TRANSIT 12.1: Foreword
Landscapes of Migration
We are excited to introduce the first issue of the twelfth volume of TRANSIT Journal: Landscapes of Migration. In thinking about ‘landscape’ we hoped to address the human relationship to diverse conceptions of environment. This issue seeks to examine how our actions, perspectives, and interventions affect and shape our surroundings as the world around us changes both physically and ideologically. Rather than affirm ‘natural,’ immutable characteristics, the term “landscape” can reflect the changing assemblage of geographical, physical, and imaginary entities. “Landscapes of Migration” begins to investigate how demographic and political shifts reflect changing mediascapes, memoryscapes, and the increasingly tenuous notion of geographic boundaries. Through their investigations of language, narrative, data, image, and media the works included in this issue seek to make patterns of migration more intelligible and further probe the limits of that intelligibility.
We begin our issue with “Migration as Textual Strategy in Barbara Honigmann’s Eine Liebe aus Nichts”, Lauren Hansen’s exploration of the second generation’s self-reflexive, often experimental, writing processes which attempt to represent or narrate others’ experiences as well as constitute the textual form of migration in the postmemory work it performs.
Kumars Salehi’s “Not Another Exilic Movie: Alienation and the Everyday in Sohrab Shahid Saless’s Reifezeit and Tagebuch eines Liebenden” challenges traditional readings of Saless’s films as emblematic of a strictly exilic aesthetic by providing an alternate, Marxist account that reads the films’ thematizations of the local and the everyday as more deeply concerned with the alienated and mutilated subjectivities that arise from capitalist, patriarchal structures.
“Willkommenskultur: A Computational and Socio-Linguistic Study of Modern German Discourses on Migrant Populations” by Sabina Harntett uses the computational method of topic modeling to provide new insights on the discourse surrounding and sentiment toward migrant populations in German news media. By exploring the media contexts of the terms Flüchtling, Ausländer and Einwanderer her study reveals how media representations further propagate stereotypes and prevent the integration of migrant populations into German society.
In addition to scholarly articles we are pleased to offer readers an exchange between the German critical race theorist Iman Attia and the American memory studies scholar Michael Rothberg (“Multidirectional Memory and Verwobene Geschichte(n)“) in which they discuss their contributions to the reimagination of history and memory, with particular emphasis on Attia’s project “Verworbene Geschichte(n)” and Rothberg’s concept of “multidirectional memory.”
“Animals in Architecture” translated by Bradley A. Schmidt provides a deft translation of Sabine Scho’s introduction to her work and multimedia exhibit Tiere in Architektur: Texte und Fotos. Via an investigation of the structures of enclosure and entrapment, Scho’s work synthesizes photography, poetry and prose into a critical, artistic analysis of our fraught relationship to non-human animals.
Jon Cho-Polizzi offers exciting new translations of selected works from Mikael Vogel’s Dodos auf der Flucht. Requiem für ein verlorenes Bestiarium [Dodos on the Run: Requiem for a Lost Bestiary]. The translated essay and poem, “On Scarcity (Confessions of a Japanese Strychnine Eater)” and “The Carolina Parakeet” respectively, provide a penetrating examination of migratory and shifting landscapes in the age of mass extinction.
“Landscapes of Migration” features one book review by Dinah Lensing-Sharp, who reviews Priscilla Layne’s White Rebels in Black: German Appropriation of Black Culture (2018) in which Layne investigates changing German attitudes toward black culture via works of literature, film, music, and autobiography.
The issue concludes with two photography projects. Charles Desmet, a Belgium-based photographer, first offers his “Record of a Human Jungle,” a photo-essay on the infamous refugee camp, the Calais Jungle. Desmet provides an intimate portrait of life inside the camp, evoking the perpetual state of transformation that humans and landscapes undergo during processes of migration.
“Weltstadt — Erinnerung und Zukunft von Geflüchteten im Modell” is an on-going multimedia exhibit created by refugees, artists, and sound designers, which envisions future cityscapes through model sites of personal and collective remembrance. With a companion article by Deniz Göktürk, entitled “Modeling a World City,” TRANSIT is fortunate to digitally reproduce that project here.
As climate change becomes more apparent, especially in its effect on biodiversity, migration and disadvantaged communities, we, scholars and artists alike, are faced with the urgent tasks of challenging antiquated conceptual vocabulary, critically engaging with deeply intersectional issues, and locating spaces of hope and political resistance. It’s become clear to us through this issue that there is no one methodology, no one artistic practice that can address these challenges in their totalities. Instead, we are being called upon to introduce interdisciplinary practices that encompass and extend beyond the limits of one audience, one single Area Studies, one institution. In this vein, we hope that TRANSIT can be, with its diverse array of methodologies and objects of investigation, a humble instantiation of meaningful engagement with these deeply intertwined challenges.
We’ve been deeply appreciative of the breadth of submissions and curiosity in this issue’s topic over the last year. We would like to take this opportunity to extend a special thanks to TRANSIT’s editorial team for their hard work, the authors and artists for their perseverance and commitment to the scholarship, and Deniz Göktürk and the Department of German at UC Berkeley for their support. We are excited to continue to publish peer-reviewed, open-source digital research, translations and art.
Michael Sandberg and Molly Krueger