“hier bei uns”

Connection of the day: Reading a lot of good work about memory and remembering at the moment. Harald Welzer, Sabine Moller and Karoline Tschuggnall, for instance, on the dynamics and contradictions of remembering in families (“Opa war kein Nazi”). Very interesting study on how memories are passed on – including, for instance, how a gran’s vague ambiguous memory of certain events becomes ever more concrete and definite as it passes down through the generations.

One of the things Welzer and colleagues critique is that in remembering WWII, very often a distinction is drawn between “the Germans” and “the Jews”. An us/them dinstinction is made, even when nothing malicious or discriminatory seems to be intended.

Is that so very surprising, given today’s constellations of group identies? Today I am reading a valiant attempt in the weekly newspaper Die Zeit to point out how the revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt etc. could “improve the world – from Kreuzberg to Peking and Ramallah”.

And what do they say – bearing in mind this is an entirely well-intentioned article, and bearing in mind that Muslims living in Germany are often of the third generation born here. Writing about the dramatic contradiction between the imagined Muslim of “the Sarrazin year” (Muslims in this hugely problematic view are uneducated, violent, dole scrounging machos who mass produce babies to get more dole money) and the Muslims of the recent revolutions(democratically engaged, equality promoting, intelligent), Die Zeit writes:

Immerhin könnte es sein, dass man sich getäuscht hat. Die Vermutung war, dass die meisten Schwierigkeiten, die es in Deutschland und Europa mit Muslimen gibt, aus deren Kultur, aus Rückständigkeit und Religion entspringen. Nun legen die arabischen Ereignisse nahe, dass es eher an den Umständen liegt, unter denen die Muslime dort unten und hier bei uns leben.

“Hier bei uns” (“Muslims living down there and here with us”)? So, despite generations of living together, Muslims in Germany are still not the “us” of …what? White/Christian/atheist Germans? And, once again, as with Welzer and co’s study: An us/them dinstinction is made, even when nothing malicious or discriminatory seems to be intended.

(And, yes, more could be said about the previous sentence in thw quote: “The assumption was that most of the difficulties that Europe and Germany have with Muslims stem from their culture, from backwardness and religion”. Paul Chilton write beautifully about the packaging involved in this kind of statement. Even though the author explicitly presents “culture, backwardness and religion” as a flawed assumption, he (implicitly) reproduces the presupposition that it is Europe and Germany which have (currently) “difficulties” “with” “Muslims”, i.e. which positions Muslims as causing the difficulties, rather than any particular forms of social organisation, exclusion, discrimination, etc.)

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