UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Lachen und Weinen mit ungebetenen Gästen : Kulturelle Grenzüberschreitungen in Abbas Khiders Ohrfeige und Firas Alshaters Ich komm auf Deutschland zu Zimmermann, Sabine


This study investigates literary representations of refugees in contemporary German literature. Specifically, it analyzes the autobiography Ich komm auf Deutschland zu (2016) written by a Syrian refugee, Firas Alshater, who arrived in Germany in 2013, and the auto-fictional novel Ohrfeige (2016) by the German-Iraqi author Abbas Khider, who sought asylum in Germany in 2000. Both authors write from a transcultural point of view which challenges the definition of German culture and its ostensible dividing lines. As refugees themselves, these transnational authors have created works that interact aesthetically with contemporary German and European asylum and migration law, while vividly portraying the affective aspects of flight, trauma, and resettlement for those who manage to reach Germany. Both authors make use of irony, satire, and parody, which turn their works into aesthetic interventions that bring together social and political debates surrounding the topic of refugees in modern Germany. Each oeuvre defies the representation of refugees as victims and cultural outsiders. The texts expose ways in which fear and anxiety construct images of refugees as threatening and by which they are relegated to the margins of society. Through Alshaters and Khiders work, readers may question the imagined boundaries of the nation-state and reconsider notions of belonging. The humor embedded in their writing teases out tensions, contradictions, and resonances across time and space. Particularly, the persistent desire to look to ethnicity as a presumed guarantor of Germany’s collective self is challenged. Alshater’s humoristic-ironic style as well as his application of allusion and imagery and Khider’s employment of parody expose national and cultural ambiguity. By humanizing the term “ethnicity,” which is primarily viewed as a public identity, the authors stress the inclusion of a personal component, pointing to a common human need for recognition. Readers of these two works are invited to untether themselves from a singular national focus and instead view Germany as a dynamic imagined community - a moveable construct that will continue to evolve as events that occur in one place of the world do not stay contained within borders of nation states drawn on maps.

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