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Envisioning Social Justice in Contemporary German Culture

Envisioning Social Justice in Contemporary German Culture

Jill E. Twark
Axel Hildebrandt
Copyright Date: 2015
Edition: NED - New edition
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 334
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  • Book Info
    Envisioning Social Justice in Contemporary German Culture
    Book Description:

    Social-injustice dilemmas such as poverty, unemployment, and racism are subjects of continuing debate in European societies and in Germany in particular, as solutions are difficult and progress often comes slowly. Such discussions are not limited to opposing newspaper editorials, position papers, or legislative forums, however; creative works expound on these topics as well, but their contributions to the debate are often marginalized. This collection of new essays explores how contemporary German-language literary, dramatic, filmic, musical, and street artists are grappling with social-justice issues that affect Germany and the wider world, surveying more than a decade's worth of works of German literature and art in light of the recent paradigm shift in cultural criticism called the "ethical turn." Central themes include the legacy of the politically engaged 1968 generation, eastern Germany and the process of unification, widening economic disparity as a result of political policies and recession, and problems of integration and inclusivity for ethnic and religious minorities as migration to Germany has increased. Contributors: Monika Albrecht, Olaf Berwald, Robert Blankenship, Laurel Cohen-Pfister, Jack Davis, Bastian Heinsohn, Axel Hildebrandt, Deborah Janson, Karolin Machtans, Ralf Remshardt, Alexandra Simon-López, Patricia Anne Simpson, Maria Stehle, Jill E. Twark. Jill E. Twark is Associate Professor of German at East Carolina University. Axel Hildebrandt is Associate Professor of German at Moravian College.

    eISBN: 978-1-58046-899-2
    Subjects: Language & Literature, Art & Art History, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
    Jill E. Twark and Axel Hildebrandt
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-18)
    Jill E. Twark and Axel Hildebrandt

    The concept of justice has occupied writers and artists throughout history, taking on different meanings depending on the social and historical contexts in which they lived. The more specific idea ofsocial justice, however, was first developed in the nineteenth century as a philosophical underpinning for the workers’ rights movements responding to the mass socioeconomic changes produced by the Industrial Revolution. In the more recent past, definitions of social justice have emphasized equality and fairness for all members of society, as well as respect for differences in culture, religion, age, race, gender, and sexual orientation. In his seminal work A...

  5. Part I: Inheriting the Social-Justice Legacy of the 1968 Generation

    • 1: On Potatoes, Forgeries, Mistaken Identities, and Cultural Revolution in Uwe Timm’s Postwall Novel Johannisnacht
      (pp. 21-46)
      Deborah Janson

      In the wake of unification, Germany suddenly became home to citizens who had previously belonged to two distinct German nations. At the same time, the end of the Cold War brought many immigrants from Eastern Europe, adding to the war refugees, asylum seekers, and foreign laborers who had comprised the immigrant population in previous decades. As a result, since the early 1990s more foreigners have been living in Germany than in any other European Union country (Green 83). Also since then, Germans have been grappling with issues of national and cultural identity—experiencing what it means, for example, to have...

    • 2: “Maybe the Genuine Utopia”: Uwe Timm’s Vision of a “Postsocialist” Society in the Novel Rot
      (pp. 47-64)
      Monika Albrecht

      Since 1968, the world has kept on turning, and has changed considerably—and critical observers of contemporary history like Uwe Timm know this only too well. In his 2001 novel Rot (Red), he illustrates how people nowadays tend not to understand how someone can still talk about “a different world” (79).¹ Deploring the global escalation of consumption and the rising demand for consumer goods or dropping keywords such as “protests,” “boycotts,” or “anti-consumerism” takes people aback: “‘Oh, my goodness!,’ said someone at the next table who had been listening in” on his protagonist discussing politics over lunch at a beer...

  6. Part II: Social Justice Matters in Popular Culture

    • 3: Social Injustice in the German Tatort Television Series
      (pp. 67-87)
      Alexandra Simon-López

      Television crime series and crime novels have a long tradition in Germany, and, as James W. Jones has written, a “secure place within German popular culture” (570). Both television crime series and crime novels are referred to in German asKrimi, which is the abbreviation ofKriminalfilmandKriminalroman(detective film and detective story). The long-running crime television seriesTatort(Crime Scene), first broadcast in West Germany in 1970, is one of the most popular and controversial crime series in the German-speaking countries. East Germany had its own crime series calledPolizeiruf 110(Police Call 110), and after German unification...

    • 4: Die Toten Hosen, Rammstein, Azad, and Massiv: German Rock and Rap Go Global for Social Justice
      (pp. 88-118)
      Jill E. Twark and Patricia Anne Simpson

      Although rock and rap represent divergent branches in the popular music family tree, both genres possess a global appeal and musicians from both have acquired a reputation as provocateurs and outspoken advocates in local or worldwide battles for social justice. Both descriptors apply to the top-selling German rock and rap groups whose twentyfirst-century releases we discuss here: Die Toten Hosen,¹ Rammstein, Azad, and Massiv. In the 1980s, the inveterate punk-rock band Die Toten Hosen was feared and even banned from playing in some German locations because of their and their fans’ reputation for alcohol and drug use and accompanying destructive...

    • 5: Critical Voices from the Underground: Street Art and Urban Transformation in Berlin
      (pp. 119-142)
      Bastian Heinsohn

      In recent years Berlin has gained a reputation of being the “graffiti capital of the world.”¹ Graffiti writings, however, have been present in West Berlin at least since the 1970s, when countless tags, slogans, and colorful images covered the Berlin Wall and turned the barrier between East and West into a world-famous icon of the divided city and the Cold War. The western side, with its colorful expressions of free speech, stood in stark contrast to the bare, sterile eastern side, with its corresponding oppressive atmosphere. Several West Berlin neighborhoods, especially Kreuzberg, the city’s former peripheral outpost running along a...

  7. Part III: Eastern German Views of Social Justice in Novels and Films

    • 6: Politics and Prekariat in Christoph Hein’s Novels Frau Paula Trousseau and Weiskerns Nachlass
      (pp. 145-164)
      Axel Hildebrandt

      Christoph hein is one of the most influential contemporary East German writers and public intellectuals before and after German unification. He was born in 1944 as the son of a Protestant minister in Heinzendorf, Silesia, and relocated with his family to Bad Düben, a small town near Leipzig, after the Second World War. Although Hein became a playwright, as well, he is best known for his novels. As an essayist, first president of the unified German PEN center (1998–2000), and former copublisher of the weekly Berlin newspaperFreitag, he does, however, frequently address political and societal developments in Germany...

    • 7: “Erzählt ist erzählt”: The Ethics of Narration in Christa Wolf’s Stadt der Engel oder The Overcoat of Dr. Freud
      (pp. 165-185)
      Robert Blankenship

      Many literary critics label Christa Wolf a moralist. For example, Tageszeitung correspondent and Wolf biographer Jörg Magenau, in his negative review of her final novel, calls the author “die große Moralistin” (the great moralist) and notes the irony that such a moralist was found to have been an informant for the East German secret police, known as the Stasi , from 1959 to 1962 (Magenau). In the same vein, Jürgen P. Wallmann notes that Wolf had been regarded as an “untadelige Moralistin” (irreproachable moralist) (Wallmann). Marko Martin claims that Wolf was a hypocritical moralist and places her in contradistinction to...

    • 8: Social Consciousness in the Bionade-Biedermeier: An Interview with Filmmakers Marc Bauder and Dörte Franke
      (pp. 186-202)
      Laurel Cohen-Pfister

      Debates on postwall german film have highlighted in one corner an absence of serious political engagement with the new realities of a postcommunist, unified Germany (Rentschler), and in another, the forgotten or ignored legacy of East(ern) German filmmakers, whose work in the early 1990s peered into the posttotalitarian quotidian (Pinkert 204; Ivanova 261; Hake 329). Lacking in these analyses of film’s ability to reflect politically on recent German history has been an extended look at German documentaries in the twenty-first century. Particularly when questioning film’s potential to initiate or sustain historical inquiry or to mold public memory and influence identity...

  8. Part IV: Theater as an Interventionist Medium for Promoting Social Justice

    • 9: Through Performance to Social Justice: Schlingensief’s Narcissistic Sociality
      (pp. 205-226)
      Jack Davis

      Christoph Schlingensief (1960–2010), who began his career in Germany as an obscure director of avant-garde cinematic spectacles, ended it as an internationally known performance artist who was memorialized by the Austrian Nobel Prize winner Elfriede Jelinek as “one of the greatest artists who ever lived” (Der Standard, This transition from being a minor filmmaker known for cult titles likeDas deutsche Kettensägenmassaker(The German Chainsaw Massacre, 1990) to being the darling of not only the leftist art scene but also the populist tabloidBILDwas due in no small part to his work’s direct confrontation with questions of...

    • 10: The Postdramatic Paradox: Theater as an Interventionist Medium in Falk Richter’s Das System
      (pp. 227-250)
      Ralf Remshardt

      Born in 1969, almost ten years after Christoph Schlingensief, and thus just after the ruptures of 1968 that came to demarcate the politicalideological fault lines in postwar West Germany, Falk Richter is one of a younger generation of theater professionals whose formative experiences align themselves with several shifts in recent German history and culture. During his youth, the progressive, critical, antiauthoritarian, extraparliamentary stance of the new Left became more or less normative, working its way through and into the institutions of governance. At the same time, the terrorist attacks of the mid-1970s by the Red Army Faction and the virulent...

  9. Part V: Beyond Germany’s Borders:: Social-Justice Issues in a Global Context

    • 11: Settling in Mobility: Socioeconomic Justice and European Borderlands in Hans-Christian Schmid’s Films Lichter and Die wundersame Welt der Waschkraft
      (pp. 253-274)
      Maria Stehle

      After German unification in 1990 and in the wake of the European Union’s eastern expansion over the past two decades, the border region between Germany and Poland has become a crucial space for tracing the development of European cooperation and unification. It is also a region where economic globalization and global migration have greatly altered the social fabric of a more or less rural population. Hans-Christian Schmid’s 2003 feature filmLichter(Distant Lights) comments on this socioeconomic transformation by depicting life and trade on the Polish-German border, as well as the plight of two Ukrainian immigrant groups planning to cross...

    • 12: The Ethics of Listening in Dana Ranga’s Wasserbuch and Terézia Mora’s Das Ungeheuer
      (pp. 275-289)
      Olaf Berwald

      Do we have a nuanced vocabulary that enables us to discuss the role of contemporary literature in advocating for social justice without reducing the mutual suspicions of the aesthetic and the political to a rigid dichotomy? If we concede that active listening to social conflicts that we internalize as psychic pain, our own and that of others,¹ constitutes a continuous act of moral courage, the aesthetic experience of reading literary works is at once a highly individual act and a shared social practice that can be understood as an ethical process of reciprocal and self-reflective empathy.

      As Jürgen Habermas (b....

    • 13: Navid Kermani: Advocate for an Antipatriotic Patriotism and a Multireligious, Multicultural Europe
      (pp. 290-312)
      Karolin Machtans

      Born in 1967 in Siegen as the fourth son of Iranian parents, Navid Kermani—author, journalist, and academic—is one of the bestknown intellectuals and specialists on Islam in Germany today. A member of theDeutsche Akademie für Sprache und Dichtung(German Academy for Language and Literature) and theAkademie der Wissenschaften(Academy of Sciences and Humanities) in Hamburg, he has been awarded numerous prizes, including theBuber-Rosenzweig-Medaille(2011), theHannah-Arendt-Preis(2011), and theKleist-Preis(2012). He was invited to give lectures on poetics in Frankfurt in 2010 and in Göttingen in 2011. Kermani has been at the forefront of...

  10. Notes on the Contributors
    (pp. 313-316)
  11. Index
    (pp. 317-326)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 327-327)