Stereotyping German Turks Cultural Studies Essay

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An American, a Chinese a German and a Turk are in a plane. Because of a technical fault the plane is about to crash if not immediately some ballast is thrown out. The Chinese opens the door and gets rid of the rice in his bag explaining: "it doesn't matter, we have too much rice at home". Then the American stands up and throws greenbacks out of the window: "we have way too many of them back home". After a short silence the Turk turns to the German and says: "Bruder (buddy), don't get any silly ideas!".

by pointing out their representation as victims and unwelcome guest-workers. Meanwhile, wrapped in a humorous aspect this joke clearly hints at the fact that prejudices and stereotypes have an immense influence in our daily life. Now the following question arises: To what extent do stereotypes affect intercommunal relations?

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With the intention of answering the question this work will focus on stereotypes, Turks in Germany are confronted with, by analyzing the representation of both immigrants with Turkish heritage and native born Germans in literature as well as in cinema. In order to support the theses it will refer to authors like Arlene Akiko Teroka, Rob Burns, Gökçe Yurdakuli Y. Michal Bodemann, Johanna Watzginer - Tharp and to their works. In addition, it will discuss the social consequences of stereotyping and show how much prejudices and labeling affect our actions towards and treatment of other groups.

In order to be able to understand the labeling process - the emergence of specific stereotypes - one should be well informed about the historical background of the aforesaid nations and their international relationships.

In the case of Germany and Turkey the era after World War II plays a decisive role. Aiming to "rebuild the country" and reconstruct its ruined economy the German "government decided to import labor from nearby countries like Turkey". (Yurdakul, 2006) These so called guest-workers were unskilled peasants in search of income, which they were unable to gain in their homeland. This immigration policy of the German government is inextricably linked with the perception of Turkish immigrants in the eyes of German citizens. To be precise, the first stereotype Turks have to cope with is the image of unskilled guest-workers.

In order to make this labeling clear a connection with literature and cinema seems adequate at this point. Migrant writings and films between 1970s and 1980s were called "guest-worker literature" or the "literature of the effected". (Burns, 2007) They mostly "tended to foreground two thematic concerns; the reality of the exploited, discriminated and socially excluded Turkish guest-worker experience and the problems of 'living between two cultures'. (Burns, 2007)

One example underlying the above mentioned image and experience of the uneducated and socially excluded Turkish guest-workerr is the novel and film "Ganz Unten (Lowest of the Low),". In the film, the writer Günter Wallraff "borrows the identity of a real immigrant, the guest-worker Ali Levent Sinirlioglu and records his experiences in a variety of dangerous, unsanitary and badly paid jobs. Devoid of both a personal history and a private sphere, Wallraff's 'Ali' has no individual identity, no life beyond the workplace."(Burns, 2007) In the film the immigrant "Ali" is defined purely in relation to his economic function as a worker. According to the Turkish writer Aysel Ã-zakin, Walraff presents a "patronising clichéd portrait of the Turk as uneducated, unskilled and basically ignorant, as well as naive […] oppressed and, hence, ultimately pitiful." (Burns, 2007) Thus "Ganz Unten" reinforces the stereotype of the Turks as merely unskilled and suppressed guest-workers.

This example additionally shows that the stereotype of guest-worker goes hand in hand with the portrayal of German Turks as victims,oppressed by the "superior", the German employer. One narrative example that underlies the image of the exploited, helpless guest-worker is the story about the laboratory assistant Kadir, who falls "victim to a nefarious employer... a German manager, who supplies him with hormone pills for the stomach cramps that continually afflict him."(Burns, 2007) At the end when Kadir grows breasts after the excessive supply of hormone pills he cuts his own breasts with a kitchen knife. This "act of self-mutilation serves as a […] metaphor for German treatment of guest-workers, especially Turks as subhuman beings and for the helpless and self-destructive response of a man, who falls victim to the bewildering complexities of urban technological society."(Burns, 2007)

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Beside the portrayal of being a victim the fact of being regarded as a guest-worker also leads to another stereotype: the image of being an outsider. The film "40 m2 Deutschland" (40 Square Meters of Germany, 1986), is a very well example to show the Turk, isolated between two cultures. The film's location is a flat in Hamburg, "the new home of Turna, who has been brought over from rural Anatolia to live with her husband, Dursun. Turna's task is to transform this space into a little enclave of Turkish culture, offering Dursun refuge after his work at the factory and safeguarding

his wife from the moral depravity he sees pervading German society." (Burns, 2007) This film demonstrates that Turks tend to distance themselves from the German society and their rules, in order to save their own cultural values. This kind of behavior contributes to the labeling process as an outsider. The Turk is seen as someone, who wants only minimal contact with German life and deliberately deprives him/herself of social intercourse.

This limited contact with the German society and culture even led to the development of a new language-the so-called "Gastarbeiterdeutsch (Guest-worker German), "a simplified form of German to meet only basic communicative needs" (Watzinger - Tharp, 2004); a form of German which leads to "reduced or even incorrect input". (Watzinger - Tharp, 2004) A new arising form of language among the second and third generation Turks in Germany, the so called "Türkendeutsch", introduces a new stereotype: the fact that German Turks are stuck between two cultures, even unable to speak one language properly. This stereotype is clearly reflected in Geierbach's choice of his novel's title: "Bruder, muss Zwiebel und Wasser essen!" (Brother, have to eat onion and water!). This sentence is neither German nor Turkish: The content reflects behaviour peculiar to lower class Turks whereas the sentence is completely written in German. Thus, it appears to be rather a mix of two languages, two cultures, and therefore serves as an example to demonstrate the fact that the German Turk, has positioned him/herself between two cultures remaining culturally torn.

However, these are only some of the stereotypes Turks in Germany are confronted with. Still, they can be seen as the main ones. The following abstract will now shortly focus on the social consequences of stereotyping and show their effects,which mainly cause social tension and even racial violence.

The bad image of the Turks created through stereotyping connected with increasing unemployment rates in Germany led to an atmosphere of open "anti - Turkism" among Germans. Some even say that former "anti - Semitism" was transformed into open "anti - Turkism". In short stereotyping led to animosity and aggressive tendencies and increasing violence towards Turks. The Solingen arson attack of 1993 serves as an example of anti - foreigner" violence in modern Germany, when Neo Nazi's set fire to a Turkish family's home.

On the Turkish side, however, being constantly stereotyped and mocked resulted in anger and hostility among German Turks. A cartoon published in the German magazine Stern shows "a heavily mustached man crawling through a cat hole in a door named "European Union," trying to gain entry into Europe. Some imitation Arabic writing appears on top of the cat hole, and a suitcase with a Turkish flag stands next to the man."(Yurdakul, 2006) Some claim that the nose of the Jew is now replaced by the mustache of the Turk and consequently accuse Germans of anti - Turkish racism. As a response, associating Turkish concerns with those of the Jews and comparing the Holocaust to the bombings of Turkish houses, the Turkish society has openly begun to attack the Germans, where they are most vulnerable, creating even more hostility between both nations.

In conclusion, by analyzing the representation of Turks and Germans in literature and cinema, this paper has tried to highlight the stereotypes directed against Turks-mainly German Turks, dominating Turkish-German relationships, even until today. After, explaining the historical evolution of stereotypes and the emergence of specific prejudices against Turks, the essay has illustrated the social consequences of labeling. As seen in literature and cinema stereotyping is an element, which dominates relationships between different nations.

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In a nutshell, the main aim of this paper is to show that stereotyping and labeling are very serious and dangerous social traits, which can have drastic consequences on intercommunal relations fueling emotions like hostility, dislike, anger and even racism, all being traits which should have no place in an enlightened, modern society.