American Blackness and Vergangenheitsbewältigung in Twenty-First Century German Literature and Film
Wall, Christina Noelle
Frederiksen, Elke P
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This study represents a unique examination of the convergence of constructs of Blackness and racism in twenty-first century novels and films by white Germans and Austrians in order to demonstrate how these texts broaden discourses of Vergangenheitsbewältigung. The increased prominence of minority voices demanding recognition of their national identity within Nazi successor states has transformed white German perceptions of "Germanness" and of these nations' relationships to their turbulent pasts. I analyze how authors and directors employ constructs of Blackness within fictional texts to interrogate the dynamics of historical and contemporary racisms. Acknowledging that discourses of `race' are taboo, I analyze how authors and directors avoid this forbidden discourse by drawing comparisons between constructs of American Blackness and German and Austrian historical encounters with `race'. This study employs cultural studies' understanding of `race' and Blackness as constructs created across discourses. Following the example of Toni Morrison's Playing in the Dark (1992), my textual analyses show how these constructs create a "playground for the imagination" in which authors confront modern German racism. My study begins with a brief history of German-African American encounters, emphasizing the role American Blackness played during pivotal moments of German national identity formation. The subsequent chapters are divided thematically, each one comprised of textual analyses that explore discourses integral to Vergangenheitsbewältigung. The third chapter examines articulations of violence and racism in two films, Oskar Roehler's Lulu & Jimi (2008) and Michael Schorr's Schultze gets the blues (2008), to explore possibilities of familial reconciliation despite historical guilt. The fourth chapter compares the Besatzungskinder protagonists of two novels, Peter Henisch's Schwarzer Peter (2000) and Larissa Boehning's Lichte Stoffe (2007), with the (auto)biographies of actual Besatzungskinder Ika Hügel-Marshall and Bärbel Kampmann, exposing the modern discursive taboo of `race' as a silence stemming from historical guilt. The final chapter demonstrates the evolution of German conceptualizations of historical guilt through the analyses of Christa Wolf's novel Stadt der Engel (2010) and Armin Völckers's film Leroy (2007).