Turkish-German Studies

Turkish-German Studies is a new field in the humanities and social sciences that researches and analyzes issues related to Turkish-German relations in both their historic and present forms. The interdisciplinary field investigates the impact of Turkish migrants on the German cultural landscape. Rather than indicating a hybrid culture caught in between two nations, the hyphen in 'Turkish-German' serves as a point of departure for an investigation into the history of relations between Turkey and Germany (and, by extension, the East and West).

The study of Turkish-German relations calls for a multidisciplinary, if not interdisciplinary approach that encourages academic collaboration between specialists in German studies, Turkish studies, history, literary criticism, anthropology, cultural studies, film studies, gender studies, history, linguistics, political sciences, and sociology. The field evaluates various approaches to cultural productions by ethnic communities in Germany and its implications for the concept of German culture. The field is specifically informed by the work of scholars who focus on issues of race and ethnicity in the post-war period: Leslie Adelson, Rita Chin, Ülker Gökberk, Deniz Göktürk, Kader Konuk, Ruth Mandel, Azade Seyhan, Levent Soysal, Yasemin Soysal, Yasemin Yıldız, and Gökçe Yurdakul to list only a few. Turkish-German Studies pursues questions concerning the nexus between nation, race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, class, and religion in Turkey and Germany.

The first scholars in the US to recognize the significance of Turkish immigration to Germany were literary critics in German departments. Given the changing German literary landscape, these critics call for new reading strategies that are able to capture newly emerging textual and cultural practices. Leading German Studies journals such as New German Critique, Seminar, The German Quarterly, and The German Yearbook have in the past decade published numerous articles on Turkish-German literature and maintain a lively forum for redefining German Studies in relation to the changing cultural landscape in Germany. Turkish-German Studies promises to be instructive for scholarship on worldwide migration, transnationalism, cosmopolitanism, globalization, and identity politics in other national contexts.

In addition to the Turkish-German focus, the field is understood as a forum for debate about broader processes of transnational migration in the modern German context. More than just analyzing the ways in which Turkish-Germans are constructed as Other, Turkish-German Studies emphasizes the diversity of artistic expressions that stems from other communities which are marked by the history of migration and exile: ethnic Germans, African-Germans, Arab-Germans, Jewish-Germans and Romani-Germans. Research in the field highlights the interrelationship between these groups without confining itself to a restricted notion of identity politics.

Turkish-German Studies at the University of Michigan, the first of its kind in the international academic scene, brings together scholars not only concerned with the impact of Turkish migration to Germany, but also with cross-cultural encounters between Germany and the Ottoman Empire in the nineteenth and twentieth century. Faculty and graduate students involved in the group study cultural exchanges, intellectual history, political alliances, knowledge transfers, postcolonialism, migration, exile, citizenship, nation building, bilingualism concerning a diverse German society.

The University of Michigan hired a significant number of faculty who specialize in Turkish-German Studies, a field that has become one of the most stimulating in German Studies. Recognizing this unique opportunity, 12 faculty members and graduate students in German, Comparative Literature, Anthropology, Sociology, History, Political Science, Architecture, Linguistics, Near Eastern Studies, the Center for African and African-American Studies, the Center for Middle Eastern and North African Studies, and the Residential College founded the Turkish-German Studies Group in the Fall of 2001. The group builds the foundations for a sustained dialogue between scholars, artists, and academics at the University of Michigan and those in Europe. This is particularly important given the distinctive configuration of scholars at the University of Michigan and the dearth of this type of collaboration at either German or Turkish Universities. The group is unique in both the range of expertise represented by the group and in the ways in which it seeks to explore dimensions of on-going cultural and linguistic contact between Germany and Turkey. It is also unique in its dedication to a sustained, international conversation about Turkish-German issues that involves a broad cross-section of people outside the academy, including writers, artists, and political activists.

The group was conceived as a forum for sharing ideas and presenting work in progress and has sustained regular lively and multidisciplinary exchanges between group members and guests over the past three years. With the support of a broad range of departments, centers, and programs, the group organized lecture series and workshops with writers and academics including German Studies scholars Leslie Adelson (Cornell University), Nina Berman (Ohio State University), Venkat B. Mani (University of Wisconsin-Madison), anthropologist Jenny White (Boston University), Turkish-German author and journalist Zafer Şenocak, Turkish-German filmmaker Neco Çelik, African-German filmmaker Branwen Okpako, and Iranian-German author and journalist Fahimeh Farsaie.

One of the major goals of the group is to raise fundamental questions about the future of German Studies. The group provides an ideal setting for graduate students and faculty to exchange ideas about the main agendas, parameters and new theoretical insights that the field as a whole can offer.