Deniz GöktÃ¼rk, David Gramling, Anton Kaes, eds. Germany in Transit: Nation and Migration, 1955-2005. Weimar and Now: University of California Press, 2007. xxii + 588 pp. $70.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-520-24893-9; $31.95 (paper), ISBN 978-0-520-24894-6.
Reviewed by Jason James (Department of Sociology and Anthropology, University of Mary Washington)
Published on H-Nationalism (March, 2008)
The intertwined issues of migration, collective identity, and cultural diversity are among the most difficult and pressing problems facing Europe today. If "Europe" and the nation-states that compose it can be regarded as imaginary constructs (albeit with very real consequences), the conditions under which they are now imagined are as complex as ever. While most European countries with histories of migration have come to acknowledge that fact more openly than in the past, the various official and informal ways in which these nations and "Europe" are reproduced do not yet reflect the realities of a Europe that includes not only Poles and Bulgarians, but also East Indians, Turks, and Algerians--or, more precisely, East Indian British, German Turks, and French Algerians. Recent anxiety about Islamic extremism and the integration of Muslims has only exacerbated what was already a tense situation.
The stakes of migration in Germany have been especially high for a number of reasons, the most important and obvious of which are the intersection of migration and diversity with the country's attempts to redefine itself in the face of Cold War division, the National Socialist legacy, and the racial and cultural essentialism that has continued to define German identity and citizenship after the end of fascism. Reports of xenophobia and violence against migrants and minorities in other European countries do not attract the same kind of attention and anxiety as do images of German skinheads doing the Adolf Hitler salute and shouting "Foreigners out!" Germans are quite aware of this. And, although the legacy of the Holocaust has certainly shaped official and popular approaches to migration and diversity in Germany, it has not produced the kind of openness in attitudes and policies for which one might have hoped.
Germany in Transit will prove an invaluable tool for anyone seeking to better grasp or teach about the complexities of migration and diversity in postwar Germany. The volume is best described as a sourcebook. The editors, Deniz Göktürk, David Gramling, and Anton Kaes, have compiled a rich collection of documents that illuminate the subject from multiple angles. Placed in thematic chapters, the documents range from newspaper and magazine articles, legal codes, and political speeches to song lyrics and Internet manifestoes. The chapters encompass a wide range of themes, such as xenophobia and racially motivated violence, citizenship, and "guest worker" programs in the western Federal Republic of Germany and the eastern German Democratic Republic in the 1960s and 1970s, to name a few. The volume begins with a brief general introduction and concludes with a brief epilogue. Each chapter also includes introductory remarks that help to contextualize the selections, and a brief note introduces each selection, some providing more context than others.
As suggested by its title and length, this is an ambitious volume. To document the "cultural history of postwar Germany through the lens of migration" via a collection of primary and secondary texts is no small task, particularly if one seeks to include not just standard political, journalistic, and academic sources but also samples of popular culture and unofficial discourse (p. xviii). Achieving a balance between breadth and depth in a volume such as this is a difficult endeavor. The editors have done an admirable job in this regard. One significant gap in the volume's impressive breadth, however, is the absence of texts related to E.U. agreements and policies connected with immigration, such as the Schengen Treaty. Moreover, although an early chapter is devoted to the German Democratic Republic, the differences between East and West Germany find little discussion thereafter. And, although cultural history can and should include a wide variety of texts, the volume might have included more original texts, reviews, and commentaries from literature, film, and television. The extensive bibliography, filmography, and list of Internet sources compensate for this to some degree.
These limitations notwithstanding, Germany in Transit will prove quite useful to scholars initiating research on issues of migration, diversity, and national belonging in Germany. Even for those familiar with this field, it will serve as a handy reference. The volume will also prove valuable in courses focused on these topics. For those not already thoroughly familiar with the subject area, the volume will provide a good overview and rich portrait of the multiple problems that converge in the question of migration in Germany. Students and some scholars will probably need to consult other works to contextualize these documents more fully, but Germany in Transit will provide a good introduction as well as a useful reference for later consultation.
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Jason James. Review of GöktÃ¼rk, Deniz; Gramling, David; Kaes, Anton, eds., Germany in Transit: Nation and Migration, 1955-2005.
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