Beyond Kinship and National Identity: Ika Hügel-Marshall’s Daheim Unterwegs: Ein Deutsches Leben

Submitted by Michael Neininger on
Anne Potjans
When Friday, Nov. 15, 2019, 2:30 – 3:30 p.m.

Public Lecture Series: Anne Potjans

Campus location Denny Hall (DEN)
Campus room 359

After World War II, encounters between African Americans and Germans had important political and cultural effects on both sides of the Atlantic. However, while a lot of scholarly attention has been devoted to the influence of this encounter on African Americans, few such debates have endorsed the impact of this encounter on German society. Yet, the increased presence of mixed- race children born to African-American men and white German women in the post-WW II years, can be viewed as quite a visible and culturally important demographic effect of this encounter. In that sense it is not a leap to conclude that the presence of these children effectively challenged the prevalent concept of German national identity based on kinship and ethnic homogeneity or, more specifically, whiteness. Ika Hügel-Marshall’s Daheim Unterwegs (1998), an account of coming-of-age in the postwar era as a Black German woman of mixed racial heritage, has to be viewed in this context. In her autobiography Hügel-Marshall shows that even though ‘Ika’ was part of a German family by way of her mother’s lineage, her experience of growing up Black in Germany was shaped by anti-Black racism and exclusion from the white German national body. By exploring the boundaries of national identity, Hügel-Marshall seeks to enable a more complex understanding of national belonging that moves beyond the confines of the nation state and the nuclear family. Furthermore, by writing about how ‘Ika’ developed an understanding of herself as part of a Black Feminist diasporic community, the author challenges monolithic and heteronormative concepts of kinship and exposes their complicity in perpetuating structural exclusion along the lines of race, gender, and sexuality.

Short Bio:
Anne Potjans teaches American literature and culture at the department for English and American Studies at the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, where she also works on her Ph.D. project “Why Are You So Angry? − The Uses of Rage and Abjection in Black Feminist Literature.” Apart from that she has worked on diasporic connections between African American and Black German feminist autobiographical writing in the post-World War II period and the intersections of Blackness, sexuality, and racial visibility in German film productions. She is currently exchange faculty at the HONORS College at the University of Washington, where she teaches a class entitled “Distant Connections: Black Political Consciousness in Germany and the United States.” Her research interests are in Black Studies, Critical Race Theory, Gender Studies, Queer Theory, Queer of Color Critique, and Disability Studies.