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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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Introduction: Rethinking Black German Studies (Tiffany N. Florvil / Vanessa D. Plumly)


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Introduction: Rethinking Black German Studies

Integrating Theory and Praxis

In the autumn of 2014 and 2015, as the German Studies Association (GSA) met to convene for its annual conferences, something seemingly radical appeared on the program. At the 2014 conference in Kansas City, Missouri, a three-day seminar titled ‘Black German Studies: Then and Now’ was held.1 Focusing our seminar on the themes of ‘Practices, Productions and Progressions’, we sought to examine the field as a critical, hermeneutic point of inquiry and to thematically trace its evolution over the last three decades. During the course of the seminar, questioning the title’s implicit delineation of a past distinct from the present made it clear that it is impossible to separate the intertwining of the two temporalities or to discuss the Black/African2 Diaspora in Germany from a strictly teleological and, ← 1 | 2 → indeed, Western perspective with one origin point.3 Above all, we hoped that our first seminar would initiate exchanges and encourage creative and collaborative work by academics and non-academics alike that would not only underscore the experiences of Black Germans, but also continue to complicate the notions of Blackness, politics, racialized and gendered discourses, as well as diasporic identity across many affective, temporal and spatial borders. In addition, we envisioned that this seminar would help to create an inclusive intellectual community and space and to give this type of critical work on race, racialization and intersectionality...

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