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Race under Reconstruction in German Cinema

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

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  • Book Info
    Race under Reconstruction in German Cinema
    Book Description:

    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.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7017-4
    Subjects: Film Studies, History, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-2)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 3-22)

    As I prepare a meaningful point of entry for my readers into the discussion pursued between these book covers, I feel obliged to justify how a single film could have elicited from me an entire monograph. A precedent already exists for assembling ʹcompanion guides,ʹ which generally unpack narratological and stylistic qualities of a given literary and filmic text while also attending to its wider social impact and reception. But such publications have generally assumed as their object of study canonical texts – the ʹclassicsʹ of world literature and cinema – whose relevance is widely established as much in scholarly circles...

  5. CHAPTER ONE A Changing Postwar Landscape
    (pp. 23-50)

    There is some historical irony to the fact that the German nation, so determined under National Socialism to exterminate or expel from its borders all individuals not fitting the Aryan profile, should, upon warʹs end, be confronted anew with emerging heterogeneity within its population. With the Allied occupation came also foreign troops of varying cultural backgrounds and racial formations. One might think that the arrival of African-American soldiers, in particular, would pose a challenge to local members of the population firmly inculcated in Nazi theories of racial difference. Doubtless, the encounter of African-Americans with local civilians would have been a...

  6. CHAPTER TWO Toxiʹs Allegorical Narrative: Adjoining Reality and Fantasy
    (pp. 51-85)

    A closer examination ofToxiʹs allegorical structure can elucidate how national fantasy and historical reality adjoin one another. A great deal of publicity was generated around the similarities between the actual biography of the six-year-old actress Elfie Fiegert and her eponymous film role. This would seem to be a wishful conflation of their differing fates, for while Elfie was placed in an orphanage by her biological mother and then adopted by a childless German couple, the film script circumvents any implication that Toxiʹs mother would have voluntarily given up her darker-skinned child even under the pressures of social ostracism.¹ Instead,...

  7. CHAPTER THREE Genealogy, Geography, and the Search for Origins
    (pp. 86-112)

    West Germanyʹs emerging economic miracle exhibited trends similar to those of social market economies in other industrialized nations; production and consumption of goods, it seemed, best achieved synchronization within a national population socially conditioned to consume within stabilized and predictable socio-sexual and socio-racial configurations. As Fehrenbachʹs comprehensive study (1995) demonstrates, West German feature films documented and reflected on this ongoing preoccupation with restoring women to the domestic sphere and aligning their identity with more traditional norms of femininity after the war had compelled them to acquire greater autonomy and new responsibilities. Although women were frequently reluctant to retreat into the...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR ʹBlackʹ Market Goods, White Consumer Culture
    (pp. 113-148)

    In previous chapters, much pressure was brought to bear upon a single film in an effort to understand the narratological mechanisms and representational practices safeguarding its internal coherence, most particularly with regard to racialized difference. Stepping back now from the primary text, I will now undertake a closer critical assessment of circumstances leading up to and surrounding the filmʹs production, its marketing, and its public reception in film reviews and early articles on the situation of Afro-German children. If the filmʹs system of representation could be said to negotiate a complex path between inherited ideologies and paternalistic good intentions, the...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE The Reterritorialization of Enjoyment in the Adenauer Era
    (pp. 149-168)

    InToxiʹs reception, we have witnessed the stenotopic perpetuation of terms such as ʹdark Sarotti-eyesʹ (dunkle Sarotti-Augen), ʹcoffee-brown girlʹ (kaffeebraunes Mädchen), ʹchocolate dollʹ (Schockoladenpuppe) – terms that perpetuated a colonialist iconography rendering the eponymous protagonist a kind of ʹspice,ʹ to borrow bell hooksʹs term (1992, 21). The ongoing reterritorialization of signs and symbols of imperial Germany in postwar popular culture may be tantamount to what anthropologist Renato Rosaldo (1989) has described as ʹimperialist nostalgia.ʹ The term refers to the peculiar yearning colonial agents often display ʹfor the very forms of life they intentionally altered or destroyed,ʹ paradoxically mourning ʹthe passing...

  10. CHAPTER SIX Intertextual Echoes
    (pp. 169-206)

    At earlier junctures, I have elaborated upon the syncretic nature of the racial stereotype. Stereotyping can be understood to be ultimately about character and characterization. According to Steve Neale (1979–80), what renders those characterizations stereotypical is the key element of repetition, which links the text in question (and the characterizations it includes) with other texts and other discursive forms. In other words, a stereotype is a stable and repetitive set of traits whose verification depends first upon comparative analysis of a range of texts, and then, closer study of those elements in each text that contribute to the formation...

  11. Conclusion
    (pp. 207-226)

    Toxiʹs closing scene makes a powerful statement about the deracination of Afro-German children during the 1950s. The psychical alienation of the young heroine is not made explicit but, rather, is inferred through a synaesthesia of speech, music, and image: she wears a white mask and counts in a foreign language, while the instrumental motif from the theme song contrives an emotional attachment to her fatherʹs homeland incommensurable with the ambivalence any child would likely feel towards a total stranger. As such, she is made to internalize her perception of herself as a foreigner, demonstrating the insidious manner in which representation...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 227-238)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 239-254)
  14. Index
    (pp. 255-283)