Posted on January 23, 2013

“Baklava transport” on Keupstraße, Cologne, photo by Paula Altmann, 2012

“Baklava transport” on Keupstraße, Cologne, photo by Paula Altmann, 2012

by Erol Yildiz and Marc Hill

From Migrant to Post-Migrant

If you start saying something new, especially when it concerns supposed lines of difference, as in talk on migration, that is always associated with resistance against established patterns of interpretation. In the resistance by young migrants who narrate tales of immigration that differ from those of their (grand)parents and what is generally familiar, we can discern a development from the migrant to what we would like to term the post-migrant. Biographical approaches to the everyday world of young migrants often reveal just how distant and removed their lives are from the traditional reproach of a purported “parallel society.” However, there are also special musical groups, theatrical plays, literary works and films that come straight to the point, encapsulating in a provocative manner the post-migrant element as subversive praxis pitched against hegemonial attributions.

Conventional migration discourse refers to a specific historical development, a particular temporal consciousness. It always designates a very particular and specific way of representing migration history. Constructions such as “native normality,” “integration” or “Turkish mentality” have established themselves discursively in this way. Even in respect to the second and third generation, we find ourselves confronted in public discourse with such myths.

“Migrants” of the second and third generation, who themselves did not experience the actual process of migration, are now beginning to tell their own stories. They confront critically both the migration (hi)story of their parents or grandparents and the society in which they themselves have been raised. From this space of critical confrontation they develop their own blueprints for living, they forge their own spaces, here termed “trans-utopias.” In this reconstruction and movement of thought, they engage in what can be termed a kind of “archaeology of memory,” attempting to bring into public light stories previously marginalized or overlooked. In so doing, they reconstruct a cultural memory. We term this new understanding “post-migrant.”

For example, the filmmaker Fatih Akin, born and raised in Hamburg, presents alternatives for thinking about migration in a different way in his films. There we encounter interwoven stories, blends and hybrid mixtures, bondings and connections that have succeeded or failed, and which define the migrant society anew or show it in another light.

Young adults or youth growing up fail to comprehend why they should be perceived exclusively and “dis-placed” as ostensible “problem cases.” They view themselves as natives of Vienna, Cologne, Berlin, and develop a provocative autonomous “Kanack” (offensive local term in Germany for Turks) or “Tschusche” (offensive local term in Austria for Serbians) culture of their own in contrast with public debates where such practices are almost automatically perceived as negative deviations from the norm, these practices are viewed here as positive potential, as cultural capital, an ensemble of competencies. Here we draw on the thinking of Michel Foucault, Stuart Hall and Judith Butler, who place front and center the subversive dimension of behavior, the potential for resistance it harbors.

Post-migrant blueprints for living demonstrate that these young people are able to deal creatively, ironically and subversively with the ethnic labels and ascriptions imposed on them externally. They are beginning to reinvent their so-called cultures of origin, to cultivate and design in this way their own imaginary webs of connection and reference.

Translated from the German by Bill Templer


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