Universität Bremen, Duke University & University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Sommerschule ‚Borders, Borderthinking, Borderlands‘

Keynote Abstracts

Maissara Saeed (German Sudanese Association for Development (GSAD), Hildesheim, Germany)

There is a rat in my kitchen, what am I gonna do?

There is a rat in my kitchen, is a name of a song for (UB40), a British Reggae/Pop music group. I borrowed the title to identify my paper which is highlighting a documentary experimental view about Refugees & human rights in Germany. According to the international and German law, man can ask for asylum & protection in Germany in case of human rights violation in his/her original country. I am a Sudanese refugee in Germany since 2010, from my experience, there is a very radical shift in the refugees issue from the humanitarian and legal space, into the political corridors. The authorities in Germany use the law as an instrument or tool to violate human rights of refugees and new comers, to make their lives so difficult, because they want to stop the flow of migrants towards Germany. Series of laws had been issued and approved on the base of protection of the German nation from the new comers, and as a result: migrants’ human right (s) had been violated. What are these rights? How they are violated, and why? Is it political or legal? What is the result? What are lessons learned about (Law as a tool) in Germany? Generally, what is the main challenge facing (Law and human rights)? This is the core of a power point presentation; I hope to enrich the socio-legal and political discussions about Refugees in Europe.

Isabel Soto

“‘Surrounded by a clamorous throng of whites and blacks:’ Chronotopic mediations of Race and Language in Benito Cereno.”

This paper considers how language and race are mediated through the chronotope of the San Dominick, the Spanish buque negrero that in Melville’s short novel Benito Cereno (1855, 1856) functions as a “central organizing symbol […] a living, micro-cultural, micro-political system in motion” (Gilroy 4). Mobilizing a shifting chromatic palette of black, white and grey tonalities, the narrator likens the slave ship to “a white-washed monastery […] perched upon some dun cliff among the Pyrenees […] a shipload of monks [and] throngs of dark cowls [with] dark moving figures.” This passage is but one of many that link a non-anglophone coloniality to the African diaspora, here, that of Spain and Spaniards. Referred to by Isabel DeGuzmán as the “blackened figure[...] of alien whiteness” (47), the Spanish presence in the text complicates orthodox conceptualizations of race-making.

Jostling against the narrator’s delusional and racist musings, the St. Dominick is figured from the start as a supple, undefined and unfixed eco-system of culture, language and race. I argue that the San Dominick is above all a liminal chronotope, a space that carries within it specific racial, linguistic and cultural systems. The specificity of these systems notwithstanding, the San Dominick is figured as a sort of mobile contact as well as translation zone; however asymmetrical, relations of power are as fluid and indeterminate as the path of the unmoored ship itself. This indeterminacy finds its cognate in the very construction of the text, which rests heavily (if subtly) on intertextuality, even as it proliferates fractally through (at least) two paratexts: the post-narrative “Declaration of the first witness, Don Benito Cereno” and Captain Amasa Delano’s A Narrative of Voyages and Travels (1817).

DeGuzmán, Isabel. Spain's Long Shadow: The Black Legend, Off-Whiteness, and Anglo-American Empire (2005)

Gilroy, Paul. The Black Atlantic. Modernity and Double Consciousness (1993)

Melville, Herman. Benito Cereno (1855, 1856)