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Reviewed by:
  • postcolonial-queer: Erkundungen in Theorie und Literatur by Anna Babka
  • Katherine Arens
Anna Babka, postcolonial-queer: Erkundungen in Theorie und Literatur. Vienna, Berlin: Verlag Turia + Kant, 2019. 304 pp.

Anna Babka's postcolonial-queer is one of those monographs that elicits gratitude, as it is broad in scope, informative, gracefully written, and well worth [End Page 160] revisiting because of the author's pronounced ability to synthesize and exemplify a wide range of contemporary theories and exemplary scholarship. The chapters are drawn from earlier publications, but they have been woven together to form an original contribution to today's cultural-theoretical feminist discourses.

The volume starts with an introduction that tracks the intersections between today's gender, queer, and postcolonial studies as the driving interdisciplinary site appropriate for today's academic literary and cultural studies, starting with cogent definitions of the assumptions associated with these bodies of theory:

Eben das, was Derrida fragend anspricht, das, was zwischen den Disziplinen geschieht, wird im hier vorliegenden Band durch die genuin transdisziplinären Gender-, Queer und Postcolonial Studies einer möglichen Lesart, einer möglichen Perspektive zugeführt. Entlang zentraler Ansätze poststrukturalistischer Theoriebildung, wie der écriture feminine oder maßgeblicher Konzepte der Gender-, Queer- und Postcolonial Studies, wie etwa Identität, Alterität, Zentrum, Peripherie, Hybridität, "dritter Raum" / "drittes Geschlecht," wird die Verhandlung verschiedener Achsen der Differenz reflektiert und literarisch erkundet.


The six chapters in the volume's first part following this introduction offer solid, nuanced discussions of the most influential voices in these major areas of contemporary scholarship, offering succinct overviews of how these scholarly projects have evolved, principally in US and Germanophone contexts.

The first chapter, "Zur Verwobenheit von Gender Studies, Queer Studies & Postcolonial Studies," makes the brave choice of working conceptually instead of chronologically. In consequence, Babka's work starts with the newest generation of hybrid theory that combines race and gender, starting with Kimberle Crenshaw and Kien Nghi Ha in German, but then proceeds to differentiate it carefully from postcolonial gender studies, the latter of which is much more pronounced in European feminist theory than in US/UK ones. In this chapter, Babka shows off her work's great strength: in all cases, she cites foundational literature in theory (e.g., Donna Haraway, Patricia Hill Collins, the work of the Combahee River Collective) and then brings the individual project forward into the newest generation. In this sense, postcolonial-queer can serve as a research guide—particularly important for US GermanistInnen, because their work is all too often done without reference to foundational [End Page 161] terminology in anglophone feminist studies, particularly by theorists of color, or to the Marxist contexts of much first- and second-generation African-American theorists. Similarly, Babka always explains how terms have mutated between disciplinary contexts and within national projects and tracks how terms have crossed national lines as well.

Subsequent chapters are then classified into conceptual clusters: "Denkräume" (discussing Spivak and Othering), "Denkfiguren" (Derrida, Butler, and Bettine Menke, reading in one chapter Derrida and Nietzsche so as to evolve a broader idea of the feminine, and then in another Butler's performativity and "colonial Mimicry" in Homi Bhabha), and then once again "Denkräume" (this time about Trinh Minh-Ha and postcolonial feminisms). The first section closes with a discussion of postcolonial and queer theory in Germanistik, speaking about textual canons in literary studies and the need for ongoing self-interrogation of criticism. In all cases her relating of gender identity and cultural positioning is exemplary—a fine reading of two bodies of theory, astutely combined to reframe our contemporary understandings of inherited problems in gender theory.

The second large section of the book is devoted to case study readings that show the potential of newly posed approaches to textual reading over queer and postcolonial theory. The first series of cases represents texts from early modern German literatures: Kleist's Marionettentheater is read queer, Karl May's In den Schluchten des Balkan (1892) is read postcolonially, as are then Robert Michel's Die Verhüllte (1907) and Else Lasker-Schüler's Der Prinz von Theben (1914) (the latter with specific reference to Expressionism and oriental miniatures). The...


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