The ‘Other’ from within: Afro-Germans as Scapegoats for the post-WWII German Society

The ‘Other’ from within: Afro-Germans as Scapegoats for the post-WWII German Society

Postgraduate History Conference: Creating the ‘Other’
Department of History, University of Essex

Antje Friedrich
Department of English Literature
University of Bayreuth, Bayreuth, Germany

The theme of the graduate conference this year was ‘Creating the ‘Other’’ throughout history.  We were very pleased to welcome a large and diverse group delegates and presenters from a number of institutions who made for an engaging and lively audience.  We were also very happy to welcome Dr. John Bulaitis, of Canterbury Christchurch University, to provide the keynote address to the conference.  Contributions were arranged into four panels, which explored the relevance of historical processes of ‘Othering’ to the realms of national identity, crime, gender and colonialism.  Papers presented covered a multitude of topics, periods and contexts, ranging from the construction of persons of colour as servants in late 19th and early 20th century France, Germany and the United States, to the origins of sub-cultural cannabis-use in mid-20th century London, the utilisation of humour in the construction of masculinities during the English Civil Wars, and the introduction of the Contagious Diseases Act in the governance of the colonial ‘other’ in British-controlled Hong Kong in the late-19th century.  It is intended that a selection of papers presented shall form the basis of this years’ working papers series issued by the Department of History later on in 2011.  We would like to thank the Department for their generosity in funding this event.

For a long time in the collective German national memory, Afro-Germans had only been a side note to which little attention was paid. With the emergence of autobiographical works representing the perspective of Afro-German people, their struggle in society gained a public face. This article focuses on Ika Hügel-Marshall’s work Invisible Women: Growing up Black in Germany and the representation of her social struggle in post-WWII German society. Her depiction of the impact institutions had on her life – institutions that were meant to support the child’s development, but in her case prolonged the construction of the ‘Other’ as an outsider of society – will be accentuated.

The youth welfare office responsible for her, the orphanage she was sent to and the school she attended, represented the social spirit of the post-WWII era during which the anger of having lost the war and being under the control of the Allied Powers was projected onto people like Hügel-Marshall, who in the eyes of many Germans constituted the ‘Other’. Thus, this paper aims to highlight those social processes that constituted barriers for the development of the self and the mechanisms which helped Hügel-Marshall to finally break through and lead a self-determined life in a German society that often took the outward appearance as a decisive feature for creating an “in” and “out” group.

Read the entire paper here.

Tags: , , , ,