What does it mean to think of life ‘after diaspora’ and ‘beyond citizenship’? What does a perspective from post-war and post-Wall Berlin reveal about these positions? The point of this research is not to argue that citizenship is no longer important as an analytical category or a social ideal, or that diaporas no longer exist. Instead, this paper simultaneously thinks diaspora and citizenship beyond their limits. It examines citizenship beyond the nation-state and diaspora beyond ethnic purity or a politics of return. While citizenship as a philosophical concept holds up laudable social ends, in its actual practice it cannot get beyond the reality of exclusionary outcomes. The politics and analytics of diaspora, while seemingly limited to a particularly restricted transnational ethnic or ethno-religious network, also produces its own unexpected affiliations and outcomes.
Thinking from the perspective of Berlin and beginning with the example of post-World War II African-American occupation in a broader global social context, Partridge is working through some of the unanticipated implications of what Stuart Hall (1990) refers to as the promise of a ‘diasporic aesthetics’ and begins by arguing that ‘African-American’ cultural forms not only gained an unanticipated profundity via the actual presence of African-American soldiers and their children, but also that the actual presence created possibilities for new access and new opportunities for identification and enunciation (i.e. places and positions from which to speak). ‘Blackness’ has emerged as a universal signifier. Amidst this reality, though, Holocaust memory demands accounting. Other noncitizen subjects have emerged who engage this memory while simultaneously articulating the contemporary dimensions of racism and racialization. ‘Morally superior’ European claims that suggest the mainstream has mastered the past obfuscate solidarity between those who see themselves as the descendants of the Shoah’s horror (as opposed to its perpetrators) and other contemporary noncitizens.
Damani J. Partridge is an associate professor in the Department of Anthropology and the Department of Afroamerican and African Studies at the University of Michigan. He has published broadly on questions of citizenship, sexuality, post-Cold War ‘freedom’, Holocaust memorialization, African-American military occupation, ‘Blackness’ and embodiment, the production of noncitizens, the culture and politics of ‘fair trade’, and the Obama moment in Berlin. He has also made and worked on documentaries for private and public broadcasters in the US and Canada. He is the author of Hypersexuality and Headscarves: Race, Sex, and Citizenship in the New Germany (2012).
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