For almost sixty years, since the end of World War II, the German public had forgotten about its colonial empire. Whereas other European powers experienced the traumatic violence of decolonisation, Germans believed that they had nothing to do with the colonial exploitation of large parts of Africa, Asia or South America. They were innocent - so many believed - of the devastations brought about by European colonialism and could therefore engage with the new postcolonial world without the dark shadow of a colonial past. Some observers have termed this 'colonial amnesia'.
Such suppression was severely shaken in 2004, when the centenary of the genocide of the Herero and Nama peoples confronted a wide German audience with German atrocities of a hundred years before. The first German genocide, as it was called, attracted media coverage, and in August 2004 the German government officially apologised for the atrocities. After Germany's attempts to come to terms with its Nazi past, this step was seen by many international observers as a major break-through in global attempts to right historic wrongs, especially those committed in a colonial context. In Germany, the official apology, far from marking closure on a dark chapter in German history, sparked a variety of agitated responses. Instead of acknowledging the act as a much-needed step in the process of coming to terms with the colonial past, conservative circles denounced the German Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development, Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul, who had delivered the apology, as a 'traitor'. Others worried about claims for reparations by the Herero, and the German tabloid BILD asked on its front page, 'What will be the cost of the minister's tears?', deriding her carefully crafted statement as being the result of female sentiment. Wieczorek-Zeul's courageous act had obviously touched a nerve. Whereas some felt encouraged to bring other German colonial atrocities into the limelight, for example the Maji-Maji war in German East Africa, the centenary of which fell in 2005, others have attempted to rewrite Germany's colonial past by emphasizing the exotic aspects of Germany's colonial undertaking, and by disconnecting the imperial past from the positive strands of German history. A dubious documentary on prime-time German television, which made repeated use of colonial stereotypes, marked - for the time being - the extreme point of this endeavour.
Nevertheless, the debate shows that Germany has finally arrived at a postcolonial European normality, where its own historical relationship with the world is part of a lively debate not only about the past, but also about the future. Migration, multiculturalism and xenophobia are only some of the topics which are substantially shaped by Germany's memory of the past. Colonialism was central to Wilhelminian discourse on national identity, to the country's understanding of itself as a world power; and now discussion about the German empire seems to be resurfacing as part of a German discourse of self-understanding and self-reassurance in the aftermath of Unification.
The conference will address Germany's biased and troubled relationship with the colonial world over the course of two centuries. As postcolonial studies have shown, colonial engagement neither started nor ended with formal colonial rule. Thus we will have papers dealing with numerous aspects of the encounters of Germany and Germans with imagined or real colonial empires, from the mid nineteenth century to the present day. Papers addressing the problems from a transnational or comparative perspective, papers dealing with the landscapes of memory in the former German colonies, and papers offering literary and other cultural-historical perspectives are also included. The contributors are practitioners in a diversity of disciplines.
MONDAY, 11 September 2006
2:30-3:00 Welcome and Introduction
Panel 1: Namibia: Coming to Terms with Genocide
Reinhart KÖßLER (Bochum): "Communal Memory Events and the Heritage of the Victims. The Persistence of the Theme of Genocide in Namibia"
Hanns LESSING (Dortmund): "Commemorating the Past – Building the Future: the Contribution of the Churches in Namibia and Germany to the Commemoration of the Centenary of the Colonial War and Genocide in Namibia"
Dominik SCHALLER (Heidelberg): "The Herero Genocide and Politics of Memory"
Panel 2: Colonialism and Metropolitan Politics
Robin KRAUSE (Clark U, Massachusetts): "Critical Responses in Germany to Colonial Adventures and Atrocities, 1900-10"
Brian VICK (Sheffield): "Empire and Imperialism at the Paulskirche: Origins, Meanings, Trajectories"
Panel 3: Remembering Colonialism in Africa:
Dennis LAUMANN (Memphis): "Narratives of a ‘Model Colony’: German Togoland in Written and Oral Histories"
Panel 4: Colonialism and Popular Culture
Jeffrey BOWERSOX (Toronto): "Exotic Education: Writing Empire for Young Germans, 1884-1914"
David CIARLO (MIT): "Picturing Genocide in German Consumer Culture, 1904-1910"
Volker LANGBEHN (San Francisco): "‘Greetings from Africa’ – The Visual Representation of Blackness during German Imperialism"
7:30 Wine Reception
TUESDAY, 12 September 2006
Panel 5: Travelling
Tracey DAWE (Durham): "Time, Identity and Colonialism in German Travel Writing on Africa,1850-1914"
Matthias FIEDLER (Dublin): "Our Forgotten Travellers – German Afrikareisende and the Popularisation of the German Discourse on Africa in the 19th Century"
Charles HOAG (N Carolina): "The Mission of Memory: J.L. Krapf and the German Colonial Project"
Panel 6: Colonial Mythmaking I
Constant KPAO SARE (Saarland): "Abuses of German Colonial History: the Character of Carl Peters as Weapon for Völkisch and National-Socialist Discourses: Anglophobia, Anti-Semitism, Aryanism"
Jörg LEHMANN (Berlin): "From ‘Peter Moors Fahrt nach Südwest’ to ‘Deutsch Sonne über Sand und Palmen’: Fraternity, Frenzy and Genocide in German War Literature, 1906-1937"
Sara EIGEN (Vanderbilt): "Hans Grimm and the Reception of German Colonialism"
Panel 7: Colonial Mythmaking II
Rob HEYNEN (Toronto): "Images of Lost Empire: Colonial Nostalgia in Weimar Visual Culture"
Susann LEWERENZ (Hamburg): "‘Loyal Askari’ and ‘Black Rapist’ – Two Images in the German Discourse on National Identity and their Impact on the Lives of Black People in Germany (1918-1945)"
Kristin KOPP (Missouri): "Representing German Colonial Interventions in Poland"
Panel 8: Mainstreaming Colonialism
Kenneth OROSZ (Maine): "Colonialism and the Simplification of Language: Germany’s Kolonialdeutsch Experiment"
Elisabeth SCHMIDT (Paris): "Aspects of German Identity in the African Colonies: the Role of the Local Press"
Britta SCHILLING (Oxford): "Beyond Empire: German Women in Africa, 1919-1933"
Panel 9: Colonial Warfare
Yixu LU (Sydney): "Germany’s War in China: Media Coverage and Political Myth"
Michael Pesek (Berlin): "The Shadows of the Thirty Years War in Eastern Africa. German and Allied War Crimes in the East African Campaign, 1914-18"
Nicholas MARTIN (Birmingham): "A Place in the Sun: Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck and the Defence of Civilisation in German East Africa"
Panel 10: Engaging with the Past in the Federal Republic I
Monika ALBRECHT (Münster): "Reflections on the Idea of ‘Colonial Amnesia’ in Post-1945 West Germany"
Esther ALMSTADT (Bremen): "A Spotlight on a Dark Chapter in German History: Criticism of German Colonialism in Uwe Timm’s novel ‘Morenga’ and its Reception in the West German Public"
Ingo CORNILS (Leeds): "Denkmalsturz. The German Student Movement and German Colonialism"
5:00-7:00 Round Table: Uses and Abuses of Colonial History
Panel to include:
Martial Staub (Sheffield: Chair)
Henning Melber (Uppsala)
Michael Perraudin (Sheffield)
Ian Phimister (Sheffield)
Eve Rosenhaft (Liverpool)
Jürgen Zimmerer (Sheffield)
WEDNESDAY, 13 September 2006
Panel 11: The Transnational Dimension
Donald BLOXHAM (Edinburgh): "The German Involvement in the Armenia Genocide and Armenian Memory Politics" (tbc)
Kathryn JONES (Swansea): "Vergangenheitsbewältigung à la française: French Colonial Memories of the Algerian War"
Arndt WITTE (Maynooth): "The Discipline ‘Germanistik’ in Sub-Saharan African Universities – Extending Colonialism, Promoting Intercultural Dialogue or Facilitating Authentic African Perspectives on the Former Colonisers?"
Panel 12: Engaging with the Past in the Federal Republic II
Wolfgang STRUCK (Erfurt): "The Persistence of (Colonial) Fantasies"
Holger NEHRING (Sheffield): "Auschwitz, Hiroshima and West German Anti-Colonialism: Protest Movements and National Identity (1958-1969)"
Katrina HAGEN (Seattle): "'Unburdened by Colonialism’? Contested Histories of German Colonialism in the Era of Global Decolonisation"
12:00-13:00 Closing Discussion: Future Perspectives on German Colonialism (Chairs: Jürgen Zimmerer, Michael Perraudin)
Please check the conference webpage for updates and further information:
For specific enquiries, please write to the conference administrator, Ben Schofield, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dr Juergen Zimmerer
Lecturer in International History
Department of History
University of Sheffield
387 Glossop Road
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