Anja Sunhyun Michaelsen holds an MA in gender studies and German literature from the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin and a PhD in media studies from the Ruhr-Universität Bochum. Her work has been awarded with the Best Publication Award Gender & Medien by the GfM (Gesellschaft für Medienwissenschaft) and supported by the BCP (Berliner Programm für Chancengleichheit) and the RUB Research School. She was a researcher and lecturer at the media studies department in Bochum, where she co-edited the online journal kultur & geschlecht. Her work focuses on the less tangible dimensions of violence in contemporary, racialized settings and its capture in film and video, regarding audiovisual media as archive and sensory tool for structural amnesia, ungrievability, and social death.

She has written about the affective impact of the NSU (National Socialist Underground) murders, mainstream and critical discourses, and media representations of adoption (Kippbilder der Familie. Ambivalenz und Sentimentalität moderner Adoption in Film und Video, 2017), the depiction of the European asylum system in documentary films and video art, and queerness in postmigrant filmmaking. In the winter semester 2020/21, she will be a guestprofessor at the Institute for Theater, Film, and Media Studies at the University of Vienna.

Reduction in the Archive: A Postcolonial South Korean-West German Adoption History, 1971-1996
Affiliated Project 2020-21

Between 1971 and 1996, 2,300 South Korean children have been placed for adoption in West Germany. Not much is known about their history. The global history of the South Korean transnational adoption programme connects Japanese colonialism, US occupation, military dictatorship, and the Cold War, industrialization and population policy, sexualized violence, Christian mission, and global race relations. The project aims to retrace where and how these global entanglements appear in the South Korean-West German archive, where postcolonial relations are intimated, and how they manifest themselves.

I attempt to tell a version of the adoption history that takes its archival situation as starting point. Instead of accumulating (counter-)knowledge, the focus is on laying open what is already there, paying attention particularly to the simultaneously connecting and separating gaps between the manifest elements. I thus understand the archive of the South Korean-West German adoption history – fragmentary as it is – as an archive of reality production, of ‘worlding’ (Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak). This approach requires ‘narrative restraint’ (Saidiya Hartman), a form of reduction.

Derealization and Non-Relationality:
Racialized Violence in the Postmigrant Situation

ICI Project 2018-20

The project takes up the notion of the non-relational Other and reassesses its use for the analysis of postmigration Germany. The political assassinations by the NSU between 2000 and 2007 indicate that we need to consider a socio-ontological separation between postmigrant lives and the lives of the majority of the population, not in the racist sense of ‘Parallelgesellschaften’ (alluding to supposedly secluded, criminal migrant milieus), but rather as effect of that very notion. The project examines tropes such as the ‘parallel’ as elements of derealization, a form of violence that precedes and makes physical extinction possible.

Additionally to Judith Butler’s notion of derealization, Michaelsen takes conceptual inspiration from theories of social death and anti-Black violence, as well as local studies of racism. Considering the limitations of the conventional documentary form, Michaelsen turns to the capacity of audiovisual art to capture racialized violence, particularly in its ‘ordinary’ forms and effects. Films and videos by Ayşe Polat, Hito Steyerl, Hiwa K, and others, allow to scrutinize derealization and non-relationality as they impact, and possibly constitute postmigrant lives.