Intercultural literature

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As inter - or multicultural literature today is called the literature of authors who write from an era marked by at least two cultural areas perspective. It can also be described as the literature of cultural syntheses. Intercultural literatures are part of national literature . As such, it also deals with questions of identity of national or cultural minorities within a majority society, as well as, conversely, the self-constitution of the majority vis-à-vis all "others". As a result, every text ultimately has an intercultural aspect.

Multicultural literatures of the German-speaking area

Cultural diversity is a fundamental factor in German culture and history: in the Middle Ages, Roman, Celtic, Germanic and Slavic, pagan, Christian and Jewish traditions came together and had different effects on German-language texts. Texts in other languages ​​have been written mainly since the 18th century in areas with Sorbian, Lithuanian or (since the partitions of Poland) Polish population, in the territories of the Habsburgs also in Hungarian , Czech and other Slavic languages . Since that time, German-language literature has developed in a productive exchange or with differentiated demarcation.

The population movements of the 20th century brought a multitude of cultural changes with them, in the course of which new intercultural literatures emerged. Among the most important of these at the moment are recent German-Turkish literature and German-Arabic literature . The literature of the Jews in Germany is a special case , as its designation as inter- or multicultural literature would have to start from two given separate cultural areas and thus continue the separation of German-Jewish culture from German culture. In any case, a sensitive reading of the individual works should be assumed.

Literature from migrants

In connection with the labor migration after the Second World War , future authors of newly emerging multicultural literatures came to the German literary location from 1956, initially mainly from Turkey, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Yugoslavia and Greece. This large sub-area of ​​German-speaking multicultural literature in the 20th century, the literature of migrants , which was created in the first phase of the newly developing migration to the German-speaking area, was initially referred to as guest worker literature. It followed on from the German communist tradition of workers' literature in the Weimar Republic , had a combative motivation and some of its authors were really guest workers . Corresponding to the fact that labor migration in the true sense ended in 1973 through a recruitment freeze, on the other hand the "guest workers" remained, in the 1980s new names for the literature were established by non-German speaking authors in the Federal Republic, Austria and the Switzerland was created. The term migrant literature should take into account the extra-literary fact that its authors have moved (migrated) to the German-speaking area; further generalizations were not intended.

The number of authors belonging to this category is uncertain; a conservative estimate for the year 2000 is around 250 people (cf. Carmine Gino Chiellino , 2000). The fact that this number is uncertain and changeable is due to the extraordinarily dynamic nature of the phenomenon itself. In times of increasing global mobility of people, migrant literature is on the rise and globally the numbers are much higher. Literature from the second and third generation of immigrants, often poorly referred to as migrant literature, is not even included here.

Literature of the cultural syntheses

Just as German-Jewish literature was a literature of a German-Jewish cultural synthesis, since the 1990s a cultural synthesis can increasingly also be found in the literature of immigrants who have settled in Germany and their descendants.

Authors of intercultural literature in German-speaking countries come from all countries and cultures from which people live in this literary location. Reasons for this, as well as the authors' countries and languages ​​of origin or the choice of their literary language, are of less importance for the consideration of the literature per se. They can also be people who come from areas in which they belonged to a German-speaking minority. Young German-Jewish literature belongs to the very broad concept of German-language multicultural literature, as does the works of a German-Russian-Jewish poet such as Kaminer or representatives of German-Arabic literature such as Schami .


The local German reception came from the Institute for German as a Foreign Language (DaF) at the Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich . From the late 1970s onwards , Irmgard Ackermann and Harald Weinrich campaigned for the recognition, upgrading and dissemination of the literature written by migrants. Many authors were sponsored by the Goethe Institute , and the Bavarian Academy of Fine Arts played an important role through its participation in the creation of the Adelbert von Chamisso Prize , from 1985 and still the only literary prize for German-language literature by national minorities . Coming from the ranks of migrants, the poet and literary scholar Carmine Gino Chiellino deserves special mention. Alone and in collaboration with other literary scholars, Chiellino has worked out overviews and bibliographies on modern German-language immigrant literature from its beginnings up to the year 2000 and has decisively influenced the academic discourse in this area.

From the 1980s onwards, master's theses and dissertations on the topic of "Multicultural Literature" began at colleges and universities in Germany and in non-German speaking countries. Some of the important ones that deal with the topic from an overarching perspective are:

  • Heimke Schierloh: All that for a piece of bread. Objectification of the 'guest worker existence' with a collection of texts. 1984.
  • Ulrike Reeg: Writing abroad. Literature of national minorities in the Federal Republic of Germany. 1988.
  • Horst Hamm: Cheated - Freewritten. Introduction to German-language guest worker literature. 1988.
  • Heidi Rösch: Migration literature in an intercultural context. A didactic study of the literature by Aras Ören , Aysel Özakin , Franco Biondi and Rafik Schami . 1992.
  • Immacolata Amodeo : The homeland is called Babylon. Literature by foreign authors in the Federal Republic of Germany. 1996.

In their research, other scientists have particularly examined the German-language literature of certain migrant groups. Mention should be made, for example:

  • Anette Wierschke: Writing as assertion. Cultural conflict and identity in the works of Aysel Özakin, Alev Tekinay and Emine Sevgi Özdamar . With interviews. 1996.
  • Andrea Zielke: Female figures in the stories of Turkish authors. Identity and scope for action. 1996.
  • Kadriye Öztürk: The image of women in the works of German-writing Turkish authors. 1999.
  • Aglaia Blioumi: Interculturality as Dynamic. A contribution to German-Greek migration literature since the seventies. 2001.

In addition, individual works have also been created that focus on the identity issue that is often dealt with in intercultural literature:

  • Herbert Michel: Odysseus in the desert. A study of the literary processing of the identity problem in Greek migrant literature. 1992.
  • Petra Thore: 'who are you here in this city, in this country, in this new world'. The identity balance in a foreign country in selected works of German-language migrant literature. 2004.

Problematic terms

Certain areas of multicultural literature have been given more or less problematic terms in their history:

Guest worker literature

In the 1970s and 1980s, the term guest worker literature referred to the literature that was created by foreign writers in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. The term is based on the fact that from 1955 onwards, large numbers of migrant workers were brought to the German-speaking countries and called guest workers .

The authors of the guest worker literature by no means came from their own ranks right from the start. This extra-literary criterion for the description of literature was also under critical observation from the beginning. From among the ranks of the writers themselves, the theoretically leading members of the PoLiKunstverein, which existed from 1980 to 1987, strongly advocated this designation. It was Franco Biondi , Rafik Schami , Jusuf Naoum and Suleman Taufiq who dismayed in a footnote to their literature. Remarks on guest worker literature pointed to the irony of the designation. Guests are usually not allowed to work, and guests do not stay as long as the guest workers, who increasingly settled in the country instead of leaving it after a shorter period of time, as originally planned by industry and politics.

From the point of view of the initial German reception, the characteristic of guest worker literature was the fact that it was created by foreign-language authors in German as a foreign language . An expanded view of things also includes literature by migrants that was created in various foreign languages ​​and then translated into German, and literature by migrant authors from German-speaking minorities from various countries.

Migrant literature

Migrant literature is one of the newer terms used to denote the literature that is created by authors who have migrated to an initially foreign country themselves or with their parents. When these authors change their place of residence, there is usually a change in language and / or a change of nationality. The term is partly congruent with the term guest worker literature , without, however, assuming that the authors belong to the class of workers. Migration is the only focus of the term migrant literature. This term is also controversial within the relevant literature research and is used simultaneously with several others.

A special case of migrant literature is exile literature . It is not uncommon for it to be influenced by the exile country, but the works are often influenced solely by the exile , regardless of the author's whereabouts , and therefore cannot always be subsumed under the multicultural literatures. The transitions between emigration , exile, remigration and further migration are often fluid, both biographically and thematically, and quite a few exile texts explore the gap between cultures.

Bridge literature

With his work West-Eastern Divan , Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was one of the first prominent representatives of bridge literature. In this work, Goethe stages himself with the Persian poet Hafis , whom he admires ; This, however, only in spirit, since Hafes lived a good four hundred years before Goethe. The well-known saying "God is the Orient / God is the Occident / North and South terrain / Rest in the peace of his hands" can be used as the motto of the function of bridging literature: It refers to the perception of peoples as equal and equal.

Zafer Şenocak and Hamid Reza Yousefi also reflected on literature on bridges . In 1986, Şenocak understood this to be a type of writer who “belong to several cultures and deal with this position”; for Yousefi it is more about a dialogical form in which the other is seen, in order to seek an understanding, whereby there are also contributions from Can be writers who move between more than two cultures.


The aim of bridging literature is to build bridges of recognition and understanding between the cultures of the world. This includes education about other cultural areas as well as the perception of the new, own living space. On no side is unconditional approval of people or facts, but rather a critical and constructive view of things that exposes clichés and prejudices . The intention of bridging literature, which traces the reflection and maturation process of people, is to be classified in the didactic scale.


Bridging literature thematically deals with all areas of life in which people move between cultures, such as social environment, work, studies. Since the authors are often wanderers between different countries, the fate of migration and experiences in the integration process are often presented. Even if authors repeatedly dealt with the topic early on , the genre experienced a renaissance during the migration movements after the Second World War , especially after the immigration of guest workers with an Islamic background .

Differentiation from other genres of bilingual writers

A clear demarcation from all literary products of bilingual or multicultural authors is associated with difficulties, since numerous literary works are characterized by overlapping and mixing. Thus, text types , which the stylistic means of parody use, frequently, humor , satire 'or' entertainment 'classified as life stories are counted for the biographical genre. The separation of bridging literature from the so-called ' veil literature ', which has been booming since the 1990s and deals with the problems of mixed marriages and the martyrdom of disenfranchised women, mainly from Islamic or black African cultural areas, is important. In this as well as other types of so-called ' persecution literature ', individual fates are often generalized or a dual notation in the form of black and white painting is represented. Such literary works run counter to the character of acting as a 'bridge' between cultures. Such literature can also raise awareness of problems that both the majority society and representatives of the minorities often prefer not to address.


A multitude of other designations, some of which have also survived, such as foreigners ' literature , literature from outside , literature from within , small or other literature, reflects the difficulty of literary studies in appropriately naming the phenomenon of multicultural or intercultural literature in its many facets.

In addition to migration literature, the term inter- or multicultural literature has become increasingly popular since 2000. Different scientists define belonging to one or the other category differently, whereby the different nuances are often not particularly clear. Basically, both terms are more related to content-related criteria than to the sociocultural and biographical context of the works; the term intercultural literature emphasizes the fact that the works belong to a more comprehensive literary discourse that is not based on migration. The term migration literature, on the other hand, emphasizes the socio-cultural discourse and the issue of migration.


  • Immacolata Amodeo : "The homeland is called Babylon". On the literature of foreign authors in the Federal Republic of Germany. Westdeutscher Verlag, Opladen 1996.
  • Heinz Ludwig Arnold (ed., In connection with Julia Abel, Hansjörg Bay, Andreas Blödorn, Christof Hamann): Literature and Migration . Special volume text + kritik IX / 2006.
  • Carmine Chiellino (ed.): Intercultural literature in Germany. A manual. Metzler, Stuttgart 2007.
  • Écritures intercultural / intercultural writing. Edited by Christine Maillard. Strasbourg 2006.
  • Michael Ewert: Literature and Migration. Multicultural and transcultural literature in German - a laboratory of transnational realities. In: Literature Mediation. Texts, concepts, practices in German as a foreign language and the subject didactics of German, English, French. Edited by Simone Schiedermair. Iudicium, Munich 2017, pp. 41–57. ISBN 978-3-86205-497-8 .
  • Csaba Földes / Gerd Antos (eds.): Interculturality: Method problems in research. Contributions of the international conference in the German Institute of the Pannonian University Veszprém, 7. – 9. October 2004 . Iudicium, Munich 2007; ISBN 978-3-89129-197-9 .
  • Jürgen Joachimsthaler: Text margins. The cultural diversity in Central Europe as a problem of representation of German literature. 3 vols. Winter, Heidelberg 2011; ISBN 978-3825359195 .
  • Heinz Kimmerle : Return to one's own , Nordhausen 2006.
  • Gerald Kurdoğlu Nitsche : New Austrian poetry and not a word of German. Haymon, Innsbruck 2008.
  • Migration literature. Spellings of an intercultural modernity. Edited by Klaus Schenk, Almut Todorov and Milan Tvrdik. Tübingen u. Basel 2004, pp. 51–75.
  • Narrations in motion. German-language literature and migration. Edited by Margarita Blanco Hölscher and Christina Jurcic. Aisthesis, Bielefeld 2019; ISBN 978-38498-1309-3 .
  • Nils Röller (ed.): Migrants - Jabès, Nono, Cacciari. Merve, Berlin 1995.
  • Dirk Röpcke: Wi (e) der the problematic exotic species. Considerations for the assessment of interculturally ambitious children's and youth literature. Hamburg 2000; ISBN 3-934993-24-9 .
  • Heidi Rösch: Migration literature as new world literature. In: Sprachkunst 35 (2004), pp. 89–109.
  • Petra Thore: who are you here in this city, in this country, in this new world , the identity balance abroad in selected works of German-language migrant literature, University of Uppsala, Sweden 2004, ISBN 978-91-554-5907-9 .
  • Sigrid Weigel: Literature of the foreign - literature in the foreign. In: Klaus Briegleb u. Sigrid Weigel (ed.), Contemporary literature since 1968. Hanser, Munich a. Weimar 1992 (Hanser's Social History of German Literature from the 16th Century to the Present 12), pp. 182–229.
  • Hamid Reza Yousefi : Dornenfelder , Reinbek 2011.
  • Hamid Reza Yousefi , Ina Braun: Interculturality. An interdisciplinary introduction. Scientific Book Society, Darmstadt 2011; ISBN 978-3-534-23824-8 .

Individual evidence

  1. See Jürgen Joachimsthaler: Text margins. The cultural diversity in Central Europe as a problem of representation of German literature. Heidelberg 2011.
  2. ^ Şenocak in Ackermann / Weinrich: A non-German literature. To determine the position of the "foreigner literature", ed. v. Irmgard Ackermann et al. a., Munich 1986, p. 66
  3. Hamid Reza Yousefi: Dornenfelder, Reinbek 2011, p. 11 (end of the prologue)

See also

Web links