Academic journal article German Quarterly

At Home in the New Germany? Local Stories and Global Concerns in Yüksel Yavuz's Aprilkinder and Kleine Freiheit

Academic journal article German Quarterly

At Home in the New Germany? Local Stories and Global Concerns in Yüksel Yavuz's Aprilkinder and Kleine Freiheit

Article excerpt

Reconceptualizing the Domestic

In a 1999 issue of; Film forum, Tunçay Kulaoglu1 declared, the "new German film is Turkish," locating Turkish-German cinema as a cure for the ailing domestic film industry of the 1990s, described by Eric Rentschler and others as an apolitical "cinema of consensus."2 That year at the Berlinale, a number of Turkish-German productions were screened to critical acclaim both in the Panorama and New German Films sections, leading numerous reviewers to conclude that Turks were the only ones making politically-engaged, socially purposeful films in Germany (Göktürk, "Turkish Women" 71-74; Martenstein 31). Turkish-German cinema was thus seen as the heir to the New German Cinema of the 1970s and early 1980s. Like New German Cinema before it, these contemporary films foreground individuals on the margins as well as the societal structures that exclude them from the mainstream. Such comparisons have persisted, most notably in reviews of Fatih Alan's recent Auf der anderen Seite, which point to similarities between Akin and Rainer Werner Fassbinder, not least due to the casting of Fassbinder icon Hannah Schygulla.3 Turkish-German directors are also frequently asked in interviews to comment on the influences of New German Cinema on their work.4

The desire to situate Turkish-German cinema within larger national traditions is doubtless a useful political strategy to counter public discourses which cast minority communities as perpetually ensconced in culturally distant, difficult to integrate Parallelgesellschaften. In German literary studies, Leslie Adelson has persuasively argued the necessity of reading the literature of Turkish migration as an inextricable part of German culture in order to escape notions of essential cultural Otherness or migrants perpetually caught between worlds.5 However, the impulse to read Turkish-German film exclusively against the backdrop of New German Cinema runs the risk of obscuring the complexity of a burgeoning area of film production that often owes as much (or much more) to other national cinematic traditions or filmmaking practices that transcend national boundaries.6 This approach therefore does little to help escape national paradigms of analysis and - at its worst - falls back on troubling notions of a national tradition or Leitkultur "enriched" by importing new voices and "foreign" influences.

Subsuming transnational cultural production within national rubrics can also be a way of avoiding larger political questions regarding civil inequalities, migration politics and minority rights, as Hito Steyerl has argued in her analysis of the Heimat Kunst exhibitions, a series of art exhibits, concerts, symposia, film screenings, lectures, theatre and dance performances by artists of nonGerman background resident in Germany, staged in ten different German cities in the spring and summer of 2000 and organized by the Haus der Kulturen der Welt . Steyerl contends that while Heimat Kunst may have been conceived as an opportunity to provoke critical reflection on the historically charged term Heimat and its attendant notions of belonging based on ancestral lineage, by recruiting "foreign" artists to posit a new multicultural national image, the old functions of the term Heimat were not overcome. Instead, she argues, "while representing a renovated and globalized concept of Heimat, this reformulation leaves intact the basic dichotomy between the concept of Heimat and its alien/foreign counterpart" (165). Steyerl provocatively suggests that the enthusiasm displayed by numerous cultural institutions at the turn of the 21st-century for artistic production of minority communities/ as well as the invocation of cultural theory that celebrated the creative potential of the deterritorialized individual, constituted a German self-fashioning that promoted "a marketable brand of façade cosmopolitanism" in lieu of political debates about civil rights and migration policy:

This is a very visible example of the recontextualization of postcolonial discourse in Germany, which has been appropriated first by cultural theorists and then by national institutions, but which hardly had any connection to political struggles for recognition of minority groups. …

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