TRANSIT 8.2: Foreword
We are pleased to announce the publication of the second installment of texts in our 2012–13 volume, including a series of articles on “Participatory Media and Public Memory.” The impetus for this volume was our conviction that changing mediascapes and forms of communication are increasingly challenging traditional conceptions of the archive and the public sphere. However, our juxtaposition of the two categories in the volume’s title are intended not only to reflect the impact of new media on contemporary practices of remembrance, but also to raise questions in migration and mobility studies about the relation of memory and media from historical and theoretical perspectives.
Jeffrey Jurgens’ “ ‘A Wall Victim from the West’: Migration, German Division, and Multidirectional Memory in Kreuzberg” leverages Michael Rothberg’s concept of “multidirectional memory” in order to examine the practices of commemoration surrounding the death of Çetin Mert, the five-year-old son of a Turkish guest worker family, in 1975. As Jurgens shows, the dominant representation of the incident against the backdrop of Cold War politics intersected with competing memories of migration and imperialism around the site of the boy’s death. Hence, the question of who counts as a “Maueropfer” not only indicates an aporia in the dominant public memory of the Berlin Wall, which long failed to recognize non-German migrants and their descendants. The dynamics of remembering and forgetting Mert also presents some unexpected possibilities for re-thinking collective affiliations through practices of rendering the past visible or invisible.
Kaarina Nikunen’s “Re-Imagining the Past in Transnational Online Communities” compares the construction of the past in three different kinds of online sites: a Kurdish collective-memory site, a German-Kurdish online community, and a German-Finnish online community. Nikunen’s article complicates binary assumptions about the effects of “diasporic media use,” a form of connectivity that tends to be viewed as either leading to increased isolation or enhancing a sense of hybridity and transnational community. Updating Jan Assmann’s concept of “communicative memory” in light of research on new media, Nikunen analyzes the tendency of these online memory sites to treat memory as something open, procedural, and always subject to negotiation and revision, thereby highlighting the necessity of allowing for differences and discontinuities in the construction of the past online.
Lizzie Stewart’s “Countermemory and the (Turkish-)German Theatrical Archive: Reading the Documentary Remains of Emine Sevgi Özdamar’s Karagöz in Alamania (1986)” shows how the understanding of the archive in literary studies can benefit from further engagement with problems of documentation manifest in theatre history. If Emine Sevgi Özdamar’s well-studied writings present a “form of countermemory to official history” (Azade Seyhan), thereby challenging the stability of a cultural archive, then the fragmentary photographic documentation of Özdamar’s less-studied plays offers a further “form of countermemory to the written records of the play.” The aim of Stewart’s paper, however, is not only to expand our understanding of the play through examination of images along with the written record, but even more significantly to raise questions about the institutional and aesthetic contexts of theatrical production in Germany, a problem that speaks to current debates about the function of the theatre as a public institution.
Questions about the ephemerality of the past and institutions of remembrance are integral to Enis Batur’s “Lost: Black Briefcase,” translated by Oya Erez. This short text, whose title refers to the famous suitcases of György Lukács (eventually found) and Walter Benjamin (still lost), is an exploration of the forces governing the uncanny return of artifacts and objects from the depths of history, an especially poignant phenomenon for scholars of Ottoman culture, as Batur describes it. Ultimately, the indiscriminate logic of history may govern memory and forgetting, since history, as Batur puts it, “forgets and makes one forget one masterpiece in its entirety and another one in parts.” But “once in a while, it cracks open its record book ever so slightly.”
In the spirit of this observation, then, the topic of “Participatory Media and Public Memory” will remain open for further contributions. We also invite further submissions on our recent topics of “Vibrationshintergrund,” “Orienting Europe,” or any of the other topics that have been discussed in previous issues of TRANSIT.
We also continue to invite rolling submissions related to the themes of our journal and, in this respect, are pleased to publish Yasemin Mohammad’s “Alwan’s Quest of Home: Re-Mapping Heimat and the Nation in Hussain Al-Mozany’s Der Marschländer: Bagdad–Beirut–Berlin.” This close reading of Al-Mozany’s novel makes a welcome contribution to studies of transnational literature, which have tended to focus on Turkish-German protagonists, with its analysis of Iraqi-German literary production. As Mohammad’s analysis shows, the negotiation of belonging and nationhood in the novel indicates the intersection of transnational memory discourses, such as the memory of the Holocaust, Romantic nationalism, and the idea of the Iraqi exile and asylum-seeker.
These articles are complemented by three book reviews, which are intended to introduce our readership to recent scholarship on migration and mobility, and to spark further analysis of these topics: Priscilla Layne’s review of European Others: Queering Ethnicity in Postnational Europe, by Fatima El-Tayeb; Christina Butler’s review of Beyond the Mother Tongue: The Postmonolingual Condition, by Yasemin Yildiz; and Lindsay Preseau’s review of Kiezdeutsch: Ein neuer Dialekt entsteht, by Heike Wiese.
In putting together this volume on “Participatory Media and Public Memory,” we became increasingly aware of a tension between theory and practice in terms of our questions about reading practices, copright issues, and questions of authorship, as well as assumptions about the finality of projects and the traditional publication format of academic journals. Our current thinking about the shape of TRANSIT has been animated by recent studies in the Digital Humanities and, in this respect, we would like to draw further attention to Deniz Göktürk’s call for papers for the MLA: “Artistic and Scholarly Practice in the Digital Age” (deadline: March 9).
We hope you enjoy the second installment of texts in our 2012–13 volume, and look forward to continuing the discussion.
Erik Born and Alex Lambrow, on behalf of the editors of TRANSIT