The Germanic Mosaic: Cultural and Linguistic Diversity in Society

By Carol Aisha Blackshire-Belay | Go to book overview

24
German Literature by Foreign Women Writers

IRMGARD ACKERMANN


ON THE STATUS OF "LITERATURE BY FOREIGNERS"

How should one view literature by foreigners after its nearly twenty-year development, and what position should it hold in German literature? Was it a literature in transition growing out of the social and political "special," that is, underprivileged, status of foreigners, a literature whose natural development moves toward "integration" -- in other words absorption -- into the broad spectrum of contemporary German literature in general? Does it make sense to view the literature of the "second generation" of immigrants under the label of "literature by foreigners"? By doing this, are not barriers erected -- precisely those which this literature seeks to tear down?

There is a level of expectation facing this literature which carries with it the risk of constriction. In the beginning stages of this literature, the sociologically oriented term "migrant worker literature" was used by the authors themselves -- for example, by the members of the Südwind Gastarbeiterdeutsch ["Southwind Guest Worker German"] -- and was often even considered quite appropriate from the German point of view. In the meantime it has become increasingly clear that this term leads to an inaccurate assessment and, frequently, a false interpretation. For one thing, it is only applicable to a small portion of the literature, because very few of the authors are actually migrant workers in the sociological sense of the word. This designation, by using a sociologically disputed term, leads above all to marginalization which is neither acceptable for those affected by it, nor helpful toward creating understanding among others. Because this type of sociological designation is no longer valid, German observers generally favor a content -- oriented description for this type of literature: namely, that it is "a literature which must analyze topics concerning foreigners."

However, another, no less disquieting question has to be raised: Is literature by foreigners only that which fulfills just such an expectation? Who, then, is

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