Wiedergutmachung’ as raison d’être: Exile studies in the German speaking world

Schulz, Kristina (13 May 2016). Wiedergutmachung’ as raison d’être: Exile studies in the German speaking world (Unpublished). In: Refugees in Europe: A long history of representation. Freiburg im Brsg., Deutschland. 12.-13.05.2016.

Focussing on the developments in the Federal Republic, the paper deals with three aspects linked to ‘Exilforschung’ (Exile Studies) in the German speaking world: the genesis and development of the field from the early post war years on, its approaches and achievements, and its perspectives in the light of new challenges. It argues that the course of Exilforschung in the German speaking world is closely linked to the experience of National Socialism and its artistic expression. Its raison d’être has been from the beginning on to commemorate the victims of political and racial persecution, especially the (male) representatives of the so called Weimar culture, scattered throughout the globe from 1933 on. The narrow interpretation of exile allows, at least in the abstract, for the idea of a complete reconstruction of the life and work of German intellectuals. The approach combines biographical, literary and historical methods and restores the movement of people and ideas between countries and continents. It has successfully materialized in important biographical handbooks, reference works and individual literary case studies. At the same time the narrow conceptualization of exile as a German experience (of outstanding men) prevented a fruitful exchange of conc epts and methods with emerging neighbour disciplines, such as (Im)migration and Refugee Studies, Judaism and Holocaust Studies, or Migration History. Further more, the idea of exile as the temporary absence of ‘great men’ from their home country became criticised by explorers of the life of ordinary people and women’s historians in the 1980s. It is against this backdrop that we have to understand the “crisis” and reconceptualization of Exilforschung in the past two decades. The field is challenged by new forms of (mass) migration and its historical, literary and artistic reappraisal as well as by new conceptualizations of the experience of migration and displacement, linked, for instance, to post-colonialism. The paper argues that, by reconceptualising exil e not as a German but as a human experience, Exilforschung is, as by its interdisciplinary approach and its transnational orientation, in the position to contribute to a better understanding of past and present individual experiences of (forced) migration.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Speech)


06 Faculty of Humanities > Department of History and Archaeology > Institute of History

UniBE Contributor:

Schulz, Kristina


900 History




Keith Cann

Date Deposited:

29 May 2017 13:02

Last Modified:

29 May 2017 13:02



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