Sensory Perceptions and the Migrant German Experience
Koglin, Joseph J.
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Migrant artists have become increasingly important contributors to modern German culture, particularly in the fields of film and literature. From the late 20th century through the early 21st century, the cultural presence and influence of migrant artists in Germany has evolved. Earlier works by migrant artists often relied upon stereotype to present a generalized portrayal of the migrant identity in Germany, whereas a number of later works have individualized the migrant identity by focusing upon the unique, individual aspects of the migrant’s character. This paper analyzes the work of three contemporary migrant artists in Germany – Emine Sevgi Özdamar, Yoko Tawada, and Terézia Mora – to show how each author has utilized the literary portrayal of sensory experiences to individualize the migrant identity. Özdamar’s short story “Der Hof im Spiegel” uses sensory experiences to connect Turkish and German aspects of the narrator’s identity. Özdamar’s narrator has multiple dimensions that are influenced by the cultural and social exchange prompted by her migration, which are indicative of her narrator’s unique migrant identity. In her collection Wo Europa anfängt, Tawada uses sensory perceptions to delineate the migrant identity along national lines. Tawada’s interpretation of the migrant identity suggests that the transnational figure has multiple modalities and means of perceiving that remain separate from one another, yet contribute equally to the formation of identity. Finally, in her novel Alle Tage, Mora’s protagonist Abel Nema uses sensory perceptions to connect to the world, while also using sensory information to attempt to mask his innate foreign identity. Mora’s novel presents a migrant character whose identity remains inescapably foreign from those around him, both in the transnational environment and in his homeland.