- Heimat, Sustainability, Community:A Conversation with Karina Griffith and Peggy Piesche
Karina Griffith is a filmmaker, curator, and scholar whose work brings her focus on identity and immigrant perspectives into conversation with her family's unique way of Caribbean Patois storytelling. In 2017 she curated the three-month festival Republik Repair at Berlin's Ballhaus Naunynstrasse, which brought around a hundred artists, activists, performers, and cultural practitioners to engage with the Caribbean CARICOM Ten Point Reparatory Justice Plan. Topics included a discussion of the first genocide of the twentieth century, the genocide against the Nama and Herero peoples in what is today Namibia. Griffith has contributed to the Decolonize 1968! dossier created by Peggy Piesche as a collaboration between the Gunda-Werner-Institut für Feminismus und Geschlechterdemokratie (GWI) and Missy Magazine. Her 2018 residency at the visual arts space District, funded by their Decolonizing 68 studio grant, includes research that documents the genealogies of Black-author cinemas in Germany by exploring Black German film production around 1968, including the film They Call It Love (1972) by Ghanaian King Ampaw. Griffith is a PhD candidate at the University of Toronto's Cinema Studies Institute, where her research on Black authorship in German cinema interacts with theories of affect, intersectionality, and creolization.
Peggy Piesche is a scholar and activist, and a senior researcher and program adviser at the GWI, with current emphases on reproductive justice, sexual self-determination and anticolonial freedom movements in 1968, and African and diasporic LGBTQI activism. Most recently, she presented on intersectional approaches to reproductive justice as part of the Republik Repair festival and has contributed to the GWI Decolonize 1968! project by highlighting the ways in which anticolonial movements around the world led to the political movements of 1968. She also works as a transcultural trainer for critical reflection on whiteness in scholarship, politics, and society. Piesche has published extensively on Afro-German culture, activism, critical race and whiteness studies, Black feminist studies, and diaspora. She is the editor of "Euer Schweigen schützt Euch nicht": Audre Lorde und die Schwarze Frauenbewegung in Deutschland, and co-editor of Mythen, Masken und Subjekte: Kritische Weissseinsforschung in Deutschland. She has been active [End Page 418] in the Black German movement since 1990 and serves as a board member of both Adefra and the Association of the Worldwide Study of the African Diaspora.
We began our conversation with an overview of Griffith's and Piesche's current work, before we turned specifically to the topic of this special issue. The following has been excerpted and lightly edited by the editors, Griffith, and Piesche.
When we started talking about editing this special issue, we started (with great suspicion, in some ways) talking about the notions of Heimat and Heimatlosigkeit in order to ask what kind of work these concepts can and cannot do, both theoretically and politically. We brought this into dialogue with a notion of precarity in the hopes of emphasizing relations of power and how they inform Heimat. I think it's clear from our discussion of the work you are doing: despite the racist and nationalist histories of the notion of Heimat, the claim to Heimat (or to home, sometimes using the English term) has been important to culture production by racialized groups, by "minoritized" groups, by people of colour in Germany. I think there are at least three relevant concepts you both have raised while telling us about your work in Berlin. One was indigeneity. Second, diaspora. And, third, actually, sustainability has emerged as a sort of way of claiming home.
Not everybody who identifies as Black German or Afro-German considers themselves diaspora. I also noticed while curating Republik Repair a negative connotation to diaspora, this idea that somehow diaspora means "unfinished" or "in search of something," as if "something's lacking." I turned this into a productive sort of tension, one I used to look inside of myself. Is that part of how I see myself? There is something to this idea. That can be personal—a desire to find home or to find a place. But I would say I may have felt...