Academic journal article German Quarterly

The Guest Worker Question in Postwar Germany

Academic journal article German Quarterly

The Guest Worker Question in Postwar Germany

Article excerpt

Chin, Rita. The Guest Worker Question in Postwar Germany. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007. 281 pp. $79.00 hardcover.

Rita Chin provides a historical account of postwar labor migration to Germany over a thirty-five-year period, ending her comprehensive and methodical analysis of principal milestones with German reunification in 1990. Considering a labor recruitment treaty signed between the Federal Republic and Italy in 1955, the first and most evident high point, Chin elaborates extensively on other significant turning points for Germany, such as the 1973 oil crisis, the economic recession that followed, the official launch of an integration policy in the late 1970s, the beginnings of an Ausländerliteratur soon after, the spread of new racism toward Muslim migrants during the 1980s, the public debates on West German multiculturalism in the late 1980s, the increasingly intense patterns of anti-foreigner violence and the introduction of a unique model of literary cultural politics to the West German public sphere in the late 1980s, one that prompted a rethinking of West German identity.

As for the widely known issues surrounding the subject matter, such as Leftist and Liberal debates, governmental attitudes of the past and present, the instigation of the Ausländergesetz, the various periods of economic crises and the history of xenophobic violence, Chin presents a meticulous framework. Even in her re-visitations of areas that have been previously explored, she substantiates a valid response to a gravely delayed question; namely, the fact that the labor migrants "occupied a central place in the most important and enduring question of the postwar period: How would West German national identity be reconstituted after the Third Reich?" (7).

The most important contribution of Chin's work to scholarship in the field lies in her remarkably thorough and systematic evaluation of thus far neglected issues inherent in the guest worker question within the context of Germany as well as Western Europe at large. The author depicts largely unexplored predicaments born out of the labor migration phenomenon into Germany in particular but also to Switzerland and Austria in the postwar period, and later on, to France and Great Britain. This work also arrives in a timely manner at the doorsteps of today's German academia, as an international conference funded by the German Ministry of Education and Research is being organized to take place in Berlin in the summer of 2008, addressing Institutionalization and Representation of Religion in Europe. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.