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  • Cosmopolitan Anxieties: Turkish Challenges to Citizenship and Belonging in Germany
  • Erol M. Boran
Ruth Mandel . Cosmopolitan Anxieties: Turkish Challenges to Citizenship and Belonging in Germany. Durham: Duke UP, 2008. 413 pp. US$ 24.95. ISBN: 978-0822341932.

Published in 2008, Mandel's study received instantaneous critical praise. As one critic states in a recent review, Cosmopolitan Anxieties has become "an instant classic for scholars of anthropology, sociology, political science, cultural studies, and history." Literature is not mentioned on this list, and, given the author's background as a cultural anthropologist, this omission might not be too surprising. Yet Mandel's specialization in transnational migration, ethnicity, and identity, as well as the book's focus on the Turkish-German minority make it valuable reading for literary scholars as well.

In many ways, the book presents the anthropological and sociological groundwork that provides the basis for the work of scholars of German minor(ity) literature. German Turks make up the largest ethnic minority in the Federal Republic, and they are also Germany's artistically most productive migrant group, be it in literature, film, theatre or hip-hop - all subjects that Mandel addresses in her book. Her multilayered study of the challenges that the Turkish presence poses for the German self-image as a cosmopolitan and culturally open-minded society provides a rich backdrop for the contextualization of works by Turkish-German authors, as well as for majority writers addressing issue of German identity and questions of transnationalism.

The book's leitmotif is Ausländerproblematik. Revolving around "the problematic framing of otherness" in Germany (311), Mandel's goal is to explore how prescriptive categories (like identity, ethnicity, or Turk) are "reappropriated by contemporary [Turkish-German] social actors in their efforts to redefine themselves from other perspectives" (2). The book strives on the one hand to contribute to the destabilizing of such categories as problematic; on the other hand it aims to relate, in the process, the cultural coming of age of the Turkish diaspora in Germany. In this context, Mandel refers to the concept of mimetism as "a creative and recreative process of self-making" (213) and points at the discursive resemblance between Turks and Jews (which has recently become central to analyses of various scholars).

Mandel argues that the practice of the German state to marginalize the transcultural experience of Turkish-German migrants is indicative of a continued "essentialist vision of culture" that Huntington-like opposes Islam and Christianity and constitutes a "reductive view of civilizational clash" (12). Germany's alleged world-openness is thus exposed as a "selective cosmopolitanism" (14). Against such elitist conceptualizations Mandel poses the concept of a "demotic cosmopolitanism," describing it (with Ulrich Beck) as the "recognition of the self as an other among others" (320).

The book closes with a reference to Derrida's "ethics of hospitality" (324), understood as an ideal law of unconditional hospitality and its realization in the conditional law to a right to hospitality. These concepts might, Mandel contends, put an end to essentializing discourses of the Ausländer in Germany. What has been regarded as an Ausländerproblematik would then much more appropriately be looked at as [End Page 691] an Inländerproblematik. While the book ends on this optimistic note, the chapters generally present a bleaker vision. Despite all changes from the 1980s to the 1990s culminating in the new citizenship law (2000) and the immigration reform (2001) "what remains unsaid is how difference might be accommodated in an inclusive way" (319). But Mandel insists that despite the still-prevalent trope of abjection Turkish Germans today should be seen less as ghettoized victims than creative players and transnational actors. This portrayal of German Turks as transnational actors is a particularly fascinating aspect of the study as it departs from essentialist classifications of ethnic Turks prescribing Turkishness as an unchangeable fact.

Yet the study fails to adequately emphasize recent developments: By not dealing in greater depth with the 2000s, Mandel truncates a narrative that has since evolved considerably. Today's Turkish-German social actors, as well as authors, have a much more differentiated and playful approach to identities and ethnicities than Mandel's portrayal would suggest, and they are less...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1911-026X
Print ISSN
0037-1939
Pages
pp. 691-692
Launched on MUSE
2011-11-18
Open Access
No
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