Archival Dispersals: Literary Magazines as Mobile and Fragmentary Archives by Mert Bahadır Reisoğlu | TRANSIT

Archival Dispersals: Literary Magazines as Mobile and Fragmentary Archives

TRANSIT vol. 13, no. 2

Mert Bahadır Reisoğlu

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This article reconceptualizes the fragmentary status of the archive of migration by focusing on Turkish German literary magazines Ezgi, Parantez, Şiir-lik and Allıturna. In the first part, I argue that literary magazines as intrinsically diasporic, mobile and spatially dispersed media provide us with a model that unsettles our understanding of archival engagement as well as Foucault’s theory of the archive. The fragmented status of this literay archive calls for anecdotal readings which exemplify the element of chance and randomness that characterizes archival research in general and calls into question the medial and institutional conditions of our access to the archival fragments. In the second part, I contrast these mobile and fragmented archives to the national archive, which imagines itself to be an archive of plenitude and completeness. While the latter valorizes preservation of a uniform past , the former prioritizes radical accessibility and dispersion, resists the “house arrest” of archivization and demands to be always in motion at the risk of dissemination with no return. 


When used in the singular, the word “archive” implies a totality, in which all documents are gathered, recorded, preserved and made accessible. As a “cipher for the modern dream of total control and all-encompassing administrative discipline, a giant filing cabinet at the center of a reality founded on ordered rationality,” the term ‘archive’ denotes the Weberian ‘iron cage’ of modernity (Spieker 1). Completeness and plenitude are imagined to characterize this repository of knowledge: If anything is excluded there, the archive will surely fill its gaps in the future.

The archive of migration stands in stark contrast to this idea of an archive of plenitude. The paradox is already in its name: Highlighting the etymology of the word “archive,” “arkheion: initially a house, a domicile, an address, the residence of the superior magistrates, the archons, those who commanded,” Derrida characterizes the archontic function of the archive as a “house arrest” (2). This fixity of the archive’s location appears to be at odds with the mobility of migration. What is at stake in the archive of migration is not a challenge to decipher the silences of the archive, but to find and access what is missing there. The surprise of discovering new materials can be as beautiful as the surrealistic chance encounter of a sewing machine and an umbrella on an operating table, but the difficulties in excavating the remnants of the past can also be daunting. In his essay “Das Archiv der Migration,” Deniz Utlu highlights the scattered state of the archive of migration, which makes it hard to excavate and catalogue materials that belong to the history of migration. “Niemand weiß,” he writes “wie viele Gedichte in den sechziger, siebziger und achtziger Jahren von den Arbeitern und Arbeiterinnen aus der Türkei in Deutschland gedichtet worden, aber es waren viele.” (“No one knows how many poems were written in Germany by workers from Turkey, but there were many.”) Utlu names the problem succinctly by describing this archive as “fragmentiert und episodisch (fragmented and episodic)” and emphasizing the difficulty of establishing a tradition without an archive. How do we deal with this fragmentariness? What does it imply for our methodology and for the kind of histories we write? The use of the word ‘fragment’ evokes the idea of a totality to which the fragments belonged before, a totality that will be recuperated in a total archive in the future. Literary magazines, however, contest the necessity of recovering this lost totality. In this article I argue that considering literary magazines as fragmentary archives can provide us with a model to assess the ways in which fragmentary archives unsettle our understanding of archive and archival engagement. Mobile, spatially dispersed and anecdotal, literary magazines constitute archives that are fragmented both from within and from without, resisting our desire for comprehensiveness and challenging our protocols of reading fragments. As extreme cases of dispersion and fragmentation, they appear as paradigmatic examples of archives in general and frustrate the dreams of an archive of plenitude. Refusing to become part of the Turkish archive despite publishing submissions primarily in Turkish, the Turkish German literary magazines I analyze reveal themselves to be unruly fragments that compel us to reconfigure the “archive” as a nexus of dissemination.

Deniz Utlu’s description of the archive as collections scattered across houses, wardrobes and cellars shows that the archive is fragmentary because it is spatially dispersed. He demonstrates the problems of this fragmentariness by giving the example of his late discovery of the literary magazine Sirene, before which he believed that his freitext was the only German-speaking transcultural magazine. But the very example he uses—, a literary magazine—, to demonstrate the scattered state of the archive of migration brings us to issues pertaining to a general theory of archives and shows that the fragmentariness of the migration archive should also be investigated with regard to the fragmentariness inherent in the magazine form. The archive of migration in this example shows itself to be doubly fragmentary, both because it is diasporic and because its form resists archivization. Taken not only as an example but also as a model, the literary magazine as a medium showcases the oscillation between the dreams of reaching totality through fragments and the threats of irrevocable dissemination. As such, it helps us rethink fragmentary archives and our engagement with them. Dealing with archives of migration should take this double fragmentariness into account, for they are closely intertwined.

The magazine can already be construed as an archive on its own. Moreover, what could be more exemplary of an archive’s fragmentariness, spatial dispersion and episodic quality than a magazine? It is a diasporic medium with no single origin and no single addressee. With its issues scattered across houses, cities and even countries, the identity of a magazine is radically disseminated and disintegrated, with little hope for recuperation unless an avid collector is willing to share his or her private archives. The issues of Sirene, for example, are indeed readily available today in various libraries such as Staatsbibliothek Berlin and archives like DOMiD, and the completeness of these institutions’ holdings in this case is reassuring. But what about other literary journals published in Germany in the 1980s and 1990s, such as Ezgi, Parantez, Şiir-lik and Allıturna? Their available issues at DOMiD, for example, are sporadic with many gaps in-between, some magazines present only with one issue. Unlike Sirene, these magazines exist in partial and fragmentary collections that are donated to the archive and as such serve as samples. This condition, I would argue, is hardly a shortcoming of the archive or an obstacle. What if these magazines are meant to be disseminated beyond the point of recovery to begin with? What if, resisting the archive’s “archontic dimension of domiciliation,” the house arrest of the archeon and its immobility, these “documents” unsettle the very notion of an archive of migration, a notion that juxtaposes mobility and immobility in an uneasy affiliation? (Derrida 3) A single journal issue appears to be both complete in itself and lacking, a fragment that calls for the inclusion of antecedent and subsequent issues to complete the puzzle while also implying that such an endeavor might be futile or even unnecessary. Unable to take comfort in the completeness of the catalogs, the researcher would even be invited outside to join this never-ending mobility of documents, searching for the missing pieces in bookstores, flea markets and personal collections, stumbling upon them in other archives, or even in other countries, which would reveal the intertwinement of national archives and collections not only on a metaphorical but also on a material level. Writing about his visits to the Saint-Ouen flea-market, Breton adds: “I go there often, searching for objects that can be found nowhere else: old-fashioned, broken, useless, almost incomprehensible, even perverse – at least in the sense I give to the word and which I prefer” (52). The perversity of the trouvaille resides in its power to unsettle our understanding. A new issue or an entirely new journal encountered by chance can always throw our models and frameworks into disarray, forcing us to reconsider our methods of dealing with the archives and their incompleteness.

In the second part of this article, I interpret literary magazines as paradigmatic examples of archives in their fragmentariness. Rather than focusing on one magazine and its history or using the works published in them as materials to be analyzed in different frameworks, I aim to rethink their status as magazines in their fragmentary condition to consider alternative methodologies in dealing with them. Focusing on Foucault’s use of “dispersion” in his theory of the archive in reference to literary magazines reveals that the “archive” both as a system of statements and as collections at archival institutions is always already fragmentary. Rethinking Foucault’s theory also shows that this fragmentation calls for anecdotal readings in dealing with archives such as magazines, which always bring their “event” together with the event of the fragment’s discovery by calling attention to the contingencies in the conditions of their accessibility and to the medium specificity of archives. In the third part, based on my research on the collection of all the Turkish German literary magazines in DOMiD, I argue that as mobile archives of radical dispersion, these archives of migration rival national archives that imagine themselves to be archives of plenitude and completeness. Rather than preservation, they aim to excel in radical accessibility and dispersion across languages and countries before the advent of digital media. Focusing on an earlier medium uncovers the impasses that radical accessibility, which is associated with new media, entails in its relation to archivization and canonization: As the editorials of the magazines show, the magazines undertake an endeavor that oscillates between the dreams of preparing the way for a new literary canon in Turkish language that will grow not in Turkey but in Germany – an idea that is expressed through the concept of “germination” which is related to the Romantic idea of fragments – and the dangers of dissemination with no return.

Engaging with Fragmentary Archives

Dealing with literary magazines raises methodological issues that are hard to ignore, which are emblematic of the perils of archival research in general. Once the archive’s holdings go beyond books to include fragments, any meaningful totality we could derive from it comes under risk.  Which protocols of reading, criteria of selection and grids of interpretation would even be applicable to poems submitted to now-forgotten journals? Where would we detect the author-function, to use Foucault’s term, when we see a poem by an unknown poet, whose name appears only once in the republic of letters, offering a fleeting glimpse before it disappears under the surface? As a ‘message’ in a bottle, it could evade the ascription of even the simplest authorial intention, the desire for recognition. Where do these submissions fall in literary and intellectual history? Archival engagement with literary magazines is exemplary of the fragmented nature of archives in general. Their challenges to methodology can be explained further by looking at Foucault’s use of the term “archive” in his archaeological method. Foucault’s theory is already laden with the paradoxes of archive as totality and archive as fragmentariness and dispersion, showcasing the methodological difficulties that one might face. The preferences of Foucault and Derrida for the term “archive” follow from their problematization of the unity of the “book” or the “oeuvre.” While the latter terms promise a unity of discourse in gathering and preserving writings under a title, the “archive” denotes radical openness. At first glance, Foucault’s use of the term “archive” – which is unusual in French, since the plural “les archives” is the standard – seems to imply the opposite of fragmentariness and dispersion associated with magazines. The archive is not the “library of all libraries” or the institution of the archive, but “the law of what can be said, the system that governs the appearance of statements as unique events” (129-130). Its function is not to preserve statements for the future, but to make statements possible in the first place. But despite its abstractness, other terms like “dispersion” and “rarity,” which Foucault deploys against hermeneutics, may help us forge a link between Foucault’s archeology and fragmentary documents. The hermeneutic term “tradition” is used to “rethink the dispersion of history in the form of the same,” and a “total description draws all phenomena around a single centre – a principle, meaning, a spirit, a world-view, an overall shape; a general history, on the contrary, would deploy the space of a dispersion” (21; 10). The term ‘dispersion’ is also closely related to Foucault’s understanding of difference:

In this sense, the diagnosis does not establish the fact of our identity by the play of distinctions. It establishes that we are difference, that our reason is the difference of discourses, our history the difference of times, our selves the difference of masks. That difference, far from being the forgotten and recovered origin, is this dispersion that we are and make. The never completed, never wholly achieved uncovering of the archive forms the general horizon to which the description of discursive formations, the analysis of positivities, the mapping of the enunciative field belong. (131)

The archive is not a totality that determines from outside what we can think and say, but is always already marked by this dispersion. We could also take Foucault’s spatial term literally to rethink the spatial dispersion of magazines and their fragmentation. The magazine’s title is the heuristic device (much like the author-function) that can be used to think of scattered issues as well as the poems, essays and news published in them as a “never completed, never wholly achieved” archive, but that device only helps us to group the contents of the magazine descriptively. Going beyond that and narrating the story of the magazine would necessitate resorting to concepts like tradition and to refer to the intentions of multiple subjects (editors, authors), an act, Foucault claims, that attempts to compensate for the “rarity” of statements. This rarity refers to the fact that “on the basis of the grammar and of the wealth of vocabulary available at a given period, there are, in total, relatively few things that are said” (118). “The discursive formation” Foucault writes “is not therefore a developing totality, with its own dynamism or inertia, carrying with it, in an unformulated discourse what it does not say, what it has not yet said, or what contradicts it at that moment; it is not a rich, difficult germination, it is a redistribution of gaps, voids, absences, limits, divisions” (119). Rather than imagining that there is a “sub-text” or a “plethoric totality” of meaning behind the existing statements, one should “describe a group of statements (…) as an incomplete, fragmented figure” (119; 125). Unlike the romantic fragment, which “inscribes its plurality as the exergue of the total, infinite work” according to Nancy and Lacoue-Labarthe, this “fragmented figure” does not allude to anything beyond itself (48). The archive is not the totality of the documents that we hope to gain access to, the dream of a grand library that will make everything ever written accessible one day; it refers to the relations of documents that are already at hand.

Archival engagement with fragments cannot presume to be holistic. As Dreyfus and Rabinow note, this creates methodological difficulties for Foucault’s archaeology, which, they argue, wavers between structuralism and hermeneutics: “[I]n the struggle between ultimate dispersion and discontinuity on the one hand, and the rules for systematic change that would restore order and intelligibility on the other, Foucault seems to hesitate, as if he is drawn to both alternatives and finds neither entirely satisfactory” (75).[1] In his interpretation of Foucault’s methodology, Agamben attempts to circumvent the problems posed by fragmentariness by arguing that Foucault relies on the use of paradigms. The paradigm “is a singular object that, standing equally for all others of the same class, defines the intelligibility of the group of which it is a part and which, at the same time, it constitutes” (17). A paradigm such as the Panopticon can be used as an analogy to explain various phenomena. Finding paradigmatic examples in the case of magazines, however, is an onerous task. Each editorial, essay or news article could perhaps turn out to be a paradigm by virtue of its exemplarity and give us a clue to understand the significance of magazines. Everything could be exemplary, or maybe nothing is. “In the final analysis,” Agamben argues, “the capacity to recognize and articulate paradigms defines the rank of the inquirer no less than does his or her ability to examine the documents of an archive” (32). But detecting the paradigmatic example in the archive depends not only on the perceptivity of the researcher, but also on the availability of documents and on the circumstances of the research, including the institution in which it takes place. 

As Knut Ove Eliassen notes, the word “archive” has three meanings in Foucault’s writing, each of which corresponds to his well-known areas of inquiry respectively, namely knowledge, power and ethics. The “archive” might refer to the law of what is sayable, which Foucault uses until 1970. It might refer to the administrative institution which has a political and biopolitical function. This is the archive which, to use Derrida’s words, has the authority of consignation. Finally, it can also refer to Foucault’s personal experience of archives, which are heterotopias that promise the pleasures of archival discovery. Regarding Foucault’s experience with the public archives, Rabinow and Dreyfus write: “Presumably the work of preselection has been done by the curators of the Bibliothéque Nationale. The fact that these collectors have already made a decision as to what is serious and have applied their own classification to the resulting corpus, based on their discursive and nondiscursive practices, is no problem for Foucault” (59). This preselection indicates that what is taken to be paradigmatic had to be discovered by the researcher either because there was an internal necessity for its appearance even among a limited number of documents (which would bring us back to the problems Rabinow and Dreyfus mention) or the archive’s catalogues and classifications were comprehensive enough. In either case, the “figurative status of ‘the Archive’ in cultural theory,” as Carolyn Steedman terms it in reference to Foucault and Derrida, is closely intertwined with the status of actual documents, the material archive, especially in the case of fragmentary forms such as magazines (9). “But in actual Archives,” Steedman writes,

though the bundles may be mountainous, there isn’t in fact, very much there. The Archive is not potentially made up of everything, as is human memory; and it is not the fathomless and timeless place in which nothing goes away that is the unconscious. The Archive is made from selected and consciously chosen documentation from the past and also from the mad fragmentations that no one intended to preserve and that just ended up there. (68)

 The imperfections and uncertainties of the archival institutions are also analyzed by Ann Stoler, who argues that “colonial archives are sites of perturbations of other kinds – less monuments to the absence or ubiquity of knowledge than its piecemeal partiality, less documents to the force of reasoned judgment than to both the spasmodic and sustained currents of anxious labor that paper trails could not contain” (19). Noting the absence of any records from the police surveillance of Foucault in Poland during his stay in the 1970s, Anna Krakus and Cristina Vaculescu also question Foucault’s theorization of archives: “Our findings suggest that at times the police did not see that their papers were in order. It seems more likely that Foucault, and, in turn, his readers, overestimated the police and its archives, regarding them from a mystifying distance” (88). The archival ‘plenitude’ to use Foucault’s term again, indeed appears to be a myth not only in its metaphorical but also its literal use when it refers to institutions.

If the catalogues of the archive lack the systematicity that Foucault ascribes to the “archive” understood as a system “which governs the appearance of statements as unique events,” stumbling upon the paradigmatic example turns out to be a chance encounter, and every visit to the archive shares an affinity to Breton’s trips to the flea market. Archival pursuits in Turkish German Studies give rise to their own anecdotes of adventure in the same vein: When Lizzie Stewart tells readers about her search for materials on Özdamar in various archives in “Countermemory and the (Turkish-)German Theatrical Archive”, or when Deniz Göktürk narrates in “Intermedial Solidarity: Drawing Inspiration from the 1970s” how she acquired a copy of Frau Kutzer und andere Bewohner der Naunynstraße (1973) through personal contacts, the challenges and ‘pleasures of the archive’ become visible. These anecdotes exemplify the element of chance and randomness that characterizes archival research and show that engagement with the fragmentary archives of migration can stand as a paradigm of engagement with archives in general. In the case of dealing with magazines, however, instead of the fortuitous discovery of an unexpected document, the researcher might face the impossibility of finding a paradigm. As I was sitting at DOMiD’s archive with dozens of magazine issues, trying to figure out which editorial, article, piece of news or letter from a reader could give me the “secrets” of the literary magazines, enjoying a poem or browsing through the advertisements of televisions and video cassettes from the 1980s, another researcher arrived, requested a volume, wrote down something from one page and left. The two extremes in my anecdote illustratethe methodological difficulties that fragmentary archives (always already) give rise to. If the archive is always already fragmentary, magazines could be the paradigm of “the archive” and archival engagement. Dealing with fragmentary archives puts methodologies in disarray and reveals contingencies in archival engagement. The inclusion of anecdotes on the conditions of the documents’ discoveries in works on the fragmentary archives of migration is no accident: The anecdotes uncover the inevitable entanglement of actual archives in their fragmented condition and the research that is undertaken.

We can think of the genre of the anecdote not only within the context of the circumstances in archival research but also in terms of our protocols of interpreting the archival fragments that are discovered during the process. Writing about the “programmatic refusal [of New Historicism] and its characteristic air of reporting, haplessly, the discoveries it happened serendipitously to stumble upon in the course of undirected, idle rambles through the archives,” Joel Fineman offers the anecdote as a genre to avoid totalizing accounts of history (52). If the historical narration of an event threatens its singularity by contextualizing it, the anecdote “[establishes] an event as an event within and yet without the framing context of historical successivity” (61). Rather than searching the example that will explain all the other fragments in their systematicity, considering each fragment as an anecdote in its singularity, an event that cannot be subsumed in a linear history, provides us with an alternative approach to the radical dispersion of literary magazines. With their individual issues carrying a certain date on the front page, editorials that directly address the readers and articles that report the debates and literary events of their time, the magazines are anecdotal fragments and untotalizable events that establish a momentary and fleeting contact between their singular events and the reader. What these fragments point towards, however, remains ambiguous. To Fineman’s consideration of the anecdotes as “the literary form or genre that uniquely refers to the real”, I would add that the anecdote allows the “real” of the archive in its fragmentariness to reveal itself (56). Each anecdote implicates the reader and calls into question the medial and institutional conditions of their access to the archival fragment, which itself can turn into an anecdote of archival discovery. In an article in Ezgi, for example, Şakir Doğan commemorates the actor Erhan Yener who passed away in 1995. The author informs the reader about his importance for the Turkish theater in Germany and relates his past encounters with Yener in bookstores: “He smiled; he said he didn’t like using the phone. He said: ‘I’ll be either around here or at Ufuk Bookstore.’ When he said he liked the magazine Dilce he also added that the size DIN A5 gave a very amateurish impression. Every time we met, he suggested that we should print it in DIN A4” (“Adressiz” 8).[2] The anecdote gives the reader a glimpse of the real person while also referring to the “real” of the magazine, its material support, interlinking the context of the reader and that of the anecdote. As an undecipherable enigma, every archival fragment has the potential to become an anecdote when it is used in a paper, and every instance of discovery could turn yet into another personal anecdote of the discoverer, which does not illuminate the fragment by contextualizing it in history, but reveals its fragmentary status. Engaging with fragmentary archives is a search for anecdotes in the past and the present.

Between Germination and Dissemination

While fragmentary archives, as exemplified in DOMiD’s holdings of Turkish German literary magazines, call for an anecdotal approach that refuses to ignore the conditions in which the research takes place, seeking a system in archival findings presupposes an archive of plenitude, which is expected to include every resource of significance so that there will be no room for chance. While research on archives shows that all archives are fragmented from within, the digitization of printed materials rekindles the hope of achieving totality today. In their research on the relationship between the canon and the archive, Mark Algee-Hewitt et al. start their project with a conceptual distinction between the corpus (the selection of published materials for a particular research), the archive (published materials that are preserved in libraries, collections and archives) and published literature. Noting the radical potentials of digitization, they write:

But with digital technology, the relationship between the three layers has changed: the corpus of a project can now easily be (almost) as large as the archive, while the archive is itself becoming – at least for modern times- (almost) as large as all of published literature. When we use the term ‘archive,’ what we have in mind is precisely this potential convergence of the three layers into one; into that ‘total history of literature’ to borrow an expression from the Annales, that used to be a mirage, and may soon be reality. (256-257)

The challenges posed to literary canons by the digital archive, they note, promise “an even greater change than quantification itself” (294). In addition to the digitization of books that have not made it into the canon, digitizing literary magazines can destabilize the canon even further.  If the “readability” of authors like Güney Dal and Aras Ören, for example, “became more and more recalcitrant” to the frameworks of Turkish German Studies in the 1990s, as David Gramling claims, what would happen to old and new canons once they are flooded by the archives of literary magazines (385)? My interest in this grand digital archive, however, does not include primarily the possibilities offered by digital humanities, but the material supports that make this dream of achieving an archive of plenitude possible in the first place. The digitization of books (or magazines) would still rely on the existing collections of archives and libraries, which, as in the case of the Turkish German magazines I mentioned, might not all be available in the first place. Alge-Hewitt et al. also give a detailed account of the difficulties they faced in their project, since the British Library had only half of the novels they needed and privately owned digital collections were very expensive (258-259). Certainly thanks to the digital networks this problem of access can be resolved in collaborative efforts, in which case volunteers would willingly digitize their own private collections and make them available on digital public archives. The digital archive, as such, can overcome the radical dispersion of magazines mentioned in the first part. The promise of finding the missing issues of a magazine, for example, would mean that we could have a more comprehensive understanding of its place in literary history in the future. The digital projects today even bypass the need for subsequent discovery and digitization. Literary blogs and online projects can already give us an idea of the possibilities opened up by this radical accessibility. Weiterschreiben, the online literary portal that provides authors from war zones with a venue to share their writings both in their native languages and in German, is such an example: “Weiter schreiben zu können, heißt aber auch, weiter gelesen zu werden” (“Über uns”). (To be able to write further also means to be read further.) Projects like these are reminiscent of the works of Ackermann and Weinrich, such as Eine nicht nur deutsche Literatur (1986), a collection of writings by sixteen authors with migration backgrounds, including Aras Ören and Güney Dal. Both projects aim to contribute to the introduction of the authors to the German public by collaborating and fostering dialogue with German authors.

While the accessibility of the online projects appears to be a further step after the book collections, the difference between the media supports is important. Many of the online projects and popular blogs also publish a selection of their contents in book form, which holds more privilege not only over digital media, but also over literary magazines. This privilege certainly depends on a presumed teleology in an author’s publication trajectory that leads from publishing poems or short stories in magazines to publishing books, a presumption that is also shared by the magazines which characterize themselves as training grounds for the authors and poets of the future. But this privilege also owes to the durability of the media formats: Digital archives are threatened by ephemerality, making an unexpected and hitherto unimaginable loss of data possible at any minute, while the durability of the book ensures that we can still refer to collected volumes like the one by Weinrich and Ackermann today and can re-actualize them years later even when they are displaced, provided that there is a copy archived somewhere. Unimagined accessibility in digital format comes at the risk of unimagined potential for loss.

The digital archives exemplify the oscillation between wide circulation and the risk of destruction at its extremesand showcase the archiviolithic aspects inherent in archivization, but that does not mean that they are an exception. Instead, they signal the intertwinement of the two in all media. Reconsidering the fragmentariness of the Turkish German magazines is informative in showcasing the ways in which this aporia underlies the desires for a new canon. The opposite example of this diasporic and fragmentary archive would be the national archive, which has to think of itself as complete, infallible and indestructible. If the archive of Turkish German magazines is doubly fragmentary, the national archive aims to be completely uniform. However, this self-assessment as an archive of indestructible plenitude does not match the realities in actual archival institutions. This is the case in Turkey, where the current state of the archives is blamed by some archivists on the neglect and disinterest of those responsible in the twentieth century. Niyazi Çiçek and Ismet Binark write that archival documents from the twentieth century are severely neglected and not properly maintained, and that more than 200 tons of material are at risk (Çiçek 34; Binark 63), while İsa Özkul gives various examples such as the sale of 50 tons of archival material by accident in 1931 and the destruction of archival materials by the paper factory SEKA to counter the paper shortage in the 1980s (5). Özkul writes: “When our grandchildren will try to do research on a subject in the future, they will find documents from the eras of Mehmed the Conqueror and Suleiman the Magnificent, but they won’t be able to find most of the documents about our young Turkish Republic, documents that our venerable state bureaucracy has produced” (5). L. Fekete’s observations on the Ottoman archives from 1953, however, indicate that there are many gaps, losses and damaged materials in them (204-205). Sinan Çuluk gives a longer list of anecdotes to display the extent of the neglect in the Ottoman Empire and argues that archives were tossed aside equally in all centuries. While debates about the need to implement measures to protect the documents and make them available have been continuing since the 1970s, discourses about the undocumented plenitude of the national archive keep highlighting the value of archives for the nation, as is made evident in the former name of Ottoman state archives, Hazine-i Evrak (Treasury of Documents). Emphasizing the need for archives to administer the population and to preserve culture, Isa Özkul relates what the historian Halil Inalcik once told the former president Turgut Özal: “Give me this archive and I will reestablish the Ottoman state as an Empire of Culture” (4). If the archive returns to its former glory, Özkul and others argue, so will the country. Once the archives become accessible again with the complete coverage of their documents, Özkul writes, Istanbul will become an international center for research, for “the histories of 38 countries lie dormant in these archives” (Özkul 5). This archive of plenitude, which gathers in itself the histories of many other nations, presents itself as the complete opposite of the fragmentary archives.

The literary magazine can be construed as an alternative type of archive that takes advantage of its fragmentariness and dispersal rather than masking it under the pretense of plenitude. The Turkish German literary magazines published in Germany stand in stark contrast to the grandiose project of a national archive, and yet many of them also consider themselves archives. The editors of Ezgi, for example, claim that the magazine will constitute an important archive over time (“Sunu…” 2). News about politics in Turkey and Germany, events such as literary competitions, exhibitions, performances, film screenings and talks by authors visiting Germany from Turkey are given sporadically in the editorials or on other pages in these journals. In 1996, Yazınca published a special section on Oranienstraße and documented the state of the street with interviews with its residents as well as with photographs. Although their coverage is not as extensive as newspapers, the magazines document the cultural life of Turks in Germany in the 1980s and 1990s. More importantly, they present themselves as literary archives. Declaring itself to be progressive and revolutionary, Allıturna aims to meet the cultural needs of Turks in Germany and to recover the legacy of forgotten authors (“Sunu.” 3). Gültekin Emre, who was involved with many journals, writes in Parantez that they want to facilitate the development of a new poetry that will arise from their new location and new lives. As a living archive that builds itself on its own, the magazine will “write its own history by maintaining authenticity and publishing authentic works” (“Bir Yılın Ardından” 7). For him, this poetry will not be a mere expression of complaint, but will pave the way for the development of Turkish German literature. Rediscovery of long-forgotten authors goes hand in hand with the discovery of new ones, for which the magazines present themselves as zones of contact.

As this desire to find new authors and to initiate the birth of a new literature shows, these archives are futural in contrast to the national archive of plenitude, which is oriented towards the inaccessible depths of the past. This futurity can best be described with reference to the figure of “germination”, as I will show below, and is also closely related to the demographics of their contributors: A youthful spirit pervades all of the Turkish German magazines, and many of the magazines openly admit to being a training ground for the poets of the future. Parantez, Emre writes, was born out of the needs of young people for a venue to publish their poems (5). Adnan Binyazar sends a letter to Ezgi praising their endeavors and suggests that the young contributors also contact Turkish publishing houses to work as translators (7). The contributors translate poems and articles into Turkish not only from German, but from many other languages. Special issues on Expressionism, Dadaism and Nicaraguan poetry, translations of Brecht, Celan, Mayakovsky, Enzensberger, Benjamin, Canetti and many others, discussions of Baudrillard, Foucault and Jameson appear on their pages alongside the poems sent to them from Germany and Turkey and reveal the internationalist claims of these magazines.

Placing emphasis on radical dispersion, these mobile archives replace the “house arrest” with a desire to spread beyond borders and languages, aiming to reach readers not only in Germany, but also Turks in Turkey as well as in other countries. As archives of migration, they rely on further distribution in all directions. The magazines in question always establish close contacts with Turkey, either directly with the readers or with other literary magazines published there. Writing as the editor of Şiir-lik in 1994, Gültekin Emre declares that their goal is to “build an artillery in order to bombard the literary magazines in Turkey and to put a poetry magazine into circulation” (“Hoşgeldin Şiir-lik” 1). They also want to “assume the role of being a bridge between Turkey and Europe” and to “bring Turkish poetry written in Europe and in Turkey together” (1). This role also entails constant communication and exchange with other magazines in Turkey. Ezgipublishes a letter sent by the editor of a journal from Kayseri, Eşik, in one of its issues. While the letter praises Ezgi’s determination to reach not only Anatolia but every part of the world, Ezgi applauds Eşik’s resolution not to be a mere provincial literary magazine, a well-known and frequently thematized anxiety in Turkish literature and cinema (Ercan 5). The contact between the two magazines is already an example of their desire for a transition from their “regionality/locality” (“yöresellik/yerellik”) to “universality.” Establishing so many mutual connections and points of contact is only possible thanks to the radical dispersion of literary magazines.

With innumerable addressees in multiple lands, many points of contact and collaborative projects, the fragmentariness and dispersion of these magazines have the potential to challenge our literary frameworks even today. Any of the stories, essays and poems published in them, lying scattered across archives, bookstores and houses, could spark unforeseen changes when encountered at the right time. While the “paperwork that circulates in an office or agency is touched or structure by its demise or death – its withdrawal from circulation – from the moment it is produced,” these archives demand to be always in motion (Spieker 21). Unlike the national archive, the literary archive of the magazines in this model appears to be a network with infinite connections that emphasizes access, outreach and distribution rather than preservation. Whereas the national archive claims to be public, its imagined plenitude, as the example of the Turkish national archive shows, can remain outside of reach as an unavailable depth that will one day reveal itself to the public. The magazines, on the other hand, criss-cross between private and public domains, changing hands and reaching individuals by chance. Fragments of their “artillery” reach across thousands of kilometers and end up in secondhand bookstores here; the radical dispersion of their issues proves to be an advantage.

While the magazines retain their connections to Turkey, their relationship with the Turkish national archive, especially conceived as an archive of plenitude, is more complex. I would argue that their challenge to this grand archive does not concern its inclusivity, because they refuse to be included in it, instead aiming to establish their presence in Germany as an alternative model. This rivalry resembles the ambiguous relationship between the diasporic canon and the national canon. Writing about the diasporic canon in Russian literature, Maria Rubins, Stephanie Sandler and Katharine Hodgson argue that interpreting the diasporic canon as part of the national canon is problematic. While the national canons “promote a vision of a distinct national literary tradition that reflects (and perhaps informs) a specific version of national identity,” diasporic canons are characterized by “interstitiality, transcultural diversity and plurality of aesthetic and linguistic idioms” (Rubins 291). As such, the attempts to repatriate and assimilate diaspora literature into the Russian canon through anthologies after 1990 ignore “the fact that the legacy of diaspora went beyond the preservation and continuation of a national culture, to active engagement with other cultures” (Hodgson 185). Despite the shared literary heritage, which “play[s] an important role in collective identity for members of a diaspora,” the poets of younger generations aim to establish their “distinct poetic identity” that cannot be subsumed under the uniformity of the national canon (Hodgson 182; Rubins 290).

Just like the Russian poets in diaspora, the editors of the magazines highlight their relation to Turkish literature. In the second issue of Allıturna, the editors declare their intention to revive the heritage of long-forgotten poets and artists, while Fethi Savaşçı criticizes younger poets’ ignorance of the history of Turkish literature (“Sunu” 23; Savaşçı 35). In a similar vein, Gültekin Emre asks in his editorial in Parantez: “Why should we isolate ourselves from Turkey? We don’t write poems that are detached from Turkey” (“Bir Yılın Ardından” 6). The preference for Turkish, as many of the editors note, puts them at a disadvantage, and some of the contributions give the impression of a curious tension between those who write in German and those who write in Turkish. An anonymous article titled “In Which Language Do You Write?” published in Parantez, showcases this resentment: “If you write in German, you will be praised. If you write in Turkish, no one will care about you. Those who write in German are integrated. Those who write in Turkish are considered maladjusted/unintegrated (uyumsuz)” (“Hangi Dilde Yazıyorsunuz?” 9). In an editorial in Ezgi, the preference to write in Turkish is conceived as an acceptance to publish in “a ‘Third World’ language subdued by a majority-language,” so that the magazine defines its task as the “self-search of a ‘lost generation’” (“Yarım Yıl” 2). At the end of the editorial, the author asks for support from the readers in Turkey to continue their endeavors, once again seeking help in the radical connectivity the magazines offer.

Construing the long-distance relationship between the literary magazines and the Turkish archive as a confrontation is possible not only because of the dispersion of magazines, but also because of the shared language. However, the preference for publishing in Turkish despite the difficulties involved does not arise from a desire to join the Turkish archive. In the first issue of Ezgi, the editors write that the “survival of a magazine depends on its responsiveness to its surroundings,” which is at odds with the “Romanticism of Ottomanism or of Homesickness’” (“Başlarken” 12). Taking pride in the recent prevalence of workshops and cultural activities in Turkish in Berlin, they emphasize the emergence of “radical pluralism” and its influence on their “transformation” (12). In one of his editorials published next to a translation of Stefan George’s “Über Dichtung” in Şiir-lik, Gültekin Emre conceives poetry as a means of defeating one’s exilic condition and establishing a diasporic identity (“Dil ve Sürgünlük” 1). Being an exile assumes the presence of a home country to which one will return, an imaginary archive of plenitude in which one’s writings will take their rightful place. But Emre’s project does not entail a return; it imagines something new, that would rival the national archive and would establish a Turkish archive in Germany.

Literary magazines do not only offer an alternative model of mobile archives of connectivity, but also appear as potential rivals to the Turkish national archive. This rivalry is closely related to the Romantic metaphors of “germination” and “sprouting”. In the case of the Romantic fragment, Nancy and Lacoue-Labarthe write, “[f]ragmentation is not, then, a dissemination, but is rather the dispersal that leads to fertilization and future harvests. The genre of the fragment is the genre of generation” (49).  The dispersion of the magazine issues is not meant to be a dissemination beyond recovery, but the scattering of seeds that will one day grow, perhaps, to become a new archive of imagined plenitude. Gültekin Emre writes in Şiir-lik: “Those of us who write poems in foreign lands know that we are trying to swim against the current. Our exchanges, thoughts and writings in Turkish under German influence are different from those in Turkey. It is hard to explain. (…) They say poems written in a life disjointed from your native tongue have a different taste. Some of the poems published in Şiir-lik ‘sprout up on foreign soil’’” (“Damla Damla Şiir” 1). Similarly, Fethi Savaş writes in Allıturnathat a new Turkish literature in Turkish will “sprout” in Europe (“Göçmenlik Koşullarında Barış Savaşımı ve Sanatın Yeri” 14).  Like seeds that sprout up on foreign soils, the poems published in the magazine will perhaps one day give rise to its own forest, a new canon. The magazines scattered across cities are portrayed as the seeds, the initial and forgettable steps in transition to books, oeuvres and libraries. Like its contributors, the magazine would be the youth that will grow into an adult.

This figure of “germination,” which reminds us of Foucault’s dismissal of hermeneutics in his negative use of the term, would turn the fragmentariness and radical dispersion of the magazine into a mere preparatory stage to be overcome on the way to a new archive of plenitude. This new archive of imagined plenitude would still be an oppositional force to national archives that challenges their claims of authority over publications in Turkish. The rivalry, however, is not between equals: Referring to John Guillory’s emphasis on the “institutional power engaged in the distribution of cultural capital,” Hodgson notes that “[t]here are various models of canon formation which rely on highly developed institutions and networks as the agents through which canons are produced; such structures are harder to establish outside the framework of a nation” (172). The desire for a new canon in diaspora does not only have to counter the absence of such institutions, but is also at odds with the magazine form in which it is expressed, and its double fragmentation can easily turn into a disadvantage. While Hogdson’s analysis of alternative canon-formations in diaspora focuses on the role of anthologies, which “offered the possibility of creating a diasporic ‘imagined community’ by assembling a geographically dispersed entity in the pages of a book and in the minds of its readers,” the magazines have to face the additional risk of discontinuation due to the difficulties of reaching readers, financial problems and even postal expenses, issues that the editors always point out in their columns. The desire to access readers through dispersion carries the risk of radical dissemination and the undoing of the archive, a risk which shows that the archiviolithic aspects of the digital archives that I mentioned earlier are not unique to them, but are preceded by other media. A short experimental piece by Ramazan Şen, “Disjointed or to Write Turkish Outside,” provides us with a fragment/example: Frustrated by the lack of platforms and institutions such as libraries and archives owned by a “minority of two million people,” Şen does not only refuse to write in German (which he associates with integration) but also declines to seek help from “those publication venues that rely on political connections in Turkey” and to enter the “Turkish market” (“Kopuk ya da Dışarıda Türkçe Yazmak” 13). But the unruliness of the fragment’s tone, which is also reflected in the style, recalls the unruliness of the fragment in general. Şen’s refusal to enter the “Turkish market” is a refusal to publish a book, particularly since he would publish in Turkish. If we read the issue linearly, his fragment ends with the letter from Eşik, the magazine that is published in Kayseri that I had mentioned above. The radical refusal to publish a book leads us, the perusers of the magazine issue, to the promises of connectivity across borders, however ephemeral they may be. But as a radical dispersion, the magazine always faces the risk of becoming invisible.

Writing a fragment in a magazine for Şen spells the last unexpressed refusal, a radical refusal that introduces “forgetfulness and the archiviolithic into the heart of the monument” (Derrida 12). In this context, it is also important to mention that this issue is not available at DOMiD. Şen’s fragment could find its ways into these pages through an unusual trajectory, ending up in my hands from a bookstore in Turkey. Time will tell if this is its last destination.

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[1] Dreyfus and Rabinow also note that when Foucault defines the archive as “the general horizon to which the description of discursive formations, the analysis of positivities, the mapping of the enunciative field belong,” his approach inevitably gravitates towards hermeneutics, which, as I have shown above, Foucault aims to avoid (Foucault 129).

[2] All the translations from Turkish in this article are mine.




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