😀 How to Be German in 25 Easy Steps – unorderedlistadventures.blogspot.de/2012/11/how-to… #Germany
Many people in Germany still have difficulties facing the reality of modern-day Germany as a country of immigration. And sometimes, the discourse about what it means to be German, about multiculturalism, assimilation, and diversity tends towards the patently absurd.
Case in point: A German Muslim man who recently became the Shooting King at his shooting club in a town in North Rhine-Westphalia is threatened by the prospect of losing his title because the statute of that club requires the Shooting King to be a Christian.
Schützenvereine (marksmen clubs), which generally tend to be a somewhat different affair from the American gun culture, are widely seen as a tradition of rural Germany. Growing up in the north-western part of Germany, my impression was that this pastime is the essence of a rather conservative-leaning, predominantly rural culture. I never took part in it, but if you go outside of the big cities, you will certainly notice that it exists.
If you were to assemble a stereotypical if benevolent image of ‘the Germans’ north of Bavaria, those shooting clubs and their parades from village to village in celebration of the new Shooting King and Queen would be a perfect ingredient.
Fun memory from my youth: Schützenvereine may parade through several nearby villages with a marching band very early on a Saturday morning to pick up the shooting king. Good luck with getting some sleep.
So what we have here is a ‘new German’ guy who in some respects is out-Germaning the ‘Biodeutschen’—a fairly new term describing those other Germans without a relatively recent family history of migration, without ‘funny-sounding’ (to the majority) names, and/or a different religion.
And yet, some people still see a problem in someone like him successfully pursuing this ultra-German hobby.
Just as other, larger institutions in German society need to attune to the reality of an increasingly diverse population, smaller ones on a communal level should go in that direction as well.
Germany should become more welcoming and open towards all people who wish to participate in civil society in a positive manner, and not discriminate against somebody just because they differ in some aspect from the majority of society.
I say that Germany has nothing to fear from a shooting king who happens to be Muslim, too.
[Update (link in German)]:
The shooting club is now making “an exception” so that he is allowed to keep his title but he is not allowed to shoot. Not much better, if you ask me.
“Muslim shooting king could be stripped of title.” The Local Germany, 2014/08/04.
“Muslimischer Schützenkönig: “Er muss nicht zurücktreten”.” Spiegel Online, 04.08.2014.
Unappetitliche Folge des deutschen WM-Siegs : Nazi-Weltmeister-Shirts auf Amazon mit “Endsieg” etc. | Nerdcore ow.ly/zckO5
Germany reverses tuition fees
Interesting article in the Times of Higher Education about Germany’s reversal on introducing tuition fees for attending university.
“Germany’s great tuition fees U-turn.” (Times Higher Education, 2014/02/14)
Ursula von der Leyen, Germany’s new Minister of Defense under Chancellor Angela Merkel, recently argued in favor of more frequent military interventions by the German armed forces in the world. A demand to that regard has repeatedly been made by governments of other allied countries in military alliances like NATO, for instance the U.S.
However, the German population as a whole is not so keen on participating in more wars. According to a recent poll by German public TV network ARD, 61% are against sending German troops to crisis-stricken regions around the world, while 30% are for more such involvement.
“Germany to play bigger military role.” (The Local Germany, 2014/01/27)
A quarter of Americans did not read a book in 2013, study finds
A new study by the Pew Research Center found that in 2013, almost a quarter of Americans
did not read a book. And this included e-books and audiobooks.
I wondered how bad it is over here, in Germany. Well, not much better, actually. According to a study by statista.de (in German), it was around fifteen percent in 2013.
As a general advice for life, I would recommend picking up a book from time to time.
“Sozialtourismus” ist das Unwort des Jahres 2013
Darüber freue ich mich jedes Jahr: die Verleihung des Schmähpreises Unwort des Jahres. Seit 1991 verleiht eine Jury aus Sprachwissenschaftler*innen, Journalist*innen, Kultur- und Medienschaffenden den Preis für besonders menschenfeindliche Sprachkreationen.
2013 ist es im Zusammenhang mit einem polemischen Diskurs um Armutsmigration aus Osteuropa nach Deutschland der Begriff Sozialtourismus geworden.
In English: “Sozialtourismus” is the ‘Abominable Word of the Year’ 2013
Germany gives an award to its worst linguistic creations.
I am always enjoying this one: the nomination for the award “Unwort des Jahres”—roughly translating to ‘abominable word of the year.’ Since 1991, a jury consisting of linguists, journalists, creative artists and media representatives nominates particularly misanthropic terms and figures of speech in the German language.
In 2013, in the context of a polemical discourse about increasing migration of poor Eastern Europeans to Germany, the term “Sozialtourismus”—approximately meaning welfare tourism— has been awarded that questionable honor.
The Atlantic Compares US And German Electoral Politics In Light Of The 2013 German Elections
Germany’s 2013 federal elections are over, Angela Merkel will get a third term as chancellor, and there will probably a “grand coalition” between her Christian Democrats and the Social Democrats. “No experiments” seems to have been be the mindset of large swathes of the German electorate. There was no “hope” and “change” as in the 2008 Obama campaign in the US, although many, including myself, would argue that there has been less change and more continuity from the Bush administration in many ways.
The Atlantic has a fascinating article by Olga Khazan titled “Why Germany’s Politics Are Much Saner, Cheaper, and Nicer Than Ours.” The piece compares electoral politics in the US and Germany. It is largely sympathetic towards how elections are conducted in Germany.
Whether American electoral politics are better or worse than Germany’s is, of course, a matter of opinion. But here are some interesting findings from the article that put elections in both countries into perspective:
Some notable facts about elections in Germany:
No aggressive negative campaigns, few ads:
- Attack ads are a rarity on German TV.
Here in Leipzig, I saw several campaign posters that featured negative messages. Nonetheless, these were relatively mild compared to your typical negative ad in the US. You would not see something portraying the other party’s candidate as sympathizing with terrorists, freeing dangerous criminals, or wanting to kill your grandmother.
- There is one 90-second ad per party per election. Ads are aired on the public TV channels and the frequency depends on the last election’s number of votes. In comparison, Obama and Romney each spent over $ 400 million on TV ads, primarily negative ads, during the 2012 campaign season.
Lower cost and shorter duration of elections:
- The campaign of Chancellor Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU), including all parliamentary races, cost 20 to 30 million euros combined. From an American perspective, that is a real bargain.
Buying aCampaigning for a US Senate seat costs about $ 10.5 million (per seat!). Obama’s 2012 reelection alone cost $ 700 million—and that is without funds from PACs, a legal construct unknown in Germany.
- However, there are no legal limits on campaign donations by individuals and corporations in Germany.
- Elections in Germany officially last just six weeks. That is almost nothing, compared to two years of campaigning in the US, where there are party primaries.
Less Big Data, TV, and ideological purity of parties
- Up to a third of German voters are undecided until shortly before the election.
- There is no microtargeting of voters as in recent big-data-driven US campaigns. This probably has to do with German citizens’ history-based (think Gestapo, Stasi) uneasiness about extensive data collection.
- The first US-style TV debate between the candidates of the big parties in Germany happened in 2002. As the German parliamentary system is no winner-take-all system, the reluctance of polarization between two candidates of two parties seems understandable.
- Among the big German parties, Merkel’s CDU and the Social Democrats (SPD) (“Volksparteien”), there is no lock-step adherence to certain policy positions [except maybe for the hegemony of neoliberal capitalism], as is arguably the case in the US with the social wedge issues of the Culture War. Part of Chancellor Merkel’s success has been “stealing” issues from the Social Democrats (SPD) and the Green Party, most notably the decision to do a 180-degrees-turnaround on nuclear energy after the Fukushima catastrophy in Japan.
- In the German parliamentary system, there are several relevant “third parties,” as they would be called in the US.
Among these are the libertarian Free Democratic Party (FDP)—even though they missed the 5 percent barrier for entering the Bundestag for the first time in sixty-four years in 2013, the Green Party, and the Left Party (Die LINKE). Within the German party landscape, Khazan holds, fringe political forces cannot capture political parties, as is arguably the case with the American GOP, under the influence of the Christian Right and Tea Party libertarians.
As the article argues, the German parliamentary system “seems to encourage consensus” rather than extreme polarization.
The reason for a broad support of this “pragmatism” among the German electorate, Khazan continues, is a weariness about extreme partisan politics in light of a history that included authoritarian monarchy, Nazism, and Communism during the Cold War in the GDR.
Please check out Olga Khazan’s article. It is really worth reading.
NY Times Links Germany’s Success In Football To Economic Success
As those interested in football (as we Europeans like to call it) might already know, the 2013 Champions League final will be between two German clubs.
Maybe it is a bit of a stretch to view professional sports as “Rorschach test for the health and confidence of nations,” as the New York Times just did.
But their piece on how Germany is currently doing economically in comparison to other European countries is worth reading.
“One More Field Where the Continent Trails Germany.” (Nicholas Kulish, New York Times, 2013/05/07)
|Nurses (84%)||Firefighters (98%)|
|Pharmacists (73%)||Medical doctors (89%)|
|Medical doctors (70%)||Post office workers (86%)|
|High school teachers (62%)||Police officers (85%)|
|Police officers (54%)||Teachers (84%)|
The five least trusted professions:
|Members of Congress (64% ‘Very Low’ or ‘Low’)||Politicians (91% ‘Distrust)|
|Lobbyists (62%)||Corporate Managers (80%)|
|Telemarketers 53%)||Advertising executives (67%)|
|Car salespeople (47%)||Marketing executives (62%)|
|Labor union leaders (41%)||Journalists (56%)|
If you were a shameless impostor who wants to gain the the local population’s trust quickly (which I am certain you are not), you might go for the nurse outfit (in the US) or the firefighter look (in Germany). As an alternative, you could also consider wearing a white lab coat and/or a stethoscope (works in both countries). A police uniform might also help, although I do not recommend this—it is likely to be illegal. If you, American traveler, would like to enchant Germans, why not try post office chic? In both countries, If you carry around a few textbooks, you could pass for a teacher. People may like you for it.
Whether you walk the streets of Berlin or Washington, avoid looking like a person who just walked out of Congress or the Bundestag. And to you, German tourist, do not even think of starting the casual conversation by trying to sell a car!
On April 26, Dr. Ulrich Adelt, Junior Professor of American Studies from the University of Wyoming, gave a talk at American Studies Leipzig as part of the Fulbright lecture series. His presentation was titled “Just Play the Blues: African Americans, Afro-Germans, white Germans and the Politics of Primitivism.”
Professor Adelt’s research interests include pop music, transnationalism, and racial politics.
In the 1960s, blues music underwent a shift from black artists and audiences to white artists and audiences. With the appropriation of the blues by white artists and audiences, the genre shifted away from its former black working class base. The white middle-class embrace of certain notions of blackness stood in contrast to black audiences’ increasing attraction to new music genres emphasizing civil rights and black power, such as Soul and Funk. For white audiences, black masculinity was perceived as a marker of authenticity. Nevertheless, African American performers often resisted such forced constructions of blackness.
Adelt used the American Folk Blues Festival, a music festival organized by German promoters starting in the early 1960s to illustrate the complex relationships between transnational popular culture and race during the Cold War.
The Transatlantic Dimension of the Blues
In the 1960s, blues music became a transatlantic phenomenon in its own way. Black American blues musicians, some of whom became expatriates, brought their music to eager European audiences. After a while, blues in an updated form was re-imported to the US, mostly through British rock bands.
As an example of an expatriate blues musician, Adelt mentioned Memphis Slim (1915 – 1988), who was portrayed in the June 1966 issue of Ebony magazine while living in Paris (You can read the issue in the Ebony archives). But this was not the norm. Most African American blues performers did not become expatriates.
Germany Gets the Blues (Sort of)
In Germany, promoters Horst Lippmann and Fritz Rau organized the American Folk Blues Festival, beginning in 1962. Their construction of the blues was highly romantic. It used the genre’s blackness to highlight blues as the primitive root of Rock’n’Roll. Lippmann and Rau saw the blues as a vehicle of Denazificiation and Anti-racism. In retrospect, however, they continued to deploy racial constructions that are uncomfortably close to that of the Third Reich.
Adelt argued that pop culture is not always a liberating force, but can also work to uphold racial hierarchies and oppression.
Primitivism in Germany
In Germany, positive racism in the form of appropriating the art of ‘savages’ has a long history. African bodies used in art were seen as modern, fresh, or lively. Examples of works of art in this vein include Pablo Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (1907), Emil Nolde‘s Dance Around the Golden Calf (1910), or the enthusiasm for American-born French dancer/singer/actress Josephine Baker (1906 – 1975).
During the Third Reich, this former positive racism was replaced by negative racism, exemplified by terms such as Entartete Musik (‘Degenerate music’) (see also here) for jazz, and a fear of Vernegerung (‘Negroidization’) or Verjudung (‘Jewification’) of German culture through ‘foreign’ popular culture.
After World War II, certain Nazi imagery survived in popular children’s television series such as Jim Button and Luke the Engine Driver (Jim Knopf und Lukas der Lokomotivführer) (1960). [There is a debate in Germany about whether Jim Button has to be read as racist or anti-racist.]
Racism was also present among parts of the white German left. Here, a “fascination with the real” drove the interest in the black embodiment of suffering.
Race in Germany Before and After World War Two
Transplanting the blues to Germany brought with it certain traveling problematic racial conceptions. While the US certainly had its own historic issues with race, the blues was entering a German culture that was no stranger to racist ideas, even before National Socialism. Among these were the ‘Black Horror on the Rhine’ (“Die Schwarze Schmach“)—fear of the presence of black French troops during the Occupation of the Rhineland following World War I, the vilification of interracial fraternization in the phenomenon of ‘Occupation Babies’ (“Besatzungskinder”) after World War II, caused by sexual relationships between black American GIs and white German women.
Such negative racial constructs were later challenged by Afro-German activists, for instance in the book Farbe Bekennen (‘Showing our Colors’) in 1986.
After the reunification of Germany, a wave of Neo-Nazi attacks on immigrants and non-white persons conveyed an urgency among ethnic minorities and sympathetic parts of the mainstream German population to organize against racial stereotypes. Within German popular culture, Hip Hop artists, especially multi-ethnic or Afro-German Hip Hop artists, such as Advanced Chemistry (early 1990s), Samy Deluxe (starting in the late 1990s), or Brothers Keepers (early 2000s) were involved in anti-racist activism.
Blues as Cold War Propaganda in East and West
The blues was used as a propaganda tool on both sides of the Cold War divide. The capitalist West promoted blues and Jazz as symbols of openness in contrast to the Soviet system. Nonetheless, during the early Cold War, the Jim Crow system was still very much intact in the US, and the Civil Rights Movement had not yet gained that strong a foothold.
The communist East was eager to point out these contradictions, presenting blues and jazz as a signs of resistance against the inherent racism of the capitalist system. In the German Democratic Republic, blues was promoted as music of the oppressed masses, embedded into a critique of US capitalism. On the other hand, there were crackdowns on long-haired blues fans nonetheless, and racial stereotypes were not absent.
Lippmann and Rau Bring American Popular Music to Germany
The organizers of the American Folk Blues Festival were coming from very different backgrounds. Lippmann was Jewish and his family had been persecuted by the Nazis. He saw similarities between black suffering in the US and the plight of Jews in Nazi Germany. Rau, on the other hand, came from a family that had profited from the Nazis’ war buildup. He discovered Jazz in the 1950s and imagined the possibility of Dennazification and “rebirth through Jazz.”
When Lippmann and Rau began to organize jazz concerts featuring African American artists, for instance the Modern Jazz Quartet, they sought to give Jazz an aura of “respectability” by having artists wear tuxedos, advertising events with abstract art, and setting up concerts in symphony halls instead of small, smoke-filled clubs. As Adelt argued, this idea of having to make jazz and its performers respectable can be traced back to racial ideas of the Nazi era.
While organizing blues concerts, Lippmann and Rau gave up on the concept of creating respectability and appealed to primitivist ideas instead. The American Folk Blues Festival, staged between 1962 and 1972, and 1980 to 1985, usually went for three to four hours and featured eight to ten headliners.
What was presented in these concerts can be described as nostalgic blues for white audiences. Both folk music from the 1930s and 1950s blues were at this point somewhat outdated. Older blues artists, such as Willie Dixon (1915 – 1992), were rediscovered during the 1960s. In this context, there was also a conflict between older black and younger white blues performers.
Lippmann and Rau’s posters advertising their events made extensive use of romantic primitivist imagery. The artwork often featured guitars and earthy colors, reminiscent of nameless black bodies. Overall, their design conveyed a “non-threatening” nostalgia.
The events themselves even surpassed the posters in their stagecraft. To enhance the atmosphere of the spectacle, concerts sometimes featured recreated juke joints and other scenery, and African American GIs were bused in as studio audience in Germany.
In 1967, Lippmann and Rau started booking Soul and Funk artists such as James Brown. With a turn towards these more contemporary forms of black popular music, the audience also shifted notably from white Germans to black American GIs.
Blues, Civil Rights, and Well-Meaning Racism
In 1965, Lippmann and Rau linked their American Folk Blues Festival to the US Civil Rights Movement. While well-meaning, in retrospect they upheld problematic racial constructions. In concert booklets, for example, blacks were presented as victims without an agency of their own. In a sense, Lippmann and Rau catered to their audience’s expectations of blues as a primitive, raw, emotional, but certainly not intellectual form of art.
Some African American blues artists developed what Adelt sees as strategies to counter such forced constructions of identity. At times, they spontaneously changed playlists at their shows. Some defied stereotyping by showing off their extraordinary skills and gimmicks in musicianship, for instance on the guitar. Stage antics, appearance in decidedly flashy clothes, or the performance of novelty songs were forms of resistance against expectations. White audiences did not always take this too well. In 1965, Buddy Guy (born in 1936) was booed for playing a medley of James Brown songs. To some degree, the blues resisted against expectations of white middle class respectability.
In conclusion, Adelt remarked that the appropriation of the blues by white German audiences was characterized by ambiguity. While there was great optimism about the prospects of Denazification through American popular culture, the project of transplanting the blues to Europe had a blind spot in its continuation of racial stereotypes.
Here is American Studies Leipzig’s video interview with Ulrich Adelt:
Last weekend, I attended American Studies Leipzig’s third graduate conference, “Global Games, Global Goals: Locating America in the Cultural, Social, and Political Realms of Sports,” organized by the second year MA students. I have to say that the two days of conference were very pleasurable as a guest. Great organization, nice hosts, interesting speakers, and an impressive location: the Deutsches Literaturinstitut Leipzig. Not to mention quite a bit of tasty food and beverages, which bring me back to the overall conference topic and what I should do afterwards—sports.
On the first day, the keynote speech was held by Prof. Dr. Dorothee Alfermann of the Institute for Sport Psychology and Pedagogy at the University of Leipzig on “American and German Sports from a Socio-Cultural Perspective.”
In her talk, Alfermann traced the development of sports in the US and Germany, and highlighted the very different trajectories in both countries.
While in the US, sports tends to be more about performance, competition, and record orientation, in Germany, sports as a mass phenomenon emphasizes exercise and recreational activity.
These general differences have a historical roots.
In Germany, for instance, the Turner Movement of the early nineteenth century around Friedrich Ludwig Jahn, underpinned by German nationalism, aimed at training young men for military service, while rejecting the competitive aspect of sports.
Nationalism in sports was not limited to Europe. In the late nineteenth century, Americans tried to forge their national identity in contrast to Europe, which also expressed itself in the development of own national sports, in particular baseball since the 1860s, American football, and basketball.
The organization of sports differs greatly between the US and European countries such as the UK or Germany. While schools and colleges play a central role in the US, European countries have historically organized sports around sports clubs.
One particularity of sports in the US is the combination of physical and intellectual education, embodied in college stipends for student-athletes. Sports becomes a means of getting a higher education, even though many aim for professional athletic careers.
Some similarities do exist about sports in the US and Germany today, Alfermann concluded. Sports contributes to (national) identity and produces heroes. It attracts huge crowds, is a big business, and men’s sports tend to be held in higher regard in the public eye.
More posts to follow soon.