INTERVIEW WITH DAMANI PARTRIDGE
This Spring, CA intern Susanne Unger interviewed Damani Partridge, author of "We Were Dancing in the Club, Not on the Berlin Wall: Black Bodies, Street Bureaucrats, and Exclusionary Incorporation," getting a more detailed background on the article, Damani's thoughts on racial politics in Germany, and his latest projects.
Damani Partridge is an assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology and at the Center for Afro-American and African Studies at the University of Michigan. He has published on questions of citizenship, sexuality, post-Cold War “freedom,” African-American military occupation, the production of noncitizens, and the Obama moment in Berlin. His forthcoming book in Matti Bunzl’s and Michael Herzfeld’s series on “New Anthropologies of Europe,” will be published by Indiana University Press in Spring 2011.
Susanne Unger is a doctoral candidate in linguistic anthropology at the University of Michigan. Her dissertation, "Creating Competent Citizens: Film Literacy Programs in Germany," investigates how film education programs for teachers, social workers, and youth in Germany construct, contribute to, or challenge ideas about of citizenship and social class. She has been an editorial intern for CA since 2009.
Susanne Unger: So I thought maybe we could start out by my asking you a little bit about your intellectual and personal trajectory as an anthropologist. What first inspired you to do research in Germany? How did you choose your fieldwork topic? When you started doing your PhD research, did you end up doing the research that you thought you would do? I know that you had spent some time in Germany before, but Cultural Anthropology readers might not realize that.
Damani Partridge: That’s true.
SU: So I thought that maybe you want to talk about what led you to do the work that you ended up doing.
DP: I first went to Germany in 1989, as an exchange student, in high school. This is obviously the period when the Wall was falling. When I went there, I didn’t know, I mean, obviously no one knew (laughs) that it would fall.
SU (laughs): Most people didn’t. I knew you’d been to Germany, but I didn’t know it was that year. That’s so interesting.
DP: Yes, it was a Rotary exchange program. I applied because a friend was applying to a similar program that would take him to Germany. We were both taking German already in middle school... So I applied to this program, actually as a sophomore.
SU: What inspired you to take German in middle school?
DP: Just because Mary Matier (now Mary Bronfenbrenner) was the best language teacher in middle school… She teaches at Ithaca High School now, actually. And obviously she had an impact on me…. So I went to Germany in 1989... I lived in a small town called Brake in Northern Germany. It’s near Bremen. Between Bremen and Bremerhaven in Niedersachsen (Lower Saxony), in Northern Germany.
SU: So you were there from 1989 until 1990?
DP: Yes, until 1990. I lived with three different families. The first host parents were upper middle class… The husband was a lawyer and his wife was a secretary in an architectural firm and worked part time. I also lived on a farm, on a dairy farm, where the whole family was involved with the production of dairy products for a German company, a regional company.
SU: Was that in Brake?
DP: No, that was outside of Brake. Just outside of Brake. I biked everywhere. So it was like a ten-minute bike ride to get to town. And then I also lived with a Turkish-German family. And they were both doctors. They had immigrated into Germany, and I was fascinated by their experience--their experience of what appeared to me to be very similar to my own experience in the US as an African―American. Although I didn’t have that kind of experience in Germany, I would experience it through them. And I was both disturbed by and interested in the dynamic in Germany--of Turkish people... They weren’t “guest workers.” They had a swimming pool in their basement, and they had a live-in housekeeper. They were, in the German context, very wealthy. But every day, they would talk about experiences of exclusion, experiences of what seemed like racism to me.
SU: Hmm. So they had come to Germany as adults, and had trained as medical doctors in Turkey?
DP: They trained in Turkey, yes, and then came as adults to Germany. And they had two kids. One is now employed at the University of California, San Francisco medical school as a researcher. And the other one lives in Holland. So it’s interesting that they both left Germany. I was curious about their experience. Even before I moved into their home, I heard lots of people talk in terms of exclusion, you know, they wanted Turks to leave the country. One day when I was in the Fussgängerzone, the area, the walking area (it doesn’t exist in the US in the same way, so it’s difficult to translate), basically the downtown section of town, all of my classmates were yelling at these two brown-skinned men, telling them that they should get out of the country. They ‘should leave now!’ they said. And they didn’t see any contradiction in my being there, in their uttering these kinds of words in front of me. So, those kinds of things happened.... There was also lots of animosity toward East Germans. It was troubling, the connection between those kinds of experiences. And also, that same year, an East German girl came to our class. I was in 11th grade then. And later that year, the Wall fell. On Sylvester (New Year’s Eve), I was with a group of youth from the area (Brake) in the Harz Mountains, and we could see streams of Trabants (East German cars) coming across the border. And then the youth in my group began making fun of all the East Germans, about how they dressed. Those types of experiences intensified my interest in Germany. In college, you know, I didn’t study German. I took a couple of courses, but it wasn’t my major. I majored in political science. I went to Amherst, and then I returned to thinking about Germany, and doing research in Germany, after college. I was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship and went back. This time, I lived in Berlin, and I lived with an East German family for part of the time. My host-parents had actually worked for the Party, for the SED (Socialist Unity Party). They worked as officials, one in health and one for the state of Saxony. And they talked a lot about this that year, which was 1995-1996. I lived with them only for three months, but I went back to their home every weekend… We had tea and ate dinner.
SU: After you stopped living there?
DP: Yes, after I stopped living there. I was interested in their experiences of being marginalized, of feeling …of not really benefiting from the “freedom,” … from the fall of the Wall, politically.
SU: That’s interesting.
DP: That was the beginning of my trajectory toward doing this work.
SU: It’s interesting how you’re describing how as an exchange student you experienced and witnessed exclusion in all these different forms and across different social groups…
DP: Initially, my work didn’t have anything to do directly with “Blackness,” just with different forms of exclusion or partial exclusion. When I went as a Fulbright student, I actually went to study the daily life and politicization of “Afro-Germans”… I was encouraged by Uta Brandes, who is a German professor at Amherst College--to read the book, Farbe bekennen (Showing Our Colors), which is a book about Afro-German women and their struggle for recognition in Germany.
SU: It had just come out around that time.
DP: It came out, I think in ’89 (the first edition was published in 1986) but this was ’95. It came out around the time I was in Germany as a high school student, but I didn’t have any connection to it (laughs)…
DP: …I didn’t have any connections to those politics at all. I wasn’t aware of it at all. In my town, the politics I saw consisted of a Turkish-German dynamic and the East German/West German dynamic. So, inspired by that book, in part, in 1994 I applied for a Fulbright to look at what I called the daily life and politicization of Afro-Germans after the fall of the Wall. I was interested in the relationship between the East and West German politicization of Afro-Germans, the politics of being “Black” in Germany, although I didn’t phrase it that way at the time.
SU: How did you phrase it?
DP: I said the daily life and politicization of Afro-Germans. So then in ’95-’96, I started interviewing people who were involved in groups like the Initiative of Black Germans. There was an East German group called IG Farbig, which is a play on the German company IG Farben…but then there was an attempt to bring the East and West German groups together in Berlin. A lot of people in Berlin had moved from other places in Germany. Leipzig was a big center for the community in East Germany.
SU: Center for what?
DP: There were lots of African students there before the fall of the Wall.
SU: Who had been exchange students or visiting students?
DP: Yes. It was difficult for them to stay after the Wall fell. There is a film that has come out subsequently that is called Dreckfresser (Dirt Eater)--it was translated as Dirt for Dinner--which deals, in particular, with the relationship between a German female student, and her African partner who was also a student. It actually deals primarily with her son who was the first Black police officer in Saxony. So that was in the state of Saxony--Leipzig was a place in East Germany where lots of people of color lived.
SU: So how did you choose Berlin, having lived in rural Lower Saxony previously (laughs), when you applied for your Fulbright? Were you aware that all of these people were moving to Berlin and that you would get a chance to interview them there, or were you just (laughs) ready to live in a city, or…?
DP: I think, yes, all of those things. Berlin was the site of the fall. I mean, symbolically, Berlin was the site of the Wall, and so the site of its fall. Berlin has both East and West Germany in one place. I mean, Daphne Berdahl went to a border town; that would be another way of approaching the problem, but there are probably not as many Afro-Germans there. Definitely not. The politicization of Afro-Germans is not happening there. It’s happening in the cities mostly. Berlin has all of those dynamics. It has the politicization of Afro-Germans; it has the fall of the Wall, the Wall as a symbolic, and also the universities, as well as the broader intellectual community. In those ways it was an ideal place. Even in ’89, I went to Berlin, I think for a week, and I participated in trying to get a piece of the wall. But I ended up buying it, because it was just too difficult to…chisel it… When I applied for the Fulbright, I was interested in reengaging that context. I remember when I went there in 1989, people were protesting in favor of a 1:1 exchange rate between East and West German Marks at Alexanderplatz. I had begun to think about Berlin, already back in ’89. This was the chance to engage it more fully.
SU: When you mention the intellectual communities, were there any people in universities that you worked with…?
DP: Yes, I was involved with…I mean over that year, I started at the Technical University (TU). Because I was a political scientist, I went to political science, but I didn’t have a very successful relationship with the department there. I had come from a small liberal arts college, so I was used to having a close relationship with the professors. But there at the TU, I remember I called, I think I had an appointment and I called to change it, and the political science professor said, ‘Well you should have known before,’ and he hung up the phone. I called back and he didn’t answer, so that was the end of that relationship (laughs).
SU: So you weren’t ever able to cultivate that…
DP: I was insulted also. I was used to informal relationships after Amherst. I kept going to the TU, which has the biggest population of foreign students, but I started then engaging with the Institute for European Ethnology at the Humboldt University. Intellectually, that was much more intriguing….
SU: Ika Hügel Marshall, wasn’t she at the Technical University at that time?
DP: Could be, I don’t know. I didn’t know her then. But there were a lot of foreign students, and I started to engage with many of them…
SU: She’s a scholar who has written about…
DP: I know who Ika Hügel Marshall is… Invisible Woman: Growing up Black in Germany. I know who she is, but I didn’t know her at the time. She is also of an older generation, so I was engaging more with the younger generation of people. I mean, she writes about the occupation period; I was interested in unification, in the dynamics of unification, and the politics of being ‘Afro-German’.
SU: And sometimes it just works out so that you end up having connections at a different place and are talking to different people.
DP: I was in the intellectual community in the university, but also in an activist community. And those kinds of things really, as you were pointing out, really cross over very nicely in the German context, in particular, in Berlin. So I started going to Orlanda Frauenverlag, which is a women’s press dedicated to feminist works. They also translate, I mean, they were very involved with May Opitz (known later as) May Ayim, who was an Afro-German writer/poet. And then also Audre Lorde, who was an African-Caribbean-American activist/feminist…They were involved in translating her work as well. And she was one of the initial people who helped to politicize this term, “Afro German,” which grew out of the feminist movement in Germany, because of the exclusions by West German feminists. So that year also I had some really good friends, some African…friends who worked for the university, and an American friend, African-American, who was from Chicago, and they were studying at the Technical University. In that way, there was an informal connection. And Wolfgang Benz, who’s an historian who writes about anti-Semitism and racism, was also there, so I took a course with him. He’s still there. So I was involved at the Technical University, at the Humboldt, and at the Free University. I was involved in these institutional contexts, but also with activist communities.
SU: It’s interesting, as you said, there’s so much crossover. […] In other words, these are all people who are participating in similar conversations, would you say, and pointing you to other sites?
DP: Sometimes. At different levels. They might not have always been in conversations with each other, but they had an impact on me, in terms of my thinking and writing.
SU: That’ s really interesting. Are you in touch with them now, or have any of them read the pieces that you‘ve been publishing?
DP: I have presented my work at conferences. There was a conference at UMASS (University of Massachusetts) Amherst called …”Remapping Black Germany.” Many of the activists were there, also from Germany...I think it was in 2006. So, I was nervous about that because that was the first time that I was presenting my work to the community that I had been studying or engaged with in the German context.
SU: Right. And how was that?
DP: It was okay. It was okay.
SU: I think that’s often hard.
DP: I was nervous. I don’t think it often happens in anthropology that things come together in that way. I guess increasingly, it‘s happening. It was a context in which I would be evaluated by the people with whom I was engaged.
SU: And also scholars, and your friends possibly, or people who you’d been working with.
DP: But also a new generation of people, too. A new generation of young students who also came from Germany. Some of them had been to the US. It was interesting also in terms of the dynamics. I think this generational thing matters. I think that the dynamics are changing in each generation, in terms of exclusion…
SU: When you talk about the younger generation, are you talking about the younger generation of scholars or people who are activists, or all of them (laughs)?
DP: Yes, all of them. Some of them are scholars; some of them are aspiring scholars; some are emerging scholars; some of them are activists; some of them are producing the music, or the art and the films. And I don’t think they are all… It’s not all about “Blackness” for African people or people of African descent; it’s also about other groups, you know, Turkish-Germans, Arab-Germans, Palestinian-Germans. They are all using and engaging these aesthetics as a form of possibility for existing in the European context or in Germany in particular. So I’ve started looking now at “post-migrant” theater, what’s been called “post-migrant” theater for a while….and also the youth. I’ve been doing some work on what I call racial memory amidst contemporary race. So I’ve been doing some work with Palestinian- and Turkish-German youth who are engaged in Holocaust memory, and with whom I traveled to Auschwitz recently. And even when they talk to each other, they are always using these hip hop-idioms. Some of them are performers as well.
SU: Like what?
DP: Sometimes I don’t recognize the idioms. I mean, they wear the clothes… They don’t wear them in the American way, they wear them in the German way. They wear baggy jeans, for example, but it doesn’t look exactly like the US style. It’s a German articulation of idioms that Americans use. They also use Hip-Hop.
SU: So, is this about dress and clothing, not necessarily about language?
DP: It’s about language as well, language and music. They said things that I still don’t understand. They said… “This is king,” is a phrase that they kept saying…but they would use it with Hip-Hop affect…Their body language was recognizable as Hip-Hop. And also, they performed Hip-Hop. At the youth center, they had the equipment for it, and they would walk around doing Hip-Hop poses.
SU: Is that what you mean by saying that their body language was Hip-Hop?
DP: Yes. The way they dressed, their body language, the music they listened to. It wasn’t the only kind of music they listed to, but it was very present in their everyday lives.
SU: So when you describe that, are there ever instances where people are trying to claim an identity for themselves and other people are unhappy with that or are troubled by that?
DP: What do you mean?
SU: Well, you were talking about both Palestinian and Turkish youth, and they all are drawing on the same discourses and practices of performing Blackness, as you had said. So are there ever moments when an African youth says, actually, I have a feeling that you should be…
DP: I don’t think that’s the case. I don’t know that they are all performing “Blackness,” but I’m just saying that this aesthetic form provides… They are using the same aesthetics that they themselves might not call “Blackness.” …But I’m just saying that it has relevance for their everyday articulations.
SU: It’s something that all of them are drawing on or relating to in some way or connecting to, or something that feels relevant to them.
DP: Yes…But there is also an explicit politics of coalition, among the activists, I think. And they are thinking about… I mean, there is the emergence of whiteness studies in Germany--activist intellectuals. It’s difficult in the German context, because a lot of people do not have any hope of entering the academy anytime soon because of the way it’s organized. So a lot of these people are or have been in the academy, have PhDs, but they’re also involved in activism, or journalism, and some of them are artists…It’s not just bookstores or cafes. The post migrant theater is taking place in a ballroom that the group has turned into a theater. Maybe it has been like that in the past. When one goes to Kreuzberg in Berlin, it’s thought of as an immigrant neighborhood, but it’s also an activist neighborhood, traditionally. There are all sorts of intellectual/activist spaces like bookstores, cafes, theaters, cinemas, that exist outside of the university. Some of that is distinctive to Berlin…
SU: What an interesting place to be working in and writing about.
DP: I mean, I guess the other thing that I was going to say is there’s an affinity in Kreuzberg that I see as a reference to New York in the ’80s. There is a reference to a particular moment in a particular urban American context where maybe something similar was happening. But I think it’s probably more difficult now…
SU: Wait, so you’re saying that there was a moment in Kreuzberg that resembled a moment in New York in the 1980s?
DP: Yes, or that people reference the moment of New York in the ‘80s.
SU: In terms of affordability and people moving into places, or of artists taking over spaces, and of activist communities?
DP: In terms of a moment when the future was less certain in terms of artistic production, like Hip-Hop. I mean, the Bronx is the birthplace of Hip-Hop. I don’t think it’s all… I don’t think of it as urban blight or misery or something. But, I think the Kreuzberg reference is one of possibility in terms of the particular aesthetic production, a revolutionary kind of aesthetic production. It’s not just about something for people to consume, but it’s about a way of life. I’m thinking explicitly about a way of life. In the German context, when one reads about hip-hop, the references are to the lifestyle. It’s not only about rapping, but also break-dancing and graffiti. So these are ways of life. In the German context, they’re also taken up by social workers. They have been promoted by social workers as ways of engaging German youth, meaning German in its, not in its national sense of belonging, but because people live there; I mean, they live in Germany―in Berlin.
SU: So, the social workers that have taken that up, are they, for the most part… Would they be considered German, or part of the German majority?
DP: You mean “White” Germans?
DP: I think they’re just a combination of people. They’re people committed to that politics, that professional practice. So I don’t think you could say that they’re one group of people, other than that they’re committed to this form of engagement.
SU: And the people that they work with take that up, or encourage, or support it, or…?
DP: Yes, they do.
SU: Do you think that that’s happening in the U.S.?
DP: It’s much more difficult in the US because of the systems of funding. Obviously, a lot of the things that they are inspired by come from the US. I mean the aesthetic forms and the forms of life, or how they understand them. But I think it’s that particular moment in the US. But in the U.S. context it’s a moment that was not possible in the same way because the state doesn’t contribute to these forms. In Germany, there’s much more public support for the arts. I think Berlin’s art budget is bigger than the National Endowment for the Arts. It’s not possible in the same way in the US. There’s much more of a need to produce something, for artists at least, that’s commercially viable, in order to survive. When I talk to people at the post-migrant theater in Berlin, their sense of what they need to do is not the same…
SU: For funding, you mean?
DP: Yes. I mean, their theater is sold out all of the time, but they couldn’t survive on that revenue alone. I guess in the U.S., there are also benefactors. But in Berlin, there’s not the sense that they have to go to corporations to get the money.
DP: They go to the state.
SU: But when you say that the shows are sold out, it’s not just because they’re so heavily funded. It’s also because people go, right? Or is it because tickets are subsidized so much?
DP: Yes, it is affordable. It’s more affordable. I think it’s not just meant to appeal to a wealthy audience. If you want to go to see Alvin Ailey in the US, for example, it’s not really affordable...
SU: Well, you can get student tickets.
DP: ...But, then in Berlin, it’s not students, its not only students who are going to these things. I mean, I just saw Bill T. Jones here, it’s not ... I mean it’s powerful. It’s a powerful production. I mean, he’s referencing… he’s thinking about war, slavery, all these themes that are relevant to people’s lives. You know, this is the context in which my daughter feels inspired. …[But] there’s no subsidy for potential audience members who don’t have jobs. Whereas in Berlin theaters, you know, if you don’t have a job, you can get cheaper tickets. I don’t think that…That kind of thinking doesn’t exist in the U.S., I don’t think. It makes it more difficult to… I mean, it’s more difficult to exist in that way here.
SU: So, in other words, you’re focusing on different forms of possibilities, but then in Germany those can also come into existence because there are structures that…
DP: Make them possible…
SU (speaking simultaneously): Make them possible? (laughs)
DP: They produce… they make it possible, but they are also producing… They are also involved in producing the context that make them necessary…beginning from the sense of who has the right to be in Germany--who’s German. … Neco Celik, who is a prominent filmmaker, who started out as a graffiti sprayer, who was also involved in the youth center, the youth scene, and who has also become a theater director, talked recently about the pain of constantly being seen as inferior, basically, in the German context. Growing up with that experience is one that makes this art necessary, and makes these transnational networks necessary. People avail themselves of these networks because they need something to survive, I mean, emotionally. So, the art is there and the state supports the art and they, the normative national population, also produce these conditions. Not just the state, but the society at large, the state institutions, the society… [I]n Brake as a 16 to 17 year old youth, I asked everyone in the town, you know, what they thought should happen to Turkish people, and they said, ‘They should leave…’
SU: Were there many Turkish people?
DP: There weren’t many. There weren’t that many in the town, that town, but there was graffiti everywhere. You know, like, small graffiti, written into park benches… insidious, you know, repetitive… And also, the parents, you know, my host family, my Turkish-German host family… Every day, they would talk about their experiences of exclusion as people working in the hospital and in private practice. Those kinds of conditions make it necessary to have something that can sustain you. So, the support for the arts makes it possible to exist as someone who’s engaging fully in the life of an artist, who’s responding to that sense of exclusion, partial exclusion. I mean, it’s partial because you can get money from the state, but at the same time, people are telling you, ‘You should go live somewhere else,’ or that, ‘You’re a drain.’
SU: Mmmm hmmm. So when you’re talking about people’s experiences with inferiority, it’s always in conjunction with experiences of exclusion, or ‘You’re not as welcome here.’
DP: Yes, it’s not only what people say, but, I mean, it’s what they do, also. So, I mean, I did lots of work in schools as well, and the opinion that the teachers had of their students was disturbing. The teachers would constantly say that their kids don’t speak German. I mean, I only talked to them in German…
There was a total disconnect in schools. There was a total disconnect between the teachers, who tend to be “White” Germans and the students who tend to be, at least in Kreuzberg, Turkish- and Arab- Germans, or not Germans, or noncitizens who were born in Berlin or who came when they were little kids. Yes, so, I mean those kinds of, I mean, one principal said, and this is in my book that’s coming out, he said that he thought that Turkish kids weren’t capable of doing academic/intellectual work; he thought they needed to go to practical schools. And, in fact, most of the Turkish-German kids are in the Hauptschule, the lowest level school. In Germany, you know, you have a three-tiered school system. One ends in the ninth grade, one ends in the tenth grade, one ends in the thirteenth or now twelfth grade, but most of the Turkish-German kids tend to end up in the one that ends in the ninth grade. …And there’s been lots of discussion recently about those schools being extremely violent and dangerous, teachers writing letters to the press saying that, you know, ‘We can’t exist in the schools, because they’re too dangerous.’ But this is a racialized context, they say, ‘We have these out of control immigrant students’. I mean, they’re more careful about the language they use in public. But in private, they’re not ... And I think that that is pervasive. I mean, I was told that the unemployment rate among Turkish-German youth is 50 percent. Obviously all of them don’t end up becoming recognized artists who get the funding…
SU: So, when you were talking about the state providing funding, you were contrasting that not necessarily just with the ways in which the state excludes, but also in which exclusion just happens at the personal, interpersonal, social level.
SU: But at the same time, is it only the state that provides funding? Because obviously you also need a community of people. So in both cases you have…
DP: Yes, it’s both. There’s the formal… and there’s the state at different levels, federal government, city government. City government politics is totally different. And in Kreuzberg local politics is totally different from the federal politics. But then there’s, right… You have all the people who come to see the… who support the arts. But there’s still not the same sense of, you know, you need to donate money to the theater as in the American context…It’s [the funding in Germany is] still coming from some form of government, or some government body. Or even if it’s coming from a foundation, those foundations are often funded by the state.
SU: Right, or a party, or something, yeah.
DP: Yes, or a political party, yes.
SU: So we’ve, sort of, moved a bit further away from… This has been really interesting (laughs)…
DP (laughs): Sorry.
SU (laughs): No, this is great.
DP: ‘Let’s talk about the article.’ (chuckling)
SU: No, I’m just wondering, it sounds to me that based on how you’re talking about your work now, that you’ve sort of moved in a slightly different direction or you’re sort of looking at exclusionary and inclusionary practices more at an aesthetic or performance level, and maybe other institutions? I wonder if you’re talking more about institutional spaces, or...
DP: I’m talking about everyday spaces. I am looking at the conditions under which those everyday spaces are produced. And so then, in looking at those everyday spaces, I also have to understand the systems of funding.
SU: What do you think your next project would be if you were to go back [to Berlin]?
DP: I did go back. I was there last year. I mean, there’re several different projects. One is this project that’s looking at, I call it “After Diaspora, Beyond Citizenship.” So, I’m looking at the possibilities and limits of these aesthetic productions, which are not purely aesthetic but they have to do with everyday life. I mean, the people who run the theaters, the people who act in them, the people who go to see the shows. And also, just the everyday performance around Hip-Hop, for example. And I begin by looking at the link between African-American occupation in post-war Germany, and processes of Americanization, and what those two dynamics did for these communities who couldn’t really, who weren’t being called and couldn’t be thought of as German.
SU: What communities are you…
DP: In Germany, you know, they get called immigrant communities, but I am uncomfortable calling them immigrant communities because all of these people aren’t immigrants. I mean, their parents might have been immigrants… They live in Germany. They’re just people who aren’t thought of as fully German.
SU: So you’re talking about all of those people who are probably second or third generation Germans.
DP: I mean, that’s a very German way of thinking about that, right. These terms in German that are used, like second, third generation immigrant…
SU: Oh, I said second or third generation GERMAN, meaning that their families have been in Germany for several generations.
DP: NO, I’m not saying YOU; I mean in the German context... I don’t think… I know that you’re aware of these things. But I think that in the German context they’re called second and third generation IMMIGRANTS. You know what I am talking about. …That’s interesting, second, or third generation GERMAN.
SU: Well, it is also problematic because nobody else goes around saying, ‘I’m 17th generation GERMAN’ (laughs).
DP: And they also don’t think of themselves… They often don’t think of themselves as German. But then sometimes they do want to claim Germany… Like when … when they go to the film board to get funding for their film and they have to meet certain expectations about what the broader German public wants to see. And then they might be told that that’s just a minority issue. So there’re forms of… I mean, that’s a very specific, but I think… I’m interested in the form, the collective form, the networks of collective forms of existence that get produced out of this context... that is, the work that’s still coming out (laughs), but that’s… My earlier work, thinks a lot in terms of the production of noncitizens. So I want to think now about the productive aspects of this from the perspective of the noncitizen. What kind of art are noncitizens producing? What kind of life can they live in a situation in which they’re not… they don’t belong?
And then, you know, I’m also… in a related project, related to both this and to the first project, I’m looking at the idea of Holocaust memory and its memorialization (Comparative Studies in Society and History Vol. 52, No. 4, October 2010). So, I was interested initially in the debates around the building of the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin …the “Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe"... And I am interested in that debate in relationship to the debates I saw in the schools, where the history teacher, for example, would say…would complain about how difficult it was to teach Turkish-German kids about the Holocaust because they weren’t interested. Or when a science teacher went to the local concentration camp and none of the Turkish-German kids showed up. So, I’m interested in this―both the demand that they think about… I’m interested both in the fact that in Germany the relationship to the Holocaust has been one of…perpetration, and so, how anyone else is supposed to engage …And the refusal to think about it in relationship to the present in terms of the people who are now racialized or experiencing racism in the present…and what that means for the lives of these people.
SU: And again, some of that, I can see, can also go back to artistic and cultural production, right?
SU: You see that in the debates about monuments, and the forms that they are going to take.
DP: What form, the monuments?
SU: For example, yes. Or artistic…
DP: Or the artistic production? This monument is an artistic production, but it’s one of…I mean, it has major federal support. So it’s like… At least this particular monument is monumental in terms of it…
SU: And also in terms of its funding structure, yeah.
DP: Yes, exactly. And also in terms of its size and scope. I mean, which is… There should be a huge space devoted to Holocaust memory in the German context. Or in any context, probably. But how does that, how does that German past relate to the present?
SU: So, if you talk to graduate students who are starting to think about research projects relating to either exclusion, inclusion, or working in Germany, do you have any advice for them, or things you tell them? Are there things that you think are really important to read, to be looking at, or are there any trends that you foresee in terms of your research or research that you think is important?
Because we talked a lot about generations, and in terms of the next generation of social scientists, anthropologists, are there things you would like people to pay more attention to?
DP (laughs): In terms of my students, none of them work in Germany so far (laughs).
DP: Which is okay. I would just say that they should do research on a topic, issue, or condition about which they are passionate… I think examining social justice in a global context is key. And I think all of these issues have to do with global contexts.
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