Writing Across Margins: Contemporary Afro-German Literature
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My dissertation argues that Afro-German literature—a new strand in contemporary German literature since the late 1980s—functions as aesthetic activism by creating collective identity through textual practices. Joining the larger conversation in Black German Studies on Afro-German poetry and autobiography, this project focuses on writing practices in Afro-German feminist poetry by Helga Emde, Katharina Oguntoye, and May Ayim; Afro-German spoken word poetry by Chantal-Fleur Sandjon, Philipp Khabo Köpsell and Samy Deluxe; Afro-German celebrity autobiographies by Abini Zöllner and Detlef Soost; as well as Afro-German memoirs by Theodor Michael and Gert Schramm. Black German textual practices develop parameters of collective identity that range from the emergence of Afro-German voices to a new understanding of Afro-German blackness; from a new recognition of Afro-German identities, to the rise of an Afro-German memory. The writing practices that shape parameters of collective identity—métissage, imagery, autofiction, multilayering—organize my dissertation and provide the categories for textual analysis. By combining close readings with aesthetic (e.g. Lionnet, Bürger, Gates, Wagner-Egelhaaf) and cultural theory (e. g. Du Bois, Gilroy, Hall, Silverman), my project demonstrates that Afro-German writing practices help to bend and transgress literary and social categories. The opening chapter reflects on how the aesthetic development in Afro-German feminist poetry breaks the history of Afro-German silence and establishes critical Afro-German voices by employing a form of textual interweaving, a practice I refer to as poetic métissage. Chapter two illustrates how a contemporary double-imagery in Afro-German spoken word poetry—what I describe as the twoness of textual elements that ignite the senses—defines new conceptions of German blackness that escape single-stranded representations. Chapter three explores how celebrity autobiographies by East German authors deploy autofiction in life writing to bring forth new ways of conceptualizing Black German recognition. The final chapter focuses on the ways in which palimpsestic multilayering—a form of textual layering—extends German cultural memories, while their development within the structure of the memoirs drives the formation of an Afro-German collective memory.
- German