet television, social media, cell phone video, youtube, wikipedia, wikileaks, etc.) challenge conceptualizations of a coherent public sphere?

Our workshop will begin to explore these issues with the following presentations:

Constructing Home: A Vietnamese Voice in Berlin

Yumin Li (Visiting M.A. Student from European Cultural Studies at Konstanz University)

Within the context of migration, the term “home” is mainly associated with deficits on part of migrants, that is, it is supposed to indicate their alleged problems. Migrants are said to have become “homeless” since changing their place (country) of residence; they are considered unable to find a new home. Used in this way, the term “home” clearly points to mechanisms of social exclusion, or may be used for such purposes, and can hence be considered to be (politically) reactionary. If we pay attention to the “self-placement” of individuals within diasporas, however, we would have to consider not only who someone is, but where they can be themselves. The discussion revolving around such “dehoming and rehoming processes” (cf. Benzi Zhang 2004) and “uprootings and regroundings” (Sara Ahmed et al. 2003) has long taken place among migration researchers in North America. Assuming an emancipatory perspective, this presentation intends to analyze processes of “homing.” It describes individual practices that appropriate a certain place and make it “home.” Only if “home” is not understood as any given place but rather as a scope of actions used by autonomous subjects can the multifaceted and complex relations and intersections of identity be grasped appropriately. Starting from a case study on a former contract worker living in Berlin, this presentation argues that the sense of “being-at-home” is constructed by way of a combination of biographical experience, current living environment, and wishful and strategic thinking about the future.

Exhibiting Migration: Neighborhood and National History Museum

Isabel Dzierson (Visiting M.A. Student from European Cultural Studies at Konstanz University)

Official narratives about the German past have tended to neglect the impact of diverse and multifaceted migratory processes on German society. In this context, practices of commemoration play an important role for the representation of this complex social reality. In line with the Multicultural Germany Project’s fall 2011 topic “Migration and Memory,” this presentation takes a closer look at the institutional scope of museums and the place of migration in exhibitions. Museums represent prominent spaces of cultural production and memory preservation, defining social and cultural processes of inclusion and exclusion. My research focuses mainly on the history of German labor migrants since the 1950s and their incorporation into the museum context with implications for theories on memory and cultural policies. The presentation analyzes the permanent exhibitions of two museums in the German context: the National History Museum (‘Deutsches Historisches Museum’) and a Neighborhood Museum (‘Bezirksmuseum Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg’). Showing selected photographs of the two museums, the narratives and images of labor migration will be compared and discussed with regard to the museum’s mission, objects exhibited and texts presented, and choices of display.

Is This Our Past? Educating Muslims to be Citizens in Germany

Sultan Doughan (Graduate Student, Anthropology, University of California, Berkeley)

Muslims in Germany have come under attack in public debate lately for failing to integrate into mainstream German culture. A variety of integration programs have been launched in the past six years to educate Muslims to be good German citizens. In 2007, a budget of 19 million Euros annually was passed to support programs that educate Muslims specifically on the Holocaust. The memory of the Holocaust, a dark chapter in the nation’s memory, is thus quasi packaged as a commodity that can be passed on to immigrants and their children, who do not share the same collective past or accepted public opinions about it. Meanwhile, citizens of Turkish origin, for example, readily subsumed under the category of Muslims, have shared half a century of common history with the German-born population – a history, which only recently and hesitantly finds its way into displays of national history. My presentation raises questions on how the debate on integration, democracy, and Islam has constructed collective memory by singling out one ethnic group on the basis of assumed Antisemitism. I would like to propose that educational background, social class, and migration histories will need to be taken into consideration to avoid wholesale generalizations. A question for national historiography and memorialization remains: Can the memory of the Holocaust be reframed not as a site of exclusion, but an entry point for other narratives of arrival, departure, and being perceived as foreign in Germany?

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