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  • Passagen des Exils/Passages of Exile ed. by Burcu Dogramaci and Elisabeth Otto
  • Didem Uca
Burcu Dogramaci and Elisabeth Otto, editors. Passagen des Exils/Passages of Exile. edition text + kritik, 2017. 400 pp. Paper, $48.07.

The thirty-fifth volume of Exilforschung: Ein internationales Jahrbuch is a resource on an important area of inquiry regarding the experience of migrants, refugees, and exiles: the journey that spans the time between leaving one's place of origin and arriving at one's destination. The phenomenon of this often circuitous and sometimes dangerous experience of passage has been under-researched in favor of analyzing what it is book-ended by: life prior to departure, which may furnish reasons for why one leaves, and life upon arrival, which commonly narrates the challenges of adapting to and integrating into one's host culture (or not). The bilingual English-German volume, which grew out of a two-day conference of the [End Page 159] Gesellschaft für Exilforschung in Munich in December 2016, contains twenty essays by scholars and artists largely hailing from Germany, with smaller contingents from the United States and Australia, as well as three previously unpublished short stories by Lisa Fittko, a Nazi resistance fighter and exile.

In their introduction, the editors frame the volume as an exploration of three thematic concepts—geographies, temporalities, and media (aesthetic and kinetic)— and pose the question, "wie lässt sich der Zwischenraum zwischen dort und hier, der Heimat und der Fremde, der Vergangenheit und Zukunft, dem 'Bereits' und 'Noch nicht' in Bilder, Filme, Objekte und Texte fassen?" (14) (how are the in-between spaces between here and there, the Heimat and the foreign land, the past and the future, the "already" and the "not yet" interpreted within images, films, objects, and texts?). Various answers come in the pages that follow, where the contributors' insightful analyses of texts and artifacts from the twentieth and twenty-first centuries boldly theorize what it means to seek, gain, and portray passage. This brief review will highlight five essays that may be of particular note to scholars with intersectional research interests.

In the volume's first essay, Jakob Vogel applies Arnold van Gennep's concept of rites de passage to transnational journeys and then presents differences in experiences of passage based on factors such as race, class, gender, country of origin, and legal status. Several essays in the volume explore the motif and medium of the ship in both real and imagined journeys. Vogel argues that the ship—long a symbol of a romanticized, homogenized journey to the New World within the European and American imaginaries—must be reinscribed within its sociocultural particularities to reveal its part in grim histories such as the transatlantic slave trade and the perilous contemporary journeys of refugees across the Mediterranean, and, furthermore, that the concept of passage must be expanded beyond maritime journeys.

Renate Berger's and Juliane Sucker's compelling essays on Klaus Mann and Gabriele Tergit, respectively, view each author's oeuvre within the context of personal experiences of exile and transnational homelessness under National Socialism, reflecting on how factors such as Mann's homosexuality and forced multilingualism and Tergit's Jewishness shaped their writing, access to publishing, and reception.

"Passages with Friedl Dicker-Brandeis: From the Bauhaus through Theresienstadt," by Elisabeth Otto, provides a fascinating look at the legacy of the multitalented yet "often forgotten" Jewish artist who died [End Page 160] in Auschwitz-Birkenau and whose "art, design, writings, and pedagogy" constitute "a Bauhaus legacy engaged in fighting fascism, directly aiding its victims, and taking seriously the work of fostering children's creativity," ultimately serving to illustrate "art's transformative power" (231–32, 251).

Ivo Theele analyzes the factors that structure complex power relations between refugees and aid workers into an "unlösbare Verbindung" (unbreakable bond), as portrayed in recent novels by Maxi Obexer, Abbas Khider, Merle Kröger, Daniel Zipfel, Hamid Skif, and Michael Köhlmeier. These relationships become especially charged and complicated, Theele notes, when the aid worker is simultaneously also a refugee, resulting in a "Vermischung beider Rollen" (intermingling or confusion of both roles) (298).

I am impressed by the breadth, depth, and overall quality of...


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