Far Away So Close: Race, Whiteness and German Identity

Ulrike Mueller*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Race and nation have been difficult concepts in Germany since the Holocaust. Although race has seemingly disappeared from public discourse, the concept is very present in the narrative construction of white German national identities. In fact in Germany, race, and more specifically whiteness, disappears into a national naming. On the basis of a qualitative study on women activists, I examine to what extent the research participants struggle with the racialized discourse on German identity and what this struggle looks like. Using John Hartigan's (2000) approach to analyzing ethnographic accounts of whiteness, I show how a racialization of German identity plays out in complex and complicated ways. On the one hand, the narratives are complicit with a racialized Germanness, yet on the other hand, the idea of a unified, white, cultural community is being challenged. To move toward a post-colonial narrative of Germanness that includes Germany's history of colonialism as well as fascism, we need to move away from race, but we also need to move toward race. A starting point would be provided by focusing on racism, not as a fringe issue of German society but rather as an urgent matter that is located at the centre of German politics and is actively shaping its history.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)620-645
JournalIdentities-Global Studies in Culture and Power
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2011


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