German-language Literature and Transnationalism

Lead Research Organisation: University of Leeds
Department Name: School of Modern Languages and Cultures

Abstract

This research explores transnationalism as a contemporary reality that 'saturates' everyday life in ways that leave none of us unaffected. Specifically, it responds to the AHRC 'Translating Cultures' theme and looks at the ways transnational flows (of people, ideas, culture, etc.) are being remediated in today's German-language literature. How is transnationalism different from other concepts such as globalisation (the standardisation of services and products), internationalisation (greater engagement with other nations), mass mobility (tourism and migration as mass experiences), or digital networking, and how does it relate to today's multi-directional translation of culture(s) back and forth across borders? How does it impact on real people? And how do literary texts in German respond to the ambivalences of transnationalism - what kinds of aesthetic strategies and contents arise in response to the simultaneous restatement and permeation of the nation's borders that is characteristic of transnationalism and to the risks and opportunities that transnationalism presents?

The study frames Germany as an exemplary transnational space in which the ambivalences of transnationalism are being played out in an acutely pressing and concentrated fashion. Sixteen authors are examined over the four substantive chapters of the book which will be the primary (academic) outcome of the project: (1) (re)imagining a 'diasporic longing' beyond 'home'; (2) parochialism and cosmopolitanism; (3) national and global culture(s); and (4) encounters between diverse values and beliefs. A key argument will be that transnationalism pushes us to rethink the positionality of both 'minority' writers and 'nonminority' writers and to re-read their work in juxtaposition with one another. Indeed, if, as ethnologist Regina Römhild claims, one of the key effects of transnationalism is that 'the ideal of fixed territories of culture turns into a fiction, and mobility becomes the common ground for the prliferation of diasporic life-worlds, cultures and identities', then this surely applies to all residents of the (still-existing) nation-state, whether 'settled', migrant or diasporic. The book's aim is to generate new insights from this juxtaposition of minority and nonminority authors, both into their work and social and cultural standing and into the relationship between culture(s) and transnationalism more generally.

This project is intended to benefit scholars working in German Studies as well as researchers across a range of other contemporary literatures (since transnationalism is, by definition, a global phenonomen), as well as colleagues in Comparative Literature, cultural studies and social-science disciplines with an interest in the translation of culture(s), the politics and cultures of transnationalism, and migration and diasporas. The outcomes include a book, an edited volume, a book chapter and introduction, and three conference papers, in addition to informal talks to scholars in literary studies and social sciences and a narrative account of the project's findings to a meeting of Germanists. As a lasting legacy for the project, a Centre for the Study of Transnationalism and Culture(s) will be established at the University of Leeds as a focal point for Arts and Humanities researchers and a hub for future collaboration between Arts and Humanities and the Social Sciences. In addition, the project has significant impact potential. In the UK, it is planned to exploit the insights generated by the research by means of radio segments on transnationalism's impact on national and global cultures and on live concerns (e.g. immigration). In South Africa, it is planned to exploit the project's insights into literature's engagement with the dialectic of parochialism and cosmopolitanism and the risks and opportunities of encounters between different values and beliefs to promote engagement between diverse and often divided communities

Planned Impact

I have some experience of generating impact from my research in the broad area of translating culture(s). I have organised events with German authors, publishers and translators, appeared on C4 News on Günter Grass's revelations that he had been in the Waffen SS (2006), done an extended segment for the BBC World Book Club on the new translation of Grass's Tin Drum (2009), and written for publishing magazines (e.g. New Books in German) and regional newspapers (The Yorkshire Post) on German writers and current affairs. I have also won Leverhulme funding for an Artist-in-Residence to exploit my work on trauma (2009). Recently, I have been asked to contribute to a series of programmes on German writers and the Holocaust for BBC Radio Three.

In this project, I intend to develop two forms of specific impact.

First, I will develop my work with the media and its public, benefiting both by contributing to innovative programming and encouraging engagement with other cultures. I am participating in a six-session workshop to develop skills in conducting radio and TV interviews, writing copy, and pitching ideas to radio and TV, and will be making contact with Radio Three in relation to one or more segments focussing on the transnational appeal of German-language literature in the UK and linking issues within the literary texts I am examining to live concerns (e.g. immigration). This contact is written into my work plan for the months July 2014-March 2015, post-submission of the book, when my work is most likely to attract attention (i.e. in the run-up to publication). I am also in discussions with the Goethe Institute about bringing one or more German authors to the UK and Arts' Council, Yorkshire for advice on whether it might be possible to attract minority audiences in Yorkshire to a discussion of diaspora cultures featuring a German minority author. Here, media outlets and regional arts' organisations will benefit from input into their creative output. The wider public wil also benefit, in terms of cultural interest (quality of life) but also in terms of improving understanding of other communities, including those living in close proximity (inter-cultural dialogue). The immediate impact will thus be to inform public debate on the densely interconnected world in which we now live, that is, on the impact of transnationalism itself.

Second, I will develop a relationship with The Institute for Studies in Race, Reconciliation and Social Justice, at the University of the Free State (UFS), South Africa. The Institute has invited me to engage with community groups on and near the highly combustible UFS campus about the German experience of perpetration, restoration and reconciliation (based on my major AHRC award: 'From Perpetrators to Victims'). Leeds has paid £1600 for an initial visit to SA in 2012 ; the UFS has made me a Research Associate, giving me funding from September 2014. In our future collaboration during visits in late 2013 and late 2014, I plan to work with local partners in the Institute and German/Afrikaans department to generalise my research on transnationalism and German-language culture to the South African context. More specifically, we plan to present literature (using texts in German, Afrikaans and S.A English) to local community groups as a catalyst for inter-cultural dialogue on the risks and opportunities of cross-cultural encounters, whether across or within borders. I am confident that this innovative engagement will benefit local communities by promoting engagement between them (quality of life and community relations) and also be of interest to media outlets in South Africa and the UK, as a secondary impact. More specifically, my work will benefit colleagues at the Institute (a third-sector organisation) in their own work with community groups (an immediate direct impact) and their engagement with policymakers pursuing national reconciliation (a longer-term indirect impact on effectiveness of policy).
 
Description This project will be completed by May 2016. Thus far I have identified the following findings:
1. Both minority and non-monority German writers are concerned with transnationalism, in ways that often overlap. This is a significant findings, given that scholarships almost always focuses on minority writers.
2. Transnationalism is often associated with forms of 'deviant' sexuality, signalling an anxiety about the 'integrity' of social relations and ultimately the nation.
3. a fear of transnationalism is often associated with terrorism, with terrorism often coming to 'mass' a range of fears more properly linked to globalisation and global social change.
4. A concern with transnationalism has prompted a renewed concern with cosmopolitanism in German-language writing. However, German-language writers struggle to eleaborate truly cosmopolitan ideals and find themselves stuck, instead, within powerful narrative of nation and nationhood.
Exploitation Route This project will be of use to others working on contemporary German-language writing, especially to the extent that opens out the discussion about German-language literature from the 'nation' to the 'world' and seeks to embed German-language writing within the new theoretical framework of 'world literatures'. More broadly scholars outside of German-language literary studies will be interested in the connection between literature and cosmopolitanism.
Sectors Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

URL http://arts.leeds.ac.uk/transnationalholocaustmemory/german-language-literature-and-transnationalism/
 
Description The findings of my work on transnationalism, and specifically the ways in which competing histories can (or cannot) be reconciled has informed a number of cultural activities and educational events involving, in the UK, young people from across the West Yorkshire region, and, in South Africa, young people from diverse communities.
First Year Of Impact 2013
Sector Creative Economy,Education,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural,Societal

 
Description British Academy International Partnerships: Contemporary Literature from Germany and South Africa: Critiquing the Narrativization of Trauma as Nation-building
Amount £30,000 (GBP)
Organisation The British Academy 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2015 
End 01/2018
 
Description Major Research Project: Traumatic Pasts, Cosmopolitanism, and Nation-Building in Contemporary German and South African Literature
Amount £160,000 (GBP)
Funding ID RPG-2014-147 
Organisation The Leverhulme Trust 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 09/2015 
End 08/2018
 
Description Collaboration with the Centre for World Literatures at the University of Stockholm 
Organisation Stockholm University
Country Sweden 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution I am working with Dr Helgesson on an application to the University of Leeds for 15k, to develop a joint project leading to a major funding bid.
Collaborator Contribution Dr Helgesson is working with me on a major funding bid.
Impact Major funding bid in development.
Start Year 2014
 
Description Postgraduate collaboration with the University of Copenhagen. 
Organisation University of Copenhagen
Country Denmark 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution I organised a postgraduate conference in Copenhagen for PGs across Modern Languages and English working on issues relating the transnational circulation in literature of the memory of the Holocaust. I also organised a return visit to Leeds for Copenhagen PGs.
Collaborator Contribution Dr Sandberg was my co-organiser in Copenhagen and Leeds.
Impact The PGs are edited a special collection of their papers for publication.
Start Year 2013
 
Description Series of Panels at the American Comparative Literature Association, 2014 
Organisation University of Edinburgh
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution I organised a series of panels on 'transnational cultural capital' at the American Comparative Literature Association, 2014. Dr Matthes co-hosted the panels.
Collaborator Contribution Dr Matthes co-hosted the panels. She is also co-editor of the resultant special edition of Critical Comparative Studies (2015).
Impact S[peicial Edition of Critical Comparative Studies, on 'transnational cultural capital', 2015.
Start Year 2014
 
Description Series of Panels at the German Studies Association Conference, USA 
Organisation Stockholm University
Country Sweden 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution I organised a series of panels on German-language literature and transnationalism, involving 25 colleagues from across the world, at the German Studies Association, USA, in 2012. Dr Smith-Prei and Dr Elisabeth Herrmann collaborated with me on this.
Collaborator Contribution Dr Smith-Prei and Dr Elisabeth Herrmann jointly hosted the series of panels. Additionally, they were my co-editors for the volume that resulted from the conference.
Impact Transnationalism in Contemporary German-Language Literature (Rochester: Camden House, 2015), co-edited volume.
Start Year 2012
 
Description Series of Panels at the German Studies Association Conference, USA 
Organisation University of Alberta
Country Canada 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution I organised a series of panels on German-language literature and transnationalism, involving 25 colleagues from across the world, at the German Studies Association, USA, in 2012. Dr Smith-Prei and Dr Elisabeth Herrmann collaborated with me on this.
Collaborator Contribution Dr Smith-Prei and Dr Elisabeth Herrmann jointly hosted the series of panels. Additionally, they were my co-editors for the volume that resulted from the conference.
Impact Transnationalism in Contemporary German-Language Literature (Rochester: Camden House, 2015), co-edited volume.
Start Year 2012
 
Description A public event at the University of the Free State with the Afrikaans novelist Etienne van Heerden 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact A public event at the University of the Free State with the Afrikaans novelist Etienne van Heerden, with a roundtable discussion of the parallels - and differences - between the German and South African experiences of confronting the past.

Members of the audience came from across SA's diverse communities and were able to gain insights into different interpretations of SA's past, and also to come to understand the role of literature and culture in mediating the past.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
URL http://arts.leeds.ac.uk/transnationalholocaustmemory/impact/
 
Description Drama workshop with young people 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Over three months, from October 2013 to January 2014, I worked with the theatre company Blah Blah Blah, to develop a drama production with young people from the city of Leeds for performance at the University of Leeds and in the city on and around Holocaust Memorial Day 2014.

The production was based in part on letters and documents of Holocaust survivors from the University of Leeds' Liddle Collection, partly on an edition of poems from the Dachau concentration camp edited by Stuart Taberner and Dorothea Heiser, and partly on research insights into the transnational circulation of Holocaust memory gleaned during this project.

Young people became interested in the Holocaust as historical event but also as prompt for thinking about discrimination in the present day.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
URL http://arts.leeds.ac.uk/transnationalholocaustmemory/impact-work-drama-workshop-with-young-people/
 
Description Outreach work at the Women's Memorial in Bloemfontein, South Africa 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact Outreach work at the Women's Memorial in Bloemfontein, South Africa

Stuart Taberner, Helen Finch and Matthew Boswell worked with clinical psychologist Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela of the University of the Free State in South Africa, to introduce students from across the racially diverse campus at UFS to The National Women's Memorial in Bloemfontein.

The Women's Memorial, or Vrouemonument, commemorates the suffering of some 27,000 Boer women and children who died in British concentration camps during the South African War (Anglo-Boer War) of 1899-1902.

We discussed with students the convoluted and controversial history of the memorial and exploring the ways in which the Anglo-Boer still resonates for many Afrikaners even in the present day. We used a site visit to the memorial to prompt a debate amongst students from all sections of the city's diverse population on memorialisation, multiples pasts, mutual understanding and reconciliation.

Students from across South Africa's diverse communities talked to one another about the meaning and significance of their different histories - some of the for the first time. This created an atmosphere of greater understanding.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
URL http://arts.leeds.ac.uk/transnationalholocaustmemory/2013/07/08/impact-work-outreach-work-at-the-wom...
 
Description Poetry collection: My Shadow in Dachau. Poems by Inmates and Survivors of Dachau Concentration Camp 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Poetry collection: My Shadow in Dachau

Dorothea Heiser spent a decade from the mid-1980s collecting poems written by inmates of Dachau of all different nationalities - Russian, Polish, German, Czech, French, Italian, English, and many others besides - and interviewing survivors in order to reconstruct biographies.

Final-year undergraduates from Russian, German, French, and Italian at Leeds - polished translations of some of the poems prepared in advance by MA in Advanced Translation students. Afterwards, as Dorothea talked about the collection of poems, and the Dachau inmates who wrote them during and after their imprisonment in Dachau, she invited the students to read out their translated versions. The result was extremely moving, as the voices of prisoners of all nationalities were heard along with their stories told by Dorothea.

Stuart Taberner and Frau Heiser have now released an English-language edition of Mein Schatten in Dachau. Professor Taberner contributed a new preface that draws on his work on Holocaust memory and its transnational circulation. The English-language edition, My Shadow in Dachau, appeared with Camden House in 2014.

A volume of the poems appeared with Camden House in late 2014.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL https://openlibrary.org/books/OL1149516M/Mein_Schatten_in_Dachau
 
Description Working with the South African Holocaust and Genocide Foundation and the heritage industries 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact We held a knowledge-exchange workshop with representatives of Cape Town museums on issues surrounding 'empathy', 'The role of the museum in confronting difficult pasts' and how to represent perpetrators'.

Practitioners reported that they would think more carefully and reflexively about the way that they presented competing histories in their museums.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL http://arts.leeds.ac.uk/transnationalholocaustmemory/2013/07/10/impact-work-working-with-the-south-a...
 
Description Workshops for schoolchildren on the Anne Frank exhibition at the Cape Town Holocaust Centre 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact We conducted two outreach workshops with pupils from local, but very different schools, at the Cape Town Holocaust Centre. The workshops involve Grade 9 learners visiting the Centre as part of the South African National Curriculum, in which study of the Holocaust is part of an overall emphasis on human rights education.

Dr Matthew Boswell and Professor Stuart Taberner discussed with the pupils their responses to the Centre's Anne Frank Exhibition. Specifically, they will address the following questions:

What does Anne Frank's story tell us about how different people and groups come to be excluded and victimised? Discussion will focus on propaganda, stigimitisation, and the use and abuse of 'science'.
Who were the perpetrators and to what degree (including the SS, German soldiers, 'ordinary' Germans who voted for Hitler, Dutch people who didn't protest, civilian bystanders)? Does 'just going along' with it and not raising your voice make you responsible or guilty?
What makes Anne's story seem 'universal'? Why is it that people from different times and cultures can have empathy with her? What if she had been less likeable, familiar or 'understandable'?
Do people have human rights even if we don't 'like' them or can't feel any empathy with their histories and personal stories? How can we overcome the challenges of making sure people we don't like are not victimised?
Who is excluded and marginalised today (for example, disabled people, homosexuals, migrants) and what responsibility do do those who are not marginalised have towards them?

Pupils reported greater understanding of the Holocaust and were able to relate it to SA's history of discrimination and to present-day issues around racism and marginalisation in SA.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
URL http://arts.leeds.ac.uk/transnationalholocaustmemory/2013/08/28/768/