Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California


TRANSIT bannerUC Berkeley


Translating Communities: Rethinking the Collective in Feridun Zaimoglu’s Koppstoff

Feridun Zaimoglu’s second major book, Koppstoff: Kanaka Sprak vom Rande der Gesellschaft (1998), resists common conceptions of belonging and challenges readers to rethink conventions of religion, nationalism and femininity. As a group of three translators working within an academic setting, we seek both to unpack what it means to be an agent and to exercise our own individual and collective agency as translating subjects in the “mainstream.” This involves providing greater access to Koppstoff through the English language, while respecting the complexity of Zaimoglu’s original texts and their subversive power to both build and obscure notions of community. In this introduction to our collaborative translations of two exemplary texts, “Sistem versus Soopcoolture” (Sistem gegen Süppkültür) and “Everything in this World is Fleeting” (Alles in dieser Welt ist vergänglich), we will discuss our translation process in reference to existing theories of translation and current criticism on Zaimoglu’s work, underscoring the ways in which Zaimoglu complicates prominent models of community formation and the relevance of these models to current German society. In accordance with the nature of Zaimoglu’s work, which constantly undermines the possibility of finite interpretation, this discussion will highlight the act of translation as an exercise in subjectivity. Rather than objectifying the “translatable” or “untranslatable” qualities of Koppstoff, we hope to demonstrate that our translations represent one of multiple ways Zaimoglu’s texts could be effectively rendered into English.

Selections from Kopfstoff

Selections from Feridun Zaimoglu's book Kopfstoff, translated from the German by Kristin Dickinson, Robin Ellis, and Priscilla D. Layne.

Deleuze, Feminism, and the New European Union: An Interview with Rosi Braidotti

Rosi Braidotti is at the vanguard of politically active theorists. Her engagement is marked by her intellectual prowess in feminism of the European Union and by the formation of the Netherlands Research School of Women’s Studies, which she founded in 1988 and where she is currently Distinguished Professor. This interview navigates topics ranging from Braidotti’s most recent book Transpositions (2006) to larger questions regarding contemporary nomadism and the role of Deleuzian philosophy in feminism.

Switzerland and its Past: An Uncomfortable Relationship

This lecture was originally delivered at the University of California, Berkeley, on November 10, 2008. It addresses Switzerland’s asylum policies during the Second World War, as well as its relations with Apartheid South Africa in the 1970s and 1980s. The author argues that Switzerland must accept responsibility for its past faults in order to grow into the humanitarian nation that it professes to be.

Roger de Weck was born in Fribourg in 1953. He is currently chairman of the Board of the Graduate Institute of International Studies in Geneva and a visiting professor at the College of Europe in Bruges and Warsaw. He worked as the Paris correspondent for various Swiss newspapers before becoming editor-in-chief for the Swiss daily Tages-Anzeiger and German weekly paper Die Zeit. He still works for German, French and Swiss newspapers as a columnist. He regularly appears on television and anchors the discussion program Sternstunde for the German TV channel 3Sat. He is a member of the Board of the International Charlemagne Prize of Aachen.

A Fine Self-Deception

Originally published in German in the SonntagsZeitung, October 28, 2008.

Switzerland: Advertising a Strange Case

This lecture was originally delivered at the University of California, Berkeley, on November 18, 2008. Its thematic focus is on multilingualism and cultural diversity in Switzerland. It also addresses political and cultural loyalty, modern survival strategies in economically marginal regions, and cultural priorities in a globalized world.

Iso Camartin was born in Graubünden in 1944. His mother tongue is Romansh but he is fluent in the four official languages of Switzerland. From 1974 to 1997 he worked as a research fellow at the Center for European Studies at Harvard University. From 1985 to 1997 he was Professor for Romansh literature and culture at the Technical University Zurich as well as at the University of Zurich. His pedagogical and research interests focus on multilingual and multicultural minorities. In 1986 he was awarded the European Essay Prize of the Veillon Trust. In 1993 he was writer-in-residence at the University of Southern California. Between 2000 and 2003 he was the director of the cultural division of Swiss Television DRS.


Originally published in German in Iso Camartin, Die Deutschen und ihre Nachbarn: Schweiz (Munich: C.H. Beck, 2008).

Plea for a Mobile Identity

This lecture was originally delivered at the University of California, Berkeley, on December 4, 2008. It focuses on the conception of identity from both a Swiss and an international perspective, debating the conflict between personal, national and global identity on the basis of personal experiences. The focus is on variation and on the multiplicity of identities instead of uniqueness. As such, identity is not seen as fixation or as an orthodox uniform, but rather as a field of tension and a possibility of interaction with others.

Hugo Loetscher was born in Zurich in 1929. He worked as editor-in-chief of the political magazine Weltwoche and as literary editor of the journal du. He is known to be a talented speaker, and is a regular guest on Swiss television to debate Swiss and international politics. He has been a freelance writer since 1969, writing novels, plays, travelogues and essays. Loetscher’s works are often based on his travel experiences; he is considered to be the most cosmopolitan Swiss writer. He had several stays as writer-in-residence, e.g. 1979-80 at the University of Southern California and 1981-82 at the City University of New York. Loetscher was President of the Swiss Writers’ Association and the Swiss Foundation for Photography. In 1992 he received the most prominent Swiss literary prize for his oeuvre, the Grosser Schillerpreis.

If the Good Lord were Swiss

Originally published in German in Der Waschküchenschlüssel, oder, Was-wenn Gott Schweizer wäre (Zurich: Diogenes, 1983).

Points of Entanglement: The Overdetermination of German Space and Identity in Lola + Bilidikid and Walk on Water

In this essay, I consider how films have engaged with the politics of German space and identity in the context of the country’s National Socialist past – and, more specifically, in the context of relations between and among Germans, Jews, and Turks. I analyze scenes from two recent films, Turkish director Kutlug Ataman’s Lola + Bilidikid (1999) and Israeli director Eytan Fox’s Walk on Water (2004), that evoke Berührung between and among these groups through their use of spaces in Berlin that bear weighty historical and ideological connotations. Of key interest for me is the function of queerness and drag in these scenes, as well as the manner in which the scenes serve not only as contestations over space, but also as opportunities for the negotiation of the German body politic.

Switzerland, a Country of Paradoxes: An Interview about Swiss Identity, Politics and Culture with Hugo Loetscher, Roger de Weck and Iso Camartin

The following interview was compiled from conversations with Hugo Loetscher, Roger de Weck and Iso Camartin during their visits to Berkeley in Fall 2008. The three authors took part in the lecture series “Multicultural Identity in Europe: The Swiss Model.” The series was organized in conjunction with the course “The Cultural History of Switzerland in Literature and Film,” taught by Jeroen Dewulf. The other interviewers were participants in the course.

My Place

Originally published as “Meine Ortschaft” in Rapporte (Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1968), pp. 113 – 124. The German edition includes a map of the subject matter. © Suhrkamp Verlag, Frankfurt am Main, 1968. Translation © Roger Hillman, 2009.

Writing Video - Writing the World: Videogeographies as Cognitive Medium

This essay relates to my writings recently published in the monograph Mission Reports – Artistic practice in the field. Ursula Biemann Video Works 1998-2008, Cornerhouse Publishers, in connection with the retrospective exhibitions at Bildmuseet Umea 2008 and Nikolaj Copenhagen 2009. The online version at includes clips of the three films discussed.