Call for Participants


German Studies Association Seminar

Political Activism in the Black European Diaspora: From Theory to Praxis 

October 1-4, 2015 Washington, DC 

The deadline for applications is *January 30, 2014.* For directions on enrolling in this seminar (you must be a current GSA member), visit the GSA webpage and the following link that details the submission process:

As per the GSA seminar selection committee: "Participation in a seminar involves intellectual work akin to preparing a paper and will thus count as such. All seminar participants will be listed by name in the program. If you are accepted to be an active participant in a seminar, you are not allowed to give a paper in panel sessions. However, you may moderate or comment on a panel.

Some individuals may choose to be a silent auditor to a seminar. Slots for auditors are limited; the enrollment process for interested auditors will only take place after the entire GSA program is set.
When enrolling seminar applicants will be asked to submit mini vita (no more than 1000 characters) and a statement of purpose (no more than 1000 characters) indicating why they intend to participate in this seminar, how their past or current research connects to the topic and what their focus will be in this seminar."

Political Activism in the Black European Diaspora: From Theory to Praxis

Seminar Description

Building on the discussions that transpired in 2014’s seminar, “Black German Studies: Then and Now,” this interdisciplinary seminar seeks to trace the political activism of the heterogeneous communities of the Black European Diaspora, with a particular emphasis on German-speaking regions. Following feminist activist Audre Lorde’s call to action that “The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house,” this seminar explores the range of tools and resistance strategies that Black activists developed, utilized, and practiced throughout German history. Accordingly, we will illustrate the ways that Black European Diasporic peoples have employed intellectual, socio-political, artistic/cultural, affective, digital, and pedagogical work to aid their communities, cultivate connections to their allies, and gain recognition in their societies and beyond. For many, these forms of activism helped them to define themselves both individually and collectively. Moreover, these diasporic groups have reimagined the boundaries of activism and resistance in an effort to confront hegemonic structures in urban European spaces and politics.


Topics can include, but are not limited to: Anton Wilhelm Amo’s “Dissertation on the rights of Moors in Europe,” the freemason Angelo Soliman, Pan-Africanist and communist activist George Padmore, the emergence of the Black German movement, the Black European Women’s Council (BEWC), or the Center for Political Beauty’s recent art installation, “Weisse Kreuze.” In particular, this seminar asks, how can one characterize and define Black European Diasporic activism? How have individuals within the Black European Diaspora shaped collective activism? How do Black European Diasporic communities force the re-thinking of institutionally sanctioned actions as well as long-standing cultural traditions in Europe and beyond? Finally, what theoretical underpinnings produce the activist practices employed by these communities? In re-examining the Black European Diaspora and its wide-ranging activist engagement, we want to show how tactics, discourses, and cultural identities shift, often reaffirming, challenging, and complicating notions of Germanness and the Black Diaspora.


Seminar Format

First session: Creating Counterdiscourses/Counterpublics/Counternarratives (Vanessa Plumly)


Taking Victoria Robinson and Sharon Otoo’s work on knowledge production and Black German counter-discourses as well as Nancy Fraser’s theorization of counterpublics as points of departure, this session interrogates counter-hegemonic outlets for resistance via cultural productions and the reclaiming of the public sphere. Several of these resistance actions involve taking back the city or obtaining “the right to the city” and using it as a pedagogical tool. The Lern und Erinnerungsort afrikanisches Viertel project, initiated in 2013, and the renaming of the Groebenufer to May-Ayim Ufer in 2010 are a few of the advancements that Black Germans have made in recent years to gain recognition in German society and the public sphere. Exhibition and performance spaces, such as the establishment of the post-migrant theater Ballhaus Naunynstrasse in Kreuzberg in 2008 under the direction of Shermin Langhoff, who now runs the Maxim Gorki Theater in Berlin, continue to lead the way in creating new and successful counterpublics on stage. Furthermore, publications such as Anne Chebu’s Anleitung zum Schwarz sein, the Afro-Austrian magazine Fresh, and the Afro-German journals afro look, Afrekete, or Strangers all assist in the reclaiming of black agency and represent forms of intellectual activism.


Second session: Community Building and Transnational Networks (Tiffany N. Florvil)

Individuals like Martin Dibobe, May Ayim, and Katharina Oguntoye, cultural watchdog organizations such as der Braune Mob and Bühnenwatch, and Schwarze Filmschaffende in Deutschland, in addition to the Black Women in Europe blog, the anti-racist collectives and music groups Brothers Keepers/Sisters Keepers, the Black German theater ensemble Label Noir, the Initiative Schwarze Deutsche’s Michael Brown movement, and the Cross-Cultural Black Women’s Studies Summer Institute all symbolize diverse efforts at diasporic community building. This session traces the evolution of these forms of diasporic coalitions. Black Germans and other Black Europeans consciously work to alter entrenched and dominant cultural norms in institutional spaces and in the public sphere. Through these wide-ranging efforts, diasporic actors and organizations endeavor to advance social change, create inclusive spaces, and promote the recognition and representation of Black German subjects. Some of these groups and individuals also actively forge transnational alliances, reaching beyond the boundaries of Europe to affirm their “connected differences” (Lorde) and common struggles.


Third session: Protest Actions and Digital Activism (Vanessa Plumly and Tiffany N. Florvil)

With the advent of social media platforms, twenty-first century Black German activism has witnessed a spatial dispersal through the establishment of countless networks in online diasporic communities. But this dispersal also signifies a compression of that same time/space continuum, where news travels faster and responses are instantaneous, quickly becoming world events. Transnational diasporic networks have become increasingly visible, particularly with Black German activist groups responding to the loss of Black lives in the U.S., as evinced in the Trayvon Martin shooting and the more recent episode involving Michael Brown that produced the Ferguson movement. Turkish-German activist Kübra Gümüºay, responsible for initiating the twitter hashtag #schauhin to expose the everyday racism that persists in Germany, has established a forum for all People of Color in the German nation to publish and become empowered through the public exposure of these racist experiences. This affective release in cyberspace counteracts the sense of isolation encountered in such moments and serves as an assertion of agency from the affected person who finds solidarity in their cyber community. As the media continues to play a dominant role in the production and execution of counterpublics, our third session turns to digital activism and revolution.

Feel free to contact the conveners with any questions:


Tiffany Florvil ([log in to unmask])


Vanessa Plumly ([log in to unmask])

******************* The German Studies Call for Papers List Editor: Stefani Engelstein Assistant Editor: Olaf Schmidt Sponsored by the University of Missouri Info available at: