Germany, Turkey, and the Space In-Between
At first, I could not look at Cologne Cathedral. Whenever the train arrived in Cologne, I
always shut my eyes. Once however I opened an eye, and then I saw it: the cathedral
was watching me. At that moment a razor blade entered my body, ran through me and
there was no more pain. I opened my other eye. Perhaps I lost my mother tongue there,
then, that time.∞
l The coming of age of the Turkish diaspora in Ger-
many has not been painless, as the Turkish German writer Emine Sevgi
Özdamar bears witness in the epigraph above.≤
It has involved the loss
of the mother tongue, especially for the generations born in Germany,
and the radical questioning of attachment to the homeland. Coming of
age has been a lengthy process of self-redefinition culminating in an emer-
gent subjectivity, namely, Deutsch-Türken, Almanyalı, or Turkish German.
Coming of age has not meant, as many would have preferred, the peaceful
‘‘bridging’’ of two distinct cultures. Rather, it implies a coming to terms
with both the consequences of deracination and the refashioning of as-
sumptions about ‘‘our culture.’’ This has entailed Germany’s recognition of
the multiple links to Turkey, or, more generally, between Europe and its
fantasies of Orient.
Rather than look at a Turkish diaspora in Germany as a bounded social
community, I follow the multiple references of belonging across several
decades and places. In lieu of reviving the tired bridge metaphor, either
linking or separating two distinct cultures or peoples—ever notional at
best—I find it more productive to explore the novel and not-so-novel
spaces defined by contestation and other performances, of interaction and
mutual influencing. The bridge metaphor inadequately separates some-
what arbitrary entities; focusing on the shifting spaces in-between captures
a more nuanced picture of the complex dynamics at work.
On a sociopolitical level, too, we can point to a radical questioning of the
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