Rezension zu The Queer Intersectional in Contemporary Germany

Siegessäule, Oktober 2018

Rezension von Clarence Haynes

At the intersections
Just as the German-speaking left sometimes falls behind in international political discussions, Berliners who don/'t speak the language often miss out on crucial developments in local and national current affairs. A collection of recent essays newly translated into English aims to bridge that gap, with contributions by Judith Butler, Züfulkar Cetin and other academic voices

Though the justpublished »The Queer Intersectional in Contemporary Germany« sheds light on some of the critical discussions happening nationwide, the work often focuses specifically on Berlin. Tie essays were curated by Christopher Sweetapple, a sociocultural anthropologist and University of Massachusetts PhD candidate. Sweetapple lamented the reliance of many English-speaking arrivals on Robert Beachy’s 2014 book »Gay Berlin« as a guide to the city which, though offering a thorough overview of the Weimar Republic era, doesn’t assess more current political realities. Sweetapple/'s goal was to provide a platform for premier German scholars and translators to reach an English-speaking audience and simultaneously celebrate intersectionality. The concept was emphasized decades ago by legal scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw to describe the interconnected oppressions facing black women, with Queer Intersectional calling out Angela Davis/'s 1981 title »Women, Race and Class« as an influential work as well.

Sweetapple sees the collection as »an invitation to appraise our current Situation in all its complexity«, he said, citing a societal need to move away from caricatured, oversimplified notions of identity. The book offers »a model of, but also a connection to, all of the ways that queer, anti-racist scholarship and activism continue to flourish,« the editor tells SIEGESSÄULE, »and very pointedly, very cleverly draw our necessary attention to some of the complex ways that both liberation and oppression weave into each other in our social space.«

With Sweetapple acknowledging Marxism as the lens through which many German thinkers view their history, two essays appropriately launch into the far-reaching historical implications of capitalism and Europe/'s colonial legacy. A later article provocatively examines the gay appropriation of narratives from Jewish victims of Nazi persecution. The Hauptstadt takes center stage in Züruikar Cetin/'s »The Dynamics of queer Politics and Gentrification in Berlin«, which critiques homonationalism a concept in which Western groups use LGBT-friendliness to wield historically oppressive power – and offers glimpses of local controversies, including the invisibility of historical immigrant activism in northern Schöneberg as the Nollendortplatz area has been positioned as a gay-bar mecca. Gentrification is a continued source of tension throughout the city, and the piece also provides an example of coalition building as seen in Kreuzbergs S036/Kottbusser Tor area, discussing how trans*, queer and housing activists have strategically banded together in the name of self-advocacy and change. The shortest, most accessible pronouncements came at the end of the collection: Cetin and Daniel Hendrickson deconstruct a 2017 report positioning younger male refugees providing sex work to older, white German men as a scenario in which both parties are distorted and dehumanized. And in »Defamation and the Grammar of Harsh Words«, Judith Butler and Sabine Hark look at how certain writers have maligned gender and queer studies as a flawed form of scholarship, with said critics thus becoming part of the hate-filled diatribe found in far-right discourse. Hark and Butler assert that those in »progressive« camps can be just as guilty of succumbing to a rhetoric of »toxic cultural ethos« – a reminder for all to be vigilant, echoing Sweetapple/'s call for a world in which vivid complexity should be seen as the new normal.

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