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Performing the Modern German

Performance and Identity in Contemporary German Cinema


Matthias Uecker

Since the late 1990s, German cinema has gone through a period of astonishing productivity and success that has made it the focus of scholarly analysis once more. What can contemporary German cinema tell us about current German society and its problems? What are the distinguishing features of filmmaking in Germany today?
This book analyses the representation of individual and collective behaviour in post-unification German cinema. It looks at performances of gender, ethnicity and nationality in a wide range of contemporary German films. Using Performance Theory as a framework, the book discusses how modern German identities are presented as conformist, liberating or subversive responses to external challenges.
Theoretical considerations regarding the efficacy of performance and the dialectical relationship between transgression, resistance and normalization form the background for an analysis that investigates contemporary German films in terms of their function within the restructuring of post-unification German society.


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Chapter 5 Between Otherness and Hyphenation: Turkish-German Performances


1. Transcultural normality? Among the issues exercising German society and politics during the 1990s and in the new millennium, the status of immigrants – especially those from a Turkish and Islamic background – has attracted sustained atten- tion. A series of heated public debates about multiculturalism, integration, assimilation, citizenship and exclusion testify to the significance and volatil- ity of the subject. And while not all of these debates portrayed a negative image of immigrants, their overwhelming tenor has been characterized by a discourse focused on the threats and failures arising from ‘otherness’. Even defenders of multiculturalism have often been unable to resist the powerful binary distinction of ‘them’ and ‘us’, reproducing and reinforcing the assumption of a fundamental divide between ‘Germans’ and ‘Turks’.1 Expectations of normality – the key term of recent discourse – have shaped these debates primarily through its apparent absence. Focusing 1 For an analysis of post-unification debates see Jef frey Peck and Mitchell Ash, Christiane Lemke, ‘Natives, Strangers, and Foreigners: Constructing Germans by Constructing Others’ in Konrad Jarausch, ed., After Unity. Reconfiguring German Identities (New York/Oxford: Berghahn, 1997), 61–102. For an example of popular media representations during the 1990s see Der Spiegel (14 April 1997), with its title story ‘Gefährlich fremd. Das Ende der multikulturellen Gesellschaft.’ A more recent account is provided by Sarah Schaefer, ‘Germany: A Case Study of Failed Integration?’, in Sarah Schaefer, Greg Austin and Kate Parker, eds, Turks in Europe – Why Are We Afraid? (London: Foreign Policy Centre, 2005), 1–18, . 164 Chapter...

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