Schwarzsein, Weißsein, Deutschsein: Racial Narratives and Counter-discourses in German Film After 1950

Posted in Dissertations, Europe, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United States on 2013-08-13 01:53Z by Steven

Schwarzsein, Weißsein, Deutschsein: Racial Narratives and Counter-discourses in German Film After 1950

Duke University
286 pages

Michelle René Eley

Dissertation submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in the Carolina-Duke Program – German Studies in the Graduate School of Duke University

This dissertation uses film to explore shifts in conceptions of race, cultural identity and national belonging in Germany from the 1950s West Germany to contemporary reunified Germany. Through the analysis of several German productions featuring Black characters in major narrative or symbolic roles, it identifies narrative and cinematic techniques used to thematize and problematize popular German conceptions of race and racism and to utilize race as a dynamic and flexible symbolic resource in defining specific identity borders. The dominant discourse around the concept of race and its far-reaching implications has long been impeded by the lack of a critical German vocabulary. This gap in mainstream German language is in large part a consequence of the immutable association between “race” (in German, Rasse) as a term, and the pro-Aryan, anti-Semitic dogma of National Socialist ideology. As Germany struggles to address racism as a specific problem in the process of its ongoing project to rehabilitate national identity in a post-colonial era indelibly marked by the Second World War, the films discussed in this work—Toxi (R.A. Stemmle, 1952), Gottes zweite Garnitur (P. Verhoeven, 1967), Angst essen Seele auf (R.W. Fassbinder, 1974), Die Ehe der Maria Braun (R.W. Fassbinder, 1979), Alles wird gut (Maccarone, 1998) and Tal der Ahnungslosen (Okpako, 2003)—provide evidence of attempts to create counter-discourses within the space of this language gap.

Using approaches based primarily in critical race and film studies, the following work argues that these films’ depictions of racism and racial conflict are often both confined by and add new dimension to definitions of Blackness and of conceptions of race and racism in a German context. These attempts at redefinition reveal the ongoing difficulties Germany has faced when confronting the social and ideological structures that are the legacy of its colonialist and National Socialist history. More importantly, however, the films help us to retrace and recover Germany’s history of resistance to that legacy and expand the imaginative possibilities for using poetic politics and communities of coalition to affect social change.

Read the entire thesis here.

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Black German culture, history highlighted at Amherst-sponsored conference

Posted in Articles, Europe, Media Archive, United States on 2013-08-07 04:55Z by Steven

Black German culture, history highlighted at Amherst-sponsored conference

Amherst College News
Amherst College
Amherst, Massachusetts

Peter Rooney, Director of Public Affairs

As more African-Americans are realizing they have German roots, and as Germans expand the notion of what it means to be German, a new academic discipline dedicated to examining the Black German experience is having its third International Conference at Amherst College this week.

Christian Rogowski, a professor of German at Amherst College, together with Sara Lennox of U Mass, helped organize this year’s conference of the Black German Heritage & Research Association Convention, which will be held from Thursday, August 8 to Saturday, August 10 and is free and open to the public.

“The conference is unique,” Rogowski said, “because it brings together researchers who work on issues of ethnicity and racial diversity and the situation of blacks in Germany with people who themselves fall into that category, people with hyphenated identities such as Afro-German, African-American German or Black German.”

One highlight of the conference is a screening of the film “Toxi”, recently released on DVD by the DEFA Library of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.  The German movie from 1952 about an African-American girl who is born to a German mother after World War II, shows the impact that birth has on the girl, her family and the community that surrounds her. The film will be screened at 4 p.m. Friday in Stirn Auditorium, where Angelica Fenner of the University of Toronto will moderate a discussion about it…

Read the entire article here.

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Race under Reconstruction in German Cinema: Robert Stemmle’s Toxi

Posted in Books, Europe, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Monographs on 2012-03-16 21:17Z by Steven

Race under Reconstruction in German Cinema: Robert Stemmle’s Toxi

University of Toronto Press
June 2011
288 pages
Cloth ISBN: 9781442640085

Angelica Fenner, Associate Professor of German and Cinema Studies
University of Toronto

Race Under Reconstruction in German Cinema investigates postwar racial formations via a pivotal West German film by one of the most popular and prolific directors of the era. The release of Robert Stemmle’s Toxi (1952) coincided with the enrolment in West German schools of the first five hundred Afro-German children fathered by African-American occupation soldiers. The didactic plot traces the ideological conflicts that arise among members of a patrician family when they encounter an Afro-German child seeking adoption, herein broaching issues of integration at a time when the American civil rights movement was gaining momentum and encountering violent resistance.

Perceptions of ‘Blackness’ in Toxi demonstrate continuities with those prevailing in Wilhelmine Germany, but also signal the influence of American social science discourse and tropes originating in icons of American popular culture, such as Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Birth of a Nation, and several Shirley Temple films. By applying a Cultural Studies approach to individual film sequences, publicity photos, and press reviews, Angelica Fenner relates West German discourses around race and integration to emerging economic and political anxieties, class antagonism, and the reinstatement of conventional gender roles.

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