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Back to the Future

Tradition and Innovation in German Studies


Edited By Marc Silberman

In the course of the 1970s, interdisciplinary German studies emerged in North America, breaking with what many in the field saw as a suffocating and politically tainted tradition of canon-based philology by broadening both the corpus of texts and the framing concept of culture. In the meantime the innovative impulses that characterized this response to the legacy of Germanistik have themselves become traditions. The essays in this volume critically examine a selection of those past attempts at renewal to gauge where we are now and how we move into the future: exile and forced migration, race and identity, humanism and utopian thought, solidarity and global inequality. A younger generation of scholars demonstrates how reviving and refining the questions of yore leads to new insights into literary and theatrical texts, fundamental philosophical and political ideas, and the structure of memory in ethnographic performance and photography. Looking back into the future is a self-reflexive gesture that asks how tradition inspires innovation, and it displays compelling evidence for the importance of historically informed cultural research in the field of German studies.

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8 Exhibiting Blackness: Blacks and German Culture Revisited (Katrin Sieg)


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8 Exhibiting Blackness: Blacks and German Culture Revisited


Only recently has the field of German studies opened up to postcolonial cultural histories and placed questions of race and representation squarely at the center of debates. Now scholars, artists, and curators who assemble fragments of black history and culture have exposed the archive itself as a storehouse aligned with the colonial state and a racialized patriarchy. This has prompted them to adjust their methodology as they historicize changing figurations of blackness and discover entangled tales. Two recent installations, Brett Bailey’s Exhibit B (Vienna, 2010) and Anaïs Héraud-Louisadat und Nathalie Anguezomo Mba Bikoro’s Squat Monument in an exhibition about Berlin’s Schöneberg-Tempelhof district’s colonial past (Berlin, 2017), have repositioned blacks not just as exhibited objects, but as exhibitors of German culture. We now witness the outcomes of such confrontations in the efforts of museums, together with diasporic communities, to imagine a postcolonial Germany.

Whiteness Studies at the Wisconsin Workshop

In 1984, the 15th Wisconsin Workshop took place under the title “Blacks in German Culture, Art, and Literature.” The volume of proceedings, published two years later under the shortened title Blacks in German Culture, is in many ways a landmark study.1 Looking back from a distance of over thirty years, the volume offers a welcome touchstone for appraising the development and current state of German critical race studies. Workshop conveners Reinhold Grimm and Jost Hermand...

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