"The splinter in your eye": uncomfortable legacies and German exile studies
Scheding, Florian and Levi, Erik (eds.)
Music and Displacement: Diasporas, Mobilities and Dislocations in Europe and Beyond.
(Europea: Ethnomusicologies and Modernities, 10).
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This chapter examines the theorization of displacement in the field of Exilforschung (exile studies) in Germany since 1945. I adopt a historio-graphic approach, which endeavors to situate Exilforschung within Germany’s wider political history. The promotion of Exilforschung not only highlights the particular ways in which the two postwar Germanys dealt with the Nazi past, it was also a political act played out against the background of the Cold War in which both East and West Germany aimed to justify and bolster their existence. I voice criticism of the tendency within Exilforschung to focus almost exclusive attention upon the biographies of elite intellectuals that left Nazi Germany, and argue that such studies are narrated as political metaphors stressing the victimhood of the displaced, writing their histories as tales of passivity, and therefore disempowering their voices. This interpretation fails to take account of the fact that displacement is a contextual phenomenon that can be viewed as an opportunity, since many displaced creative figures made willful non-victim decisions to rebuild their lives outside Germany.
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