Conversations on Europe. "From Rasse to Race: On the Problem of Difference in the Federal Republic of Germany.”
With the collapse of the Third Reich, the hyper-racialized German society that had been a core project of the Nazi dictatorship came to an end. In the rush to repudiate National Socialism, postwar Germans rendered the idea of “race” and all associated racial thinking taboo – at least in polite circles and the public sphere. This lecture considers the silence around race in German public discourse and historical writing after the Second World War. It focuses on the generation known in West Germany as ‘1968ers’ in order to examine what kinds of racial difference were visible and invisible to these young people. It probes several ideological frameworks that shaped the West German New Left’s ideas about race and racism. And it argues for the analytical importance of the concept of “race” for understanding contemporary German society.
Rita Chin is associate professor of history at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. She holds a BA from the University of Washington, a PhD from the University of California, Berkeley, and previously taught at Oberlin College. She is the author of The Guest Worker Question in Postwar Germany (Cambridge, UK, 2007) and co-author of After the Nazi Racial State: Difference and Democracy in Germany and Beyond (Ann Arbor, 2009). She has written a number of articles, including “Turkish Women, West German Feminists, and the Gendered Discourse on Muslim Cultural Difference” for Public Culture. Her research has been funded by the Social Science Research Council, German Academic Exchange, National Humanities Center, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, American Council for Learned Societies’ Burkhardt Fellowship, and Institute for Advanced Study. She is currently working on a book about the European Left’s engagements with “difference,” race, and immigration in the postwar period.