The Colors of My Skin: The Making of Black German Identity

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2023

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Abstract

To those belonging to the majority white culture in Germany, the concept of someone being both Black and German can seem a contradiction in terms. Due to the way German citizenship laws have historically been tied to blood, and German blood associated with whiteness, Black Germans have always had a hard time being recognized as full-fledged German citizens despite having a German birthplace, citizenship, and socialization. Specifically, this misrecognition as foreigners, i.e., as non-Germans, leads to Black Germans being discriminated against, underrepresented, misrepresented, systematically excluded, and simply ignored in the country they call home. Devoting each chapter to examples of a particular literary genre such as life writing, poems, a play, and a novel, this dissertation explores the ways Black German authors push back against the exclusionary tendencies and practices that they face in the majority culture, fight for equality and recognition of their history and presence and define themselves on their own terms as both Black and German. In my analysis, I use the analytical term melodrama, or the family melodrama in particular which I define as an expressive mode that looks at how racial tensions are expressed in the domestic space. Family melodrama is also a useful analytic tool as it portrays clear moral categories of good vs. evil and focuses on a central character who has been victimized in some way. I demonstrate how employing melodrama allows Black German authors not only to critique racism but also evoke sympathy as well as offer hope for a minority group such as themselves.

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Lhamsuren, Undraa (2023). The Colors of My Skin: The Making of Black German Identity. Dissertation, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/29002.

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