Knowledge production, multiple identities, and epistemic agency in autobiographies by Black German-speaking women
In their discussion of Black German epistemologies and positionalities, Piesche and Lennox (2016) address an ever-prevalent focus on resistance and counter-narrative that pervades literary scholarship of works authored by Black German women writers. Piesche and Lennox (2016) depart from traditional notions that view the literary work of Black German-speaking women as an act of resistance whereby the writers employ counter-narrative and -discourse to affirm their rightful place in a society where “the ‘German Black’ is not read as an Other-from-within, but an ‘Other from-without’” (Michelle Wright 2003, p. 190; italics in original). Highlighting resistance and counter-discourse, rather than remapping knowledge, Wright (2003) addresses the ongoing requirement to belie the persistent assumption that one cannot be “both Black and German” as a salient aspect to (many of the) Afro-German experiences and one that undergirds many autobiographical works by Black German women (Wright 2003, p. 191; italics in original). Although Piesche and Lennox (2016) and Wright (2003) demarcate two opposing viewpoints regarding the epistemological efficacy of Black German-speaking writers, the parameters established by their engagement with Afro-German literature highlight the possibility of myriad perspectives on autobiographical texts by Black German-speaking women. Building on insights gleaned from reading and annotating over a dozen autobiographical texts written by Afro-German women writers, this presentation locates numerous instances in which the authors create alternative forms of knowledge whereby they embody multiple modes of identity. It begins with an in-depth discussion of the various meanings afforded to terms like ‘Afro-German’ (Lorde, 1992), ‘Black German’ (Layne, 2015), ‘Schwarze Deutsch(e)’ (Campt, 2003), and ‘Afro Hyphenated German’ (Ayim, 2003; Zami & Chi, 2018). It then illustrates that the authors assert their own multiple identities in the written mode by visualizing how activity-based, rather than relational, identities create multiple ways in how the authors embody multiple modes of existence.
Andrea Dawn Bryant is a PhD Candidate (ABD) in German at Georgetown University. Her dissertation project is currently titled On the Representation of Race in German-language Curriculum in the United States. Combining insights from critical discourse analysis, critical race theory, and culturally sustaining pedagogy, this project interrogates how discourses of diversity affect representation and treatment of Blackness in the teaching of German language(s) and literature(s) in the United States.