Framing Heimat in Translation: Peyman Azhari in Conversation with Kristin Dickinson
Kristin Dickinson, Associate Professor of German Studies, University of Michigan
Institute of European Studies, Department of German, German Historical Institute Washington | Pacific Office Berkeley
Peyman Azhari is an Iranian-German visual artist specializing in photojournalism. While often place-based, his work explores questions of home and belonging in the aftermath of migration, revealing the interlaced nature of the local and transnational. His book length projects include Heimat 132 (2015)—which offers a glimpse into the radical diversity of northern Dortmund through both photographs and interviews—and 1440 Minutes New York City (2011). With a specialization in reportage photography, Azhari’s additional projects have focused on everyday people in transit on the NYC subway (“We Are Not Heroes”); documented a day and night in the small Polish city of Łowicz; and offered a glimpse into the company culture of Dortmund’s Autohaus Rüschkamp, which employs refugees from numerous countries in all five of its branches (“Mobile Heimat”). He has also photographed numerous musicians in performance, including Billie Eilish, Grace Jones, and Gorillaz.
Kristin Dickinson is Associate Professor of German Studies at the University of Michigan. Her research and teaching focus on questions of migration, translation, multilingualism, and cross-cultural contact. Her book Disorientations: German-Turkish Cultural Contact in Translation (1811-1946) appeared in 2021 with Penn State University Press. In 2021-22, she organized the exhibit “Visualizing Translation: Homeland and Heimat in Detroit and Dortmund,” which brought images from Azhari’s Heimat 132 together with Theon Delgado, Sr.’s photographs from the Latinx neighborhood of Southwest Detroit. Forging new connections between Detroit and the Rhine-Ruhr Region, this exhibit explored the resonances of <I>Heimat beyond the linguistic borders of German, while also taking up the power of photographs to capture multilingual communities in action.
In this conversation, Dickinson and Peyman will take up questions of translation from multiple angles. Starting with a series of portraits and interviews in the second half of Heimat 132, they will consider multilingual residents’ attempts to translate Heimat both out of and back into German, thus encouraging us to approach this term relationally rather than as inherently German. Moving on to a series of streetscapes, we will ask: Might photographs engender a similar form of translation capable of forging collaborative modes of belonging? What role does the viewer play vis-à-vis this process? And what new meanings does a collection like Heimat 132 accrue through its travels to the United States?
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