- Undeutsch: Die Konstruktion des Anderen in der postmigrantischen Gesellschaft by Fatima El-Tayeb
Following the success of Other Europeans: Queering Ethnicity in Postnational Europe in 2011 comes the latest contribution from one of the most influential Black German studies scholars to date, Fatima El-Tayeb. Undeutsch: Die Konstruktion des Anderen in der postmigrantischen Gesellschaft considers converging socio-political, mediated, and academic discourses on the European continent and examines the question of what it means to be European in the era of the European Union's unprecedented volatility. More specifically, it narrows the lens to Germany and its shifting, albeit always already existing, constitution of "otherness" that is unfolding in the post-Wende landscape of the Berlin Republic. El-Tayeb's work, intersectional in its approach, reaches beyond the confines of disciplinary boundaries; it is nuanced, insightful, and accessible to all.
Reminiscent of prior works in Black German studies, such as Tina Campt's Other Germans: Black Germans and the Politics of Race, Gender, and Memory in the Third Reich, which explored Black German identity, the construction of Black Germans as others during the Third Reich, and the remnants of that discourse in the postwar era, Undeutsch enhances the existing repertoire of the field. El-Tayeb investigates not only Black Germans' self-positioning in opposition to, and their positionedness through, racist structures but also Roma and Sinti as impacted by antiziganism and their efforts to combat it and Turkish-German and Muslim citizens interpellated by Islamophobia in postwar, post-Wall, and post-9/11 Germany. Simply put, El-Tayeb centres those members of German society not institutionally welcomed. Undeutsch presents the reader with apt examples of how the rejection of others serves certain desired narratives of the German nation and a new collective, normalized German identity (read as white, Judeo-Christian, etc.) that is predominantly revisionist in nature (postcolonial, postsocialist, postfascist) and ignores historical residues and repetitions reverberating to date.
In an elucidation of the meaning of postmigrant, El-Tayeb signals it as "analogous to" but by no means coterminous with the signifier postracial in the US discourse evolving around the Obama/post-Obama era (12). Postmigrant, from her perspective, emphasizes the not-yet-achieved critical discussion of race in Germany, whereas this process is at least under way, albeit remaining complicated, in the United States. She identifies attempts to open racial discourse in Germany as having been halted owing to white German assumptions that they [End Page 546] have already addressed mechanisms of racialization via postwar denazification and arguments that such conversations are merely promoting unnecessary or excessive political correctness. In this way, postracial and postmigrant are similar in their elision of reality and in their limiting scope, and yet the historical trajectories and conversations that exist—or not—around these contexts retain the cultural specificity from which each is derivative.
Delineating three explicit "post" contexts in relation to postmigrant discourse—what she terms "post-colonial capitalism," "postsocialist Vergangenheitsbewältigung," and "post-fascist multiculturalism"—El-Tayeb exposes European and German processes of producing non-belonging in contemporary times that place those relegated to an outsider status as an operating threat from within. This is indeed, as she suggests, nothing new but rather an age-old practice. Much like Edward Said's discourse on orientalism, which surprisingly is first mentioned in a footnote at the end of the book (219), El-Tayeb explores the ways in which this othering is a process of displacement of negative elements either onto the Orient and East or onto a space-time viewed as no longer existent. In an effort to maintain established identities despite capitalist crises that continually call them into question, Europe and Germany in particular generate wandering (id)entities that deflect their own instabilities, desires, and drives onto these perceived others and hide their own implicatedness: the wandering postmigrant who never fully arrives and is denied complete entry into the nation; the wandering Jew, who is now sometimes included through reference to a shared Judeo-Christian tradition but still excluded from belonging...