The Center for German and European Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison turned a drawback of the pandemic, the inability to travel, into a major asset—the 2021 five-part virtual series entitled „Türkische Migration nach Deutschland: Einblicke, Rückblicke, Ausblicke“/Turkish Immigration into the Federal Republic of Germany: Looking forward Looking Back.“ Sonja Klocke (Director of the CGES at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Professor of German) and Ela Gezen (Associate Professor of German at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst) designed and developed this series for a truly global audience, the online format allowing them to plan five intimate discussion and Q&A sessions with Berlin-based artists, journalists, and public intellectuals. Klocke and Gezen conducted interviews and moderated discussions on various aspects of Turkish migration to Germany, and made these available to interested colleagues, students, and the public at large all-over North America and parts of Europe. In addition, these events were bilingual, in German, with live English interpretation at the CGES at UW-Madison.
The series was planned in the context of the 60th anniversary of the recruitment agreement between the Federal Republic of Germany and Turkey, which was celebrated in a variety of ways in Germany, too. The goal of this series of events was, quite specifically, to point to and to discuss the complexities of Turkish immigration to Germany: the focus was to be on the diversity of the people who have come to Germany since the 1960s, considering the specificities of various migration movements; and at the same time, the intention was to seriously engage with the cultural, social, and political contributions, interventions, and positions these immigrants and their descendants have added to contemporary German society. The series was intended to find answers to questions such as: 1) which positions do immigrants and/or their descendants represent in the cultural and social life of contemporary Germany?; 2) what are the contexts in which they voice their opinions? 3) what is their unique contribution to a new etiquette, including particularly a new vocabulary that serves to avoid, or at least diminish discrimination and racism in quotidian life?
In the fall of 2021, the Center for German and European Studies at UW-Madison presented well attended events with Ferda Ataman, Tunçay Kulaoğlu, Koray Yilmaz-Günay, Deniz Utlu as well as the artistic directors of Bi’bak, Malve Lippmann and Can Sungu. Under the title “Perpetual Strangers,” the kickoff event with Ferda Ataman on September 14 focused on the depiction of people of Turkish origin in German media between 1961 and 2021. In a presentation and the following q&a, the journalist, author, expert for diversity and racism, and chairwoman of the association “Neue deutsche Medienmacher*innen” expanded on her ideas as she has voiced them for example in her book Stop asking! I‘m from here (2019, S. Fischer Verlag), under the hashtag #vonhier, and in the SPIEGEL column “Heimatkunde,” which she wrote until 2020.
On October 5, right in the middle of the events commemorating the terror of the NSU (National Socialist Underground), Tunçay Kulaoğlu, filmmaker, dramatic advisor, curator, and author presented on the nationwide, interdisciplinary theater project on the NSU complex, “No Closure!” Instigated by Jonas Zipf, manager at JenaKultur, Kulaoğlu co-curated the project with Ayşe Güleç and in close collaboration with Simon Meienreis and sociologist Matthias Quent. In his presentation, Kulaoğlu provided an overview of the various activities – theater productions, exhibitions, concerts, musical interventions in the public realm, readings, discussions, and workshops – to be implemented in 15 German cities: those, in which the 10 victims were murdered as well as those, in which the perpetrators grew up, lived, or found supporters. All the events, Kulaoğlu stressed, were intended to present the point of view of the victims and their families as well as the post-migrant communities.
Koray Yilmaz-Günay, co-director of the migration council in Berlin (since January 2020), politically active publisher, founding member of GLADT – an organization of queer migrants, black people, and people of color – and an interpreter and translator, presented the migration council in Berlin and the complexities surrounding this institution on October 19 with a talk entitled “Immigration as the Rule: Germany, Migration, and the Migration Council in Berlin.” In particular, he illuminated the migration council’s work in the realms of education, counselling, outreach, and political advocacy with regards to migration politics, criticism of racism, and ways of post-colonial and post-National-socialist remembering at the intersections of gender, age, (dis)ability, religion, sexuality, and the East/West divide within Germany.
On November 2, Deniz Utlu, prize-winning author, journalist, and curator of the series “Prosa der Verhältnisse” at Gorki Theater Berlin, read from his debut novel Die Ungehaltenen (2014). Based on the reading, the q&a centered on aspects of life in the (post-)migrant communities in Berlin, on the problems of aging immigrants as well as the (often unexplained) desolation and melancholy of their offspring and even their grandchildren.
Bi’bak artistic directors Malve Lippmann – an artist and cultural manager – and Can Sungu, an artist, curator, and educator in film- and video production – concluded the series on November 30 with a presentation on the visual culture of migration. In particular, they presented an introduction to bi’bak, a Berlin-based nonprofit association that offers an interdisciplinary program at the intersection of art, science, and community organizing, for example, film screenings, discussion forums, workshops, video projects, exhibitions, and educational events focusing on transnational narratives, migration, global mobility and its aesthetic dimensions.