After the Imperialist Imagination

Two Decades of Research on Global Germany and Its Legacies

by Sara Pugach (Volume editor) David Pizzo (Volume editor) Adam Blackler (Volume editor)
©2020 Edited Collection XX, 354 Pages
Series: Transnational Cultures, Volume 3


«After the Imperialist Imagination underscores that imperialism’s hold on Germans’ sense of the global is not yet exhausted, but places greater weight on contestations than its predecessor. I commend the volume for making a noteworthy contribution to a thriving constellation of fields.» (Katrin Sieg, German Studies Review, 45.3, October 2022, pp. 611–613)
The precursor to this book, Sara Friedrichsmeyer, Sara Lennox, and Susanne Zantop’s now classic volume The Imperialist Imagination: German Colonialism and Its Legacy, initiated an explosion of research on all aspects of relations between Germany and the rest of the world. This scholarship emerged from numerous disciplinary fields, encompassing history, literary studies, and anthropology and utilized a diverse set of methodologies, such as environmentalism, transnationalism, and postcolonial theory.
The present collection analyzes scholarship on global Germany since 1998, assessing its impact on German historiography and diaspora studies. It introduces emerging and ongoing research that demonstrates the remarkable breadth of the field today and how scholarly constitutions of German imperialism have expanded beyond the scope of the formal colonial era. In addition, this volume stretches our understanding of German entanglements to the wider world, locating Germans in places that most scholars do not traditionally associate with German imperialism. It reveals that Germany’s colonial presence overseas forged consequential links to landscapes, traditions, and communities beyond Europe that continue to modify the cultural boundaries of Germanness into the present day.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • List of Figures
  • Foreword: German, Global (Nina Berman)
  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction: The Imperialist Imagination 20 Years On: The Historiographical Shift toward a Global Germany (Sara Pugach, David Pizzo, and Adam A. Blackler)
  • PART I Forming the Empire
  • 1 The Language of Empire: Aspiring German Colonists and the Heimat Ideal in Imperial Germany (Adam A. Blackler)
  • 2 Studying Sexual and Racial “Mixture”: Eugen Fischer and the Rehoboth Basters of German Southwest Africa, 1908 (Lisa M. Todd)
  • 3 Emin Pasha and Fracturing Imperialist Imaginaries in the Late 1880s (Matthew Unangst)
  • PART II World War I and Interwar Connections
  • 4 Visualizing Women’s War Work: Photographs and Labor in a German Colonial War Memoir (Michelle R. Moyd)
  • 5 Forgiving the Missionaries: African Moral Imagination and Postcolonial Germans (Paul Glen Grant)
  • 6 German Scientists in South America: Correspondences between Robert Lehmann-Nitsche, Hermann von Ihering, and Max Uhle (Ute Ritz-Deutch)
  • PART III The Third Reich and the World
  • 7 A History of Nazi Germany as Global History (David Pizzo)
  • 8 P/pacific Propaganda: The Nazi Appropriation of Aloha in Klaus Mehnert’s The XXth Century (Alan Rosenfeld)
  • 9 From the “Olympic Ideal” and German-Japanese “Sports Friendship” to Militarization and Gendered Nationalism: The Shifting Ends of The Holy Goal (Valerie Weinstein)
  • PART IV Into the Cold War
  • 10 The Global GDR (Sara Pugach)
  • 11 “Which Germany Do You Come From?”: Contending German Legacies and Trade in Postcolonial Libya (Nicholas Ostrum)
  • 12 West German Involvement in North African Decolonization in the 1950s and 1960s (Brittany Lehman)
  • 13 Christa Wolf in Cuba, or a Case Study in Transnational Collaboration (Jennifer Ruth Hosek)
  • PART V Unified Germany Worldwide
  • 14 Recasting Empire: The “Refugee Crisis” in Germany, Europe, and Beyond (Jeffrey Jurgens)
  • 15 The Collective Responsibility of Colonialism: Postcolonial Fantasies in Christof Hamann’s Usambara (2007) (Priscilla Layne)
  • 16 Post-Wall Germany, the “Post”-Imperialist Imagination, and the Shock-Factor of Crumbling Façades: Exploring the Intersections of North/South and East/West Encounters (Vanessa D. Plumly)
  • Notes on Contributors
  • Index
  • Series index

←xii | xiii→

nina berman


German, Global

In Vermeer’s Hat: The Seventeenth Century and the Dawn of the Global World, Timothy Brook takes paintings by the Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer as a starting point to bring into focus global interconnections as they played out over the course of the seventeenth century.1 One of the chapters focuses on Vermeer’s The Geographer and includes a detailed account of the fate of a Portuguese ship, the Nossa Senhora da Guía, that was wrecked in February 1625 on the coast of China, diverted from its silver-route passage from Manila to Macao across the South China sea. The list of crewmembers is what I would like to draw attention to: Even though the Guía was a “Portuguese” ship, its crew included members from many areas of the world, “people identified as Moors, Blacks, Goans, South Asian Muslims, Macanese, Portuguese, Spaniards, slaves, Tagals, and Japanese” (93). This kind of diversity was common for early modern imperial enterprises and was also mirrored in the ethnic and religious constellations of maritime areas around the world. Just as in our contemporary world, coastal areas, especially around ports, reflected the scope of trade and migration patterns. As trade became global, so did the make-up of key trading hubs and political centers.

Germans (in the broad sense, including peoples who were speaking German dialects and living in areas associated with German political structures, even before anybody identified themselves as “Germans”), while not represented on the crew of the Guía, were part of the European imperial enterprise from the beginning. The famous account of Hans Staden, born around 1525 in Homburg in Hesse, is a case in point. His account of his ←xiii | xiv→journeys to and time in Brazil, particularly when he was living among the Tupinambá people, was published in 1557, quickly translated into other European languages, and had a tremendous impact on early modern imaginings of the New World.

Staden was one of many Germans who were active in the context of other European empires. If we want to extend the scope even further to engage most broadly with a global history of Germany in the world, we encounter myriad instances of migration, war, trade, and pilgrimage that connect Germans with other areas of Europe and beyond. These interactions are documented in texts, archaeological evidence, and other cultural artifacts. Take Hrosvitha of Gandersheim’s dramatic poem Pelagius as an example. Pelagius (959), written in Latin hexameters, comments on the political conflict in Spain. Just as the image of the Middle East in medieval German literature is tied to the very real political, cultural, and economic contact that occurred during the Middle Ages, early modern representations of seafaring, pirates, and utopian islands are deeply connected to global exploration and then colonization in the aftermath of 1492. In the stricter sense, globalization begins with 1492, but transcontinental interaction is visible from the very beginning of writing in the German-language context. Over time, exploration, seafaring, tourism, and visiting fellowships at Goethe Institutes and other institutions resulted in cultural material that sheds light on German interactions with the world.

Multilingual and cross-disciplinary research is needed to tackle the complex histories of European imperialism and colonialism. The artifacts we have access to provide entries into the world that comes into focus fully only once interdisciplinary and multilingual tools are applied. The essays united in this volume span a wide geographical range – from Libya and Cuba to a range of locations tied to the current situation of refugees in Germany – and significantly advance our understanding of the German presence in and relationship to the world. May future inquiries of the subject be inspired by these welcome contributions that broaden our horizons.

1 Timothy Brooks, Vermeer’s Hat: The Seventeenth Century and the Dawn of the Global World (New York: Bloomsbury Press, 2008).

←xiv | xv→


While all collaborative projects are the result of tireless work by many people, we must first acknowledge Sara Friedrichsmeyer, Sara Lennox, and Susanne Zantop. More than any other dynamic, their scholarship served as the principal inspiration for this volume. The Imperialist Imagination strove to reveal the cultural and racial fantasies that pervaded German history, as well as how these forces continue to affect German society up to the present day. In addition, Sara Lennox kindly shared her private correspondence with Sara Friedrichsmeyer and Susanne Zantop from the mid- to late 1990s, when they were working on the book. It has proved invaluable to understanding the state of the field at that time, as well as the original motivations for their project. This current volume aspires to resume this important and necessary work, a charge that is as important now as it was in 1998. We and our fellow contributors remain forever grateful for their efforts to afford the study of German imperialism, diaspora studies, and global migration greater significance among historians. Nina Berman, one of the original contributors to The Imperialist Imagination, has also played a major role in this volume. Not only did she write the foreword, she also provided helpful advice and suggestions along the way.

The idea for the present volume began in 2015, growing out of the Berlin Program for Advanced German and European Studies Alumni Roundtable at the 39th German Studies Association Annual Meeting in Washington, DC. The topic for the roundtable was “Writing Histories of Germans Abroad: Approaches and Methodologies to German Sources on Africa and the Middle East.” While lightly attended, the multifaceted discussions about the state of Global German Studies in the early twenty-first century convinced those present that the conversation needed to continue. Thus two of us – David and Sara – proposed a Seminar for the 40th German Studies Association Annual meeting in San Diego, California. That was where Laurel Plapp, our stalwart editor, approached us to ask if we were ←xv | xvi→interested in putting together an edited volume based on the findings of the Seminar. After three days of intense debate about diverse aspects of German transnationalism, we decided that yes, there was a definite need for such a volume, and many of the participants agreed to submit their papers for inclusion.

We would like to express our sincere thanks to the Wyoming Institute for Humanities Research (WIHR) and the University of Wyoming Subvention Fund for their generous funding awards. The volume will receive significant attention in wider international markets thanks to WIHR’s contribution. Our thanks to Dr. Gesa Thiessen, who worked tirelessly to compile and then complete the index for this volume. We would also like to thank the Afro-German artist Daniel Kojo Schrade for kindly allowing us to reproduce his painting, Afronauts 8, for the cover of this volume. From the moment we saw it, we knew that it would make the perfect image for our cover, and are so happy that he granted us the permission to use it. Finally, our thanks to the anonymous reviewer for their critical comments on the first draft of this manuscript.

I, Sara, would first like to thank my co-editors, Adam and David, for all of the work they did on the project, as well as all of the contributors. Two of those contributors, Brittany Lehman and Nicholas Ostrum, participated with us on the original roundtable in Washington, DC, and I would like to thank them especially for being there from the beginning. That roundtable, now five years past, was what first motivated this book, and so I would like to thank Karin Goihl of the Berlin Program for organizing it and Randall Halle for chairing it. One of the other participants at that roundtable was my mother, Eleanor Heumann-Pugach. I thank her as a scholar in her own right, one who has always motivated me to reach ever higher in work and in life. I would also like to thank all those who participated in the Seminar in San Diego, and helped us think through the complexities of locating Germany in a transnational framework, as well as those who have sat with me on GSA and other panels that addressed German transnationalism since we began this project. Over the years I have received encouragement and advice from many scholars, both while I worked in the area of German colonialism and later, when I turned to research on the connections between the GDR and Africa. Among them, I would especially like to thank Paul Lerner, ←xvi | xvii→who organizes the Los Angeles German Studies Workshop, where I have had the privilege of presenting much of my own work on Global Germany. I also want specifically to thank Katherine Pence, Quinn Slobodian, Marcia Schenck, Cora Granata, and Rosemarie Peña for pushing me to rethink my ideas about the GDR and FRG as transnational states; Jake Short for many lively discussions about German and other history in cafés around the world; and Marjan Wardaki for similarly challenging discussions in the LA area and at multiple GSAs. I would like too to thank my wonderful colleagues at Cal State LA, including Choi Chatterjee and Christopher Endy, whose own works on Cold War transnationalism in different geographical contexts have influenced my own ideas about German history in that era. Laurel Plapp, our editor, has always believed in this project, and I thank her for her continued support. Michael Geyer and Ralph Austen were fantastic graduate school advisors, and have continued to read and provide comment on my work long after I finished my doctorate. Adam Jones, Friederike Lüpke, Anna von der Goltz, Valerie Weinstein, and Evan Torner have kindly invited me to present my work on African students at their universities. I owe too much to my Humboldt University friends Holger Stoecker and Katrin Roller to enumerate it here. Kirsten Fermaglich has provided not only keen intellectual insight but also a sounding board for my ideas and my anxieties over the last three decades (has it been that long?). I have known Sara Lennox since 2004, and in that time, she has been a continued source of inspiration. I met Nina Berman a couple of years prior, and she has been my mentor and friend. I cannot thank either of them enough for their encouragement and support. The late Albert Wirz never saw this project, but nonetheless influenced it as much as he did my first book, for which his help was invaluable; I miss him. I also miss the late Patrick Harries, who always provided me with mentorship, support, and advice. My family, including my parents, Eleanor Heumann-Pugach and Joseph Pugach, my brother, Arthur Pugach, my husband, Scott Frey, and my children, Catriona and Saskia Frey, have been patient with me as I pursued this and other projects, and I thank them so much for their love through all the twists and turns.

I, David, would first like to thank my co-editors, Sara and Adam, for all their endless hard work on this project. It was an honor and a privilege ←xvii | xviii→to work with both of them. Sara and I have known each other for many years going back to our time with the German Studies Association’s Berlin Program for Advanced German and European Studies for PhD fellows, and it was a great pleasure to have the opportunity to work on something so closely with her. We asked Adam to join us after the project was already underway, but he has been invaluable in keeping us focused and moving us forwards. As Sara notes, multiple sessions at the German Studies Association conferences in Washington, DC, San Diego, and Portland led to both the idea for this project and the recruitment of our wonderful contributors. To each of those contributors, thank you for all your hard work and for providing us with such a wide range of topics and case studies from across the globe. After the Imperialist Imagination had a major effect on my scholarly trajectory when I was doing my training, and it is hard to overstate the importance of that work for encouraging the study of “Germany and the world” more generally. Scholars from many disciplines have produced truly outstanding work on “global Germany” in the quarter century since that book was published, and all of us thought it was time to reflect on that scholarship. That two of the original participants in The Imperialist Imagination (and the discussions that led to it), Sara Lennox and Nina Berman, have been so supportive and encouraging was a great blessing and truly an honor. Many scholars have helped me over the years, but I can say without hesitation that none have done more for me than my advisor, Christopher R. Browning. He was always and remains an unwavering advocate, a powerful example for emulation, and a dear friend. Laurel Plapp and Peter Lang Publishing have been fantastic partners throughout this process, and I thank them for that. My wife Robyn and our daughter showed unending patience and encouragement throughout this process, and I love them both dearly. Finally, I wish to reiterate that fact that the present work is dedicated to the incomparable Susanne Zantop. Our world is not the same without her.

I, Adam, first want to extend my thanks to my co-editors, Sara and David, for inviting me to join this project when it was still in its early stages. As a recently defended PhD who was about to start his first academic job in 2016, this volume allowed me to start fast and learn from ←xviii | xix→senior historians whom I respect deeply. I also want to thank each of our contributors, who have taught me much about the diversity, richness, and vastness of German history in private conversations and through their excellent scholarship. Several colleagues from the University of Minnesota were kind enough to share their insights about transnationalism after I joined this volume as a co-editor. In this regard, my thanks to Eric S. Roubinek, Edward Snyder, and Christopher Marshall for their wealth of knowledge. In a similar fashion, Julia E. Ault, Eric S. Roubinek, and Jake Short, together with Sara, David, and I, participated in a roundtable on “Global Germany” at the 43rd Annual German Studies Association meeting in Portland, Oregon. We enjoyed a spirited discussion on the importance of labels and definitions, as well as accrued important insights from a lively audience, all of which informed the thematic direction of this volume significantly. In the process of editing this collection, I benefited from multiple trips to Germany, South Africa, Namibia, and Botswana, where I worked in a variety of public and private archives and libraries. My thanks to the staff and archivists at the Bundesarchiv-Berlin, Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin-Preußischer Kulturbesitz, Cape Town Archival Repository, National Archives of Namibia, and Botho University in Gaborone, Botswana. Jason Daniels remains a great friend and colleague who listened to many conversations about this project during my two years at Black Hills State University. My fellow colleagues in the History Department at the University of Wyoming have shared a similar fate since 2018. In that spirit, my sincere thanks to Isadora Helfgott, Alexandra Kelly, Melissa Morris, Peter Walker, Melissa Hampton, Jeff Means, Renee Laegreid, Barbara Logan, Leif Cawley, and Caroline Bragg for their good humor and brilliant advice. I cannot think of a better group with whom to share my love of history. My mother and grandmother, Jennifer and Colleen, remain my inspiration. Thanks for the constant love and encouragement. Finally, thank you Melissa Hampton for enduring my impulses to work in the early mornings and late into the evenings. Your, CJ, and AW’s love keep me going forward.

This book is dedicated to the memory of Susanne Zantop. It is hard to express how profoundly important her work has been for all of our scholarship. It is even harder to express how profoundly she is missed.

←0 | 1→

sara pugach, david pizzo, and adam a. blackler


The Imperialist Imagination 20 Years On: The Historiographical Shift toward a Global Germany


In 1994, Sara Friedrichsmeyer, Sara Lennox, and Susanne Zantop put out a call for authors to provide chapters “for an interdisciplinary anthology that examines how German-speaking countries have represented or represent their others.” They explained that, “Contributions might focus on representations of particular national, racial, and/or ethnic groups in a single historical period or over the centuries, or they might explore the connections between national identity and definitions of difference or ‘foreignness’.” Finally, they also “welcome(d) essays that engage(d) recent Anglo-American theorizing on the relationship of nation to ‘narration,’ colonialist ideology to imperialist practice, or ‘orientalism’ to ‘occidentalism’.”1 The call was widely distributed, to the Women in German (WiG),2 Modern Language Association (MLA), German Studies Association (GSA), and the American Association of Teachers of German (AATG) newsletters.3 From it was born The Imperialist Imagination, a volume which has incited a generation of scholars to grapple with German transnationalism and its consequences. Indeed, in the approximately 25 years since Zantop, Friedrichsmeyer, and Lennox sent out their ←1 | 2→call for papers, there has been an explosion of scholarship on all aspects of relations between Germany and the rest of the world in general, and Germany and the Global South in particular. This scholarship has developed from a diverse set of fields, encompassing history, literary studies, and anthropology, among others.

The current volume, After the Imperialist Imagination: Two Decades of Research on Global Germany and Its Legacies, seeks to examine, analyze, and question the scholarship on global Germany that has appeared since the Imperialist Imagination was first published in 1998. In addition, it will introduce emerging and ongoing research that demonstrates the remarkable breadth of the field today, and how the definition of what constitutes German imperialism has expanded. By probing the critical role that empire played in German history, the Imperialist Imagination helped set the stage for a fundamental expansion of what German imperialism meant, as well as the boundaries of the concept “imperialism” itself. From the publication of Edward Said’s groundbreaking Orientalism in 1978, definitions of colonialism and imperialism were closely linked to specific empires, as in British imperialism or French imperialism.4 For this reason, while Said did not exactly dismiss Germans in his book, they were relegated to a very minor role. He stated that he “freely reproached” himself for his lack of attention to German Orientalists, but added, “at no time in German scholarship during the first two-thirds of the nineteenth century could a close partnership have developed between Orientalists and a protracted, sustained, national interest in the Orient.”5 According to Said, the Middle East was never “actual” for Germans as it was for their British or French counterparts – and this justified their exclusion from his work.

As Nina Berman has astutely pointed out in her contribution to The Imperialist Imagination and elsewhere, however, Said’s definition of nation as “synonymous with the nation-state” was too narrow. He neglected other ways of parsing the nation – for instance, as a “people in search of an identity,” or Kulturnation.6 Zantop, who was not only an editor of The ←2 | 3→Imperialist Imagination but also author of the similarly influential Colonial Fantasies, knew this well when she demonstrated that from 1770 Germans essentially constructed an imaginary colonial empire conceived of as better than those of nations with actual overseas possessions.7 German fantasies of being ideal colonizers shaped national identity and set them apart from their European neighbors.8 Further, Said’s focus on the first two-thirds of the nineteenth century meant that he never addressed the way that the German colonial imagination became flesh once the unified country gained colonies in Africa and the Pacific, as Helmut Walser Smith does, for instance, in his chapter on Reichstag debates about the Herero genocide and its aftermath in German South West Africa.9 But even if we leave formal colonization aside, the authors of The Imperialist Imagination demonstrate the profound impact that German encounters with Africans, Asians, and Americans, and “internal others” such as Roma and Jews had on the German imaginary. The Imperialist Imagination thus did away with the notion that Germany was not actively involved in imperial projects even prior to the foundation of its own empire. The direct connection between discourse and national interest that Said posited was not necessary, as has now been ←3 | 4→abundantly addressed by scholars such as Todd Kontje, Jennifer Jenkins, Tuska Benes, and others.10


XX, 354
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2020 (November)
Oxford, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, New York, Wien, 2020. XX, 354 pp., 3 fig. b/w.

Biographical notes

Sara Pugach (Volume editor) David Pizzo (Volume editor) Adam Blackler (Volume editor)

Sara Pugach is Professor in the Department of History at California State University, Los Angeles. David Pizzo is Professor in the Department of History at Murray State University. Adam A. Blackler is Assistant Professor in the Department of History at the University of Wyoming.


Title: After the Imperialist Imagination