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Traveling Forms


"Meine eigene Geschichte": Identity Construction Through Reading in Abbas Khider's Der falsche Inder

This article examines issues of authorship, identity, and narrative form in Abbas Khider’s 2008 novel Der falsche Inder as developed through its thematization of reading. The novel presents a narrative of twenty-first century forced migration that challenges general assumptions about the identity formation of migrants by staging interventions in established discourses on literary authority and authenticity. While tropes of writing and authorship tend to dominate such discourses, the novel’s focus on reading, largely overlooked in the scholarship on the novel to date, repositions the debate. By undercutting romanticized notions of authorship and originality with the physical, material, and economic realities of migration, the novel exposes the bourgeois preconditions of such romanticized notions. This article argues that the novel’s depiction of identity construction revolving around reading instead of writing foregrounds the power of readers to construct not only their own identity but also that of the figures they read about. The novel destabilizes notions of identity for both migrant and author figures by focusing on the constructive power readers have in shaping the identities of migrants and their narratives. Literary theories of narration and reading as well as social theories of form and formation elucidate the novel’s critique of the current fetishization of originality and authenticity in the public literary discourse on so-called Migrations- or Migrantenliteratur.

Fostering Transnational, Multilingual Collaboration: The Berlin-based Artists' Initiative

The Berlin-based initiative Weiter Schreiben was founded in 2017 by the writer Annika Reich and responds to the daunting refugee situation in contemporary Europe by encouraging collaboration between established and displaced writers living in Germany. The initiative’s objective is to foster multidirectional networks instead of one-directional support.

This article explores how the organizational features of Weiter Schreiben are directly tied to its successful fostering of transnational and multilingual communities. A discussion of the initiative’s journal, (Weiter Schreiben Magazin, June, 2019) illustrates that these communities emerge through the conversation about – and the production and reception of – creative writing and other artistic endeavors. Specifically, the journal’s emphasis on locations and memories links the work of displaced writers and visual artists hailing from a range of continents and countries. My main case study is the collaborative exchange between the Syrian poet Lina Atfah who escaped Syria in 2014 and the author Nino Haratischwili who was born in Georgia and moved to Germany in 2003. The multiple forms of proximity that emerge between these two writers underscore the utter inadequacy of thinking in categories of national literatures. Inspired by Ann Rigney’s work on transnational memory and the “conjunctures” Susan Stanford Friedman observes between “‘New’ World Literature and Migration Studies,” I conclude by pondering some of the broader implications of the Weiter Schreiben initiative for the role of creative writing in an increasingly interconnected world.

The Figure of the Exiled Writer in Comparison: Intertextuality in Lion Feuchtwanger's Exil (1940) and Abbas Khider's Der falsche Inder (2008)

Drawing on Genette’s theory of transtextuality, this paper investigates how intertextuality is used in Lion Feuchtwanger’s Exil (1940) and Abbas Khider’s Der falsche Inder (2008) to design the figure of the exiled writer, who is marked in a threefold manner: by his ability to channel his potencies and potential into artistic productivity; by his capability of achieving self-determination through his writing; and by his willingness to use language as a tool of hope and resistance against oppression and discrimination. The shared intertexts are Rilke’s early writings Die Weise von Liebe und Tod des Cornets Christoph Rilke (1904) and Das Stunden-Buch (1905), Benn’s connected poems ‘Der späte Mensch’ (1922) and ‘Nur zwei Dinge’ (1953), as well as similar mythological texts, predominantly Homer’s Odyssey.

Although Feuchtwanger’s and Khider’s novels are usually classified as examples of two different genres—‘exile literature’ in the case of Exil and ‘migrant literature’ in the case of Der falsche Inder—the shared intertextuality of these ‘touching tales’ (Adelson 2000) offers the possibility of overcoming the division between two allegedly different literary genres and foregrounds the transhistorical and transcultural dimension inherent to any writing on the topic of exile.

Towards a European Postmigrant Aesthetics: Christian Petzold's Transit (2018), Phoenix (2014), and Jerichow (2008)

A contested polity and an imagined community, Europe is confronting a myriad of political, economic, and climatic shifts. Ethnographer Regina Römhild has recently argued that understanding Europe as homogeneous and clearly demarcated inaccurately conjures a truncated White entity quite distinct from that which its early founders imagined. Römhild juxtaposes a Europe traditionally, historically, and fundamentally constituted by migrancy. She shows the fundamental importance of neo/colonial entanglements, sketches Europe as part of a black Mediterranean (cp: Paul Gilroy), and explains how resistant, anti-colonial imaginations variously shape this union. In these ways and more, Europe has always already been constituted through exchange, movement, and porousness. Drawing on Römhild, I analyze Berlin School filmmaker Christian Petzold's films Transit (2018), Phoenix (2014) and Jerichow (2008) with an eye towards what I dub their postmigrant aesthetics. Drawing on sociologist Jin Haritaworn, I pay special attention to these works' commentaries on "regenerative" minorities. Further, I argue that these films also highlight limitations of the concept of postmigrant Europe. Even if historically accurate, it cannot (yet) be understood as normative, but rather aspirational, because in our real-existing Europe, power dynamics between individuals and communities inhere and continue to thwart equitable participation. Artistic production and aesthetics have especially important work to do under such circumstances; I suggest that these recent films by Petzold invite viewers to notice and (re)consider complicities in this power differential and to imagine and work toward a postmigrant Europe.


Translations from the Poetic Archives of Migration

This piece serves as an introduction to a TRANSIT 13.1 subsection--a collection of poetry that investigates forms of archives and archival knowledge. In addition to introducing the subsection's contributions, it also details projects and collaborations carried out inter- and intradepartmentally at University of California, Berkeley.

Empty Archives - Lost Letters

This is a translation of an excerpt from Zafer Şenocak's Das Fremde, das in jedem wohnt: Wie Unterschiede unsere Gesellschaft zusammenhalten.

Church Bells in Istanbul

This is a translation of an excerpt from Zafer Şenocak's Das Fremde, das in jedem wohnt: Wie Unterschiede unsere Gesellschaft zusammenhalten (2018).

The Other Side of Things

This is the German original and English translation of Zafer Şenocak's "Die Rückseite der Dinge / The Other Side of Things," which itself is an excerpt from his forthcoming novel Eurasia.

The Hour of Assembly

This is an unpublished German original and English translation of Zafer Şenocak's "Die Stunde des Zusammenfügens / The Hour of Assembly."

Ten Years After Fukushima

This is a translation of Yoko Tawada's "Zehn Jahre nach Fukushima," an essay on the archive of memory and nuclear power.

Translator Introduction

An introduction by Carpenter and Cho-Polizzi to their translation of Yoko Tawada's "Bioskoop der Nacht / Night Bioscope"

Night Bioscope

An English translation of Yoko Tawada's original "Bioskoop der Nacht."


Introduction: Traveling Forms (Global German Studies)

The present Covid-19 pandemic has brought the contradictions of our global existence into sharp relief. While the spread of the virus across national and continental borders has raised the awareness of global entanglements, the resultant closure of national borders even within the European Schengen Area locked people down in place and brought transnational movement to a halt. With most academic conversations having moved online, the 29th Annual Berkeley Interdisciplinary German Studies Conference, held February 19-20, 2021, gathered a group of scholars from across the globe to address the state of our discipline in times of uncertainty and transformation. The breadth of approaches contained under the disciplinary heading “German Studies/Germanistik'' can be at times dizzying, but we believe this ultimately to be a strength of what we call German Studies. Ours, perhaps more than many others, has been a discipline seeking to redefine itself by deconstructing its originary conception – in the sense both of its initially nationalistic orientation as well as its theoretical foundations and antecedents.

Translingual Encounters: Freedom, Civic Virtue, and the Social Organism in Liang Qichao's Reading of Kant

From 1903 to 1904 while exiled in Japan, Liang Qichao (1873-1929), an intellectual and political theorist of late-Qing and early-Republican China,  introduced Chinese readers for the first time to Immanuel Kant in a series of articles entitled “The Theory of Kant, the Greatest Modern Philosopher” (近世第一大哲康德之學說). Liang’s article serves as an example of what Lydia Liu terms translingual practices, its existence predicated upon complex international networks of institutional affiliations, the circulation of publications, the international movement of students, and the effects of political upheavals such as the failed 1898 Hundred Days reform that forced Liang to flee to Japan. These networks created the conditions of possibility for Liang’s article, the result of a chain of translations and interpretations traversing four languages: German, French, Japanese and Chinese. Possibly because Kant was neither a major figure in Liang’s subsequent writings nor a figure often cited as major source of inspiration by Chinese revolutionaries in the first half of the 20th century, the relationship between Kant and modern Chinese thought has been understudied. Rather than focusing on questions of accuracy in Kant’s transnational reception, this paper is instead interested in a different set of questions focusing on the productivity of Liang’s interpretation: how and towards what ends does Liang mobilize Kant rhetorically? How did Liang’s reading of Kant contribute to the articulation of ethical ideals or the creation of a new political imaginary?  Drawing from Liang’s commentaries in his translations and his other articles published during this period, the paper argues that Liang’s interpretation of Kant places a particular emphasis on a conception of freedom founded upon the moral cultivation of the people that marks a fundamental break from the traditional Confucian concept of Tianxia 天下, or “all under heaven.”  Liang argued that Kant’s concept of freedom, because it linked the individual to the group in an organismic whole, reconciled the needs of the individual vis-à-vis the collective state, which supported an account of ethics and politics that was committed to both universal humanist morality and nationalist politics.  Liang’s interpretation of Kant therefore illuminates the historical and theoretical coarticulation of nationalism and liberalism that critiques the forms of ideological mystification which would hold these two terms in binary opposition.

Translation Terminable and Interminable: Psychoanalysis Between Vienna and Calcutta

Psychoanalysis, as Carl Schorske claimed, was a child of its own epoch. Marked by the political situation in Austria, Victorian moral codes, the German language and its literary tradition, readings of Classical Greco-Roman culture, and bourgeois middle-European culture, however, Sigmund Freud conceived of psychoanalysis as universal. But when in its early days psychoanalysis began traveling across the world, what came to the fore was its situated and local character rather than its universality. Once established in different locales, psychoanalytic technique adapted to different populations, fundamental texts of the discipline began to be read in other languages, and new psychoanalytic concepts emerged. What made it possible for psychoanalysis to function clinically in other contexts was a process of translation. In this article, I propose to understand the process of translation that takes place in the international circulation of psychoanalysis as one that is informed by the psychoanalytic concept of transference. I explore the kind of translation that psychoanalysis underwent in its international circulation, focusing on its history in India, with specific reference to Girindrasekhar Bose, who founded the Indian Psychoanalytical Society in Calcutta and is often considered the first non-Western psychoanalyst. I focus not only on the versions of psychoanalysis that result from this process of translation as transference, but also on what those translations of psychoanalysis might reveal about Freudian thought.

Das deutsche Kolonialerbe in der Jugendkolonialliteratur der BRD und der DDR

Dieser Beitrag setzt sich mit der Behandlung des deutschen Kolonialerbes in der Jugendkolonialliteratur der DDR und der BRD auseinander. Da die untersuchten Werke – genauso wie die Mehrheit der bis zur deutschen Teilung veröffentlichten Jugendkolonialbücher – an historische Ereignisse und Staatsideologien anknüpfen, wird im ersten Teil des Beitrags der gesamtdeutsche kulturgeschichtliche Kontext und der gesellschaftliche Status des Schwarzseins dargestellt. Das Hauptaugenmerk des zweiten Teils liegt auf der staatsideologischen Prägung dieser Werke. Dabei wird der Fokus vor allem darauf gelegt, wie diese Prägung sowohl bei der Darstellung der deutschen Kolonialgeschichte als auch bei Race- und Genderkonstruktionen verschiedener Figuren festzustellen ist. Auf den ersten Blick zeichnen sich die westdeutschen Jugendkolonialwerke durch kolonialrevisionistische Aspekte und thematische Vielfalt aus, während bei der ostdeutschen Jugendkolonialliteratur eine kolonialkritische Haltung und die Behandlung des zurzeit wieder vielbesprochenen deutschen Völkermords an den OvaHerero und Nama dominant sind. Danach werden deren Gemeinsamkeiten thematisiert, die auf die gemeinsame Geschichte und ein gesamtdeutsches Kulturerbe zurückzuführen sind. Dabei wird auf den dargestellten Kolonialrassismus und auf das Potenzial der Jugendliteratur bei der Dekolonisierung der Germanistik hingewiesen.

"Biohaus": The Bauhaus and the Biopolitics of Global Space

Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, art historians and urban studies scholars have been pleading for a more nuanced analysis of the Bauhaus in order to divorce from the one-sided affirmative reading of the iconic German art school. Yet, within the prevailing heroic narrative that still dominates contemporary public discourse after the 100-year anniversary of the school, the Bauhaus is praised for its affordable as well as working class-oriented design and it is thus depicted as intrinsically antithetical to today’s neoliberal housing market and bourgeois planning practices. To complicate this somewhat lopsided account, this paper draws on Henri Lefebvre’s critique of functionalist architecture and Michel Foucault’s notion of biopower to examine the late Bauhaus through a biopolitical lens. It first presents the Törten working-class housing estate in Dessau, Germany to scrutinize how biopolitical socio-spatial practices crystalize in Bauhaus urban planning and architecture. The second part of the paper turns to the film screen to discuss how the Weimar-era narrative of bio-functional modernism materializes in Bauhaus artist László Moholy-Nagy’s late 20s, early 30s filmic works on urban life, the so-called “city symphonies.” Considering the postwar afterlives of the Bauhäusler, the Conclusion places these findings in a broader historical perspective and reflects on the contemporary implications of a Foucauldo-Lefebvrian rereading of the Bauhaus. It is within this final contextualization that the paper inquires into the possibilities of people-centered urban dwelling in the age of biopower.

Deterritorialized Travels: Notes on World, Earth, and Literature in the Work of Deleuze and Guattari

Starting with the works of Edmund Husserl, phenomenological philosophy occupied itself with questions of foundation. The German word Grund’s denotations of both foundation and physical ground give rise to numerous foundational concepts such as Husserl´s Lebenswelt and Heidegger´s Erde. Regarding such concepts, one can trace a path that leads through Heidegger´s Der Ursprung des Kunstwerks to the terminology of Deleuze´s and Guattari´s post-phenomenological thought. This paper argues that the Deleuzian term “deterritorialization” can be seen as an offspring of phenomenology´s attempts to cope with foundational problems. Traveling and deterritorialization become defining features of the authors´ reading of the Anglo-American literary tradition. The paper thus also contends that the deterritorialization of language -- the affinity of literary texts for agrammatical forms -- exemplifies for Deleuze and Guattari the characteristic trait of what can be regarded as a traveling form.

World Conspiracy Literature and Antisemitism

Conspiracy theory is a truly global form: Conspiracy narratives transgress the boundaries between cultures, media formats, and languages with ease, as is illustrated by the example of the US-American qanon-narrative, which is now a standard reference point for German Covid-19-‘sceptics.’ Conspiracy theory seemingly becomes a ubiquitous phenomenon and, at the same time, constitutes a global context of interchange between conspiracy readers and authors. My paper examines the example of the ‘Great Reset’-conspiracy theory. This narrative originated in libertarian circles and alleges the existence of a socialist world conspiracy. My paper investigates the roots of this narrative and shows that it has an antisemitic kernel. Drawing on Moishe Postone’s theory of structural antisemitism, I argue that conspiracy thinking is intrinsically connected to antisemitic thinking.

In a second step, the paper discusses the narrative structure of conspiracy theories. Through means of narrativization and fictionalization, conspiracy theories conceptualize world as a text that requires meticulous interpretation to reveal its true meaning. Thus, instead of theorizing world, conspiracy theories mythologize it, constituting world as an affective context within a narrative structure. By discussing this complex, I propose the thesis that conspiracy theory resembles in many regards the concept of world literature, as it constitutes world as a function of narrativization. Conspiracy theory could therefore be understood as a clandestine undercurrent of the discourse of world literature, which, albeit seemingly connected to progressive values, is charged with its regressive other. Correlating world literature and world conspiracy literature, my paper seeks to establish a better understanding of the contemporary phenomenon and to challenge our concept of world literature.

Open Forum

TRANSIT Vol. 13.2 Archival Engagement

TRANSIT Vol. 13.2 Call for Papers: Archival Engagement