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Asian Fusion

New Encounters in the Asian-German Avant-Garde


Caroline Rupprecht

This book contributes to a historically evolving conversation about immigration as a facet of globalization in the European context. Focusing on literary and artistic works from the post–World War II era, the author uses a «call-and-response» structure – as in African-American slave songs, Indian kirtans, and Jewish liturgy – to create a series of dialogues between Asian-German authors, including Yoko Tawada, Pham Thi Hoài, and Anna Kim, and an earlier generation of German-speaking authors and artists whose works engaged with «Asia,» including W. G. Sebald, Peter Weiss, and Joseph Beuys.

Considering the recent successes of the New Right, which have brought about a regression to Nazi anti-Semitic discourses grounded in the equation between Jews and «Orientals,» the author advocates a need for solidarity between Germans and Asian-Germans. Using «fusion» as a metaphor, she revises the critical paradigms of Orientalism and postcolonial studies to show how, in the aftermath of the twelve-year Nazi dictatorship, Germany has successfully transformed itself into a country of immigration – in part due to the new and pioneering Asian-German voices that have reshaped the German-speaking cultural landscape and that are now, for the first time, featured as coming together in this book.

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Introduction Call-and-Response


Ein Mann wohnt im Haus dein goldenes Haar Margarete

dein aschenes Haar Sulamith er spielt mit den Schlangen

Er ruft spielt süßer den Tod der Tod ist ein Meister aus Deutschland

— Paul Celan, “Todesfuge” (1948)

a man lives in the house your golden hair Margarete

your ashen hair Shulamith he plays with the serpents

He calls out more sweetly play death death is a master from Germany

— Paul Celan, “Death Fugue,” trans. Michael Hamburger

My title, Asian Fusion, is polemical: it refers to the culinary practice of creating new dishes by combining ingredients from different cuisines. I am aware of the pitfalls of using a culinary term to frame contemporary cultural issues, let alone one that is out of fashion. At least according to New York Times food writer Ligaya Mishan, “[a]s the thinking on diversity in America has evolved from the metaphor of a melting pot to a mosaic, the concept of fusion has become archaic, replaced by a more organic understanding of how food changes when people immigrate.” However, when applied to the contemporary European scene, in terms of the topic of immigration – as it is my underlying purpose for this book – “fusion” continues to be an apt metaphor because it suggests a powerful fantasy of establishing connections through circulating energies, creating new communities by crossing linguistic and geographical borders, and undoing cultural boundaries that have traditionally kept people apart....

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