Research Focus V:

Diaspora – Migration – Transnationalism

Migration processes, i.e. movements across borders, form a fundamental aspect of every transnational description of cultural, historical, literary, ethnological, social, economic etc. developments. For centuries, they have been shaping Jewish experiences in particular, and have become one of the essential characteristics of Jewish life to the present day. Set against this was a largely nation-state-centered research over centuries. However, the diasporic position in a socially, ethnically, and religiously heterogeneous neighborhood frequently made the crossing of cultural, national or state borders a necessity for Jews in different countries, for instance when faced with forced professional, social, religious or political border demarcations of non-Jewish (in isolated cases also of Jewish) sides. They often went their own “ways of emancipation” (Birnbaum/Katznelson 1995) which, besides, reached effectiveness beyond the narrower circle of a Jewish minority. They created new spaces of action to secure their cultural particularities and survival in a living environment in which they have been excluded time and again, regardless of an oftentimes century-long presence as “guests” or “strangers.” Since the late 19th century, more than 8 million Jews have been crossing continental borders in this process.

The central question of the transnational dimension of the Jewish Diaspora raised in this research focus aims to facilitate a transcending of the reduced horizon of the nation-state paradigm, and as a result gain a more differentiated perspective on the developments of Jewish culture, history and literature in Germany – one of the world-wide significant centers of the Jewish Diaspora. The characteristics of Jewish life and Jewish experience will be unfolded in the same way that their interlacement with general European and human developments will be disclosed, thus promoting a deepened understanding of cultural peculiarities and potentials of a culturally diverse Europe. Research on Eastern and Western Jewish culture, history and literature are compiled along specific questions in the same way as a recontextualization of Jewish history, culture and literature of the Berlin/Brandenburg region thus understood may theoretically productively relate fields of science hitherto dealt with largely separately such as the research on Diaspora, Exile and Migration.