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Reviewed by:
  • Hybrid Cultures—Nervous States: Britain and Germany in a (Post)Colonial World
  • Nina Berman
Hybrid Cultures—Nervous States: Britain and Germany in a (Post)Colonial World BY Ulrike Lindner, Maren Möhring, Mark Stein, and Silke Stroh Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2010. lxxiii + 346 pp. ISBN 978-90-420-3228-6 cloth.

While questions of colonialism have had a central place in British studies since the nineteenth century, scholars of German history and culture, with some notable exceptions, have only recently begun to centralize the topic. The last decade has seen a spate of books, articles, and anthologies on German colonialism, significantly on improving our scholarly understanding of social, cultural, political, and economic dimensions of the subject. The anthology under review is distinct in the sense that it takes a comparative approach by exploring, side-by-side, German and British colonialism and postcolonialism. Some of the chapters compare the two countries directly; others analyze similar phenomena relevant to the respective [End Page 127] histories. The anthology places particular emphasis on transnational dimensions, such as cultural transfer, exchange, and entangled histories.

The collection is divided into an introductory part and three sections. It begins with an overview by the editors that comments on key terms, provides the theoretical and historical framework, and also features an essay by Sara Lennox that will be especially welcome to many scholars in German studies. Lennox's detailed review of the history of the transnational turn in German studies is informative and insightful, and, among other points, rightly bemoans the lack of interest in transnational approaches among scholars of German literature and culture (although the past two years indicate a promising change in this regard).

The first section, then, presents two essays—one by Ulrike Lindner and the other by Michael Pesek—that shed light on the interaction of Britain and Germany in southern and East Africa during the colonial period. Next, Eva Bischoff highlights the distinct ways in which German and British turn-of-the-century debates on sexual murder were tied to a nexus of ideas around masculinity, race, and physiological and psychological health. The following two essays turn to the memory of the colonial and imperial period in Britain and Germany. Joachim Zeller's analysis of colonial monuments stresses the scope and scale of German colonial memory culture. Elizabeth Buettner's discussion of revisionist historiography concerning the legacy of the British empire brings to the fore the persistence of romanticizing sentiments regarding the colonial period in British culture.

The essays in the second section provide insights about the relevance of colonialism and its legacy for consumer culture. The four articles on the role of coffee, tea, döner kebab, and curry in Britain and Germany—by Laura Julia Rischbieter, Christine Vogt-William, Maren Möhring, and Peter Jackson, respectively—illustrate the entangled histories of societies that become tied to each other through the consumption and production of specific commodities.

The essays in the last section comment on multiculturalism in today's Germany and Britain. Two are dedicated to the analysis of black identities; Maureen Maisha Eggers reviews different stages of, and particularly the influence of, critical theory on black women's activism in Germany, and Deidre Osborne discusses black identities in Britain through an analysis of the works of contemporary black playwrights. The last two essays comment on the situation of Muslims in the respective countries. Silke Stroh focuses on the British film Yasmin by Simon Beaufoy (screenplay) and Kenneth Glenaan (director), and Markus Schmitz analyzes the gendered discourse on Muslims and the spatialization of cultural difference in Germany.

All contributions are immensely engaging and successfully push the boundaries of nation-state-based study by pursuing historical and comparative dimensions. Putting into dialogue research on colonialism and on multiculture in today's societies generates valuable insights about continuities and breaks regarding ideas of the nation, race, and multiculturalism. The anthology also clearly demonstrates the value of comparative approaches for the study of history; comparison highlights differences and similarities, but most of all, it ends up testing, questioning, and often leads to a rethinking of the categories that are used for analysis. Hybrid Cultures—Nervous States inspires us to think outside, across, and beyond...


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pp. 127-130
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