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The Kaiserslautern Borderland

Reverberations of the American Leasehold Empire


Jörg Zorbach

The area around the German city of Kaiserslautern – or K-Town in American parlance – is home to approximately 50,000 Americans who live within the Kaiserslautern Military Community, the largest organized settlement of American citizens outside the U.S.A. This book comprises the first study to use the concept of the border in order to analyze this bi-national encounter of otherwise transatlantic neighbors. Presenting thick descriptions of the geographical, legal, political, economic and cultural contexts of this German-American borderland, the author highlights similarities and differences to conventional international border situations and elucidates the impact of the special temporal and spatial circumstances on the contact region.
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7. Space and Place: The Spatial Concept of the Kaiserslautern Borderland as a Key to the Analysis of German-American Contact


7.Space and Place: The Spatial Concept of the Kaiserslautern Borderland as a Key to the Analysis of German-American Contact

In the previous chapters, the Kaiserslautern borderland has been portrayed in its various facets by means of thick description. This comprehensive survey has provided a general picture of the borderland based on analytical description. In a shift from phenomenological regional description to structural background analysis, key findings will now be accentuated in order to contribute to a more profound understanding of the processes which shape borderland life in the Kaiserslautern area.

The regional description has shown that despite their outward appearance as fortified enclaves, the overall presence of the American forces cannot be reduced to the concept of Little Americas that exist as autarkic islands without connection to their German environment. With regard to economic exchange, cultural and social contacts as well as political cooperation, the analysis of the borderland has revealed considerable cross-border activities. However, the pattern of this interaction shows a remarkable arrangement: Instead of an even and widespread distribution of binational contacts in the Kaiserslautern area, borderland interaction remains punctiform and concentrated on specific contexts and locations. Furthermore, it is obvious that by far not all Americans living in the KMC area become true borderlanders in a way that they spend considerable time with cross-border activities but rather reduce borderland interaction to specific contexts. Thus, the borderland phenomena triggered by the American island in Rhineland-Palatinate do not form a contiguous sphere of cross-border contact,...

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