New Encounters in the Asian-German Avant-Garde
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.
If you miss me at the back of the bus, and you can’t find me nowhere.
Come on up to the front of the bus, I’ll be sittin’ right there.
I’ll be sittin’ right there,
I’ll be sittin’ right there.
Come on up to the front of the bus,
I’ll be sittin’ right there.
— Charles Neblett & Pete Seeger, 1963
It might not come as a grand reveal that this book’s sequence of three Asian-German dialogues, presented in the form of call-and-response, turns out to have resisted its own premise, suggested by its title, in that it does not conform to the comforting notion of “fusion” as a happy ending. The reader will not find an assortment of voices arriving, metaphorically speaking, on the same plate. Instead, this book’s narrative is designed to reveal a widening gyre of (mis)understanding: it began with a measured attempt to cross over into new territories (Sebald-Tawada), rose to a crescendo in a search for common ground, in what promised to be a discursive “fusion” (Weiss-Pham), and concluded by dissolving into dissonance (Beuys-Kim).
And, as the reader parts with the idea of a harmonious synthesis between opposing voices, they are confronted with the fact that there is reason for concern. In today’s Germany, citizens of immigrant background, including a newly expanding, vibrant Jewish community, continue to experience racism and hostilities, as they remain relegated to the status of...
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