Visiting Instructor of German and Russian Studies Peggy Piesche presented a paper at the “Black Europe and the African Diaspora” Lecture Series at Vanderbilt University on April 2. In “The Perpetual Other: African Imagination in West and East Germany in the age of the Cold War” Piesche stressed the relations between the uprising African Independence Movements and both Germanys after World War II.
Discussing the documentary ‘Omulaule means Black’ which follows the lives of young Namibians who grew up in the German Democratic Republic (GDR) and had to return to Namibia following German unification, Piesche’s talk focused on the historical background for this story: German colonialism as well as its modern version – the Cold War.
The African Independence Movements of the 1960s raised questions about notions of National identity and provided a forum to articulate this for both the African nations emerging out of colonialism as well as the nations of the West – including Eastern Europe. Of course, these questions were deeply influenced by the ethos of the “Cold-War,” which pressured all countries to declare themselves adherents to one political system. Moreover, these independence movements came at a time when the both Germanys were comfortably past the immediate problems of the post-war years and out from the complete control of their “parent nations”—a critical moment to articulate national identity.
In many ways, this national identity was articulated vis-à-vis the other identity of Afro-Germans and other ethnic outsiders (such as Turkish guest workers in the West), brought into both cultures through guest worker programs. The treatment of these guest workers, and the cultural consideration of their African identities, represents an intersection of economic and political needs specific to their separate ideological and economic systems.