Joscha Klueppel (University of Oregon)
Decolonization is a growing niche in German studies [e.g. works of Kien Nghi Ha, Dirk Göttsche, Jürgen Zimmerer]—but a niche, nonetheless. Yet Germany has been and is changing. Aladin El-Mafaalani writes: “Die Integration von Teilen in ein Ganzes verändert dieses Ganze” (83, 2018). A (more) diverse Germany necessitates comprehensive contention with its complicated past, laying bare the various structures of oppression that consciously and unconsciously impede or prohibit integration and cohabitation. Furthermore, decolonial theory necessitates such a discussion, positing that modernity and coloniality are co-constituent: colonialism is not an effect of modernization but an element of its foundation.
This session explores how decolonization can take on a bigger role in German studies through an emphasis on literature of migration. The last decades have shown an ever-growing and more and more successful literary output by authors often excluded as “other.” This panel therefore analyses if and how literature that confronts the Mehrheitsgesellschaft functions as catalyst for an increased emphasis and more pronounced role of decolonization in German studies. It explores how readings function as a decolonial gesture, as a "creolization of the West" (Édouard Glissant). By focusing on literary production, a decolonial approach can deconstruct the idea of assimilation which, as Glissant writes, is “one of the most pernicious forms of colonization” (5, 1999). It can emphasize the colonial and violent aspect of concepts like Leitkultur while also strengthen ideas of integration and cohabitation. In the spirit of this year’s NeMLA, a stronger emphasis on decolonizing German studies can change Germany through literature and the humanities. This shift in perception could bring us closer to the idea of a Streitkultur as Leitkultur that El-Mafaalani argues for or even the Heimaten (in the plural) that the thought-provoking and positively uncomfortable collection of essays Eure Heimat ist unser Albtraum (2019) advocates.