- Remapping Black Germany: New Perspectives on Afro-German History, Politics, and Culture ed. by Sara Lennox
Remapping Black Germany: New Perspectives on Afro-German History, Politics, and Culture, edited by Sara Lennox, is a look to the past, the present, and the future. Looking back, Lennox observes that the years 2001 and 2002 were an epistemological turning point in the intellectual history of Black German studies. In 2001 Fatima El-Tayeb's scholarly monograph Schwarze Deutsche: Der Diskurs um "Rasse" und nationale Identität 1890-1933 appeared in print. Before its publication, only three books existed examining the historical presence of Black people on German soil. Since its dissemination, Black German studies has [End Page 548] become a dynamic and quickly expanding field. Single-author monographs, such as Heide Fehrenbach's Race after Hitler: Black Occupation Children in Postwar Germany (2007), Tina Campt's Other Germans: Black Germans and the Politics of Race, Gender, and Memory in the Third Reich (2005), and Robbie Aitken and Eve Rosenhaft's Black Germany: The Making and Unmaking of a Diaspora (2015), have broken new ground, and edited collections, such as Reinhild Steingröver and Patrizia Mazon's Not So Plain as Black and White: Afro-German History and Culture (2005) and Mischa Honeck, Martin Klimke, and Anne Kuhlmann's Germany and the Black Diaspora: Points of Contact, 12501914 (2013), have traced a longue durée of Black experiences in Germany.
But El-Tayeb's landmark publication is not the only reason that the early 2000s will most likely be an important marker for Black German studies; another event is just as significant. At the 2002 German Studies Association's annual conference in San Diego, Sara Lennox, Peggy Piesche, and Fatima El-Tayeb came up with a Schnapsidee that left a lasting impact on German studies: what if they could organize their own conference on Black German studies? One outcome of their plan, among many things, was a conference at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, in April 2006 that generated the book under review here.
Remapping Black Germany is not only a product of that conference. It is a bold document of canonization, institutionalization, critical theory, historical inquiry, and scholarly activism. Its gaze at the field of German studies is as unflinching as it is withering, informed by the writings of intellectuals at the centre of knowledge production in cultural studies. The essays in this volume place thinkers such as Pierre Bourdieu and Giorgio Agamben next to Audre Lorde and bell hooks, and command that we read Walter Benjamin and Hannah Arendt on the same intellectual terrain as W. E. B. Du Bois and Paul Gilroy. The authors cite Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak and Homi Bhabha's postcolonial writings at a rapid pace and weave in Robin D. G. Kelley, Andreas Huyssen, José Muñoz, and Judith Butler, to boot. These intellectual juxtapositions are a result of rigorous debate, intense reading, and productive analyses. Their citations alone are proof of Black German studies's commitment to thinking intersectionally and interdisciplinarily about some of the most productive and vibrant discourses today: transnationalism, nationalism, colonialism, racism, feminism, and cultural production.
Lennox writes in the introduction that the aim for this volume is threefold: first, to contest "the presumption that Germany is a country of white people alone by documenting the presence of Black Germans over many centuries of German history" (2); second, to examine the major role that race plays in Germany; and, third, to deprovincialize Germany and German history by situating the history of Black people within it. Black German studies, the essays argue, will always be both national and transnational, and the field by its very nature demands that scholars look carefully within and also beyond the nation in their investigations of Germany's historical and contemporary relationship to the Black diaspora. The volume, Lennox hopes, will make it more difficult for scholars to write German histories without taking Black German history into account and [End Page 549] make...