Starting from the notion of a “postsecular society” in current German debates about immigration, this essay investigates links between racism and collective identity in German debates about immigration that took place in the context of an academic as well as broader public return to “premises” during the 2000s. It explores this emerging episteme of (not always strictly religious) faith and affirmation through the newly popular philosophies of Stanley Cavell and Alain Badiou. In juxtaposing their in many respects divergent theoretical models, it develops a concept of critically affirmative reconfiguration and argues that it enables productive responses to ongoing political affirmations of collective identity. The case study is the topos of “Christian universalism,” which has been used, in significantly different ways, both in conservative and mainstream articulations of national identity (Sarrazin; “headscarf” legislations) and in Badiou’s radical counter-figuration.
This essay explores the religiously motivated migration of Central European Jesuits to the Spanish Indies against the backdrop of early modern Germany's lack of colonial possession. These migrants played a crucial role in shaping German knowledge about foreign lands during this early stage of globalization. A first section focuses on the motivation, background, and spatial movements of the migrants themselves, stressing the strong allure of the masculine figure of the overseas martyr. The second part of the essay traces the impact of these Jesuit migrations on Germans “back home”, paying particular attention to printed missionary reports that familiarized readers with the colonial world and contributed to a broader, trans-confessional discourse about a distinct German identity in an increasingly connected world.
The experiences of missionaries are experiences of otherness. Missionaries can only be successful in their main enterprise if they perceive and understand these others in their otherness, or at least if they try to do so. Moravian missionary John Heckewelder (1743–1823) was an expert, profoundly knowledgeable about the ways of the Indians of the Eastern Woodlands, especially the Delaware tribe, towards whom he was well disposed. After a brief summary of Heckewelder’s life and his Moravian mission, this essay addresses questions of authorship, structure, and composition in Heckewelder’s Account of the History, Manners, and Customs of the Indian Nations (1819). It analyzes Heckewelder’s experience with Indians as others: how he described, presented, and interpreted them. Special attention is devoted to Heckewelder’s presentation of the Indian concept of property and to his description of the Indians’ treatment of captives.
Discussions of the Muslim population in Germany often focus on those of Turkish, and to a lesser extent, Arab descent. This is logical, since the Turkish- and Arab-German populations are the two largest Muslim groups in Germany. The focus on these two groups, however, elides significant distinctions within the population of Muslim migrants in Germany. In this essay I focus on three less-discussed groups: Iranian, Afghan and Pakistani migrants. All three of these groups differ, above all, from Turkish migrants in Germany, because their departure from their home countries was occasioned, on the whole, more by political and religious and less by economic factors. Iranians and Afghans fled revolutions and wars in their countries, while the Pakistani community in Germany includes many Ahmadis, a heretical sect of Muslims according to the Pakistani constitution. Thus, the Pakistani-German community, in particular, presents a fascinating picture of a minority-within-aminority in Germany. This essay provides an overview of the history and current status of these three distinct groups of Muslim migrants in Germany. In addition, I discuss how popular perception of these communities often subsumes them into the larger Turkish-German community.
Around 1900 German orientalists, missionaries and representatives of colonial pressure groups started a debate about the so-called Moslem world. This debate created new spaces, connecting Africa, Europe and the Ottoman Empire: It equally shaped and was shaped by old and newly invented religious traditions and it made and was made by changing coalitions between political, academic and economic interests of transnational scientific associations, local African societies and by worldwide organized missionary groups. Above all this debate shows surprising connections to current discussions and thereby provides an insight into the ongoing German discussions about modern migration and the role of religion.
The debate about a new mosque in Manhattan to be located near Ground Zero echoed around the world in 2010. Since the end of the 1980s, plans for new mosques have been highly contested in the western world. The main aim here is a comparison of different mosque conflicts, with a focus on German examples. “No mosque in our town!” is, with its variants, a common slogan of local neighbors and citizen action groups in Germany when a new mosque is to be built. So it is only a minor exaggeration to state: “No new mosque in Germany without a local conflict.” Also, since the late 1980s, inconspicuous mosques in Germany have been increasingly replaced by buildings that combine traditional elements of Islamic architecture (minarets, domes) with modern western and postmodern forms. This analysis differentiates at least three aspects of these conflicts: (1) spatial aspects, e.g., questions of town planning, but also the relevance of the built environment for personal and collective identity, (2) interethnic and intercultural aspects, e.g., the relation between the establishment and outsiders, and (3) interreligious aspects, e.g., the mutual conceptualizations of Islam and Christianity or relations between Islamic organizations and a “secular” state. It also considers how these conflicts escalated through the interaction of both structural and accidental factors, in particular: anti-Islamic discourses, social polarizations, and an accumulated potential for interethnic conflict in residential areas with a high number of migrants.
Thilo Sarrazin's bestselling diatribe against the Muslim population in Germany, Germany is Doing Away With Itself (2010), has generated opprobrium from the political elite and a mass following among the population at large. Basing his arguments on demographic trans-formations substantiating fears about a reduction of the indigenous population, Sarrazin decries the rising dominance of Muslim migrants in Germany, who purportedly reproduce at a much higher rate than the national average and prey on the country’s shrinking social benefits. At the same time, he limns Germany’s transformation from an industrial society to an information provider and services economy, presaging that this change poses educational, political, social and economic challenges as the native population ages and its industries struggle to surpass global competitors.