This article argues that we are witnessing the possible emergence of a Germany confident in the strength of its rational and democratic approach to governance. Thinking about this development through Baruch Spinoza’s insights into the centrality of reason to democracy, we suggest that Germany has responded to its past in a salutary manner by building a rational and responsible democracy. Few recent events illustrate this transformation more clearly than Germany’s reaction to the covid-19 pandemic.
Politics, COVID-19, and the New Germany
Michael Meng and Adam R. Seipp
A White Republic? Whites and Whiteness in France
Mathilde Cohen and Sarah Mazouz
France is an overwhelmingly majority-White nation. Yet the French majority is reluctant to identify as White, and French social science has tended to eschew Whiteness as an object of inquiry. Inspired by critical race theory and critical Whiteness studies, this interdisciplinary special issue offers a new look at White identities in France. It does so not to recenter Whiteness by giving it prominence, but to expose and critique White dominance. This introduction examines the global and local dimensions of Whiteness, before identifying three salient dimensions of its French version: the ideology of the race-blind universalist republic; the past and present practice of French colonialism, slavery, and rule across overseas territories; and the racialization of people of Muslim or North African backgrounds as non-White.
True to our original mission, this new issue of Transfers brings together a plurality of disciplines, from history to anthropology and literary criticism. It showcases reactions to the current pandemic as well as far-reaching reflections on the meanings of mobility. Bracketing our issue, two articles engage with the history of mobility. Drawing our attention to the extent of the automobility system, in “The Freeway Journey: Landscape and Mobility in the Southern Auto Industry,” John E. Mohr questions the economic and social costs of developing the I-85 highway corridor through the American South. Hugo Silveira Pereira interrogates “The Past, Present, and Future of Peripheral Mobilities in Portugal” through a history of the Portuguese narrow-gauge railway system that spans over a century.
Innocence and the Politics of Memory
Jonathan Bach and Benjamin Nienass
Innocence is central to German memory politics; indeed, one can say that the German memory landscape is saturated with claims of innocence. The Great War is commonly portrayed as a loss of innocence, while the Nazis sought, in their way, to reclaim that innocence by proclaiming Germany as the innocent victim. After World War II, denazification and courts established administrative and legal boundaries within which claims of innocence could be formulated and adjudicated, while the “zero hour” and “economic miracle” established a basis for a different form of reclaiming innocence, one roundly critiqued by Theodor W. Adorno in his essay “What Does Coming to Terms with the Past Mean?” In the 1980s, Chancellor Helmut Kohl's famous pronouncement of the “grace [Gnade] of a late birth” (also translatable as “mercy,” “pardon,” or “blessing”) became the touchstone for a resurgence of war children's (Kriegskinder) memory. In the 1990s, the myth of the Wehrmacht as largely innocent of atrocities was publicly challenged. Today, right-wing critiques that cast Holocaust remembrance as a politics of shame draw upon tropes of innocence, of German air war victims and post-war generations, while right-wing images of migrants are cast in classic forms of threats to the purity of the “national body” (Volkskörper). The quickening pace of contemporary debates over Germany's colonial past pointedly questions the innocence of today's beneficiaries of colonialism, drawing attention to the borders and contours of implication.
Promises and Perils
Julia M. Hildebrand and Stephanie Sodero
When the novel coronavirus moved around the planet in early 2020, reconfiguring, slowing down, or halting everyday mobilities, another transport mode was mobilized: the pandemic drone. We highlight the increasing prominence of this aerial device by surveying international media coverage of pandemic drone use in the spring of 2020. To address a range of pandemic drone affordances and applications, we organize manifold cases under two broad categories: sensing and moving with the pandemic drone. Here we ask: what roles do, and could, drones play during the pandemic? Following the empirical examples and related mobilities research, we theorize the drone versus virus and the drone as virus. As such, the work identifies avenues for mobilities research into pandemic drones as a growing mobility domain. Moreover, in thinking through the pandemic drone, we demonstrate creative extensions of mobilities thinking that bridge biological and technological, as well as media and mobility frameworks when multiple public health and safety crises unfolded and intersected.
Literary Interventions at the Airport and in the Underground
Emma Eldelin and Andreas Nyblom
Spaces of transit and transportation are often thought of as one-dimensional and as defined by their functionality and rationality, but recent literary texts challenge such preconceptions by representing those spaces as multidimensional and meaningful. In this article, we examine literature through the lens of place making, seeking to understand in what ways literary representations are involved in renegotiations of transit space. Addressing two generic spaces of transit—the underground and the airport—we analyze a body of texts generated through initiatives relating to the London Underground and Heathrow Airport respectively. Arguing that literature contributes to a processual understanding of place, we conclude that literary texts should be considered as instances of place making, and thus deserve serious consideration in research.
This introduction to the special issue highlights dominant approaches to the study of women's and gender history in colonial and postcolonial Maghrib. Moreover, it delineates the analytical agenda that frames our inquiry, and reviews the essays in this collection.
Ireneusz Pawel Karolewski, Julian Pänke, and Jochen Roose
Germany's role in Europe and the world is changing fundamentally. For about five decades West Germany's and reunited Germany's position was very much aligned with the European integration project.
Despite its hegemonic potential, Germany defined its role as a partner of the other EU member states. Within the EU framework and globally, it mostly acted jointly with European partners, particularly France. Although Germany's situation altered significantly after unification, it still refrained from exercising its increased power and was rather seeking the role of a “gentle giant.” This was largely the case despite some exceptions, such as the unilateral recognition of Croatian and Slovenian independence in the early 1990s, and criticism that Germany might tend to single-handed foreign policy—the “Alleingang.”
The Work of Culture, Heritage, and Musealized Spaces in “Unprecedented Times”
Writing at the midpoint of 2020, it has become cliché to say we are living in unprecedented times as the world copes with a confluence of events and challenges near cataclysmic proportions—the COVID-19 pandemic, civic unrest, social and political upheavals, and disrupted economies. In these times, what should be the work of culture, heritage, and musealized spaces and those that study them? I reflect on the articles in the special section, which stand as examples of engaged research and scholarship that seek to make visible troubled histories and presents, and to amplify voices that have for too long been silenced or ignored. Such visibility work surfaces what does and does not have precedent, what has and has not changed, and what is truly different and revolutionary. The articles draws on historical, comparative, and global perspectives to enrich knowledge gained from firsthand observation and engagement with local communities. Using Donna Haraway's concept of “tentacular thinking,” I argue that we need not only to shed light on difficult chapters in our histories, but also to offer tools for understanding, guidance, and thoughtful actions in the present.
The Emergence of a Community of Practice
Esther Helen McNaughton
This article describes the unprecedented coming together of New Zealand art gallery educators to respond to the challenges of the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic. This newly formed community of practice met virtually three times at critical points. At each stage, new concerns were discussed and understandings evolved. The gallery educators were able to approach shared issues cooperatively, enabling mutual support to a degree that had hitherto not been possible. By the end of these meetings, gallery educators were reestablishing their regular teaching practice with the integration of many of the innovations of the period. Additionally, the meetings fulfilled a preexisting desire for closer contact and professional support, and thus proved to be the foundation of an ongoing national professional group for New Zealand art gallery educators.