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Writing As a Site of Resistance and Healing: The Importance of the Act of Writing in African American and Afro-German Literatures

Aija Poikane-Daumke





The knowledge about Afro-German history and literature increases our awareness about both the extent and the diversity of the African Diaspora. This suggests that the discipline of African Diaspora Studies has grown and become more complex in the last twenty years. For example, while nobody would ever question the presence of African Americans in the United States of America or the history of Black Britons in the United Kingdom, the existence of Afro-Germans in Germany is still neglected.

To respond to their marginalization and their exclusion from the dominant culture, Afro-Germans have created a separate culture and literature. In their writings, they address not only the issues of racism and discrimination, but also articulate their pain and explore their inner worlds. Afro-Germans attempt to examine the meaning and the importance of writing in their lives; the act of writing becomes a means to invent and rewrite the world around them. African American literary and cultural achievements have served as a source of inspiration to Afro-German writers and poets. This particular statement begs numerous questions, to what extent have African American writings influenced the development of Afro-German literature, how do African Americans and Afro-Germans respond to their being marginalized, and finally what role does the act of writing play in their lives?

The main purpose of this paper is to analyze how African American and Afro-German writers and poets reflect upon the process of writing and its importance in their lives. Their urge to write and express their thoughts and feelings I would characterize as their attempt to break the silence they have been subjected to and establish their positions as creative and autonomous thinkers. In the course of this paper the writings by Audre Lorde, bell hooks, and Thomas Usleber will be investigated and compared. In particular, I will concentrate on Lorde’s essay “The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action” (1984), hooks’s text Remembered Rapture: The Writer at Work (1999), and Usleber’s autobiography Die Farben unter meiner Haut (2002).

My Ph D thesis investigates both the birth and the development of Afro-German literature in the context of the African American experience. I believe that African American culture and literature have promoted the appearance of new cultural practices in Germany and have presided over the birth of Afro-German literature. One of my main arguments is that Afro-German literature serves as a means of identification to many Afro-Germans and has helped them construct their own identity. By writing about their experiences in Germany, many Afro-German authors reveal their difficulties in connecting their African/African American and German heritages in a meaningful way. My Ph D thesis looks at the meaning and the importance of Africa in the lives of Afro-Germans comparing them to the African Americans’ perception of the African continent. Many African American writers and poets explain the meaning of Africa in the context of Ethiopianism. I try to determine to what extent the ideas of Ethiopianism may be employed in reading Afro-German texts. By analyzing African American and Afro-German literary texts, I show that through writing they give shape to their imagined Africas.

I also investigate the development of the Afro-German Movement and how the Afro-German identity has changed in the past twenty years.

Questions. (Workshop 5)


  1. How are Afro-Germans related to African Americans? Consider historical and cultural aspects here.

  2. Evaluate the meaning and the importance of literature for African Americans and Afro-Germans. What role does it play in the African American and Afro-German Movements?

  3. What are the factors that unite African Europeans with native Africans?



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