Reading with Anita Awosusi
Anita Awosusi has championed Sinti and Roma civil rights; photo: private
Our series “New German histories” continues this year: on February 9, 2017, (the date was cancelled at short notice!) Anita Awosusi will introduce her book Vater Unser – Eine Sintifamilie erzählt (Our Father – A Sinti Family Recounts) in the W. Michael Blumenthal Academy of the Jewish Museum Berlin. In her book the author weaves together her family’s biography, broader historical events, and the aftermath of Nazi rule. She tells the story of her father and at once of her own evolution. As a civil rights activist she still fights today against discrimination and for equal rights and civic participation for the Sinti and Roma peoples and was active for over twenty years at the documentation and cultural center for German Sinti and Roma. In anticipation of the event we asked Anita Awosusi three questions:
You entitled your book Our Father – A Sinti Family Recounts. Is the play on the central Christian prayer, the “Our Father”, intentional on your part? If so, what did you want to express with this choice?
The title Our Father came about because my sister and I always say “our father” when we talk about our parents. In addition, my father had a very fundamental role in our family as patriarch. Not to suggest at all that our mother was less respected by us children. But there was a second reason: → continue reading
When I first heard that the Jewish congregation of Pinneberg is giving “church asylum” to a Muslim, I had to chuckle. The article about it in the online magazine Migazin put the words “church asylum” in quotation marks and used a picture of the dome of the synagogue on Berlin’s Oranienburger Straße – making the linking together of the three monotheistic religions appear intentional.
But now I heard from a friend that there’s a film about the Kiddush asylum at the Pinneberg congregation for a man from the Sudan, and I had to wonder why “church asylum” isn’t “synagogue asylum”.
The Kiddush is a blessing spoken over a goblet of wine at the beginning of a holy day, in order to sanctify the day. Church asylum, as I learned from the film, is actually about a sacred room that protects people who are under threat. The Jewish congregation in Pinneberg has one such room. And it is encouraging to hear – as the head of the congregation explains in the film – why they are using this space to protect a person, at least temporarily, from persecution.
Rosa Fava, director of the “Diversity in Schools” project
On Why the Death of Stuart Hall Is a Loss for our Academy Programs
Stuart Hall, the renowned British cultural theorist and sociologist, passed away exactly one month ago, on 10 February 2014. His death prompted in us a deep sense of personal loss. His groundbreaking writings on cultural studies, in particular on racial inequality, were first translated into German in the mid 1990s—a time when people here were beginning to acknowledge the importance of racism as an issue.
Silent vigil of the Jewish Community at the Putlitz Bridge Deportation Memorial
Photo: Michael Kerstgens, Berlin Tiergarten, 1992
Hall’s approach incited a new discussion and coined a new vocabulary: until then, Germans in the Federal Republic had spoken of “Fremdenfeindlichkeit” (xenophobia), which they regarded as a marginal social phenomenon. Politicians and the media spoke matter-of-factly of society “reaching breaking point” when “the boat gets too full” owing to “Überfremdung.” The latter term denotes the state of ‘being overrun by foreigners.’ It is itself deeply racist and was accordingly voted Non-word of the Year 1993. “Being overrun” was presumed however to be explanation enough for the fire-bombings and other attacks then being carried out almost daily on asylum-seekers’ accommodation centers or immigrants’ apartments—and likewise for the hate campaigns, man-hunts, and pogrom-type riots erupting in Rostock, Hoyerswerda, and elsewhere, or the emergence of no-go areas in other towns and rural centers. In consequence, the law on asylum was altered in 1993 such that judicial opinion held it to have been “de facto repealed.” Therefore, anyone who wished to address the issue of racism as a structural phenomenon and thereby draw on theoretically sound academic sources had necessarily to turn to authors from England, France, the USA, or Canada—and repeatedly to Stuart Hall. → continue reading