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Remembering Africa

Remembering Africa: The Rediscovery of Colonialism in Contemporary German Literature

Dirk Göttsche
Volume: 133
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 496
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  • Book Info
    Remembering Africa
    Book Description:

    In the late 1990s, in the wake of German unification, multiculturalism, and globalization, a surge of historical novels about German colonialism in Africa and its previously neglected legacies hit the German literary scene. This development, accelerated by the centenary in 2004 of Germany's colonial war in South-West Africa, has continued to the present, making colonialism an established theme of literary memorialization alongside Germany's dominant memory themes - National Socialism and the Holocaust, the former GDR and its demise in the '"Wende", and, more recently, "1968." This is the first comprehensive study of contemporary German literature's intense engagement with German colonialism and with Germany's wider involvement in European colonialism. Building on the author's decade of research and publication in the field, the book discusses some fifty novels by German, Swiss, and Austrian writers, among them Hans Christoph Buch, Alex Capus, Christof Hamann, Lukas Hartmann, Ilona Maria Hilliges, Giselher W. Hoffmann, Dieter Kühn, Hermann Schulz, Gerhard Seyfried, Thomas von Steinaecker, Uwe Timm, Ilija Trojanow, and Stephan Wackwitz. Drawing on international postcolonial theory, the German tradition of cross-cultural literary studies, and on memory studies, the book brings the hitherto neglected German case to the international debate in postcolonial literary studies. Dirk Göttsche is Professor of German at the University of Nottingham.

    eISBN: 978-1-57113-847-7
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-20)

    In the preface to a recent interdisciplinary volume about “colonial pasts” and the “(post-) colonial present” the editors note that “empires are in vogue” in the arts and humanities (“Imperien haben Konjunktur”).¹ This new curiosity with imperial and colonial history extends well beyond academia, indicating that imperialism and colonialism resonate with the political, economic, and cultural challenges of a globalizing world. In Germany this new fascination with the colonial past can be traced back to the 1990s, when for example cities such as Hamburg and Berlin began to explore their colonial histories,² building on changes in cultural awareness that began...

  5. 1: From Colonial Fantasies to Postcolonial Memory: Historical and Theoretical Parameters
    (pp. 21-62)

    The fact that Edward Said’s Orientalism, which marks the beginnings of postcolonial studies as an interdisciplinary and international field of cultural theory and research, was published in the same year (1978) as Uwe Timm’s novel Morenga about Germany’s colonial war in South-West Africa, now considered a modern classic in the critical literary memory of German colonial history, would initially seem to suggest that postcolonial thought in (West) Germany developed broadly in tandem with international Anglophone discourse. After all, Timm’s literary critique of colonial imperialism builds on the engagement of West German writers and intellectuals of the 1960s with the anticolonial...

  6. 2: Remembering German Colonialism
    (pp. 63-178)

    The year 2004 saw the centenary of the German colonial war in Namibia (1904–7), the former German colony of South-West Africa, occasioning an unprecedented wave of public interest in German colonialism.¹ Newspaper and journal articles, radio and television features, exhibitions, and new historical research used the centenary to remind Germany of its forgotten colonialism, in an attempt to reinscribe colonialism in German cultural memory and to reflect on its legacy in the postcolonial world of the early twenty-first century. This historical discourse about colonialism now resonates with the new wave of literary interest in Africa, which started during the...

  7. 3: Rewriting Colonialism in Cross-Cultural and Transcultural Perspective
    (pp. 179-280)

    Continuing a strand of postcolonial literary engagement with Africa that is epitomized by Urs Widmer’s striking novel Im Kongo, Steinaecker’s Schutzgebiet focuses postcolonial critique almost exclusively on the meta-level of German and European discourses about Africa and the colonial period. This approach contrasts sharply with the tradition established by Timm’s Morenga and continued through Seyfried’s Herero and Capus’s Eine Frage der Zeit of rereading colonial history critically on the basis of historical fact and evidence, although also with an emphasis on the critical memory of German and European colonial involvement rather than the experiences and perspectives of the colonized. The...

  8. 4: Remapping the History of European Colonialism
    (pp. 281-334)

    The history of the African diaspora in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland with its transcultural lives and transnational frames of reference is just one indication of how deeply embedded German colonialism was in the wider history of European colonialism. Not only did the European colonial expansion “globalize” trade, politics, communications, and knowledge as well as having a deep impact on the societies, cultures, and lives in both the South and the North; it also involved individuals, companies, organizations, and institutions from all European countries, regardless of the duration and extent of their imperial rule overseas. Colonial history cannot therefore be properly...

  9. 5: From the Past to the Present and Back: Colonial History and Family History
    (pp. 335-408)

    As Hugo Aust has pointed out, historical fiction is always concerned with the present as much as with the past it represents. It is the present that shapes its literary images of the past, making the “historicity [Geschichtlichkeit]” of narration in historical novels not so much “a function of the choice of material from the distant past but, quite on the contrary, a result of the narrative’s link to the present.”¹ The resonance of “1968” in Timm’s Morenga, the fascination with transcultural experience in Trojanow’s Der Weltensammler, and the problematic projection back into the colonial past of post-1980s visions of...

  10. 6: Conclusion: German (Post)colonial Memory in Perspective
    (pp. 409-426)

    Contemporary German literature since the 1990s has contributed significantly to promoting and shaping the rediscovery of Germany’s colonial history and the memory of German, Austrian, and Swiss involvement in the wider history of Europe’s colonial expansion. There is a sizable body of historical novels and family novels which engage with colonialism in Africa, with the roots and repercussions of overseas colonialism inside Germany, and with the legacies of colonial history and thought both in contemporary Africa and in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. Contemporary German historical novels about Africa represent, stage, and reflect the lived experience of both Europeans and Africans...

  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 427-470)
  12. Index of Authors and Works Discussed
    (pp. 471-474)
  13. General Index
    (pp. 475-486)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 487-487)