Professor Stuart Taberner, University of Leeds

 

This research explores transnationalism as a contemporary reality that ‘saturates’ everyday life in ways that leave none of us unaffected. Specifically, it responds to the AHRC ‘Translating Cultures’ theme and looks at the ways transnational flows (of people, ideas, culture, etc.) are being remediated in today’s German-language literature. How is transnationalism different from other concepts such as globalisation (the standardisation of services and products), internationalisation (greater engagement with other nations), mass mobility (tourism and migration as mass experiences), or digital networking, and how does it relate to today’s multi-directional translation of culture(s) back and forth across borders? How does it impact on real people? And how do literary texts in German respond to the ambivalences of transnationalism – what kinds of aesthetic strategies and contents arise in response to the simultaneous restatement and permeation of the nation’s borders that is characteristic of transnationalism and to the risks and opportunities that transnationalism presents?

The study frames Germany as an exemplary transnational space in which the ambivalences of transnationalism are being played out in an acutely pressing and concentrated fashion. Sixteen authors are examined over the four substantive chapters of the book which will be the primary (academic) outcome of the project: (1) (re)imagining a ‘diasporic longing’ beyond ‘home’; (2) parochialism and cosmopolitanism; (3) national and global culture(s); and (4) encounters between diverse values and beliefs. A key argument will be that transnationalism pushes us to rethink the positionality of both ‘minority’ writers and ‘nonminority’ writers and to re-read their work in juxtaposition with one another. Indeed, if, as ethnologist Regina Römhild claims, one of the key effects of transnationalism is that ‘the ideal of fixed territories of culture turns into a fiction, and mobility becomes the common ground for the proliferation of diasporic life-worlds, cultures and identities’, then this surely applies to all residents of the (still-existing) nation-state, whether ‘settled’, migrant or diasporic. The book’s aim is to generate new insights from this juxtaposition of minority and nonminority authors, both into their work and social and cultural standing and into the relationship between culture(s) and transnationalism more generally.

This project is intended to benefit scholars working in German Studies as well as researchers across a range of other contemporary literatures (since transnationalism is, by definition, a global phenonomen), as well as colleagues in Comparative Literature, cultural studies and social-science disciplines with an interest in the translation of culture(s), the politics and cultures of transnationalism, and migration and diasporas. The outcomes include a book, an edited volume, a book chapter and introduction, and three conference papers, in addition to informal talks to scholars in literary studies and social sciences and a narrative account of the project’s findings to a meeting of Germanists. As a lasting legacy for the project, a Centre for the Study of Transnationalism and Culture(s) will be established at the University of Leeds as a focal point for Arts and Humanities researchers and a hub for future collaboration between Arts and Humanities and the Social Sciences. In addition, the project has significant impact potential. In the UK, it is planned to exploit the insights generated by the research by means of radio segments on transnationalism’s impact on national and global cultures and on live concerns (e.g. immigration). In South Africa, it is planned to exploit the project’s insights into literature’s engagement with the dialectic of parochialism and cosmopolitanism and the risks and opportunities of encounters between different values and beliefs to promote engagement between diverse and often divided communities.

 

Professor Stuart Taberner

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