In order to critically engage with deeply important issues related to migration, race and ethnicity, globalization, colonialism, multiculturalism, translation, identity politics, cosmopolitanism, and exile, the German department at the University of Michigan created Alamanya: Transnational German Studies Workshop in 2011. Conceived as a forum for sharing ideas and presenting works in progress, it has its roots in two previous groups: Alamanya: Turkish-German Workshop and the German Minority Workshop, which formed between 2001 and 2011. The group provides an ideal setting for graduate students and faculty to exchange ideas about the main agendas, parameters and new theoretical insights that the field of transnational German studies as a whole can offer. It has sustained regular lively and multidisciplinary exchanges between group members and guests since the early 2000s.
The advantage to interrogating German Studies transnationally is that it highlights the diversity of artistic expressions in communities marked by migration and exile in and outside of Germany. Transnational German Studies calls for a multidisciplinary, if not interdisciplinary approach that encourages academic collaboration between specialists in German studies, Turkish studies, Jewish Studies, Africana Studies, history, literary criticism, anthropology, cultural studies, media studies, gender studies, art history, musicology and ethnomusicology, linguistics, political sciences, and sociology. As such, it pursues questions concerning the nexus between nation, race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, class, and religion.
Transnational German Studies evaluates various approaches to cultural productions by ethnic communities in Germany and its implications for the concept of German culture. The field is specifically informed by the work of scholars who focus on issues of race and ethnicity in the post-war period: Leslie Adelson, Rita Chin, Heide Fehrenbach, Deniz Göktürk, Atina Grossmann, Kader Konuk, Sara Lennox, Ruth Mandel, and Peggy Piesche, to list only a few.
Indeed, the first scholars in the US to recognize the lives, experiences, and expressions of minority cultures in Germany were literary critics in German departments. Given the changing German literary landscape, these critics called for new reading strategies that were able to capture newly emerging textual and cultural practices. Leading German Studies journals such as New German Critique, Seminar, The German Quarterly, and The German Yearbook have in the past few decades published numerous articles on minority literature and cultural expressions, and maintain a lively forum for redefining German Studies in relation to the changing cultural landscape in Germany.
Transnational German Studies has become a forum for debate about broader processes of transnational migration and identity formation in the modern German context. More than just analyzing the ways in which minority groups are constructed as Other, Transnational German Studies emphasizes the diversity of artistic expressions that stem from diverse communities which are marked by the history of migration and exile ranging from ethnic Germans to Afro-, Arab-, Asian-, Jewish-, Turkish- and Romani-Germans. Research in the field highlights the interrelationship between these groups without confining itself to a restricted notion of identity politics.
Transnational German Studies at the University of Michigan brings together scholars concerned with analyzing cross-cultural encounters between Germany and the world in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Faculty and graduate students involved in the group study cultural exchanges, intellectual history, political alliances, knowledge transfers, postcolonialism, race theory, migration, exile, citizenship, nation building, and issues of mono- and multilingualism concerning a diverse German society.
The University of Michigan has a significant number of faculty whose work relates to the field of Transnational German Studies, a field that has become one of the most stimulating in German Studies. Faculty members and graduate students in German, Comparative Literature, Anthropology, Sociology, History, Political Science, Art History, Architecture, Linguistics, Near Eastern Studies, the Department for African and African-American Studies, the Center for Middle Eastern and North African Studies, and the Residential College have been contributing members to the group since the early 2000s.
The group builds the foundations for a sustained dialogue between scholars, artists, and academics at the University of Michigan and those in Europe. This is particularly important given the distinctive configuration of scholars at the University of Michigan and the dearth of this type of collaboration at German universities. The group is unique in both the range of expertise represented and in the ways in which it seeks to explore dimensions of on-going cultural and linguistic contact between different kinds of communities in and outside Germany. It is also unique in its dedication to a sustained, international conversation about transnational issues that involves a broad cross-section of people outside the academy, including writers, artists, and political activists.
Alamanya is excited about its upcoming program, which will focus on workshopping student work, reading relevant primary and secondary sources on the field of transnationalism, and evaluating their relevance to the current migrant crisis within Germany and throughout Europe. Please visit our website for a detailed program of events, which includes our reading group schedule, film screenings and guest speakers.