Berlin
A Prelude
l One of my personal reasons for confronting the
phantasmatic space occupied by Jews and Turks in the German imaginary
was driven by the experience of frequently being (mis)taken for a Turk by
Germans and Turks alike. My living situation in 1980s Berlin over a course
of years, divided between several very di√erent neighborhoods (Kreuzberg,
Schöneberg, Grunewald, Lichterfelde),∞
o√ered me tastes of numerous as-
pects of Berlin life. Alternately, I shared living quarters with Turks and
Germans (and briefly with Americans), first in a markedly Turkish neigh-
borhood, then a mixed area, and finally a predominantly German one.
Only in the last did I manifestly stand out. Here I experienced daily the
sense of transgression, of trespassing, as straight-backed Spießbürger≤
Ger-
man women on bicycles would turn and stare as I walked down the street
in this leafy area of tasteful apartment blocks and detached German vil-
las, many (including the one whose attic I occupied) constructed to Nazi
specifications, complete with requisite flag-holder molded into the flaw-
lessly rendered stucco facade. One day at the local neighborhood outdoor
market, a German man hawking potatoes called out to me, ‘‘schwarze
Frau’’ (black woman), when asking for my order. Frequently I sat alone on
buses in this part of Berlin, my temporary neighbors preferring either to
sit beside their compatriots or to stand, rather than sit by me, the local
schwarze Frau.
To Germans who only wished to see me as a Turk it made no di√erence
who I thought or felt I was. They already had categorized me, transforming
me into an object of their imaginary projection. I became part of that
process as well, because of the critical conjuncture of my own self-image,
and who the Germans—and Turks—presumed I was. Later I came to see
that these identities were not totally distinct, any more for me than for the
people whom I was studying. At a very basic level I discovered that who the
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