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Asian Fusion

New Encounters in the Asian-German Avant-Garde

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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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Chapter 5 Shamanic Performances: Joseph Beuys’s Der Eurasier, Eurasia Siberian Symphony, and Auschwitz Demonstration

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This chapter focuses on German conceptual artist Joseph Beuys (1921–86), who created performance pieces and installations referencing “Eurasia” and who billed himself as a modern-day shaman. He took an anti-Western, antimodern stance, yet was received as progressive by the German public, as well as internationally. Known as, supposedly, one of the founders of the Green Party, Beuys was seen as a leftist German artist who practiced Vergangenheitsbewältigung [working through the past] after World War II. His shamanism was seen as cathartic with respect to the legacy of National Socialism, which he experienced as both a member of the Hitlerjugend [Hitler Youth] and then, voluntarily, of the Luftwaffe. Only recently, with the biography by Hans-Peter Riegel, has it become known that Beuys entertained close friendships with high-ranking former Nazis, and that while he was marching for peace as an environmentalist, he was also attending meetings of World War II veterans who celebrated their heroic wartime deeds in the armies of Adolf Hitler. Perhaps because this biography has yet to appear in English, Beuys continues to be seen as leftist and progressive in the United States, and his Nazi affiliations remain unrecognized, ignored or downplayed by a public that seems invested in keeping their postwar German artists “clean” from the taint of fascism. My chapter elaborates on this debate and analyzes the specific ways in which Beuys constructed a reactionary version of “Eurasia” that appears dangerously close to the ideas behind Hitler’s Lebensraum doctrine that justified the country’s expansion eastward....

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