Periodizing and Historicizing German Afro-Americanophilia: From Antebellum to Postwar (1850–1967)

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Portal: journal of multidisciplinary international studies, 2015, 12 (2), pp. 1 - 38
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In this essay, which builds on the methodological considerations and the definitions we sketched in the introduction to the special edition on what we are calling twentieth-century German Afro-Americanophilia, we delve into the history of Afro-Americanophilia in Germany and of its precursors. Afro-Americanophilia denotes the affirmative, enthusiastic, even loving approaches to African American culture, politics, and people. These, in turn, are heterogeneous acts that encompass imaginations, practices and social relationships. Such acts have been theorized with concepts such as mimesis, identification, desire, translation, misunderstanding, appropriation, expropriation, fetishism, hybridisation, or becoming-minor. Our aim here, however, is not to theorize Afro-Americanophilia, but to establish a preliminary, mostly descriptive periodization and to draw out some of the particularly significant moments, ruptures, and continuities within it. In the process, we also identify some of the salient ways scholars have interpreted Afro-Americanophilia during those periods. The timeframe we cover in this first review essay stretches from the nineteenth century until the mid–1960s, from which point the second essay continues. Focusing on a variety of appropriative practices, communicative media, actors and forms of agency, power differentials, and sociocultural contexts, we discuss positive images of and affirmative approaches to black people in German culture and its imaginary prior to the colonial era, and then during the colonial, Weimar, Nazi and postwar eras
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