“Die Grenzen meiner Sprache bedeuten die Grenzen meiner Welt [The limitations of my language form the limitations of my world(view)” — Austrian philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein‘s sentence illustrates to what extent language shapes our thinking and creativity. Participants and attendees at Monday evening’s first “Global Night of Poetry and Music” at Agnes Scott College experienced the extent to which a multilingual experience can broaden our intellectual and creative horizons. Guided by “emcee” Ishara Agostini, the event featured students performing poems in spoken and sung form from antiquity to the twenty first century and exposed the audience to the rhythms, sounds, and expressive linguistic elements of Latin, Greek, Urdu, German, and Catalan, among others.
This week is international education week. German Studies has teamed up with other foreign language programs and the Gué Pardue Hudson Center for Leadership and Service for a series of exciting events. It starts tonight with “A Night of Global Poetry and Music” in Maclean Auditorium, from 7-8pm. Come and listen to your fellow Scotties’ poems and musical pieces. We hope to see you there. Bis dann.
In May of 2016 our ASC in Germany group met with activist and writer Sharon Otoo in Berlin, Germany, and was let in on a secret: Sharon Otoo told us that she had been nominated to participate in the competition for the Ingeborg Bachmann Prize, likely the most prestigious award for contemporary German-language fiction. We were not allowed to tell anyone yet, but we joked around that she had to visit Agnes Scott College should she win.
The United States have the Super Bowl, Europe has the Eurovision Song Contest. Almost 200 Million people watch how performers from 40+ countries compete for the votes of the televoting audience. (No, you have not missed a sudden expansion of the European Union — the European Broadcasting Union is significantly larger than the EU, including many Eastern European countries as well as Turkey and Israel, for instance.)
Over time, most winning performers have not left a lasting imprint on the global entertainment industry. The Swedish band ABBA and the Canadian singer Celine Dion (yes, her — she actually won the contest starting for Switzerland!) are the exceptions confirming the norm.
The winner of the 2014 contest did leave an imprint: Conchita Wurst, a “Kunstfigur” created by the Austrian performer Thomas Neuwirth, surprised the audience not so much with her song but with her overall performance which boldly challenged heteronormative gender expectations.
To watch a video and read more, click below. Continue reading Current Research Projects in German Studies: Conchita Wurst & Transgender Identity Performance
An exploration of the historical district of Berlin was scheduled for our first full day in Germany. We started out at the Hackeschen Höfe, the beautifully restored city block featuring restaurants, small shops, and residential areas. Dating back to the early 20th century, this ensemble was badly damaged in World War II and barely renovated during the GDR period. Today the courtyards look great again, illustrating the attraction of what nowadays is called “mixed-use development,” but also the fact that this kind of expensive renovation comes at the cost of replacing small independent shops with international brands. Continue reading Exploring Berlin
On Reading Two Recent Memoirs by Afro-Germans
Two recent memoirs by German authors with an African connection emphasize that German history cannot be written without including the histories and perspectives of black Germans (as well as that of many other non-white people).
In Deutsch sein und Schwarz dazu [Being German and also Being Black], published in 2013 with Deutscher Taschenbuchverlag, author Theodor Michael takes a long and probing look back at his experiences as a black German. Born in 1925 to a white German mother from the Eastern Prussian provinces and a black Cameroonian father, Michael’s childhood and youth coincided with the decline of the democratic German Weimar Republic and the rise of National Socialism.
In a low key style Michael recollects his participation in the infamous Völkerschauen [colonial peoples exhibits] organized by circusses and zoos. He describes his attempts to get by as hotel page and as extra in some of the Third Reich’s anti-British colonial films. And he details the toll that life under the Nuremberg race laws took on his body and mind. While his siblings managed to get out of Germany, Theodor Michael stayed behind, spending the last years of the regime as a forced laborer in a factory outside of Berlin, where he survived the war. After liberation, he managed to get into the Western zone, where he then tried to rebuild his life.
Millions of people know about Amon Goeth, the commander of the former National Socialist concentration camp in Plaszow-Krakov in Poland, from Ralph Fienne’s performance of this character in Steven Spielberg’s film Schindler’s List (1993). This also applies to Jennifer Teege, for whom Amon Goeth was a distant historical figure until that specific day a few years ago, when she discovered that Goeth was in fact her biological grandfather.
For Teege, the daughter of a Nigerian father and a white German mother (Monika Goeth), the discovery was a shock. As a Black German who had lived in Israel and worked with Holocaust survivors, she had been acutely aware of Germany’s history, but had also felt to stand on the “good” side of the German discourse about the Nazi past.
In her memoir Amon: Mein Großvater hätte mich erschossen [Amon: My Grandfather Would Have Killed Me], Teege offers a moving account of how the discovery affected her personally as well as a unique perspective on Germany’s attempts at coming to terms with the past. Jennifer Teege will visit Agnes Scott College during the week of April 14 – 17, 2014. She will read from her memoir and discuss her experiences. For more information, see the poster below. Please contact Prof. Gundolf Graml, Dir. of German Studies, with any questions at ggraml[at]agnesscott.edu.