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Ela Gezen (University of Massachusetts Amherst)

Ela Gezen

Ela Gezen
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Fellow in Research Area 4: "Literary Currencies"

May – June 2022

Cultures in Migration: Turkish Artistic Practices and Cultural-Political Interventions in West Berlin

In the early stages of Turkish migration to West Germany, Turkish artists (including painters, writers, musicians, and sculptors) highlighted the significance of Turkish culture in their efforts to actively shape processes of integration. They conceived of integration not as a unidirectional adaptation to a supposedly pre-existing German majority culture, but rather as a bidirectional process of exchange between Germans and Turks that necessitated a familiarity with each country’s societal, political, historical, and cultural specificities. The cultural sphere was therefore conceived as a space to participate in and actively shape public political discourse in ways that involved both Turkish and German residents of West Berlin. Numerous cultural institutions were integral to this process, with the Kunstamt Kreuzberg, the Deutsch-Türkische Gesellschaft, and the Türkischer Akademiker- und Künstlerverein playing particularly key roles.

Cultures in Migration: Turkish Artistic Practices and Cultural-Political Interventions in West Berlin examines cultural practices by Turkish artists and intellectuals during the mid 1970s until the early 1980s as an early manifestation of Turkish self-presentation and as a key part of the formation of a Turkish public sphere in West Berlin. Central to this process, this project argues, was the formation of and collaborations between the institutions mentioned above, which were designed to promote cultural events, where culture was understood as important factor within discourses on integration.Spanning sources in multiple languages, media, and genres this interdisciplinary project offers close readings of cultural practices ranging from theatre and painting to sculpture and literature, situating its discussion of individual events within the historic, political, and institutional contexts that shaped them, while also examining their cultural-political legacies.


Ela Gezen is an Associate Professor of German at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Her first book Brecht, Turkish Theater, and Turkish-German Literature: Reception, Adaptation, and Innovation after 1960 (Camden House, 2018), studies the significance of Bertolt Brecht for Turkish and Turkish German literature. Currently, she is working on her second book project, Cultures in Migration: Turkish Artistic Practices and Cultural-Political Interventions in West Berlin. She is the co-editor of two special journal issues exploring new directions in the field of Turkish German Studies, of one book on minority discourses in Germany, and she is also editor of a special issue on Aras Ören. In addition, she has published articles on music and literature, focusing on the intersection between aesthetics and politics in both Turkish and German contexts. Together with Dr. Ben Schoefield, she is the co-editor of the book series, Transnational Approaches to Culture, published with DeGruyter.