Over the past half century, mass migrations have challenged and changed nation states on a global scale. Contemporary Germany in particular epitomizes many of the conflicts ascribed to immigration. As “guest workers” and asylum seekers stay to become residents, the concept of a national community based on ancestral lineage and cultural heritage has been called into question. For some, the presence of roughly eight million foreign-born, including new immigrants from Eastern Europe, Africa, and Asia, spells the end of Germany as they know it. In their view, Germany is not America – it will never be a “country of immigration.” For others, a multiethnic Germany means cosmopolitan openness, multicultural diversity, and a chance to make good on the country’s dark history in the early half of the century. For them, Germany’s new face is already an undeniable fact. These two incompatible positions have often clashed, at times violently.
Why has multiculturalism become such a contested concept today? Where do immigrant and native cultures interact? How are political, social, and cultural borders negotiated in the new Europe? How can the extensive German debates about national and cultural identity, citizenship, minority rights, and Western values shed new light on current discussions in the United States? These questions complicate hotly debated issues such as ethnic and cultural hybridity, the rhetoric of diversity and identity, diaspora communities, and the future of the nation state. Located at the intersection between the social sciences, the arts, and the humanities, these topics call for interdisciplinary analysis that is nonetheless aware of local, historical, and linguistic specificities. Questions of aesthetic form are of central importance for these investigations since film and literature often succeed in destabilizing old binaries of “us and them” and “here and there.”
This international conference is part of an ongoing research project initiated by Berkeley’s Department of German and sponsored by the Center for German and European Studies. The project includes an archive on German multiculturalism and a forthcoming sourcebook. In the conference we want to address the cultural friction points that arise from transnational migration in postindustrial societies. We also want to reflect on the consequences of multilingual and multilocal stories for histories of national cultures as they are taught at American universities. UC Berkeley's diverse campus (and its history of contentious debates) will provide an ideal location for discussing the new multiethnic Germany as well as the borders of German studies itself.
Participants include Leslie Adelson, Pheng Cheah, David Theo Goldberg, David Hollinger, Minoo Moallem, Werner Sollors, Michael Watts, Ernst van Alphen. A screening of “Kleine Freiheit / A Little Bit of Freedom” (2003) and a workshop on “Cinema and Migration” will form part of the conference with Yüksel Yavuz, the director of “Kleine Freiheit”, in person.
Department of German
5319 Dwinelle Hall
University of California
Berkeley, CA 94720-3243
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