Moving away, carrying on
German exile from the 19th century to 1945
A transnational approach
Ich habe damals zum erstenmal alles ernst bedacht: Vergangenheit und Zukunft, einander gleich und ebenbürtig an Undurchsichtigkeit, und auch an den Zustand, den man auf den Konsulaten ‘Transit’ nennt und in der gewöhnlichen Sprache Gegenwart. Und das Ergebnis: nur eine Ahnung – wenn diese Ahnung verdient, ein Ergebnis genannt zu werden – von meiner eigenen Unversehrbarkeit. Anna SEGHERS
After the postcolonial turn, transnationalism provided migration studies with new concepts. Thinking in « trans-national » terms allows for a reassessment of the « national » and its associated methodological difficulties. While setting itself the task of going beyond the theoretical frame of the « nation state », the transnational approach simultaneously acknowledges its existence by using the categories of « country of arrival » and « country of departure » for its analyses (Nancy Green: 2011 or Glick Schiller, Basch, Blanc-Szanton: 1992), especially in the context of migration studies in the new globalized era. The study of past periods reveals that the « nation » is not a wholly relevant concept for the German-speaking world. In the 19th century, it took on the shape of a symbol (the future nation), whereas in the years 1933 to 1945, the politically expanding German state ceased to coincide with the idea of the nation for its citizens, an idea that those who were forced to leave chose to take (or not to take) with them as a legacy.
The German-speaking world of the 19th and early 20th centuries was indeed the scene of many migrations, including forced migrations. The aim of this conference is to focus particularly on the latter, considering exile to be a form of migration through which classic patterns are revealed: reasons for leaving, choices of destination, the establishing of networks, arrival in a foreign country, strategies for the preservation of identity… How can members of groups who have been pressured into migration become transnational agents, when they have not been able to choose their status and might thus reject or even deny its implications? Can the transnational perspective, if applied to the question of exile, complete or go beyond the traditional analysis in terms of « diasporas » of the links established by the migrants (Martiniello: 2007, Bauböck and Faist: 2010)?
Moreover, the transnational perspective encompasses the point of view of the exile as well as that of the individuals or institutions involved in the context of arrival. Phenomena usually interpreted as processes of national integration or preservation of a cultural identity in a foreign country could be reconsidered in an in-between space, a threshold. The concept of « threshold » defined by Benjamin (1983) as transition and flux, as opposed to the « boundary », is proposed as a framework for the reflection on the relationship of the Self to the Foreign (Simmel: 1908) and on the forms of ritual (Turner: 1967) that arise from a transnational situation.
Rather than opposing exiles and natives, we believe that it is important to reassess the reception and perception of exiles, using the progress made in the definitions of methodological tools. Thus the notion of « cultural transfers » (Espagne et Werner: 1988) and the strategies of research that evolved from it, focusing on cultural phenomena and transnational migrations, can serve as a basis. It permits the observation of the fluctuating situations of exiles through the lens of the potential transfers, which imply the determination of transferants and an awareness of the possible consequences, be they contradictory or complementary. The success of a transfer depends on the openness of the country of arrival to alterity. Could migrants « fill a void » in their new environment? Can we talk of transfer if the individual or the object involved remains on the threshold? The medium of transnationalism allows for a rethink, not only of 19th century and 1933-45 exiles, but also of the topic of remigration and the continuation of exile after 1945.
Research progress in transnational studies is thus an opportunity to reconsider moments of German history, which were thought to have been thoroughly studied, through the prism of exile. At the same time, research on these particular periods, in which the nation state or even the nation became an irrelevant notion, will help to take stock on the validity of transnationalism as a new category of thinking.
To participate in these reflections, we welcome papers dealing with exile in and from the German speaking world in the periods previously mentioned, whatever the temporary or permanent destinations chosen by the exiles.
We will consider papers from a large spectrum of disciplines: history (migration studies, art history, cultural history, political history) and sociology are obvious angles for the subject. However, we also welcome papers on translation studies, literature, music, visual arts and architecture, which may bring an original focus.
We welcome abstracts for 20 to 30 minute papers in German, English or French. Please send a summary (max. one page, preferably in PDF) along with a short CV by the 30th June 2013 at:
Speakers’ travel expenses will be partially covered.
Bauböck, Rainer and Faist, Thomas (dir.), Diaspora and Transnationalism. Concepts, Theories, Methods, Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2010
Benjamin, Walter, Das Passagen-Werk, Frank/Main : Suhrkamp, 1983.
Boccagni, Paolo, ‘Revisting the ‘’Transnational’’ in Migration Studies : a Sociological Understanding’, REMI, 28/1, 2012.
Espagne, Michel, and Michael Werner, Transferts : les relations interculturelles dans l’espace franco-allemand (XVIIIe et XIXe siecle), Paris : Éditions recherche sur les civilisations, 1988.
Espagne, Michel, Les transferts culturels franco-allemands, Paris : Presses universitaires de France, 1999.
Glick Schiller Nina, Basch Linda, and Blanc-Szanton Cristina, Towards a Transnational Perspective on Migration. Race, Class, Ethnicity, and Nationalism Reconsidered, New York: New York Academy of Sciences, 1992.
Green, Nancy, ‘Le transnationalisme et ses limites : le champ de l’histoire des migrations’, in : Zúñiga, Jean-Paul (Dir.), Pratiques du transnational. Terrains, preuves, limites, Bibliothèque du Centre de recherches historiques, 2011, http://hal.archives-ouvertes.fr/hal-00650024/fr/.
Martiniello, Marco , ‘Transnationalisme et immigration’, Ecarts d’identité, 111, 2007, pp. 76-79.
Simmel, Georg, Soziologie. Untersuchungen über die Formen der Vergesellschaftun, Berlin: Duncker & Humblot, 1908 (1. Auflage)
Turner, Victor W., The Forest of Symbols; Aspects of Ndembu Ritual, Ithaca, N.Y. : Cornell University Press, 1967.