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Rethinking Black German Studies

Approaches, Interventions and Histories


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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It seems only fitting that this book evolved out of our very first meeting in Berlin on 29 August 2011, when Silke Hackenesch, a member of the research network Black Diaspora and Germany, introduced us at the ceremonial unveiling of the May Ayim memorial plaque at the May-Ayim-Ufer, two years after its official renaming. Without Silke bringing the two of us together, this collaborative volume and many of our other academic and activist endeavors, including the seminars that we co-organized and co-facilitated at the German Studies Association (GSA) conferences in 2014 and 2015 and the establishment of the Black Diasporic Studies Network at the GSA, with the assistance of professor emeritus at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Sara Lennox, would never have come to fruition. Our co-operation as scholars has been seamless and easy, and we complement each other quite well. In many ways, it seems as if we have always been destined to work together. We are an excellent team and value each other’s scholarship and friendship, as well as the impact that we have had on one another’s lives; indeed, we are in this together. Our efforts to engage race publicly within German Studies serve as an intervention, and the volume is a source of optimism for us, given the current nativist climate in the United States and across Europe. While this is our first collaboratively published work, it certainly will not be the last one you will see from us. We will continue to foreground...

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