Trained as a comparatist in German, Turkish, and English literature, her research is situated at the disciplinary nexus between literary criticism, cultural studies, and cultural history. Specifically, she investigates the intersections between the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim worlds, beginning with the Ottoman Westernization reforms of the early eighteenth century and continuing on to debates over Turkish migration to Germany. In examining the context for East-West relations (ambassadorial missions, military adventures, travel, migration, and exile), her work analyzes cultural practices like integration, assimilation, and ethnomasquerade.
Teaching in two units, the Departments of Comparative Literature and German, Kader Konuk pursues a single overarching goal—that of promoting cultural fluency and analytical thinking by exploring literature in its historical context. Her signature offering in the German Department is a course on “German Ethnicities” in which she introduces students to the cultural and literary history of minorities in postwar Germany. As a new initiative, she offers a course entitled “Islam and the West” that allows students to study the Western literary representations of Islam and Muslims from the European Renaissance to our day. Kader Konuk is the co-founder of the interdisciplinary Turkish German Studies Group at the U-M.
Link to Turkish-German Studies
In her monograph East West Mimesis: Auerbach in Turkey (Stanford UP 2010), Kader Konuk investigates the relationship between German-Jewish intellectual exile and the modernization of the humanities in Turkey. The book traces the plight of German-Jewish humanists who escaped Nazi persecution by seeking exile in a Muslim-dominated society. It asks why it was that the German émigrés found humanism at home in Istanbul at the very moment humanism was being banished from Europe. In raising this question, the book challenges the notion of exile as synonymous with intellectual isolation and shows the reciprocal effects of German émigrés on Turkey's humanist reform movement. Central to East West Mimesis is Erich Auerbach (1892-1957), who left Germany in 1936 to spend a decade chairing Istanbul University's new faculty for Western languages and literatures, where he produced the groundbreaking Mimesis: The Representation of Reality in Western Literature. In elaborating the Turkish context for Auerbach's work, this study draws on some of Auerbach's key concepts - specifically, figura as a way of conceptualizing history, and mimesis as a means of representing reality.
- East West Mimesis: Auerbach in Turkey (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2010)
- Identitäten im Prozeß: Literatur von Autorinnen aus und in der Türkei in deutscher, englischer und türkischer Sprache (Essen: Die Blaue Eule, 2001)
- AufBrüche: Kulturelle Produktionen von Migrantinnen, Schwarzen und jüdischen Frauen in Deutschland, ed. Cathy S. Gelbin, Kader Konuk, and Peggy Piesche (Königstein/Taunus: Ulrike Helmer Verlag, 1999)
Journal Articles and Book Chapters
- Germans and Jews in Turkey: Ethnic Anxiety and Mimicry in the Making of the European Turk, Ethnicity in Today's Europe, ed. Roland Hsu (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2010)
- "Erich Auerbach and the Humanist Reform to the Turkish Education System," Comparative Literature Studies 45, no. 1 (2008): 74-89
- "Eternal Guests, Mimics, and Dönme: The Place of German and Turkish Jews in Modern Turkey," New Perspectives on Turkey 37 (2007): 5-30
- "Taking on German and Turkish History: Emine Sevgi Özdamar's Seltsame Sterne," Gegenwartsliteratur: German Studies Yearbook 6 (2007): 232-56
- "Discords in German Secularism," Journal of the International Institute 14, no. 2 (2007): 1-2
- "Ethnomasquerade in Ottoman-European Encounters: Re-enacting Lady Mary Wortley Montagu," Criticism 46, no. 3 (2005): 393-414
- “Jewish-German Philologists in Turkish Exile: Leo Spitzer and Erich Auerbach,” Exile and Otherness: New Approaches to the Experience of Nazi Refugees, ed. Alexander Stephan (Oxford: Peter Lang, 2005), 31–48