Review of Mazón, Patricia M.; Steingröver, Reinhild, eds., Not So Plain as Black and White: Afro-German Culture and History, 1890-2000

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Europe, History, Media Archive on 2012-10-07 01:49Z by Steven

Review of Mazón, Patricia M.; Steingröver, Reinhild, eds., Not So Plain as Black and White: Afro-German Culture and History, 1890-2000

H-German, H-Net Reviews
June 2009

Lynn Kutch, Assistant Professor of German
Kutztown University of Pennsylvania

Patricia M. Mazón, Reinhild Steingröver, eds. Not So Plain as Black and White: Afro-German Culture and History, 1890-2000. Rochester: University of Rochester Press, 2005. xvii + 247 pp. cloth ISBN 978-1-58046-183-2.

A Defiant “We” Announces Its Birth: Understanding the Complexity of Black German Identity

Given the long and varied history of cultural interactions between Africans and Germans–from the 1400s, when Africans populated Europe as slaves and court servants, to the pinnacle of German colonization in Africa in the late 1800s, to the post-World War I Rhineland occupation–the dominant German culture, perhaps understandably, has always viewed Africans as foreigners. This multifaceted collection interrogates the difficulty of categorizing the experience of Afro-Germans, a new organizing term in its own right. In each essay, the authors seek to expand the relatively limited current base of knowledge about the black German experience and to rectify the oftentimes ill-informed German and international reaction to that tradition. As a whole, the collected essays represent, as Sander Gilman puts it, a “major confrontation between the German image of Blackness and the reality of the Black” (p. 83). Gilman’s “confrontation” materializes in each essay’s distinctly articulated challenges to the common notion that racism toward blacks never existed in Germany. The book’s authors and editors not only dispute that comfortable assumption, they also sharpen the markedly German angle of the examination by claiming that attention paid to Vergangenheitsbew√§ltigung, or coming to terms with the National Socialist past, has consistently overshadowed the German colonial legacy and historical attitude about Africans. A vital reading given its multicultural approach to German studies, the book demonstrates that, despite the widespread cultural eclipse of this theme, historians, writers, and filmmakers have successfully exploited their talent to display a new self-confidence while educating others on overt acts of prejudice and racism in Germany.

Building upon previous research in the field and combining disciplines and methodologies, the editors have organized the volume into two thematic sections that will appeal to Afro-German readers as well as scholars with varying degrees of interest in and knowledge about the subject. The first subdivision, “Afro-Germans in Historical Perspective,” traces African intersections with German history from the colonial period through 1945. The second portion, “Cultural Representations and Self-Representations of Afro-Germans,” offers specific examples from various disciplines of the ever-changing perceived image over time and how the community of Afro-Germans seeks to define itself as a reaction to those general perceptions…

Read the entire review here.

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Not So Plain as Black and White: Afro-German Culture & History, 1890-2000

Posted in Anthologies, Arts, Books, Europe, History, Identity Development/Psychology, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive on 2010-07-05 04:39Z by Steven

Not So Plain as Black and White: Afro-German Culture & History, 1890-2000

University of Rochester Press
266 pages
Pages: 266
Size: 9 x 6
Hardback 13 Digit ISBN: 9781580461832
Imprint: University of Rochester Press

Edited by

Patricia M. Mazón, Associate Professor of History
State University of New York, Buffalo

Reinhild Steingröver, Assistant Professor of German
University of Rochester, Eastman School of Music

Since the Middle Ages, Africans have lived in Germany as slaves and scholars, guest workers and refugees. After Germany became a unified nation in 1871, it acquired several African colonies but lost them after World War I. Children born of German mothers and African fathers during the French occupation of Germany were persecuted by the Nazis. After World War II, many children were born to African American GIs stationed in Germany and German mothers. Today there are 500,000 Afro-Germans in Germany out of a population of 80 million. Nevertheless, German society still sees them as ‚Äúforeigners,‚ÄĚ assuming they are either African or African American but never German.

In recent years, the subject of Afro-Germans has captured the interest of scholars across the humanities for several reasons. Looking at Afro-Germans allows us to see another dimension of the nineteenth- and early twentieth-century ideas of race that led to the Holocaust. Furthermore, the experience of Afro-Germans provides insight into contemporary Germany’s transformation, willing or not, into a multicultural society. The volume breaks new ground not only by addressing the topic of Afro-Germans but also by combining scholars from many disciplines.

Table of Contents

  1. Dangerous Liaisons: Race, Nation, and German Identity
  2. The First Besatzungskinder: Afro-German Children, Colonial Childrearing Practices, and Racial Policy in German Southwest Africa, 1890-1914
  3. Converging Specters of an Other Within: Race and Gender in Pre- 1945 Afro-German History
  4. Louis Brody and the Black Presence in German Film Before 1945
  5. Narrating “Race” in 1950s’ West Germany: The Phenomenon of the Toxi Films
  6. Will Everything Be Fine? Anti-Racist Practice in Recent German Cinema
  7. Writing Diasporic Identity: Afro-German Literature since 1985
  8. The Souls of Black Volk: Contradiction? Oxymoron?
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