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Reflections on (a) Changing Europe

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Managing Editor's Foreword for TRANSIT Journal 11.2.

Sharing Fugitive Lives: Digital Encounters in Senthuran Varatharajah's Vor der Zunahme der Zeichen

In Senthuran Varatharajah’s novel Vor der Zunahme der Zeichen, two members of a cosmopolitan academic sphere jetting around the globe to attend conferences contingently “meet” in the unlocatable space of Facebook where they initiate a conversation that soon shifts to personal stories of displacement, flight, and asylum. The dialogue makes clear that these fugitive stories remain tied to their specific localities. Having fled from wars over territory and the independence of ethnic minorities, one from the Sri Lankan Civil War, the other from Kosovo, their lives have been rendered discontinuous, fractured in their narratability. The tension arising between the non-space of their encounter and the pertinence of space in their stories conveys this fracture that runs through the text and determines the itinerary of its very movement. Facebook-dialogue provides the promise of this fugitive form of communication in which two stories relate to one another in their similarities without being reduced to simple analogies. Reflecting on the scattered form of the text, I argue that Varatharajah’s novel does not primarily tell two stories of flight, but rather reflects the condition of possibility of telling a story in times of mass-displacement and homelessness.

“The Welser Phantom”: Apparitions of the Welser Venezuela Colony in Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century German Cultural Memory

This article explores the mostly-forgotten history of the sixteenth-century colonization of Venezuela by the Welser Company, a German merchant family company from Augsburg, and its reinterpretation in Germany’s cultural memory in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. When Imperial Germany began to colonize parts of Africa and the South Pacific, the Welser episode resurfaced in its popular culture. The Venezuela Welser colony became a hopeful symbol for Imperial Germany’s colonial desires, and supported imperialists’ idea that Germany had a legitimate right to colonization. Later, after the loss of its colonies at the end of WWI, Germany continued to try and make sense of its colonial past while transitioning between the short-lived German Empire, the democratic Weimar Republic, and the Third Reich. Through an analysis of works of history and historical fiction from the Imperial era through the Third Reich, this paper analyzes how and why the fantasy of the Venezuelan colony fueled the desire for imperial expansion and why it matters to discuss it amidst Germany’s belated imperialism and its ultimate turn to Fascism. The article concludes with an an examination of how Germans have recently decided to decolonize their public spaces. This time Germans’ de-colonial turn aims to connect early colonial history to ongoing struggles against racism and anti-Semitism in the German public sphere.

Eine wohltuende Unsicherheit: On Naming and Authenticity in the Works of Milena Michiko Flašar

Through a close reading of the works by the young Austrian author Milena Michiko Flašar, this article explores the complex role of given, assumed, and socially imposed names for transnational subjects. For the first- and second-generation migrants in Flašar’s texts, migration and translation are both liberating and encumbering: In her first text [Ich bin], translation across linguistic and ethnic borders serves as the perfect defamiliarizing impetus for aesthetic production, while in her novel Okaasan: Meine unbekannte Mutter the plurality of names for the migrant mother inhibits the second-generation daughter’s search for a true or authentic name for herself. Nevertheless, instead of an economy of translation where one name replaces another, Flašar shows her figures gradually developing the capacity to maintain multiple names in different languages. I argue that this replaces the conventional model of individual authenticity as self-congruence with one that does not demand hypermastery of self and that bears witness to the true complexity of transnational experience. A final analysis of Flašar’s breakthrough novel Ich nannte ihn Krawatte builds on these themes to show that even non-migrants and non-minority subjects have access to this same complexity, one which in Flašar’s words infuses a wohltuende Unsicherheit [beneficial uncertainty] into even the most hegemonic society.

Precarious Intimacies: Narratives of Non-Arrival in a Changing Europe

The representation of intimacy in depictions of immigration exists alongside histories of deeply racist contacts and connections. Yet intimate connection may also produce moments of joy, sustaining solidarity and resistance to violent forms of exclusion. In this essay, we develop the notion of precarious intimacies through readings of three films depicting the journeys of refugees to Europe: In this World (Michael Winterbottom, 2002), Ein Augenblick Freiheit [A Moment of Freedom] (Arash T. Riahi, 2008), and Can’t be Silent (2013). The desire for Europe as a “happy object” (Ahmed 2010) propels these journeys, but the films narrate stories of non-arrival which reveal the unhappy consequences of encounters with European border regimes. We consider precarious intimacies both as aesthetic strategies as well as reading practices that call attention to the realities of racialized exclusion while still gesturing to possibilities of contact and compassion.

Stranger Shaming

Translation of the poem “Stranger Shaming” by Katja Huber, from the 2015 anthology Fremd, edited by Fridolin Schley.

Book Reviews

In Permanent Crisis by İpek A. Çelik

Book Review for İpek A. Çelik's In Permanent Crisis (2015).

Black German by Theodor Michael

Book Review for Professor Eve Rosenhaft's English-language translation of Theodor Michael's memoires: Deutsch sein und schwarz dazu: Erinnerungen eines Afro-Deutschen.

Open Forum

TRANSIT Vol. 12.1

Landscapes of Migration