Call for Abstracts


Afrika and Alemania: German-Speaking Women, Africa, and the African Diaspora


Respond to Coeditors:                     Lisabeth Hock ([log in to unmask])

Michelle James ([log in to unmask])

Priscilla Layne ([log in to unmask])


250-Word Abstracts Due: October 1, 2018


While connections between Germanic Europeans and African-descended peoples can be traced back to the Middle Ages, the first known text to engage with Africa by a German-speaking woman was produced at the end of the eighteenth century. In the centuries to follow, most women with the education and authority to produce accounts of Africa identified as—or had the privilege of not having to identify as—white. In twentieth and twenty-first centuries, however, an increasing number of German-speaking women have identified as Black or Brown and have written about Africa and the African diaspora from a Black German perspective. With the aim of exploring the ways in which white German-speaking women and German-speaking Women of Color have represented Africa, Lisabeth Hock, Michelle James and Pricilla Layne announce a call for papers for a volume on German-Speaking Women, Africa, and the African Diaspora. This will be a companion to the 2014 Camden House volume, Sophie Discovers Amerika: German-Speaking Women Write the New World, coedited by Michelle James and Rob McFarland


The history of Afrika and Alemania begins in 1799, when Jewish writer and salon hostess Henrietta Herz (1764-1847) translated into German the Scottish explorer Mungo Park’s Journey to the Interior of Africa in the Years 1795 and 1797. While Park’s bestseller introduced Europeans to Africa, its resources, and their potential for exploitation, Herz’s translation marks the first engagement of a modern, German-speaking woman writer with the continent and its landscapes, peoples, and regions. Despite her close ties to Romantic intellectual circles, Herz’s Sephardic-Jewish roots marked her as an outsider within German society and culture, a distinction she shared with the Zanzibari Muslim princess born Salama bint Said (1884-1944). After growing up speaking Arabic and Swahili in the royal house of Zanzibar, she became pregnant by a white German merchant, married him, changed her name to Emily Ruete, and moved to Hamburg where she learned German and taught Arabic. Accounts of her life between Europe and Africa can be found in her published correspondence and her two-volume Memoiren einer arabischen Prinzessin (1866). Notably, access to wealth for at least some part of their lives gave Herz and Ruete a public voice that other most other nineteenth-century Women of Color--such as Sudanese and Ethiopian girls who were freed from slavery in Egypt in the mid-nineteenth century, only to be forced to assimilate to European culture and become nuns in Austria (Sulzbacher in Sauer, 2007)—did not have.


As five decades of feminist scholarship has shown, nineteenth-century white women gained more access to the pubic sphere than is generally recognized, even in today’s mainstream histories and literary histories, and several contributed to German-language discourse on Africa. Austrian natural historian Ida Pfeifer (1797-1858), German author and traveler Ida von Hahn-Hahn (1805-1880), and German feminist Luise Mühlbach (1814-1873) published accounts of their travels in Africa. Mühlbach also wrote a biography of the British writer Afra Behn (1640-1689), author of Oroonoko or, The Royal Slave (1688). German authors Eugenie Marlitt (1825-1887) and Gabriele Reuter (1859-1941) wrote novels featuring Africa and African peoples.


From German unification and the attendant acquisition of African colonies in 1884, to the loss of those colonies at the end of WWI, an increasing number of white farmer’s wives, such as Clara Brockman (ca. 1910), wrote accounts from Namibia in support of Germany’s colonial project. At the same time, as professional opportunities for white women began to increase, so did the ways in which they engaged with Africa: German member of the Basel Mission Society, Johanna (Hanna) Bohner (1853-1935), not only recorded her memories of her missionary work in Cameroon but also collected local flora and fauna to send back to Germany for research. Jewish-born Helene Bresslau (1879-1957) married Albert Schweitzer and worked as nurse, Protestant missionary, and social worker in Gabon. Polish noblewoman Maria Theresa Ledóchowska (1863-1922) took up Catholic missionary work and wrote, among other texts, a play about the slave trade within Africa. Annemarie Schwarzenbach (1908-1942) of Switzerland worked as a journalist and photographer. German pilot Elly Beinhorn (1907-2007) began with acrobatic feats before turning to long-distance flying that took her to Africa.


In the shadow of National Socialism, white German filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl (1902-2003) idealized the supposedly Aryan features of German athletes in Olympia while training her camera with fascination on the Black US-American sprinter Jesse Owens. After the war, Riefenstahl headed to Africa to film and photograph the Nuba people of the Sudanese mountains in a similarly idealized fashion, publishing her work in the photography collections Die Nuba (1973) and Die Nuba von Kau (1976). In “Fascinating Fascism” (1975), Susan Sontag pointed out that despite the very different subject matter in Riefenstahl’s films compared to her photography books, one can still identify a continuing fascist aesthetic across the lifespan of her work.


The allied occupation of West Germany following World War II, the travel boom made possible by the Wirtschaftswunder, and Cold-War cultural politics in East and West Germany led to the birth of biracial children with one white German parent and one parent from Africa or the African diaspora. Resisting the racist terminology that white Germans used to describe and address them, individuals born of these relationships consciously and intentionally began to refer to themselves in the 1980s as Black Germans, Schwarze Deutsche, or Afrodeutsche. In the watershed year of 1986, the German poet, educator, and activist May Ayim (1960-1996) wrote as her dissertation the first study of African-German history, used her dissertation as the basis of the volume, Farbe bekennen, which she co-edited with Katharina Oguntoye (b. 1959) and Dagmar Schultz (b. 1941), and helped to found the Initiative Schwarze Deutsche. In addition to testimonies of Black German women born in the postwar period, Farbe bekennen also included the accounts of German women whose lineages reflected African ties to Germany going back to Weimar Germany and the Kaiserreich. Since then, an increasing number of German women writers and film makers, including Ika Hügel-Marshall (b. 1947), Mo Asumang (b. 1963), and Anne Chebu (b. 1987), have explored in their art the experience and meaning of growing up Black in Germany.


Globalization and concomitant changing migration and travel patterns have added further dimensions to the story of German-speaking women writing about Africa. Lucia Engombe (b. 1972) writes of being brought from a Zambian refugee camp to an East German orphanage in 1979, and then being sent back to Africa after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Born to Ghanaian parents who migrated to Germany, model, actress and activist Dayan Kodua (b. 1980) published a collection about the lives of prominent Black Germans. Exophonic Japanese writer Yoko Tawada (b. 1960) has reflected in her fiction on the German Enlightenment philosopher, Anton Amo (c. 1703-55), and the American singer Michael Jackson (1958-2009). Exophonic Nigerian-Welsh filmmaker Branwen Okpako (b. 1969) studied at the Berlin Film Academy and produced films about the Black experience in East Germany, Christa Wolf’s Medea, and her fellow film-school student, Auma Obama (b. 1960), who was born in Kenya and lived as a student in Germany in the 1980s and 1990s.


As the writing and films of German-speaking Women of Color have gained increasing authority in the German discourse on Africa and the African diaspora, texts and films by contemporary white writers and directors often reveal what Dirk Göttsche (2013) describes as a tension between stereotypical exoticization of Africa, a critical postcolonial gaze, and the search for an intercultural poetics. Among these are Swiss author Corinna Hoffman’s (b. 1960) accounts of her experiences in Kenya, including Die weisse Massai, which German director Hermine Huntgeburth (b. 1957) turned into a best selling film. Brigitte Beil (1941-2016) offers an example of white women’s engagement with Germany’s colonial past. Fictional accounts of the lives of Frida von Bülow and Emily Ruete appear in novels by Austrian Monika Czernin (b. 1965) and German Nicole Vossler (b. 1972) respectively.


This overview points to a long, complex history of the engagement of German-speaking women with Africa and the African diaspora, one yet to be explored in scholarship in any depth. We welcome submissions from researchers in different disciplines representing diverse ideological and theoretical approaches. Questions that interest us include, but are not limited to:


  • How do written and visual texts engage with imaginings of, experiences in, and the perceived reality of Africa? And what role does the author’s/director’s racial, ethnic or religious identity play in their perception of Africa?
  • How does genre influence this engagement?
  • How do these texts represent persons of the African diaspora living in German-speaking countries?
  • What do ideas and representations of blackness, brownness, and whiteness mean and how do they intersect with representations of gender?
  • Do these texts deal with blackness and whiteness as essential or constructed identities?
  • To what extent do renderings of Africa serve as an ideological vehicle?
  • To what extent does the text attempt to approach the landscapes, cultures, and peoples of Africa in a manner that recognizes and respects indigenous knowledge?
  • How do German-speaking women of African descent represent Germanness and German culture? Where do they position themselves within German culture?
  • How do texts engage in practices that assert German identity as white and ethnically European? How do they engage in practices that undermine this equation?
  • To what extent do these texts reveal colonial and post-colonial fantasies (Zantop 1997)?
  • How do exophonic writers and writers with migrant backgrounds contribute to the discourse of what we call “German women’s writing.”


We will provisionally accept submissions for inclusion in this volume based on the abstract. Final acceptance, however, will be based on the quality and scholarly merits of the completed article.


Project Timeline:

-Deadline for abstracts (250 Words): October 1, 2018 (Early submission is encouraged)

-Notification of accepted abstracts: November 30, 2018

-Deadline for finished articles: August 1, 2019

-Final acceptance of completed articles: September 1, 2019

-Editorial process: September-November 2019                                 


Potential Topics: The following list is in chronological order and is by no means exhaustive. We are particularly interested in articles that engage with texts in the Sophie collection and articles that are intersectional in approach.


Pre-20th Century:

·      Henriette Herz’s translation of Mungo Park’s Journey to the Interior of Africa in the Years 1795 and 1797, 1799

·      Texts from the Basel Mission Archives (available in Sophie)

·      Ida Pfeifer, Reise einer Wienerin in das Heilige Land, 1843 

·      Ida Hahn-Hahn. Orientalische Briefe, 1845

·      Ida Pfeifer, Reise nach Madagaskar, 1860

·      Johanna Bohner, Heini, the Little Cameroonian, 1895; In Storm and Weather, 1894; Paul, der Vielsprachige, 1889

·      Gabriele Reuter, Glück und Geld. Roman aus dem heutigen Ägypten, 1888

·      Luise Mühlbach, Aphra Behn, 1849

·      Luise Mühlbach, Reisebriefe aus Aegypten, 1870

·      Eugenia Marlitt,  Reichsgräfin Gisela, 1870; Im Schillingshof, 1880

·      Emily Ruete, Memoiren einer arabischen Prinzessin, 1886; Briefe nach der Heimat. Ihr Leben in Deutschland von 1867 bis ~1885, 1999.

·      Gabriele Reuter, Glück und Geld. Roman aus dem heutigen Ägypten, 1888

·      Sophie Wörishöffer, Lionel Forster, der Quarteron. Eine Geschichte aus dem amerikanischen Bürgerkriege, 1887; Das Naturforscherschiff oder Fahrt der jungen Hamburger mit der „Hammonia“ nach den Besitzungen ihres Vaters in der Südsee, 1880

·      Frida von Bülow, Deutsch-Ostafrikanische Novellen, 1892; Tropenkoller. Episode aus dem deutschen Kolonialleben, 1896; Im Lande der Verheissung. Ein deutscher Kolonial-Roman, 1899


Early 20th Century, Weimar: 

·      Helene Bresslau Schweitzer, Briefe an Albert in The Albert Schweitzer-Helene Bresslau Letters, 1902-1912.

·      Ilse Frapan, Arbeit, 1903

·      Else Sonnenberg. Wie es am Waterberg zuging, 1904

·      Margarethe von Eckenbrecher, Deutsch Sudwestafrika. Kriegs und Friedensbilder, 1907 (available in Sophie); Was Afrika mir gab und nahm. Erlebnisse einer deutschen Einsiedlerfrau in Südwestafrika, 1911

·      Clara Brockmann, Die deutsche Frau in Südwestafrika, 1910 (available in Sophie) und Briefe eines deutschen Mädchens aus Südwestafrika, 1912

·      Anna Oehler, Der Negerkönig Ndschoya, 1913

·      Maria Theresa Ledóchowska, extensive works listed in Sophie, including Die Prinzessin von Uganda, 1915;  Zaida, das Negermädchen, 1899

·      Sophie Spieß, Two-, Four-, and Six-legged Inhabitants of our Mission Hill, 1915 (available in Sophie)

·      Grete Kuhnhold, In Friedens und Kriegszeiten in Kamerun, 1917 (available in Sophie)

·      Hannah Asch, Fräulein Weltenbummler: Reiseerlebnisse in Afrika und Asien, 1927

·      Lydia Höpker, Um Scholle und Leben, Schicksale einer deutschen Farmerin in Südwest-Afrika, 1927



·      Elly Beinhorn, Ein Mädchen fliegt um die Welt, 1932; 180 Stunden über Afrika, 1933; Berlin-Kapstadt-Berlin, 1939

·      Ruth Medger, So fand ich Deutsch-Ostafrika. Beobachtungen und Erlebnisse einer deutschen Kolonialschülerin, 1940.

·      Annemarie Schwarzembach, Das Wunder des Baums, 1941/2011

·      Lydia Höpker, Und wo der Wind weht, Ein heiteres, buntes Buch aus dem sudwest-afrikanischem Busch, 1945



·      Johanna Moosdorf, Flucht nach Afrika, 1952

·      Leni Riefenstahl, Die Nuba von Kau, 1976



·      Helga Königsdorf, Gleich neben Afrika, 1992

·      Eva Demski, Afra: Roman in fünf Bildern, 1992

·      May Ayim, Katharina Oguntoye und Dagmar Schultz, Farbe Bekennen, 1986 and 1991

·      May Ayim, Blues in Schwarz-Weiß, 1995; Grenzenlos und Unverschämt 1997; Nachtgesang, 1997

·      Barbara Honigmann, Soharas Reise, 1996 and Damals, Dann, und Danach, 1999

·      Ika Hügel-Marshall, Daheim unterwegs. Ein deutsches Leben, 1998

·      Miriam Kwalanda, Die Farbe meines Gesichts, 2000

·      Branwen Okpako, Dreckfresser (2000), Tal der Ahnungslosen (2003), Die Geschichte der Auma Obama (2011), Fluch der Medea (2014)

·      Abini Zöllner, Schokoladenkind. Meine Familie und andere Wunder, 2003.

·      Brigitte Beil, Maskal oder das Ende der Regenzeit, 2003

·      Lucia Engombe. Kind Nr. 95: Meine deutsch-afrikanische Odysee, 2004

·      Andrea Pauluch and Robert Habeck, Der Schrei der Hyänen, 2004

·      Marianne Bechhaus-Gerst, Treu bis in den Tod. Von Deutsch-Ostafrika nach Sachsenhausen. Eine Lebensgeschichte. 2007

·      Yoko Tawada, “The Shadow Man,” Facing the Bridge,  2007

·      Mo Asumang, Roots Germania. Documentary, 2007

·      Bettina Robertson, Tödliche Safari: Ein Afrika-Krimi 2008

·      Lena Blaudez, Spiegelreflex – Ada Simon in Cotonou, 2008

·      Monika Czernin, Jenes herrliche Gefühl der Freiheit. Frieda von Bülow und die Sehnsucht nach Afrika, 2008

·      Nicole Vossler, Sterne über Sansibar, 2010

·      Jennifer Teege. Anon. Mein Großvater hätte mich erschossen, 2013

·      Sharon Dodua Otoo, die dinge, die ich denke, während ich hoffentlich lächle, 2013

·      Dayan Kodua, ed. My Black Skin: Schwarz. Erfolgreich. Deutsch, 2014

·      Anne Chebu, Anleitung zum Schwarz sein, 2016

·      Esther Donkor, Wurzelbehandlung: Deutschland, Ghana und ich, 2016



Lisabeth M. Hock, Ph.D. and Associate Professor of German
Director of the Undergraduate German Program
Instructor in Global Studies and Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies
Classical and Modern Languages, Literatures and Cultures
Wayne State University
457 Manoogian Hall
906 West Warren Avenue
Detroit, Michigan 48202

Email: [log in to unmask] (best way to reach me)
CMLLC office: 313-673-5355
Fax: 313-577-6243

Pronouns: she/her/hers

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