GERM-659 From Rasse to Race: Afro Germans in Theory and Culture
Fall for 2013-2014
Germany offers an intriguing case of thinking about race: at once the nation that drove racial science and biological racism to the extreme of state-organized genocide, and the place where, after the Holocaust, the term ‘race’ was expunged from public and academic discourses to an extent that critiques of racial discourses, and racism, are still difficult to undertake or legitimate. In recent years, however, a growing number of scholars have begun to look at the ways in which conceptualizations of difference changed as a result of West Germany’s integration into western democratic alliances. While racial discrimination was officially disparaged by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the occupation experience demonstrated to Germans the commensurability of democracy and institutionalized racial segregation. While essentialist notions of difference sometimes merely shifted from biology to culture in the reconstruction era (but retained associations of unbridgeable alterity and hierarchy), the dissemination of postcolonial models of hybridity, syncretism, and multiculturalism, articulated increasingly by minority artists and intellectuals themselves, produced a more dynamic and porous—as well as a more celebratory—sense of difference in the 1970s and 1980s. At the same time, many minority thinkers insisted on the reintroduction of ‘race’ as analytical concept in the 1990s.
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