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The Murder of Halit Yozgat

Commissioned by the People’s Tribunal ‘Unraveling the NSU Complex’, this documentary report by the research agency Forensic Architecture casts severe doubt on the official narrative around the neo-Nazi murder of Halit Yozgat, who was shot to death at his parents’ Kassel internet cafe apparently in the presence of Andreas Temme, an agent of the Verfassungsschutz secret service.

According to Temme’s reenactment, he was not a witness to the murder, and he was the only person to report no strange noises to the police during the time during which the shooting took place. Forensic Architecture onstructed a digital model of the internet cafe which they then built and used to investigate, in sober, painstaking detail, and independently verify the plausibility of Temme’s claims and the veracity of his testimony. Finding Temme’s version of events not just unlikely but impossible, the results of these coordinated experiments and comparative analysis of timelines point damningly in the direction of Temme’s collusion with the murderer. The evidence was presented to the parliamentary inquiry into the NSU in Hessen despite the efforts of the governing Christian Democrats.

Genre(s): Documentary, True Crime

Links: Forensic Architecture

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Spuren – Die Opfer des NSU (Traces – The NSU Victims)

Aysun Bademsoy’s documentary focuses on the families of the victims of the serial murders of the National Socialist Underground (NSU) between 2000 and 2007, which German police and media originally ascribed to “foreign” criminal enterprises with explicitly racist imagery like the neologism Dönermorde, coined to mock the killings before the culprits were identified in 2011. The film captures not only the grief and alienation of these families, but also their second violation by German society in the relatively light sentencing of and minimal investigation into the broader context and institutional enablers of the neo-Nazi terrorists responsible.

Genre(s): Documentary, True Crime

Links: IMDB, Vimeo (Trailer)

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Christine Korte: The Volksbühne as Archive

As a new year brings a new presidential administration to the helm of government in the political tinderbox of the United States, the Multicultural Germany Project is delighted to feature the latest entry in our Mission Possible commentary series on the purpose of German Studies from Christine Korte, one of our international collaborators at York University in Toronto, Canada. Korte writes that the tenure of Berliner Volksbühne director Frank Castorf, known in Germany as something of a contrarian iconoclast, offers a sterling example of the potential of creative spaces like the theater to instigate productive, culturally oppositional tensions that give voice to the contradictions of our present moment on both sides of the Atlantic.

My answer to the question “Why German Studies today?” revolves around German theatre, which has long held the status as Germany’s foremost cultural institution for Kritik. By virtue of its history, the German theatre is uniquely equipped to investigate our current social and political impasses resulting from the return of nationalism and illiberalism.

In the late 18th century, the German national theatre was conceived as an Ersatz for the democratic revolution underway in France. For Lessing and Schiller, the theatre was to become the designated public space for fueling democratic ideals and for an “aesthetic education” in bourgeois morality. This historic role underwrites today’s amply funded German Staatstheater. It provides rebellious artistic spirits with an institutional tradition to both invoke and challenge, as well as a state-funded space for exploring dissenting politics and ideas. As with German historiography, it is surely possible to talk about a Sonderweg in German theatre.

The Berliner Volksbühne is an example of the German theatre’s critical social function. Located at Rosa Luxemburg-Platz in the former East, the neoclassical building stands imposingly over its vicinity close to the Alexanderplatz. The Volksbühne (People’s Stage) originated as part of the socialist-leaning historic workers’ theatre movement of the late 19th century, granting Berlin’s industrial workers access to affordable high-quality theatre. The historic Volksbühne had its most shining period in the mid-1920s under the left-wing avant-garde director Erwin Piscator. After the fall of the Berlin Wall and under artistic director Frank Castorf (1992-2017), the Volksbühne was an example of the way the German theatre played a unique and unparalleled role in post-Wende society.

In the early 1990s, Castorf repurposed the theatre institution to fuel a cynical response to German unification: to the West’s ideological and economic “colonization” of the former East and to the euphoric proclamations of liberal capitalism’s victory over socialism. While most theatres in the former GDR used the bourgeois canon to promote the official unification narrative, the Volksbühne constituted a radical exception by refusing the “end of history”. The theatre established a counter-public around its OST identity and scathingly critiqued a smug West German society impervious to its own contradictions.

Castorf saw it as his duty as artistic director of a state-funded theatre to address the discontents wrought by the Wende: the rise of the far right in the former East, unemployment, and disenfranchisement. He provoked journalists and audiences alike with gestures that foregrounded the contradictory impulses at play in postsocialist society: a large Stalin picture hanging in his office; the Volksbühne’s Russian orientation and flagrant anti-Americanism; hosting lectures by Žižek and Badiou, as well as the “Idea of Communism” conference; and Castorf’s transgressive exploration of far-right intellectuals including Jünger and Schmitt.

Photo: Burkhard Lange, Neues Deutschland. A young Gregor Gysi and other hunger strikers with the Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS) in the lobby of the Volksbühne on Dec. 2, 1994.

At various points during Castorf’s tenure, the Volksbühne housed a hunger strike for the far-left PDS political party, a homeless theatre troupe, and had skinheads in the audience. During his tenure, Castorf also provided a space for other provocateurs such as the late director Christoph Schlingensief, whose approach to social issues such as the refugee and migrant crises is sorely missing today. 

As a striking example of the return of history, the Querdenker Bewegung—a cross-section of anti-liberal stances towards the German government’s COVID containment measures—used the Volksbühne’s front lawn to stage its protests. The image recalls Castorf’s reception of the historic Volksbühne as archive and his frequent mining of its site-specific history towards the end of the Weimar Republic when all manner of illiberal extremes tried to utilize the theatre’s environs for their purposes. With consciousness of this history, Castorf felt compelled to make the tensions between liberal democracy and illiberalism visible.

Adorno once asserted that liberal democracy was the only political system in which the avant-garde could flourish. By extension, it is the only system in which a figure such as Castorf can exist. Moreover, Castorf’s uncompromising approach to the German stage was, ultimately, a defence of the spirit of liberal democracy. Because of its own Sonderweg, German Studies should draw on the example of the Castorf-era Volksbühne and fully assert its own critical, diagnostic, and prognosticating power at this crucial moment in history.

While we wait for theatres to reopen, Germanists can use their online teaching forums to ignite the archive, invigorate historical consciousness, and draw inspiration from the enduring and reliably complex and even problematic Berlin avant-gardes in these pandemic times. 

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Mitten in Deutschland: NSU (NSU German History X)

With Anna Maria Mühe, Albrecht Schuch, and Sebastian Urzendowsky.

A dramatized account of the serial murders of the National Socialist Underground (NSU) between 2000 and 2007 comes to life in this German-language, in-house production from Netflix. The three-part miniseries introduces the three core members of the NSU, Beate Zschäpe, Uwe Mundlos, and Uwe Böhnhardt (Mühe, Schuch, and Urzendowsky, respectively) before focusing on their victims and police investigations in the subsequent episodes.

Genre(s): Drama

Links: IMDB, Netflix

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Aus dem Nichts (In the Fade)

With actors Diane Kruger and Numan Acar.

Loosely based on the 2004 bombing of a Turkish neighborhood in Cologne, Fatih Akin’s drama won international accolades for its German-American star Diane Kruger and the prize for Best Foreign Film at the 2018 Golden Globes. The film follows Katja Şekerci (Kruger) as her Kurdish-German husband (Numan Acar) and young son are killed in a neo-Nazi terrorist atack, leaving her to plunge into the depths of grief only to find a second, tenuous lease on life when the suspected killers are apprehended and the case goes to trial.

Genre(s): Drama

Links: IMDB, YouTube (Trailer)

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Ausländer raus! Schlingensiefs Container (Foreigners Out! Schlingensief’s Container)

With Christoph Schlingensief.

German artist and agent provocateur Christoph Schlingensief’s controversial 2000 project “Bitte liebt Österreich“, a commentary on the presence of the far-right Austrian Freedom Party (FPÖ) into Austria’s governing coalition, is documented in this account of the weeklong installation. Schlingensief farcically applies the reality TV model of Big Brother-style competitive cohabitation to a group of immigrants he confines to a “container,” a mock detention camp in the middle of Vienna, broadcast live on Austrian TV where viewers vote to determine who will be eliminated and deported from the country.

Links: IMDB, YouTube (Trailer)

Genre(s): Documentary

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Panel: German Cinema in the Netflix era

The Berlin & Beyond Film Festival, this year in its first online incarnation, marked the April release of the second edition of The German Cinema Book with a panel discussion featuring three of the book’s editors: Erica Carter, Professor of German and Film Studies at King’s College, London; film historian and filmmaker Claudia Sandberg, currently Senior Research and Teaching Fellow at the University of Melbourne; and our own Deniz Göktürk, Professor of German Studies at UC Berkeley and Coordinator of the Multicultural Germany Project. In conversation with moderator Jaimey Fisher (UC Davis) and their respondent J. Hoberman, longtime film critic for the now defunct Village Voice, the panelists take stock of the paradoxical status of national cinema in the age of transnational, intermedial cultural production and consumption.

The COVID-19 pandemic has rapidly accelerated virtually every dominant social and economic trend already observable as the consolidation of global capitalism continues apace, hurtling seemingly inexorably towards a climate catastrophe that will dwarf the destruction of the coronavirus. In the United States, where the number of COVID deaths recently hit the grim benchmark of 300,000, the pandemic has already led to massive movie theater closures, with many smaller, independent theaters shuttering permanently and global multiplex chains like Regal and Cineworld closing down all of their locations across the US and UK in October.

Meanwhile, streaming platforms in the mould of Netflix are booming: Disney, in particular, sees almost limitless potential for expanding their monopoly on lucrative blockbuster franchises like Star Wars and the Marvel Comics films decried by Martin Scorsese and others as the death of cinema. As Hoberman notes in his remarks, while France’s Cannes Film Festival banned Netflix productions from competition in 2018, the festival itself may be forced to take place virtually in 2021. At the same time, Netflix has introduced global audiences, including the US market, to a burgeoning German-language television industry premised on international consumption in the mode of streaming platforms, with all episodes released simultaneously to enable the “binge-watching” of series like transatlantic pioneer Babylon Berlin and the nostalgic sci-fi hit Dark.

“Our lives revolve around screens these days,” Göktürk begins her remarks, observing that while modernist new wave cinema and other quirks have fallen by the wayside in recent decades, the distinctiveness of experience that informs the specificity of national cinema can be seen reborn in the work of Turkish-German filmmakers like Fatih Akin, albeit in reference to a less homogeneous national imaginary. Sandberg discusses the renewed interest in East German cinema, highlighting the continued centrality of DEFA archives and film festivals in the process of integrating this alternate German cinema into a more polyphonic conception of national cinema as such.

In her comments, Carter pays tribute to the legacy of Lotte Eisner and Siegfried Kracauer, whose Haunted Screen and From Caligari to Hitler, respectively, remain foundational texts of German film history. Carter situates the German Cinema Book in terms of the project of reframing national cinema away from the conservative insularity and essentialism of its inheritance, but sees in this contemporary effort a sort of return to German cinema studies’ roots in Eisner and Kracauer and the vibrant, journalistic accessibility once universally acknowledged as their signature.

All three featured editors of the German Cinema Book, while touching on different moments in their staggeringly comprehensive volume, point towards the continued urgency of film history. Perhaps now more than ever, festivals and archives perform an essential function of contextualizing and narrativizing media that is not, contra the Zeitgeist, at the fingertips of most consumers of digital media, due in part to massively asymmetrical funding and distribution structures as well as to the specificity of expertise required for reception.

Noting the irony that an era of unprecedented transnational connectivity has seen the pointed exacerbation of nationalist antagonisms once thought rendered increasingly obsolete by the cross-cultural identification of global citizens, Hoberman observes in his response that the “Netflixization of festivals is a greater loss than movie theaters for a film journalist.” Original, independent filmmaking remains as inaccessible as ever, a problem compounded by the difficulty of navigating various streaming platforms and the oversaturation of audiences with an endless redundancy of content.

It was only in the culturally and geographically specific reception of his work through the confluence of the indie outfit New Yorker Films, the New York Film Festival, and the pages of the New York Times, Hoberman recalls, that “Fassbinder became Fassbinder” as we know him canonically today. The difficulty of writing about art cinema for a larger audience mirrors the paradoxical challenge of an accessible modernism, or more contemporarily, a radically polyphonic articulation of the national imaginary filtered through global platforms that flatten their specificity without the historical context of the stories only German cinema curation and scholarship can tell.

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Lambert: Troubling the Surface of Germanistik

In a new age of modesty in literary and cultural criticism, Germanistik’s rich archive of  theory offers exactly what we need to revive our critical engagements with the unrelenting information flows of the Internet age. The UC Berkeley German Department’s own PhD candidate Sean Lambert encourages us to not merely take it all in, but to “creatively disrupt.”

No one would say that critique is essentially German, nor that one must study German in order to learn critical theory. But there is a rich history of critique in German thought. In a contemporary academic world where scholarship must be interdisciplinary, multicultural and international in order to respond to a highly networked present, studying German opens up a rich archive of texts within the tradition of Germanistik that have always been at the intersection of philosophical, literary, cultural, historical, medical and theological studies (among others). German Studies is thus an excellent place to practice, not the Eurocentric, nation-bound critique of the past, but the critical theory called for today, which opens itself up to the world.

In our era of fake news, where simulated and “real” life have become practically indistinguishable, critique is more important than ever for examining the materiality of our virtual lives. However, in the past few years, critique — particularly of the dialectical kind — has come under fire within literary studies. Thinkers have favored methods such as surface reading or distant reading in contrast to Marxist or psychoanalytic methods, claiming that they better suit a world where violence, ideology, and the unrestrained use of power – some historical targets of dialectical critique – are all plainly on the surface. In one of my classes, students ask, in almost every meeting, if dialectical critique has “run out of steam,” or if we must “move beyond” it. Despite the fact that critical theory has always welcomed self-critique, and that “moving beyond the dialectic” seems, to me, a goal that requires dialectical thinking, recent scholarship and its echoes in this class have all contributed to what Jeffrey Williams calls, “The New Modesty in Literary Criticism,” in which critics, in a reversal of Marx’s famous aphorism, increasingly seek to describe the world, rather than change it.

German Studies has engaged productively with new modes of reading that forego suspicion (Eve Sedgwick’s turn away from a “hermeneutics of suspicion” comes just a few years after what David Wellbery called the “Post-Hermeneutic Turn” in German Studies), but studying German also gives us the tools to “rescue” dialectics in a moment where it seems in danger of being discarded. The Frankfurt School itself serves as an excellent example of the necessary endurance of critique. Whether writing about the naked violence of the Third Reich or the disguised, sublimated violence of the “fully administered world,” the thinkers of the Frankfurt School never took the legibility of the world’s surface for granted. A new Berkeley professor of Film and Media Studies, Rizvana Bradley, writes of a “resurfacing” that takes place in contemporary performance art about blackness. “Resurfacing” involves something of a paradox, both a quasi-suspicious reappearance of the suppressed humanity of raceless flesh beneath black skin, as well as the creative (though violent) re-making of black skin as a new surface for the body. German Studies today offers the opportunity, not to simply abandon dialectical criticism or reject “surface reading” outright, but rather to participate in a project of “resurfacing” that brings both to bear. This global, multicultural approach to critical theory by way of German Studies can creatively disrupt the surface of the world even as it attempts to describe it.

German Studies is not (by far) the only discipline where scholars can still train in critical theory or dialectical critique. But the rich archive of German texts that foreground critique makes it a vital site to keep critical theory alive and fresh. If we are to respond to the various catastrophes through which we are living, we must not content ourselves merely with considering the world’s surface, but rather participate in a project of resurfacing it. I take inspiration from Adorno: “thought is happiness, even where it defines unhappiness: by enunciating it. By this alone, thought reaches into the universal unhappiness. Whoever does not let it atrophy has not resigned.”

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Teupert: From Pretzels to Baklava

The Top Five German Stereotypes | The Wandering Ex-Housewife

How might we reanimate interest in German Studies without the lure of stale cultural clichés like pretzels and beer? Our own Jonas Teupert, PhD Candidate in German Studies here at UC Berkeley and coordinator of a new student blog focusing on pop culture called Aufmerksamkeitsdefizit, suggests baklava.

At the Zoom roundtable “New Directions in German Studies” on November 6, MGP Coordinator Deniz Göktürk (UC Berkeley), Johannes von Moltke (U Michigan), Rüdiger Campe (Yale), and moderator Johannes Türk (Indiana U) discussed possible futures of a discipline facing waning job prospects for graduate students and neoliberal divestment on an institutional level. In the conversation, two seemingly opposite ideas emerged: First, there was a consensus that German Studies should be practiced in relation to other disciplines, nations, and languages, rather than holding up a monumental notion of German culture. At the same time, however, the panelists conceded that German departments needed to present themselves in their specificity to attract undergraduate students and to maintain their standing within the university.

In a humorous remark, Johannes von Moltke warned of such endeavors that promoted German culture with events like “Wandertag” (hiking day) or by bringing pretzels to class. It appeared that these well-meaning attempts to raise interest in German Studies were at odds with the ideal of a discipline that overcomes attachments to such outdated notions as the mother tongue, as Deniz Göktürk remarked, Heimat, or even the nation itself. Should we not rather focus on transnational phenomena that constitute the objects of our studies as, for example, the mediation of the Kafka-reception through the United States, which Rüdiger Campe pointed out? 

At this juncture, the two main concerns of the roundtable seem irreconcilable indeed. What, however, if we brought baklava to our German classes rather than pretzels, not least since the Middle Eastern pastry outdoes the popularity of pretzels, at least in Berlin? This choice of snack is no trifle matter as it concerns the self-understanding of the discipline in a most central way. While the German culture that our departments represent as some sort of cultural embassies abroad may very well exist in differentiation from, say, French or Polish culture, this German culture is not merely made up of things exclusively German. The word “German” at this very point in time rather signifies an intersection between various cultures taking a specific shape that can be distinguished from others.

In this constellation, what is German is always already outside of itself and subject to dynamic change. What we present to our students as worthy of their time at the university is thus not a prepackaged set of German export goods, from pretzels to Goethe, but a specific force field that teaches them about issues of increasing relevance today. For example, how does German society grapple with new cultural influences and the sense of loss that is at the center of so many contemporary crises of national identity? This question focuses on German texts, institutions, and media, yet generates answers that do not merely pertain to Germany (or other German-speaking countries) and that lead our attention elsewhere.

At present, Germany is known in the world as a country that addresses global issues in a specific way, sometimes with varying degrees of success (we can think of Angela Merkel’s declaration that “Multikulti ist gescheitert” and how we position ourselves to it). This engagement with questions of a global concern has to be situated in the context of German history, for which our discipline provides expertise. What we then convey to our students is a transnational Germany or German culture and pretzels do not have to come with it any longer.

Posted in Blog, Mission Possible |

Jara Schmidt on Postmigrant Literature and German Studies

Reyhan Şahin: Yalla Feminismus!

On the day of the 2020 presidential election in the United States, the MGP is honored to publish the second guest commentary in our Mission Possible series of hot takes on the purpose of German Studies. Dr. Jara Schmidt, research collaborator at the University of Hamburg’s Institut für Germanistik, captures the essence of recent shifts in German politics and culture that have made a refocusing of our discipline towards transnational, antiracist perspectives not only analytically fruitful, but increasingly unavoidable.

You can find this post in the original German here.

Postmigrant literature: angry, resisting, defending

Desintegriert Euch! [Disintegrate!] is the title of Max Czollek’s polemic published in 2018, in which the Berlin poet and essayist proposes a model of society that explicitly opposes a German “Leitkultur” [leading culture] and neo-racial ideas. In his new essay “Gegenwartsbewältigung [Dealing With the Present; an allusion to the term “Vergangenheitsbewältigung” which refers to National Socialism] (2020), he further pursues the idea of radical diversity and a new allyship which does justice to our postmigrant society and serves as a resistant procedure against the increasing political and social shift to the right. 

The term ›postmigrant‹, according to the theatre artist Shermin Langhoff, stands in our globalized, primarily urban life for the entire common space of diversity beyond origin. According to the educationalist and sociologist Erol Yildiz, the postmigrant perspective is also a political state of mind, “which includes subversive, ironic practices and, in its reversal, has a provocative effect on hegemonic relations.” (Yildiz, 23)

Speaking as a literary scholar, it is therefore not a matter of establishing a new literary genre with the label “postmigrant,” which follows genres such as the so-called “literature of consternation”,
“guest worker literature”, “migration literature” or “intercultural literature,” only to be able to better categorize the texts. There are certainly texts by authors of the postmigrant generation in which classic themes of migration literature are found, so that such a genre continuance stands to reason. But many of the authors would surely reject such a categorization, because it would bind them to something that has to do with their personal backgrounds and not primarily with their texts. And then there are other writers, especially those who are also activists, who very consciously use the self-designation “postmigrant” and deal with various forms of discrimination in their works. 

In anthologies as well as essayistic prose of recent times, attention is increasingly drawn to intersectional discrimination in Germany, as in: Fatma Aydemir / Hengameh Yaghoobifarah (eds.): Eure Heimat ist unser Albtraum [Your Home is Our Nightmare] (2019); Kübra Gümüşay: Sprache und Sein [Language and Being] (2020); Reyhan Şahin: Yalla, Feminismus! [Yalla, Feminism!] (2019). What is repeatedly expressed in these social criticisms is a frustration about having to explain or even justify one’s own existence, for example, regarding one’s heritage or religion. This state of having to explain oneself and the discrimination that goes along with it leads to an almost collective feeling: anger. However, discriminated people in particular are usually denied the expression of this basic emotion. While angry women in general are seen as unattractive, selfish, irrational or even hysterical, women of color, especially Black¹ women, are often degraded with the racist stereotype of the “Angry Black Woman” (Chemaly, xvii).

And while angry Black men are usually associated with menace and criminality, the anger of white² men is usually positively associated with passion and commitment (ibid., xiv). This collective rage should, however, be understood as a political issue as well as a motor and creative outlet, which is why the question must be investigated as to what energies and discourses it initiates – e.g. as in Fatma Aydemir’s debut novel Ellbogen [Elbow] (2017), in which the protagonist is no longer able to control her accumulated rage due to social discrimination and gender-specific restrictions and commits manslaughter; or in Karen Köhler’s novel Miroloi (2019), in which the protagonist finally resists patriarchal oppression in the masquerade of the “Angstfrauor “fear woman” (Köhler, 449).

Why German Studies today? Because we must (continue to) adopt a perspective that focuses on the realities of intersectional discrimination and practices of resistance – and thus set an example for a just society that must be understood and protected in its radically diverse condition.

 

¹ Since “Black” means neither an adjective nor a skin color, but a politically chosen self-designation in rejection of colonial-racist terms, it is capitalized.

² To emphasize the construction of the term “white,” it is set in italics. It does not refer to the skin color, but to the privileges that are associated with it.

References

Aydemir, Fatma: Ellbogen, Munich 2017.

Aydemir, Fatma / Hengameh Yaghoobifarah (eds.): Eure Heimat ist unser Albtraum, Berlin 2019.

Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung: »Die Herkunft spielt keine Rolle – ›Postmigrantisches‹ Theater im Ballhaus Naunynstraße. Interview mit Shermin Langhoff«, in: Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung – Dossier für kulturelle Bildung from 10 March 2011, https://www.bpb.de/gesellschaft/bildung/kulturelle-bildung/60135/interview-mit-shermin-langhoff, accessed on 22 October 2020.

Chemaly, Soraya: Rage Becomes Her. The Power of Women’s Anger, New York et al. 2019.

Czollek, Max: Desintegriert Euch!, Munich 2018.

Czollek, Max: Gegenwartsbewältigung, Munich 2020.

Gümüşay, Kübra: Sprache und Sein, Munich 2020. 

Kastner, Heidi: Wut. Plädoyer für ein verpöntes Gefühl, Vienna 2014. 

Kim, Sue J.: On Anger. Race, Cognition, Narrative, Austin 2013.

Köhler, Karen: Miroloi, Munich 2019.

Şahin, Reyhan: Yalla, Feminismus!, Stuttgart 2019.

Yildiz, Erol: »Postmigrantische Perspektiven. Aufbruch in eine neue Geschichtlichkeit«, in: Marc Hill / Erol Yildiz (eds.): Nach der Migration. Postmigrantische Perspektiven jenseits der Parallelgesellschaft, Bielefeld 2015, pp. 19-36.

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Jara Schmidt: Postmigrantische Literatur und Germanistik

Reyhan Şahin: Yalla Feminismus!

On the day of the 2020 election in the United States, the MGP is delighted to publish the second guest commentary in our Mission Possible series of hot takes on the purpose of German Studies. Dr. Jara Schmidt, research collaborator at the University of Hamburg’s Institut für Germanistik, captures the essence of recent shifts in German politics and culture that have made a refocusing of our discipline towards transnational, antiracist perspectives not only analytically fruitful, but increasingly unavoidable.

You can find this post in its English translation here.

Postmigrantische Literatur: wütend, widerständig, wehrhaft

Desintegriert Euch! lautet der Titel von Max Czolleks 2018 publizierter Streitschrift, in welcher der Berliner Lyriker und Essayist ein Gesellschaftsmodell vorschlägt, das sich explizit gegen eine deutsche ›Leitkultur‹ und neovölkische Vorstellungen wendet. In seinem neuen Essay Gegenwartsbewältigung (2020) verfolgt er zudem die Idee der radikalen Diversität und eines neuen Verbündet-Seins, das unserer postmigrantischen Gesellschaft gerecht werden und als widerständiges Verfahren gegen den zunehmenden Rechtsruck dienen soll. 

Der Begriff des ›Postmigrantischen‹ wird hier gemäß der Theaterschaffenden Shermin Langhoff »in unserem globalisierten, vor allem urbanen Leben für den gesamten gemeinsamen Raum der Diversität jenseits von Herkunft« verstanden. Dem Erziehungswissenschaftler und Soziologen Erol Yildiz zufolge ist die postmigrantische Perspektive zudem eine politische Geisteshaltung, »die auch subversive, ironische Praktiken einschließt und in ihrer Umkehrung provokant auf hegemoniale Verhältnisse wirkt.« (Yildiz, 23)

Als Literaturwissenschaftlerin gesprochen, geht es folglich nicht darum, mit dem Label ›postmigrantisch‹ ein neues literarisches Genre zu etablieren, dass sich einreiht in Genres, wie die sogenannte ›Literatur der Betroffenheit‹, ›Gastarbeiter*innenliteratur‹, ›Migrationsliteratur‹ oder ›Interkulturelle Literatur‹, nur um die Texte besser kategorisieren zu können. Es gibt sicherlich Texte von Autor*innen der postmigrantischen Generation, in denen sich klassische Themen der Migrationsliteratur finden, sodass eine solche Genrefortschreibung naheliegend scheint. Viele der Autor*innen würden eine solche Kategorisierung aber gewiss ablehnen, weil es sie wieder auf etwas festschreibt, das mit ihren persönlichen Hintergründen zu tun hat und nicht in erster Linie mit ihren Texten. Und dann gibt es wieder andere Schriftsteller*innen, vor allem solche, die auch aktivistisch tätig sind, die ganz bewusst zur Selbstbezeichnung ›postmigrantisch‹ greifen und sich in ihren Werken mit verschiedensten Diskriminierungsformen auseinandersetzen. 

In Sammelbänden sowie essayistischer Prosa jüngster Zeit wird zunehmend auf eine intersektionale Diskriminierungen in Deutschland aufmerksam gemacht, wie etwa in: Fatma Aydemir / Hengameh Yaghoobifarah (Hg.): Eure Heimat ist unser Albtraum (2019); Kübra Gümüşay: Sprache und Sein (2020); Reyhan Şahin: Yalla, Feminismus! (2019). Was in diesen Gesellschaftskritiken wiederholt zum Tragen kommt, ist eine Frustration darüber, immerzu das eigene Dasein erklären oder sogar rechtfertigen zu müssen, beispielsweise die Herkunft bzw. Abstammung oder die Religion betreffend. Dieser Zustand des Sich-Erklären-Müssens und die Diskriminierungen, die mit ihm einhergehen, münden in ein geradezu kollektives Gefühl: Wut. Diese Basisemotion nach außen zu tragen, wird jedoch insbesondere diskriminierten Personen in der Regel abgesprochen: Während wütende Frauen als unattraktiv, selbstsüchtig, irrational oder sogar hysterisch gelten und Women of Colour, vor allem Schwarze¹ Frauen, oftmals mit dem rassistischen Stereotyp der ›Angry Black Woman‹ degradiert werden (Chemaly, xvii), werden wütende Schwarze Männern meist mit Bedrohlichkeit und Kriminalität assoziiert – wohingegen die Wut weißer² Männer in der Regel mit Leidenschaft und Engagement positiv besetzt wird (ebd., xiv). Diese kollektive Wut sollte jedoch als ein Politikum sowie als Motor und kreatives Ventil aufgefasst werden, weshalb der Frage nachgegangen werden muss, welche Energien und Diskurse sie initiiert – wie etwa in Fatma Aydemirs Debütroman Ellbogen (2017), in dem die Protagonistin ihre aufgrund von gesellschaftlicher Diskriminierung und genderspezifischen Restriktionen angestaute Wut nicht mehr kontrollieren kann und im Affekt einen Totschlag begeht, oder in Karen Köhlers Roman Miroloi (2019), in dem die Protagonistin sich schließlich in der Maskerade der »Angstfrau« (Köhler, 449) einer patriarchalen Unterdrückung widersetzt. 

Why German Studies today? Weil wir (weiterhin) eine Perspektive einnehmen müssen, die intersektionale Diskriminierungsrealitäten und Widerstandspraxen in den Fokus rückt – um so ein Zeichen zu setzen für eine gerechte Gesellschaft, die radikal divers gefasst und geschützt werden muss.

 

¹ Da ›Schwarz‹ nicht als Adjektiv oder Hautfarbe gemeint ist, sondern als politisch gewählte Selbstbezeichnung, in Ablehnung kolonialrassistischer Bezeichnungen, wird es großgeschrieben.

² Um die Konstruktion des Begriffes ›weiß‹ hervorzuheben, wird er kursiv gesetzt. Gemeint ist keine Hautfarbe, gemeint sind die Privilegien, die mit der Hauptfarbe einhergehen.

Literatur

Aydemir, Fatma: Ellbogen, München 2017.

Aydemir, Fatma / Hengameh Yaghoobifarah (Hg.): Eure Heimat ist unser Albtraum, Berlin 2019.

Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung: »Die Herkunft spielt keine Rolle – ›Postmigrantisches‹ Theater im Ballhaus Naunynstraße. Interview mit Shermin Langhoff«, in: Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung – Dossier für kulturelle Bildung vom 10.03.2011, online abrufbar unter: https://www.bpb.de/gesellschaft/bildung/kulturelle-bildung/60135/interview-mit-shermin-langhoff, zuletzt eingesehen am 22.10.2020.

Chemaly, Soraya: Rage Becomes Her. The Power of Women’s Anger, New York u. a. 2019.

Czollek, Max: Desintegriert Euch!, München 2018.

Czollek, Max: Gegenwartsbewältigung, München 2020.

Gümüşay, Kübra: Sprache und Sein, München 2020. 

Kastner, Heidi: Wut. Plädoyer für ein verpöntes Gefühl, Wien 2014. 

Kim, Sue J.: On Anger. Race, Cognition, Narrative, Austin 2013.

Köhler, Karen: Miroloi, München 2019.

Şahin, Reyhan: Yalla, Feminismus!, Stuttgart 2019.

Yildiz, Erol: »Postmigrantische Perspektiven. Aufbruch in eine neue Geschichtlichkeit«, in: Marc Hill / ders. (Hg.): Nach der Migration. Postmigrantische Perspektiven jenseits der Parallelgesellschaft, Bielefeld 2015, S. 19-36.

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Albrecht Classen: Why German Studies Today?

The first guest commentary in our Mission Possible series of hot takes on the purpose of German Studies comes courtesy of Dr. Albrecht Classen, Professor and Director of Undergraduate Studies in the Department of German Studies at the University of Arizona. His response to the question, “Why study German today?”, is an elegant reflection on the canonical legacy of German cultural history and its ongoing utility in the present moment. 

This is the ultimate question relevant in our field, and very difficult to answer though we can certainly point to many general aspects: economy, politics, literature, philosophy, environmental protection, movies, sports, etc. They all matter critically in justifying the study of German today, but we should also not forget very personal approaches, such as the love for this language, love for Germany/Austria/Switzerland, or friendship and family relations, and passion for German literature. It would certainly be wrong to paint a rosy picture of any of the German-speaking lands and peoples, but we encounter in the German-language culture an enormously rich plethora of experiences, good and bad, profound ideas, concepts, and values, expressed in a huge treasure trove of poetry and prose from the Middle Ages until today.

In fact, many of the critical issues of great relevance in the modern world, promising or troublesome, have already been discussed throughout time by German-language philosophers, poets, theologians, and others. The discourse on love had set in already in the twelfth century, and missing out on Walther von der Vogelweide’s minnesongs (ca. 1190-1220) would be a serious loss. When reflecting on the meaning of death, i.e., the loss of a loved-one, it would behoove us to keep in mind what Johann von Tepl had to say in his famous Ackermann (ca. 1400). Reading through the famous Narrenschiff by Sebastian Brant (1494) still makes us laugh and realize the foolishness of most people, which quickly sobers us as to our self-perception today.

Some of the greatest revolutions or paradigm shifts took place on German soil, such as the invention of the printing press by Johann Gutenberg in ca. 1450, or the emergence of the Protestant Reformation, launched by Martin Luther’s 99 theses published in 1517. As the epigrams by Angelus Silesius (1624-1677) indicate, many of the ultimate questions relevant in all of human life were already addressed at that time, and found, to some extent, some mysterious answers by this Silesian poet. Human suffering in war, such as the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648), led, surprisingly, to the creation of some of the best poems, the sonnets by Andreas Gryphius (1616-1664), while his contemporary Catharina Regina von Greiffenberg (1633-1694) formulated most intriguing poems about love, God, and death. Inquiring about the notion of tolerance already in earlier time, we only would have to turn to Gotthold Ephraim Lessing’s Nathan der Weise (1779), where the protagonist is a living proof of this ideal.

The list of many other significant writers and poets, male and female, continues, and we would not need to pursue this argument further, though here I have used primarily a historical perspective. German Studies provides a critically important platform within the Humanities to examine essential aspects of human life, as expressed in many different media. Intriguingly, the current discourse on racism, anti-Semitism, colonialism, and imperialism can be traced back to many medieval and modern narratives, and then also movies. The contributions by German philosophers, such as Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) or Martin Heidegger (1889-1976), are universally acknowledged today as fundamental for contemporary theoretical issues, but our students must be able to read their works in German so they can learn the full meaning of their words, and understand the nuances and subtle messages. The entire field of modern theology is greatly influenced by the ideas and writings of German scholars, such as Karl Barth (1886-1968), but the same applies to the fields of sciences, medicine, astronomy, or optics.

Studying German does not mean that students would exclusively learn the German language. That is the basis, upon which then many forays into the deeper dimensions of academia and professional life become possible. Students with a B.A. in German Studies are ultimately highly qualified to partake effectively in the critical discourses of today, pertaining to the humanities and the sciences, and this from a historical and a modern perspective.

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Acts of Border Crossing in G. W. Pabst’s Comradeship (Kameradschaft, 1931)

On October 8, 2020, Yiddishkayt, an organization dedicated to the presentation and broadcasting of the legacy of Jewish culture, held a panel discussion on German film director Georg Wilhelm Pabst’s 1931 classic, Comradeship (Kameradschaft), as part of the organization’s LAYKA Lens film discussion series. Boris Dralyuk (Executive Editor, Los Angeles Review of Books) moderated the conversation between guest speakers Deniz Göktürk (Professor of German, UC Berkeley), Rob Adler Peckerar (Executive Director, Yiddishkayt), and Jim Hoberman (Critic and Author, New York Times, Village Voice).

Produced in the early sound era, Comradeship features fascinating linguistic experiments. Early talkies were often released as various versions shot in different languages, with some variations. They are usually adaptations of the same script, filmed on the same set with the same crew, addressing different (national) audiences. The German version of Comradeship, Kameradschaft, premiered on November 17, 1931 at Berlin Capitol, and the French version, La tragédie de la mine, was released on January 29, 1932 in France. Set on the French-German border in the years following the First World War, Comradeship tells the story of a mine disaster in France and the nearby German miners’ voluntary efforts to rescue their trapped colleagues. Pabst’s film is a celebration of community and solidarity in times of great calamities, in terms of both the narrative diegesis and the political and economic upheavals during the last years of the Weimar Republic—themes that strongly resonate with the contemporary world we live in.

Göktürk’s introduction draws our attention to the enactment of various borders in the film: the national border between France and Germany, as represented by the customs officers and their regulation of human flow in both directions; the border between work and leisure, as symbolized by the prominent factory gates; the imaginary border in people’s minds, expressed by the characters’ initial reluctance to cooperate with or come to the rescue of the other; and the border underground, which demarcates the French mine from the German mine. These borders are all literally broken down or symbolically transcended throughout the course of the film, as workers who were previously skeptical of the other side overcome their own parochialism and gradually understand the humanity of their French/German comrades.

At the same time, the vision of transnational solidarity is also manifested by the act of linguistic border-crossing. In the penultimate scene, the French and German workers celebrate the courageous rescue mission. Despite the fact that they cannot understand each other’s words, the spirit of international cooperation resonates among the cheering crowds. Nevertheless, this triumphal mood is severely undercut by the ensuing scene, in which the French and German authorities officially restore the underground border previously demolished by the alternative rescue team (at least in the French version; the ending of the German version did not survive). Put within the historical context in which the film was produced, this abrupt cut-away from the jubilant workers’ gathering comes to foreshadow the short life of the socialist movement in Germany, as it was truncated by the ascendancy of the Nazi regime.

In addition, this rather ironic ending prompts the viewers to reconsider their understanding of the cultural dynamics at play in the film. As Nataša Ďurovičová argues in her article “Vector, Flow, Zone: Towards a History of Cinematic Translatio,” every decision in the translation process in a multilingual film, including which language to translate, how to execute it, and under what rules, is a matter of specific transnational power relationships subject to explicitly political negotiations (95). Each set of translation practices “articulates multivalent relationships between a ‘stronger’ and ‘weaker’ film culture, and thus creates various force fields in the interchange between films’ production and reception” (Ďurovičová 96). In the case of Comradeship, several German characters demonstrate their ability to understand at least some French (or even speak French so well as to be an interpreter), whereas the French characters are largely ignorant of the German language. The linguistic proficiency of the German characters corresponds to their physical mobility, technological advancement, and humanistic generosity relative to their French counterparts. Whereas the German characters repeatedly succeed in traversing the national border, none of the French characters is able to do so; in fact, a group of unemployed French miners are explicitly barred access to Germany in one of the earliest scenes of the film. While the French mine is destroyed due to mishandling of mining explosives, the German mine is better-organized, featuring cleaner work environment and cozy showers. Although prior to the accident, a triad of German workers had an unpleasant encounter at a French bar due to a misunderstanding, they demonstrate remarkable heroism by risking their lives to rescue the French miners in an unauthorized mission.

A closer examination of the French and German versions of Comradeship based on extensive archival research will undoubtedly yield more in-depth interpretations of the linguistic politics in the film. At the same time, G.W. Pabst’s long and controversial career in Hollywood, Weimar Germany, and Nazi Germany will continue to make multilingual cinema an engaging subject of inquiry for film scholars.

The panel discussion on Comradeship is available for streaming on YouTube and Facebook.

 

Work Cited: Ďurovičová, Nataša. “Vector, Flow, Zone: Towards a History of Cinematic Translatio.” World Cinemas, Transnational Perspectives, edited by Nataša Ďurovičová and Kathleen Newman, Routledge, 2010, pp. 90-120.

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Mission Possible: Why German Studies Today?

Building on existing synergies in the Department of German at the University of California, Berkeley discussed at a recent workshop, the Multicultural Germany Project (MGP) invites you to submit brief takes responding to the question “Mission Possible: Why German Studies Today?” 

These short and spiffy takes on your stakes in the field of approx. 600 words length can be posted as a comment to the Forum page of the Multicultural Germany Project website (mgp.berkeley.edu) or emailed to mcgermany@berkeley.edu and ultimately published on our main Blog.

We would also like to invite you to join us in our critical news digest efforts toward the MGP Chronology, posting links to important news and op-ed articles with source information and a very brief commentary to mgp.berkeley.edu/forum.

Blog posts can also be developed further into position papers to be considered for submission to the Interdisciplinary German Studies Conference on Traveling Forms and for publication in our electronic journal TRANSIT.

Posts by graduate students and early-career researchers are particularly welcome! If the field of German studies has a future, it will be yours!

We look forward to sharing multidirectional takes on our collective purpose! Let’s make it kraut-sourced!

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Workshop on Archival Resistance and the Purpose of German Studies

What might the purpose of German studies be in the face of global gloom and doom?

On September 26, 2020, the Multicultural Germany Project (MGP) addressed this question in a workshop organized by Kumars Salehi, Michael Sandberg, Jonas Teupert, and Deniz Göktürk in conversation with Annika Orich (Assistant Professor of German at Georgia Tech, alumna of the German Graduate Program at the University of California, Berkeley), based on her recently published article “Archival Resistance: Reading the New Right.” (German Politics & Society. Summer 2020, Vol. 38, Issue 2: 1-34.) In her article, Orich offers a reading of Th. W. Adorno’s 1967 lecture “Aspekte des neuen Rechtsradikalismus” in light of its uncanny resonances at our current conjuncture.

When our initial team started to collaboratively assemble an archive of “multicultural Germany” almost twenty years ago in the Department of German at the University of California, Berkeley, the United States were still known as the paradigmatic “nation of immigrants,” and Germany was only reluctantly edging toward official acknowledgement of having de facto become a country of immigration (Einwanderungsland). As our collection grew and was published, first in English as Germany in Transit then in German as Transit Deutschland, no one could foresee what was to come. “Multiculturalism,” all along a problematic concept, only tenable as “a project” rather than a reality of social interaction, has been discredited by the left and the right. Today, the United States have become a deportation nation, deeply divided on questions of immigration and race. On September 17, 2020, in a speech at the National Archives, marking the 233rd anniversary of the signing of the constitution, President Donald Trump called for restoration of “patriotic education,” pushing back against the teaching of critical race theory at schools in the United States. The vilification of migrants and minorities in the light of border security and national unity have become key topics of political agitation both in Europe and the United States in recent years. In Germany, the far-right political party Alternative für Deutschland (AfD), founded in 2013, became the third largest parliamentary group in the Bundestag in the 2017 election with 12.6% of the vote. Populist anti-establishment resentment has been brewing on a broader scale and recently manifested itself in protests organized by the movement Querdenken against the German government’s so-called “Corona dictatorship.”

No doubt, the study of German history offers a wealth of insight into the rise of dictatorial regimes. The reloading of inward-looking right-wing nationalism on an international scale is of current concern. Does critical theory’s analysis of the authoritarian personality and Adorno’s astute analysis of “the specter of technological unemployment,” capitalism’s permanent “declassment” and rendering redundant of workers through automation (today we would say: digitization), still hold as an explanation for the wide-spread lure of fascist movements? How do we account for incessant circular replay in anti-migration rhetoric and structural racism? What kinds of agency is possible in the face of the right’s successful inversions of the language of identity and diversity? Can archives serve as safeguards of democracy?

The turn to official archives and counter-archives does indeed hold promise as a tactic of distanced reflection, memory work for the future, maybe even resistance against revisionist history and governance. Reading in constellations, tracing the circulation of rhetorical patterns regarding collective identifications based on Heimat in historical perspective, and taking up the challenge to analyze missives from the right on a transnational scale, are important skills to train with our students. Learning to read critically will keep comparisons situated in historic and linguistic context. In this spirit, Orich proposed that the compilation of Facebook posts of the group Pegida (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the Occident) Glaube Liebe Hoffnung. Nachrichten aus dem christlichen Abendland, compiled by Gregor Weichbrodt and Hannes Bajohr in 2015, constitutes an act of archival resistance. Digital media have created their own “rogue archives,” to quote Abigail De Kosnik, which require new tools of analysis. The purpose of German studies might be to take up these challenges. We look forward to continuing the conversation.

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Das Comeback der Promis ist ganz Pop

The following post was adapted from schook, a blog by students in the Fall 2019 seminar “German Pop Culture” at UC Berkeley. In this piece, Lianette Alnaber analyzes the motif of the hip-hop comeback in the first video in three years by Afghan-German rapper SSIO.

SSIO, ein deutscher Rapper afghanischer Abstammung, hat am 26. September und nach drei Jahren des Schweigens ein Musikvideo für seinen neuen Song “HASH HASH” veröffentlicht. In diesen letzten vier Tagen hatte sein Musikvideo schon zweieinhalb Millionen Aufrufe auf YouTube. Er war vor seiner dreijährigen Pause sehr berühmt in der deutschsprachigen Welt und galt als eine Pop-Figur der deutschen Hip Hop- und Rap-Szene. Deswegen findet man SSIOs musikalisches Comeback als Hauptthema des Liedes und Musikvideos.

Das Video ist länger als das Lied weil es einen Sketch beinhaltet, der vor dem Lied beginnt. In dieser Eröffnungsszene treibt SSIOs Wiederkehr die Erzählung mit selbstgesteuertem Humor voran. Er macht aus seiner Situation nicht nur einen Witz, sondern auch eine Kritik an der Hip-Hop-Industrie. Zum Beispiel ist “schlage den Popsänger” eine Zeile des Textes. Seine Kritik richtet sich an sein eigenes Plattenlabel, Alles Oder Nix Records, und die Tendenz der Musikindustrie zu jüngeren Rappern. Zum Beispiel ist Mero, der neunzehnjährige Rapper des gleichen Labels, auf dem Deckblatt eines Popmagazins zu sehen.

Die Handlung beginnt mit SSIO als Nichtsnutz, der durch sein unrasiertes Haar und sein unordentliches Wohnwagenhaus charakterisiert wird. Als das Lied endlich beginnt, wacht SSIO in einer fremden Stadt auf. Damit kommen Elemente der Popkultur in das Video. Es gibt viele bunte Farben und Neonlichter von digitalen Werbeplakaten. Auf einem dieser Plakate ist SSIO selbst als Werbung zu sehen. Andere typische Stereotypen der populären Hip-Hop-Kultur sind schnelle Sportwagen, kaum bekleidete Frauen und Trainingsanzüge. Alle davon findet man hier. Die fremde Stadt ist wahrscheinlich Tokyo aber man kann es nicht genau wissen. Diese Kulturverallgemeinerung ist auf dem Asien-Fetischismus, der in westlichen Popmusikvideos häufig vorkommt, basiert. Dieser Aspekt des Musikvideos ist zweifellos problematisch.

Obwohl teilweise problematisch, zeigt dieses Musikvideo das klassische Pop-Figur Comeback. Dies ist eine häufige Strategie für Popsänger, die zu zusätzlichem Ruhm und Karriereschub führt. Die amerikanische Hip-Hop-Kultur hat eindeutig einen großen Einfluss auf die deutsche Hip-Hop-Szene. Man kann argumentieren, dass Hip-Hop-Kultur auch Popkultur ist, und viele Rapper verbinden sich direkt mit der Popkultur. Dieser Einfluss wird durch die Verwendung gängiger Pop-Symbole dargestellt, die in diesem Musikvideo zu finden sind. Als kleines Experiment bat ich meine nicht deutschsprachige Mitbewohnerin, sich dieses Musikvideo anzusehen und ihre Reaktion zu erzählen. Ich war neugierig, ob sie die Erzählung verstehen würde, ohne den Text zu verstehen. Sie konnte den Kontext des Songs anhand gängiger Hip-Hop-Themen wie Gesellschaftsschichten und die Bedeutung von Erfolg interpretieren. Diese Erfolgssymbole sind in der amerikanischen Popkultur gleich: Marken und äußeres Erscheinungsbild bilden das Gesamtbild der Pop-Figur.

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Apache 207 und seine goldenen Nike-Rollschuhe

The following post was adapted from schook, a blog by students in the Fall 2019 seminar “German Pop Culture” at UC Berkeley. In this piece, Lianette Alnaber examines the significance of consumer branding in constructing the persona of Turkish-German rapper Apache 207.

Apache 207, ein deutscher Rapper und Sänger mit türkischen Wurzeln, ist in den letzten Monaten zu einer Rap/Pop-Sensation in den Musikcharts geworden. Im April 2019 gelang ihm mit seinem Lied “Kein Problem” der Durchbruch in den deutschen Mainstream. Sein Musikstil wird oft als eine einzigartige Kombination aus Eurodance und Straßenrap beschrieben, was sich in seinen poppigen Musikvideos visuell ausdrückt. Eurodance ist ein Genre der elektronischen Tanzmusik, das in den 90er Jahren in ganz Europa populär war. Es wird oft durch Elemente des Pop charakterisiert. Einer der wichtigsten Indikatoren für Pop in Musikvideos ist die Mode. Genauer gesagt, werden Marken als Indikatoren für die zeitgenössische Relevanz in der Popkultur verwendet. Im Falle des Musikvideos “Kein Problem” wird Apache 207 mit maßgeschneiderten, goldenen Nike-Rollschuhen als deutsche Pop-Ikone etabliert.

Das Musikvideo beginnt damit, dass Apache dieses Paar goldener Nike-Rollschuhe im Kofferraum seines Autos entdeckt. Sie sind nicht nur golden, sondern auch extrem glitzernd. Sie sind hübsch auf rote Seide gelegt, als ob sie auf ihrem persönlichen roten Teppich ständen. Ein goldener Lichtstrahl reflektiert auf seinem Gesicht, während er sie anschaut. Diese Einführung sagt schon alles: Die goldene Eintrittskarte zum Erfolg liegt in Markenbekanntheit und Kapitalismus. Es scheint, dass das Nike-Symbol überall zu finden ist, wo es im Video möglich ist, und es wird definitiv als ästhetisches Element verwendet. Statt im teuren Sportwagen herumzufahren, fährt Apache auf seinen glitzernden, goldenen Nike-Rollschuhen herum und sieht dabei immer noch cool aus.

Die meisten Pop-Ikonen verbinden sich schließlich mit großen, etablierten Marken. Vielleicht kann man interpretieren, dass Apache 207 in der Luft läuft, wenn er diese markierten Schuhe trägt. Feuerkracher schießen sogar irgendwann aus den Rollschuhen, gerade als wir dachten, dass die Schuhe nicht noch glamouröser werden könnten. Wahrscheinlich wird er sich bald mit anderen namhaften Marken zusammenschließen, jetzt, da er den Status einer “Pop-Figur” erlangt hat.

Die Fans haben ihre Bewunderung für den Stil von Apache deutlich zum Ausdruck gebracht. Ausgehend von den Kommentaren zu seinem Musikvideo “Kein Problem” scheint es, dass die Mehrheit seiner Fans mehr auf seinen Modegeschmack als auf die Musik selbst achtet (obwohl ich sicher bin, dass sie auch für die Musik da sind). Zum Beispiel: “Apache ist der einzige der Rollkragenpullover mit einer Jogginghose kombinieren darf.” (Ilkay Modric, YouTube) Das Wort “iconic” taucht in den Kommentaren immer wieder auf, und dies ist meistens eine Reaktion auf den Stil von Apache. Mode spielt in der Popkultur immer schon eine große Rolle, besonders wenn es darum geht, das Bild einer Pop-Figur zu konstruieren. Dies ist definitiv der Fall für Apache 207. “Mit Goldenen Rollschuhen immer noch Männlicher als 90% der deutschen Rapper.” (Tim N, YouTube)

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Hip-Hop: Afroamerikanisch und Global

The following post was adapted from schook, a blog by students in the Fall 2019 seminar “German Pop Culture” at UC Berkeley. In this piece, Ray Savord examines the aesthetic and political development and impact of hip-hop since its inception, noting how the worldwide influence of black American culture has brought out new sounds in Germany, among them hip-hop’s signature call to resistance.

Hip-Hop ist vielleicht die einflussreichste kulturelle Bewegung unserer Zeit. Der Hip-Hop, der in den späten 70er-Jahren unter afroamerikanischen Jugendlichen in städtischen Zentren entstand, hat sich seitdem zu einem weltweiten Phänomen entwickelt. Von Cro bis BTS, von K-Pop bis Tuvan rap, von Trap bis EDM, von Streetwear bis Street Art hat Hip Hop fast jeden Aspekt der modernen Popkultur nachhaltig beeinflusst. Doch sein Einfluss, wie der vieler anderer Kulturformen der afrikanischen Diaspora, bleibt oft unbeachtet.

Der innovative Ansatz von Hip-Hop in Bezug auf Musiktechnologie hat die Art und Weise, wie Popmusik gemacht wird, für immer verändert. Die Verwendung der Sampling-Technologie (vor allem der 808 Maschinen) als Instrument und die Überlagerung mehrerer verschiedener Audioausschnitte, die von frühen Hip-Hop-Künstlern entwickelt wurden, beeinflussen auch heute noch die akribischen Produktionen und die Schallzitate von EDM. Nicht nur die Methode der Musikproduktion, sondern auch die ästhetischen Werte der Popmusik haben sich geändert, um die „Prioritäten der schwarzen Kultur“ („black cultural priorities“) im Hip-Hop widerzuspiegeln, wie die Musikwissenschaftlerin Tricia Rose in ihrem 1994 Buch über das Genre feststellt. Die Verlagerung von höhenlastiger zu basslastiger Musik in den letzten Jahrzehnten geht zurück auf die Betonung der stampfenden Bässe und Trommeln, die wir im Hip-Hop finden. Am offensichtlichsten war, dass Hip-Hop uns Rap gebracht hat. Obwohl das Genre mittlerweile über 40 Jahre alt ist, bleibt es relevant, wie die Trope des Rap-Verses in fast jedem Popsong aus den 2000er Jahren und die aktuelle Popularität von “Sprechsingen” (bei Songs wie „Shape of You“ von Ed Sheeran) bezeugen können.

Diese Innovationen erstrecken sich auch auf die bildende Kunst. Street Art, mittlerweile eine beliebte Touristenattraktion in Städten wie Berlin, München und Prag, begann in New York mit dem Taggen von Gebäuden und U-Bahn-Wagen durch Afroamerikaner und lateinamerikanische Jugendliche. Während Street Art in den letzten Jahren durch die private Auftragsvergabe von Wandgemälden ein gewisses Maß an Geltung erlangt hat, ist Graffiti noch stigmatisiert. Die Anerkennung bestimmter und nicht anderer Ausdrucksformen zeigt, was auf dem Spiel steht, wenn wir vergessen, woher diese Formen stammen: Graffiti wird immer noch als minderwertig, kunstlos, Ghetto oder als Verunstaltung angesehen, alles rassistischen Assoziationen mit schwarzen Menschen. Gleichzeitig wird Street Art (zumindest von namhaften, größtenteils weißen Künstlern) als schön und als ein potenzieller finanzieller Gewinn für die Städte angesehen, in denen sie sich befinden. Diese Formen sind angeblich gleich; der einzige Unterschied besteht in der Kodierung der Hautfarben: Graffiti ist immer noch stark an die marginalisierte Identität gebunden, doch Street Art nicht, trotz ihres gemeinsamen Ursprungs in der urbanen afroamerikanischen Erfahrung. Fragen Sie sich, warum Banksy seine Kunst in einer Galerie ausstellen kann, während ein in Brownsville lebendes schwarzes Kind wegen Taggen verhaftet wird.

Tatsächlich beruht ein Großteil der internationalen Anziehungskraft des Hip-Hop auf dieser Verbindung mit Marginalisierung. In einer Welt, in der Kolonialismus und Kapitalismus die Vorherrschaft der weißen Kulturformen auferlegt haben, bietet Hip-Hop eine überzeugende Alternative zur rassistischen kulturellen Hegemonie. Für Gruppen wie die Hu zum Beispiel ermöglicht die Kombination von Rap mit traditioneller Kehlkopfgesangstechnik, dass die mongolische Volkskultur einen Platz in der Popkultur einnimmt. Eine solche musikalische Hybridität, die Hip-Hop zulässt, ist ein wichtiges konterhegemonisches Instrument, das die kolonialen Tendenzen der Popkultur von innen heraus destabilisiert.

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Rapper sein, der neue Pop-Trend?

The following post was adapted from schook, a blog by students in the Fall 2019 seminar “German Pop Culture” at UC Berkeley. In this piece, Kian Jansepar unpacks the thematic complexities of German rap as the scene negotiates its relationship to gangster imagery alongside its growing popularity.

Vor einem Jahr, wurde die beliebte TV Serie “Dogs of Berlin” auf Netflix urausgestrahlt. Diese Serie präsentiert uns Themen wie Rappen und dem Gangsterleben in Berlin. Sie zeigt uns einen besonderen Aspekt der populären Trends unter Jugendlichen. Rappen ist einer dieser Trends. In vielen Übergangsszenen in dieser Serie gibt es deutsche Rap-Songs. Dies zeigt den aktuellen Musikgeschmack der Jugendlichen. Aber es ist nicht das gleiche Rappen wie das der 90er. Es geht nicht mehr um harte Zeiten oder Gangsterleben. Bei vielen populären Rap-Liedern geht es um Feiern und darum Spaß zu haben. Ein tanzender Beat im Hintergrund ist ebenfalls enthalten. Dieser Art Pop/Rap Musik ist jetzt der neue Hit.

Am Wochenende hört man diese Art von Musik überall in Clubs und Shisha-Bars. Die deutschen Topcharts stecken voller solcher Musik. Aber kommt die Popularität der Musik aus den Texten? In seinem Lied “Roller” singt Apache 207 über einen Rocker Lebensstil, den sich viele wünschen: “Mein Kopf platzt, Gucci-Sandalen, ich trag’ sie nur aus Trotz Trotzdem machen sie mir nach”. Also was ist besonders an Gucci-Sandalen und 200-Euro Champagner? Es kann die materialistische Welt der Jugendlichen repräsentieren. Der materialistische Aspekt schafft eine Verbindung zur Popmusik. Die Popularität der Musik bezieht sich auch auf die Popkultur. Die aktuellen Partythemen in der Rap-Musik ziehen im Vergleich zu den vorherigen Themen in der Rap-Musik ein breites Publikum an. Viele Menschen wollen einen solchen Party-Lebensstil erleben und genießen solche Musik, während sie feiern. Die Popularität der Musik hat auch dazu geführt, dass die Jugendlichen Rapper werden wollen, um sich an solchen Lebensstilen zu erfreuen.

Aber kann man davon ausgehen, dass Rap nicht mehr über Leid und Schmerz ist? Die “Dogs of Berlin” Serie bezeichnet auch eine andere Seite des Deutschen Rap. Einer unserer Charaktere will eine Karriere als Rapper anfangen, aber als er vor dem populären Gangster Haftbefehl sein Lied singt, bekommt er die Rückmeldung, dass er nicht auf die Straße gehört. Was bedeutet das? Er ist nicht Gangster genug. Das ist widersprüchlich besonders weil wir schon bestimmt haben, dass die populäre Rap-Musik heutzutage nicht unbedingt über Gangster-Leben ist. Trotzdem gibt es immer noch einen starken Einfluss des Gangsterlebens in der Rap-Musik. Je größer der Einfluss, desto weiter entfernt fällt er von der Popmusik, denn solche Rap-Musik hat einen ganz eigenen Stil. Die Themen handeln nicht von Liebe und die Instrumente sind nicht die üblichen Pop-Instrumente. Dies sind nur einige Beispiele, die den Unterschied verdeutlichen.

Also, welche Art von Rap wird als Pop angesehen und welche nicht? Meiner Meinung nach hat die Rap-Musik heute viele neue Aspekte erhalten, die sie mit Pop in Verbindung bringen. Diese neue Mischung aus Pop und Rap ist mittlerweile in westlichen Ländern sehr beliebt. Die Themen in den Texten sind glücklicher und fröhlicher als der Rap von früher und es geht hauptsächlich darum, Spaß zu haben. Die Klänge haben sich auch mit mehr instrumentalen und Uptone-Beats vermischt. Man kann auch sehen, dass die Konzerte dieser Art von Musik wegen der Bühnenauftritte der Rapper, Ähnlichkeiten mit Popkonzerten haben.

Deswegen können wir nach all dieser Popularität und Ähnlichkeit mit Popmusik davon ausgehen, dass der moderne Rap mittlerweile zu einem dominanten Faktor der Popkultur geworden ist.

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Transit

With actors Frank Rogowski and Paul Beer.

Premier German auteur Christian Petzold’s adaptation of the 1942 Anna Seghers’s novel follows Georg (Rogowski), a young Jewish man who flees the Nazis to France with the identity and papers of a dead author, only to meet and fall in love a woman searching for her missing husband — the very man Georg is pretending to be. Petzold keeps the historical narrative of Seghers’s novel but refuses any period piece trappings, opting instead for modern dress and sets.

Links: YouTube (Trailer), IMDB

Genre(s): Drama, Romance, Historical

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