Volume 8, Issue 2, 2013
Participatory Media and Public Memory
Focusing on the 1975 drowning death of Çetin Mert, the five-year-old son of a Turkish guest worker family, this essay explores the varied ways that non-German migrants and other minority groups have figured in public memories of the Berlin Wall. On the one hand, Mert’s shadowy presence in local and national recollection is closely related to the marginal place that migrants occupy in dominant narratives of the German nation and its postwar history. On the other hand, my account of recent commemorative practices points to a modest uptick in Mert’s public visibility, one that attests to an increasing (if at times still reluctant) engagement with the contemporary realities of pluralism. Throughout my analysis, I employ the concept of multidirectional memory to illuminate how prevailing representations of the Cold War German past have both intersected with and displaced the remembrance of migration and imperialism at the site of Mert’s death.
This essay examines transnational online communities as sites of identity, belonging and memory. It looks at the ways in which memories are circulated, shared and created within these virtual spaces. It explores, with the guidance of previous research on diasporic online sites, the ways in which notions of nostalgia, ordinariness and hybridity come together in different contexts of online remembering and how virtual memory sites shape the ways in which past is imagined, represented and experienced.
Countermemory and the (Turkish-)German Theatrical Archive: Reading the Documentary Remains of Emine Sevgi Özdamar’s Karagöz in Alamania (1986)
Theatre history stands in a curious relation to the archive: created from physical, archival documents it then itself helps constitute or contest the ‘cultural archive’ which the ‘imagined community’ of a particular area, institution, state, or tradition, draws on. While Turkish-German literature has frequently been invoked in German studies and beyond as a ‘cultural archive’ which preserves ‘counter-narratives’ (Seyhan 3-4), or indexes a ‘transnational’ conception of the Federal Republic of Germany (Adelson 15), until very recently little research has focused on Turkish-German theatre’s possible contribution to such an ‘archive’.
This can be seen most clearly with respect to the academic reception of the doyenne of Turkish-German literature, prize-winning author, actress, and director, Emine Sevgi Özdamar. Despite a focus in the secondary literature on performativity or theatrical elements in Özdamar’s prose work, the writer’s actual theatrical output, which includes six plays, has remained largely overlooked. As a result, these plays have taken on almost mythical status in Özdamar scholarship – while often referred to, they are barely researched. In this article, I use the documentary remains of the premiere of Özdamar’s first play, Karagöz in Alamania, (dir. Özdamar, 1986) to move beyond an understanding of the premiere based solely on the written record of the play. In doing so I intend to show how a return to the physical archival remains of a Turkish-German theatre sheds light on the institutional and aesthetic contexts in which productions take place and which help determine their perceived success or significance.
In conclusion I suggest that much as Özdamar’s novels are often considered to preserve what Azade Seyhan calls ‘a form of countermemory to official history’ (149), the documentary remains of her 1986 production, may be said to preserve a form of counter-memory to the written records of the play. Given current discussions within the German theatrical scene on who theatre as a public institution should serve and how it should change to reflect the increasingly diverse face of modern Germany, the preservation of this ‘countermemory’, may become of increasing relevance.
Alwan's Quest of Home: Re-Mapping Heimat and the Nation in Hussain Al-Mozany’s Der Marschländer: Bagdad–Beirut–Berlin
The German-Iraqi writer Hussain Al-Mozany’s novel Der Marschländer (1999) makes an important contribution to German transnational literature by its productive critical engagement with an ethno-cultural understanding of German nationhood. The novel is based on the travel experiences of the Iraqi male protagonist Alwan to Baghdad, Lebanon, East and West Germany in the turbulent time periods of the 1970s and early 1980s. After experiencing the traumas of war in Iraq and Lebanon, Alwan hopes to start a new life in the Federal Republic as an asylum seeker. The paper’s objective lies in the close examination of Alwan’s initial experiences with West German society, culture, and politics in a small town called Hilter, which is located in the Teutoburg Forest. I analyze the ways Al-Mozany forms transnational negotiations with German national imagination of the 1980s. I do this by exploring Alwan’s engagement with the romantic nationalist discourse and the Holocaust memory culture. I argue that Al-Mozany distorts the harmonious image of the Hilter village community and shows the fallacies of a biological conceptualization of the nation by depicting Alwan’s alienation process in the community. While Al-Mozany challenges a homogenous conceptualization of German identity, he also becomes critical of the exclusion of non-German minorities from the discussions about German history. I contend that by juxtaposing Alwan’s diasporic memory with German collective memory and the private memories of other characters, Al- Mozany explores new imaginative spaces in Germany in which a dialogic and transnational consciousness can arise.
Translation of Enis Batur, “Siyah Bir Çanta Aranıyor (1982),” Babil Yazıları (Istanbul: AFA Yayınları, 1986), 79–81.
El-Tayeb, Fatima. European Others: Queering Ethnicity in Postnational Europe. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2006. 253 pages. Paper, $25.
Yasemin Yildiz, Beyond the Mother Tongue: The Postmonolingual Condition. New York: Fordham University Press, 2011. Cloth, $55.00.
Heike Wiese, Kiezdeutsch: Ein neuer Dialekt entsteht. München: Beck, 2012. Pp. 280. Paper, 12,95 €.