The Place of Anglophone Postcolonial Studies in Germany

Panel discussion

Saturday, May 15, 9:30 am

The 2021 annual GAPS conference, like most of its predecessors, takes place in Germany. Regular participants in our conferences come from Germany, Austria, and the German-speaking part of Switzerland, as do most active members of the association. Recent activist and intellectual interventions in these countries, such as the calls for repatriating the artefacts stolen by colonists that are housed in the new Humboldt Forum in Berlin, unmask an ongoing – if not actively fostered – historical amnesia toward the role these countries played in European colonialism. One of the most momentous events of colonial history, the Scramble for Africa conference in 1884-85, was held in Berlin. German thinkers and scientists such as Max Müller and Alexander von Humboldt contributed a scientific archive of colonialism, Orientalism, Aryan Invasion Theory, and the ancillary discourses of eugenics and racism as evinced in the Holocaust. While Austria and Switzerland did not directly colonize other countries, they benefitted both economically and politically from the colonial system, and the Austro-Hungarian Empire was an exemplar of nineteenth-century imperialism. Under these circumstances, this panel asks, what does it mean to do anglophone postcolonial studies in the German-speaking world?

Organized by the GAPS board, the panel assembles scholars from both Anglophone and German postcolonial studies to consider questions such as:

  • How does GAPS position itself in relation to other postcolonial and anglophone academic bodies and associations (e.g. PSA, EACLALS) – particularly those based in countries that have direct relationship to British colonialism?
  • What does GAPS offer that these associations do not? How can it differentiate itself while at the same time forging alliances to increase its visibility and impact?
  • What role does Germany’s colonial history play in approaching anglophone postcolonial studies?
  • What measures could GAPS put in place to diversify the representation of postcolonial scholarship practiced in Germany, and create sustainable opportunities for scholars from formerly colonized parts of the world?
  • What is the role of non-Germans – be they migrants, asylum seekers, former guest workers, expats, students or scholars from abroad – in German-speaking institutions and in GAPS itself?

The panel continues a dialogue begun at the 2014 GAPS annual conference (Postcolonial Justice) in Potsdam and Berlin that has acquired new urgency as neocolonial hegemonies and structural racism are being challenged across Europe and North America. GAPS is committed to addressing these questions and hopes that the panel will be a starting point for further dialogue.


Smaran Dayal (New York University), Comparative Literature

Dirk Göttsche (University of Nottingham), Department of Modern Languages and Cultures, School of Cultures, Languages and Area Studies

Ana Sobral (Universität Zürich), Global Literatures in English

Mark Stein (Universität Münster), Anglophone Postcolonial Studies, former GAPS president

Elahe Hashemi Yekani (Humboldt Universität zu Berlin), Anglophone Postcolonial Studies

Chair: Lars Eckstein (Universität Potsdam), RTG Minor Cosmopolitanisms