Current Institutional Affiliation
Director, Prison Teaching Initiative, Princeton University

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2014
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Comparative Literature, Princeton University
Cold War Migrants: Canonizing the Gastarbeiter in Turkish and German Fiction

This dissertation looks at Turkish-German fiction as a contested, border-crossing body of literature, and pays particular attention to identity-oriented paradigms that surround its emergence, growth, and transformation. I understand the term "Turkish-German literature" as both a critical conceit and a historically-bound collection of novels, short stories, essays, and films by ethnic Turks in Germany. This dissertation departs from existing scholarship, which takes Turkish-German fiction as a "minor literature" of the German canon. Since the 1970s, a small contingent of German studies scholars have persistently argued for the importance of migrant literature for understanding new forms of "Germanness." My intervention into this rich body of scholarship is an attempt to recognize the complex multinational experiences depicted in Turkish-German literature and to allow the historical tensions and personal anxieties that shaped twentieth century labor migration to come to the surface of these texts. Specifically, I propose an expansion of our understanding of Turkish-German literature in two directions. First I suggest that that Turkish-German literature is also a Turkish literature – that is, a literature of emigration as well as immigration. Second, I suggest that this same body of texts should be read broadly as an international cultural product of the Cold War. This project takes 1961 as its starting point, the year of Turkey and Germany's Gastarbeit (Guest Work) contract and the beginning of a mass labor migration that would result in the settlement of millions of ethnic Turks to the Bundesrepublik. I conclude my study in 2010, the year that Chancellor Angela Merkel infamously declared of the failure of multiculturalism in Germany. In using these landmark political events as boundaries, I do not wish to define my project as a literary history, but rather to signal an attention to literature as a source of critical historiography.