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Rethinking Black German Studies

Approaches, Interventions and Histories

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Edited By Tiffany N. Florvil and Vanessa D. Plumly

Black German Studies is an interdisciplinary field that has experienced significant growth over the past three decades, integrating subjects such as gender studies, diaspora studies, history, and media and performance studies. The field’s contextual roots as well as historical backdrop, nevertheless, span centuries. This volume assesses where the field is now by exploring the nuances of how the past – colonial, Weimar, National Socialist, post-1945, and post-Wende – informs the present and future of Black German Studies; how present generations of Black Germans look to those of the past for direction and empowerment; how discourses shift due to the diversification of power structures and the questioning of identity-based categories; and how Black Germans affirm their agency and cultural identity through cultural productions that engender both counter-discourses and counter-narratives.

Examining Black German Studies as a critical, hermeneutic field of inquiry, the contributions are organized around three thematically conceptualized sections: German and Austrian literature and history; pedagogy and theory; and art and performance. Presenting critical works in the fields of performance studies, communication and rhetoric, and musicology, the volume complicates traditional historical narratives, interrogates interdisciplinary methods, and introduces theoretical approaches that help to advance the field.

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8 Performing Oppression and Empowerment in real life: Deutschland (Jamele Watkins)

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JAMELE WATKINS

8 Performing Oppression and Empowerment in real life: Deutschland

ABSTRACT

real life: Deutschland (2008) was a three-year theater project that focused on Black youth empowerment and brought Afro-German teenagers together for workshops. As participants in the YoungStars (the youth group affiliated with the project), the teenagers re-enacted their experiences with racism and attempted to navigate their way through them. This chapter examines the ways real life: Deutschland combined theories from Augusto Boal’s ‘Theater of the Oppressed’ and Paulo Freire’s critical pedagogy with Afro-diasporic practices as a way to advance its goals of improvisation, collaboration and empowerment – goals that were essential to helping participants process and counteract their experiences of racism. Drawing on oral interviews with the project’s organizers, as well as the project’s Dokubroschüre, this chapter explores the YoungStars’ contributions to anti-racist activism in contemporary Germany. I contend that the YoungStars created a safe space where participants were validated and recognized in their expression of anger about racism in Germany.

Bringing real life to the Stage: From Performance and Process to Empowerment

The Black youth empowerment theater project real life: Deutschland took place between 2006 to 2009. Arranged as a series of vignettes focused on intersectional racist experiences, the project was based on improvisation, ← 277 | 278 → which it employed as a way for youth to devise new ideas through which to think about oppression. Sebastian Fleary designed this as his final project for a...

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