Brian Haman: Marginal Exotica – Post-WWII Russian-German Fiction as Minor Literature?

The research proposes that ethnic German writing within the Soviet Union was not a homogenous phenomenon based solely on a shared ethnicity or common experiences of internal displacement and repression. Rather, German-speaking minorities in the Soviet Union were shaped by differences in class, gender, and regional identity, all of which is reflected in their strikingly profuse and varied poetry, plays, novels, short stories, (auto)biographies, and literary criticism. As a result, their writings provide a vivid and nuanced picture of how ethnicity, regionality, political positioning and the dialectics of identity and language inform and shape aesthetic practice.

While recent research has examined the legacies of flight and expulsion (e.g. the forced migration of approximately 12 million ethnic Germans at the end of World War II) in West- and East- German literature, the literary cultures of ethnic German authors on the geographical, political, and social margins of German-speaking Europe during the second half of the twentieth century have been largely overlooked, with obvious exceptions such as Herta Müller.

Thus, the research poses and probes a fundamental question: At what point does or should ethnic German literature cease to be categorized as a minor literature and instead be understood as German literature? Consequently, I aim 1) to problematize Deleuze and Guattari’s notion of minor literature as fundamentally political in nature, i.e. that questions of the individual are rooted in politics rather than aesthetics, and 2) to re-evaluate the culturally-conservative reception of ethnic German literature by the German (and, more broadly, European) literary establishment(s).­­­­

A former Fulbright and DAAD Scholar, Brian Haman has studied at universities in the UK, Austria, and the United States and holds a PhD in German Studies and an MA in English Literature (Warwick). His postdoctoral research examines the confluence of literature and philosophy in German Romanticism and the literary works of ethnic Germans in post-WWII Europe and Central Asia, respectively. Within the field of German Studies, he has published academic articles and reviews in peer-reviewed journals such as Oxford German Studies, Monatshefte, Modern Language Review, and CAA Reviews, and he is currently working on his first monograph. Brian is also the Book Review and Interview Editor of The Shanghai Literary Review and his writing on Asian culture has appeared in The New York Times, The Guardian, The Japan Times, Los Angeles Review of Books, Asian Review of Books, ArtAsiaPacific, South China Morning Post, Hong Kong Review of Books, Neocha, and elsewhere. He is co-editing an anthology of female translators of contemporary Chinese poetry.


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