Turkish-German scripts of postmigration: mimesis and mimeticism in the plays of Emine Sevgi Özdamar and Feridun Zaimoglu/Günter Senkel
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Fifty years after large-scale Turkish labour migration to the Federal Republic of Germany began, theatre by Turkish-German artists is only now becoming a consistent feature of Germany’s influential state-funded theatrical landscape. So whilst much scholarship in recent years has focused on Turkish-German literature and film, very little research has been conducted into Turkish-German theatre. This doctoral thesis addresses this neglected field of study and examines contemporary theatre practice and theatrical representation in the Federal Republic of Germany as a country of immigration. It traces the fascinating fates of five plays by two Turkish-German playwrights who are already well-known for their award-winning prose work: Emine Sevgi Özdamar and Feridun Zaimoglu, who writes for the stage with Günter Senkel. The thesis focuses on these plays in performance and examines the dramatic and performance texts’ negotiations of 1) mimesis – the artistic representation of ‘the real’ – and 2) mimeticism – a mechanism identified by cultural theorist Rey Chow as relying on Platonic concepts of idealised ‘originals’ to keep certain subjects ‘in their place’. The thesis argues that Özdamar’s plays in production function as touchstones for thinking through broader tendencies in the German theatrical establishment’s inclusion of theatre by, with, and concerning Turkish-Germans, while Zaimoglu/Senkel’s reveal points at which these paradigms shift. The earliest production which the thesis examines, Özdamar’s Karagöz in Alamania, was premiered in 1986, and the most recent, Özdamar’s Perikızı, in 2011. The intervening years are marked by the examination of Zaimoglu/Senkel’s Othello (2003), Schwarze Jungfrauen (2006), and Schattenstimmen (2008). As theatrical production in Germany is a process which tends to take the play out of the author’s hands, the thesis aims to unpack the negotiations between text and performance, author and director, ensemble and audience in each production. In doing so it makes use of extensive field and archival work. For each play addressed, the thesis moves beyond the dramatic text to draw on a wide range of sources including audiovisual recordings, prompt scripts, programmes, and interviews with the directors and authors. This historicising approach to performance analysis allows connections to be made between the performances as historical events taking place within an institutional context and the negotiations of mimesis and mimeticism within the mise-en-scène of each play in its world premiere and beyond. Key questions addressed throughout include: in what context were these plays staged? How were migration and migrant or postmigrant figures represented within them? How were productions received? And what does this have to tell us about cultural production and aesthetics within the very particular circumstances created by twentieth-century Turkish migrations to Germany? A focus on ‘mimeticism’ allows this thesis to explore the ways in which the productions examined approached the representation of ‘ethnicised’ figures. It also reveals the extent to which a positioning of plays by Özdamar and Zaimoglu/Senkel as ‘Turkish’, ‘Turkish-German’, or ‘postmigrant’ may also have affected their production and reception. A complementary focus on ‘mimesis’ then allows this thesis to examine the degree to which these performances were intended or received as aesthetic interventions relevant to the social reality of contemporary Germany. Indeed, the trajectories which this thesis traces over the past quarter of a century see Turkish- German theatre move not only geographically, but also symbolically, from the margins to the centre of theatrical life in contemporary Germany. Rather than seeing this relatively late success as reason to obscure earlier Turkish-German theatrical productions, this study places that success in context. It thus highlights the role which Özdamar's and Zaimoglu/Senkel's ‘script[s] of multiculturalism’ (B. Venkat Mani) have played in a larger, ongoing re-scripting of the German stage, which has taken place as Germany adjusts to its status as a country of immigration.