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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Special Topic: Cosmopolitical and Transnational Interventions in German Studies

Guest Editors: B. Venkat Mani and Elke Segelcke


Cosmopolitical and Transnational Interventions in German Studies

This Special Topic presents a collection of scholarly essays which emerged from a multi- and interdisciplinary panel series at the 49th Annual Conference of the German Studies Association, and which represent the continuation of a collaborative thought process about transnational and cosmopolitical interventions that re-position the nation as text, performance, and pedagogy. From multiple critical perspectives, these articles examine anthropological, historical, cultural, linguistic, literary, and political reactions to German self-imagination and German imagination of the non-German/non-European “other,” thereby raising many questions pertinent to scholarly inquiry in the interdisciplinary field of German Studies.

The Visual Regime of the Globe: Revaluing Invisibility in Global Modernity

How do we envision our relation to the rest of the world if responsibility and response are predetermined by images of planet earth? While our understanding of translocal relations heavily draws upon the globe to grasp various works of globalization, this article shows how eclipsing the planetary gaze is an essential step toward imagining a radically democratic society of world citizens. It maps out an epistemic kinship of global visions in which feeling and thinking are actually out of joint with what is happening in global modernity. Under scrutiny are wide-ranging topics: early-modern cartography, eighteenth-century ethnography, and contemporary concerns with climate change.

Zeitnetze. Globalisierung und postmoderne Ästhetik in Helmut Kraussers Roman UC

Der Artikel untersucht am Beispiel von Helmut Kraussers 2003 erschienenem Roman UC die Auseinandersetzung mit der „Episteme Netz“ (Hartmut Böhme) in der deutschsprachigen Gegenwartsliteratur. Gezeigt wird, wie in neueren Romanen Figuren des Netzes und der Vernetzung globalisierungskritisch gewendet werden, indem sie mit Symptomen der Entortung und des Identitätsverlustes assoziiert werden. Im Zentrum der Analyse steht das in vielen neueren Romanen strukturbildende Konzept einer netzförmigen Zeit, das eine Vielzahl sich gegenseitig ausschließender, aber dennoch gleichberechtigter Chronologien nebeneinander existieren lässt. Das Motiv des Zeitnetzes verweist dabei auf Werke einiger Klassiker der Postmoderne wie Jorge Luis Borges und Vladimir Nabokov, deren literarästhetische Konzepte von Krausser aufgenommen und vor dem Hintergrund einer veränderten globalen Lebenswirklichkeit problematisiert werden.

Bilingual Signs in Carinthia: International Treaties, the Ortstafelstreit, and the Spaces of German

Analyzing the long-running conflict surrounding bilingual (German-Slovene) signs in Southern Austria, this article approaches the Ortstafelstreit as an illustration of the performative character of national languages, the performances to which contested national languages give rise, and the destabilization of national languages in a transnational era.

Bordering on Names: Strategies of Mapping in the Prose of Terézia Mora and Peter Handke

The contemporary prose works of Peter Handke and Terézia Mora are marked by a common formal feature: the strategy of circumlocution, whereby narrative intrigue is fueled by the continual and nimble avoidance of any proper place-names. Their commitment to this aesthetic strategy of non-naming can be linked to a literary tradition of late modernism by way of the Austrian writer Ingeborg Bachmann, who saw utopian potential in the observance of “bordering” on words and lands, but not overstepping their edges. Handke and Mora, writing under the influence of Bachmann, only ever “border” on naming places, and are thus able to create nuanced, estranged narratives of inhabited space and subjectivity, which continually point towards the (perpetually absent) linguistic practices that would attach the literary work to a particular (cultural, national, linguistic) locality. For these authors, the hopeful potential that Bachmann saw in “bordering” attains a critical capacity. Handke and Mora write novels that worry about how a literary work––like the nation-state––could become an exclusionary filter of life, persons, and experience. This worry becomes a substantial aspect of their works, and is evinced by a creative refusal to define their narrative realities with a conventionally operating rigid designator.

Ein Krieg auf Tuchfühlung. Hans Magnus Enzensbergers (unwillkürliche) Annäherungen an den Jugoslawienkonflikt

Hans Magnus Enzensbergers Essay Aussichten auf den Bürgerkrieg ist eines der ersten literarischen Zeugnisse, in dem ein breit angelegter, global ausgerichteter Versuch unternommen wird, sich mit der neuen geopolitischen und ideologischen Weltkonstellation auseinanderzusetzen, die sich in den ersten Jahren nach dem Mauerfall durch eine Gewalteskalation auszeichnete. In Enzensbergers makroperspektivischer Zeitdiagnose, die in dem globalen Chaos der Gewalttätigkeit eine intellektuelle Orientierung anzubieten trachtet, kommt den jugoslawischen Kriegen, genauer gesagt, ihrem nahen Schauplatz, eine besondere Rolle zu. Den Drehpunkt der textuellen Analyse im vorliegenden Artikel bildet die Denkfigur der Nähe, die die asymetrische Dynamik in der Wahrnehmung dieses fremden Krieges demonstriert, so daß Nähe und Ferne nicht in einem direkt proportionalen Verhältnis mit der geographischen Entfernung stehen, sondern den Schauplatz der kriegerischen Ereignisse auf dem Balkan von Anfang an diskursiv aus der diskreten Lokalität in der südöstlichen europäischen Ecke in andere räumliche und gedankliche Konstellationen hineingebracht wird.

Postcolonialism, Islam, and Contemporary Germany

This paper argues that unlike in Britain, France, or the United States, postcolonial thought has not yet arrived in German public debates on migration, integration, and Islam. Instead of accusing the German majority of neglecting the powerful explanatory framework the postcolonial paradigm provides, the article explores the reasons for this phenomenon (1) in the history of German postcolonial criticism against the backdrop of the international field, (2) in the specifics of the German colonial and postcolonial situation, (3) in the considerable change in Western and German perception of Islamicate topics and of Muslims in recent decades, and (4) in particular in the gap between the views of Germany’s multiethnic situation found in German postcolonial criticism and those common among the public. The critical revision of these aspects suggests that German postcolonial criticism, if it strives to put its concepts on the public agenda, has to develop alternative approaches to conceptualize a ‘postcolonial Germany.’

Multilingual Development in Germany in the Crossfire of Ideology and Politics: Monolingual and Multilingual Expectations, Polylingual Practices

The years since German reunification have seen changes in ideologies and policies toward societal multilingualism, linguistic pluralism of linguistic minorities. These changes have responded to the increasing diversity of minority languages as a result of immigration from the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, and the subsequent expansion of the European Union. At the same time, the use of polylingualism or hybrid linguistic practices in everyday, informal contexts by both migrants and Germans has risen to public prominence. In contrast to the official policies that stress German-only education as the key to academic success and social integration, the (covert) prestige and use of languages other than German, especially Turkish, by members of other ethnic groups has been rising, and hybrid linguistic practices are gaining ground, particularly among youth. This paper examines the underlying ideologies, policies, and debates, especially with respect to the role of proficiency in German for adult immigration, naturalization and integration, as well as educational polices and practices for German and other languages.

In the Postmonolingual Condition: Karin Sander’s Wordsearch and Yoko Tawada’s Wordplay

The last two decades have seen a rapid increase in multilingual cultural productions in many different contexts. Frequently, the multilingual make-up of these literary, cinematic, musical, and artistic works has been celebrated as an expression of cultural heterogeneity, pluralism, cosmopolitanism, and hybridity. This essay, however, argues that the meaning produced by and through multilingualism is not always so clear-cut and instead of simple celebration calls for critical analysis. It specifically argues for the importance of recognizing the existence of a monolingual paradigm that first emerged in eighteenth-century Europe and that still inflects the way that subjects, communities, and modes of belonging are imagined and institutions structured. The term “postmonolingual,” which this essay introduces, hence describes the tense co-existence of a still dominant monolingual framework tied to the nation-state, on the one hand, and (re)emergent multilingual practices, on the other. The analysis of two differently multilingual texts engaging with globalization exemplifies these tensions in opposite ways. A reading of the 2002 conceptual artwork Wordsearch: A Translinguistic Sculpture by German artist Karin Sander demonstrates the persistence of the monolingual paradigm even in a cultural product drawing on many languages. Yoko Tawada’s writing, here specifically her 2004 essay “Schreiben im Netz der Sprachen” (“Writing in the Web of Words”), in contrast, offers a critically multilingual perspective that undercuts monolingual assumptions even as the text at first does not appear to use multiple languages. Understanding the postmonolingual condition thus requires attention to the particular forms that multilingualism takes and to their potential entanglement with monolingualism.

Istanbul Next Wave and Other Turkish Art Exhibits: From Governance of Culture to Governance through Culture

Exhibited from November 12, 2009, through January 17, 2010, three art shows under the common title Istanbul Next Wave introduced a newly narrated Turkish history of modern art to German audiences. This Turkish intervention, which led to unprecedented curatorial co-operations by established German and Turkish institutions of contemporary art, is juxtaposed with other Istanbul exhibits from the middle of the first decade of the 21st century, such as Urbane Realitäten – Focus Istanbul, berlin . istanbul . vice . versa, and Call me ISTANBUL ist mein Name, in order to examine the controversies, negotiations, and collaborations that defined recent presentations of Turkish artists’ work in Germany. In a diachronic approach focusing on questions of interventions, this article thus inquires into this particular strand of the history of exhibiting contemporary art in Germany, going back to the early displays of works by Turkish artists in the 1970s and 1980s. Layer by layer, it examines the intricate relations between the presentation of Turkish art and the representation of Turks in Germany, which have done more than merely reflecting, shaping, and molding audiences’ receptions, reviews in the media, and public debates at large. The paper aims at evaluating Turkish art interventions in Germany in relation to processes of Europeanization.

Serdar Somuncu: Turkish German Comedy as Transnational Intervention

A reconceptualization of Germanness, combined with a reconsideration of what constitutes “Germanness” and “Turkishness” and how they are linked, is a central theme in the programs of a younger generation of Turkish German cabaret artists and comedians. As a member of the new generation of performers, Serdar Somuncu stands out, not only for his unapologetic embrace of political theater critical of both German and Turkish social politics, but also for his assertion of a right and responsibility to engage with Germany’s past, coupled with an insistence on differentiation and balanced comparison when discussing integration. After gaining notoriety through his Mein Kampf readings, Somuncu launched a series of programs highlighting Germany’s failure to come to terms with Nazism, the persistence of ethnic stereotypes, the debilitating influence of mass media, and the necessity of a reciprocal process of integration. As a German citizen of Turkish heritage, well versed in the socio-political issues that unite and divide the two countries and zealous in his efforts to incite mutually informed, critical reflection on Turkish German relations, Somuncu has contributed to the transformation of the German comedy stage into a site of transnational intervention.

Differenzerfahrung und transnationale Grenzüberschreitung im Europadiskurs Zafer Şenocaks

Im Kontext der aktuellen Identitätsdebatten in Europa wie in der Türkei will dieser Beitrag jenseits eines territorialen Kulturverständnisses und der Verkürzungen auf “Osten” und “Westen” die Differenzen sowie vielfältigen Überlagerungen beider Kulturen anhand des essayistischen und literarischen Werkes des deutsch-türkischen Schriftstellers Zafer Şenocak näher untersuchen. Der Analyse liegt dabei ein kulturhermeneutischer Ansatz der Transdifferenz zugrunde, der Kulturen als im permanenten Austausch- und Wandlungsprozess begriffene Systeme versteht. Im Unterschied zum europäisch-kulturellen Paradigma einer “Einheit in der Vielfalt” und dem synthetisierenden Konzept der Hybridisierung wird das Denken Şenocaks aus der kulturellen Differenz heraus im Sinne von kulturellen Rissen, bruchstückhaften Identitäten und Mehrfachzugehörigkeiten in den Blick gerückt. Die Sehnsucht der Türken nach Europa begann nicht erst mit der Zwangsmodernisierung Kemal Atatürks, sondern ist Teil der türkischen Identität. Die Orientierung an westlichen Werten sollte somit aus der Sicht des transkulturellen Autors auf dem Fundament der eigenen wiederzuentdeckenden Kultur geschehen.