Goodbye Germany? Conference, Oct 28-30

Goodbye Germany? Migration, Culture and the Nation State
October 28-30 2004

Organized by the UC Berkeley German Department and the Goethe Institut – San Francisco, in collaboration with The Center for Middle Eastern Studies, The Institute for European Studies, The Pacific Film Archive, and The Townsend Center for the Humanities.

Over the past half-century, mass migrations have challenged and changed nation states on a global scale. Contemporary German controversies epitomize many of the conflicts ascribed to immigration. As “guest workers” and asylum seekers stay to become residents, the concept of a national community based on ancestral lineage and cultural heritage has been called into question. For some, the presence of roughly eight million foreign-born, including new immigrants from Eastern Europe, Africa, and Asia, spells the end of Germany as they know it. In their view, Germany is not America – it will never be a “country of immigration.” For others, a multi-ethnic Germany means cosmopolitan openness, multicultural diversity, and a chance to make good on the country’s dark history in the early half of the last century. For them, Germany’s new face is already an undeniable fact.

Language and media are of central importance to these debates since cultural representations of home and mobility can complicate old binaries of “us and them” and “here and there.”

The Department of German at the University of California, Berkeley, is proud to announce an international conference that addresses the cultural friction points that arise from transnational migration in postindustrial societies. UC Berkeley’s diverse campus (and its history of contentious debates) will provide an ideal location for discussion of the new multi-ethnic Germany as well as the borders of German studies itself.

This international conference is part of an ongoing research project initiated by Berkeley’s Department of German and sponsored by the Center for German and European Studies. The project includes an archive on German multiculturalism and a forthcoming sourcebook. In the conference we want to address the cultural friction points that arise from transnational migration in postindustrial societies. We also want to reflect on the consequences of multilingual and multilocal stories for histories of national cultures as they are taught at American universities. UC Berkeley’s diverse campus (and its history of contentious debates) will provide an ideal location for discussing the new multiethnic Germany as well as the borders of German studies itself.