The first installment of ‘Theses in Focus’ is devoted to Chloe Fagan‘s doctoral research on German writers of Albanian and Kosovar background. She is a PhD candidate based in the Department of Germanic Studies at TCD and her supervisors are Prof. Jürgen Barkhoff and Prof. (emer) Moray McGowan. She received a Bachelor’s Degree in German and English from TCD and currently works for Goethe-Institut Irland. Her broader research interests include German migration literature, cultural trauma, and contemporary Albanian and Kosovar culture and history. She has published ‘Translation and the Renegotiation of Albanian-Austrian Migrant Identity: Ilir Ferra’s “Halber Atem” as a Critique of Migrantenliteratur’ in Moving Texts, Migrating People and Minority Languages (2017) and “Albanian Literature in Translation” in ITIA Bulletin 2/2015.
After completing my Bachelor’s degree in German, I expressed my interest in pursuing a doctorate in German literature to my undergraduate thesis supervisor and I began to consider focusing on Migrantenliteratur. However, he advised me that there was a great amount of research and secondary literature being produced on Turkish-German literature, and that for a PhD it would be better to focus on another aspect of this literature. Whilst searching for ideas. I read the list of winners of the Adelbert von Chamisso Preis, a prize awarded to authors who produce texts in German though it is not their mother tongue. The prize was won in 2012 and 2013 by an author with an Albanian background: Ilir Ferra and Anila Wilms, respectively. There was little attention given to this Albanian presence in contemporary German-language literature, and this formed the beginnings of my research as I sought to fill this gap.
In The Turkish Turn in Contemporary German Literature (2005), Leslie A. Adelson analysed the biggest group in producing texts in the area of migration-linked writing in German literature, at that point Turkish, or hyphenated Turkish-German authors. Following on from Adelson’s work, Brigid Haines in The Eastern Turn in Contemporary German, Swiss and Austrian Literature (2008) has described an “Eastern Turn” in German language literature; that is, a new wave of migrant writing in Germany, Switzerland and Austria produced by authors from Eastern Europe and former Yugoslavia. Haines points to this being evident in the trend of the Chamisso Prize winners in recent years, with authors of Eastern European origin superseding Turkish-German authors who had previously dominated. Research on this “Eastern Turn” has failed to failed to include authors with Albanian or Kosovar background writing in German, or texts which take Albanian and Kosovar issues and recent history as their primary focus. The primary objective of my thesis then became addressing this gap and to expand this turn into a “South-Eastern Turn”, which would include such Albanian and Kosovar migrant authors.
My doctoral work examines the image of Albania and Kosovo in contemporary German language literature, and assesses how Albania and Kosovo are represented by authors of different nationalities writing in German, and how the issues of migration, Albania’s Communist regime and its legacy, and the Kosovo War are treated in these texts.
As I learned more about Albania and Kosovo’s histories (as well as learning the Albanian language), my own interests shifted more to the issues of cultural traumas and how they are processed. Stuart Taberner in Transnationalism and German Language Literature in the 21st Century (2017) posits that the archive of transnationalism and writing by migrants coming to German-speaking countries is an archive of trauma. I wanted to highlight the memory work being done by these authors in their texts treating the issues of the Hoxha Communist dictatorship in Albania or the Kosovo War in societies where such memory work is absent in the official discourses in the two countries. These Albanian and Kosovar authors would be unable to publish their texts in their country of origin, and so in treating national traumas which are not part of the official national narrative, they then become part of a diasporic counterdiscourse. Ultimately, one of the main concerns of the “South-Eastern Turn” in German language literature is to disrupt the smooth official narrative produced by the dominant discourse in Albania and Kosovo, and to make readers aware that there are other voices, previously excluded, to complicate and problematize the understanding of this history.