Along with acquiring its own colonies – Samoa, Cameroon, New Guinea, and Togo – in 1884 Wilhelmine Germany saw the emergence of forms of popular entertainment as part of its mass culture, which introduced its broader public to the customs and life styles of non-European people. The Colonial Panorama opened in Berlin in 1885, the German Colonial Exposition in 1896, the Völkerschauen, and the colonial travelogues as part of cinematic spectacles are examples of such popular entertainments. In the context of mass culture, the non-European was staged as primitive and inferior to the German self. Its representation promoted an image of Imperial Germany as a technologically and politically advanced nation, which brought education, technical progress and administrative organization to those parts of the globe, which allegedly lagged behind in their cultural and social development.
However, there was yet another aspect of the reception of Non-European culture in the Wilhelmine period, which this panel seeks to explore. Non-European arts and crafts, as well as texts such as the Bhagavad Gita, became part of a discussion on the difference between modern civilization and German culture. While culture was seen as embodying spiritual values, civilization was deemed fragmented and sterile. The proponents of culture believed that the contact with the non-European provided access to a lost spiritual core that could help restore the unity and harmony lacking in civilization. This view was not entirely new, for it had developed out of a scholarly engagement with non-European texts in the German Romantic period. How did this view intersect with the representation of the non-European as primitive in popular culture?
This panel would provide answers to the question how visual or literary representations of the non-European were involved in strategies for coping with the challenges of Modernity in Wilhelmine Germany. The organizer invites 500 word abstracts on but not limited to the reception and influence of non-European texts, such as the Bhagavad Gita, the writings of Wilhelm Worringer and Carl Einstein, and authors, such as Carl Sternheim and Oskar Panizza. Other relevant contributions are welcomed. Please e-mail your abstract in English before the submission deadline of March 12 to Petia Parpoulova.
firstname.lastname@example.org. Panel participants should be MLA members by April 7, 2011.
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