Personal Title: Voice of Ethnic Minorities in Germany through Stage Performance Arts: Different Way for Seeking Social Inclusion. Abstract: As a group, we have chosen to examine the use of various mediums as a means of identity expression and self-advocacy, as well as how these artistic and often personal choices impact outside perceptions of certain groups. Focusing on personal choices, Hannah will be researching how people use clothing as a form of expression and how society perceives them as a result of these decisions. Mira will be exploring how various minorities are portrayed in films and how German-produced films and those produced by the groups of interest may differ in their portrayals of the minority group. Roujia and Kendra will both be exploring German theater, examining the different aspects of social change that can be achieved through live performance. Roujia will be examining how ethnic minorities use stage performance as a means for social inclusion by the majority, while Kendra will be looking at how marginalized groups use theater arts to advocate for equal rights and opportunities in their own communities. In totality, our research will focus on how judgments based on appearance can affect daily interactions and how these judgments are either perpetrated or broken down through the human mediums of fashion, film, and theater. Background: Group Part: Identity most visibly manifests itself in the choices that people make in their own presentation. Our group -- which was loosely titled “Performance” -- chose to extend this concept of identification to include the artistic choices involved in film, fashion, and theater. In synthesizing the different arts we chose to investigate identity with, we arrived at the broader concept of a “human medium,” that guides both the formation and perceptions of identity. Unlike music or visual arts such as painting or drawing, artists don’t require tools or years of practice. An artform that uses the human body as a medium makes these forms of expression more accessible to individuals from a variety of backgrounds where the tools for other arts may not have been available to them. The accessibility of these forms of expression places them among the easiest ways to share the unique experiences of individuals and come to significant understandings about the different identities they are rooted in. Personal Part: In the long history of migration, the racial distribution overall the world has changed and the racial diversity generally increase in immigrant-receiving countries. Possible root causes for immigration are political inequality or wars in home countries and economical incentives provided by the immigrants receiving countries. Immigrants as influx of labor forces not only affects promotes local economy but also brings social and political impacts on the local society. However, not all the local residents welcome these changes in their society. In fact, people refuse to let those change happen to them, especially happen to their generations, even though those immigrants and their generations are contribute a lot to the immigrants-receiving countries. The voices of ethnic minorities were shielded from the majority. Meanwhile, minorities groups were not adapting the new social environment. This also exaggerates the gap between minorities and majority.
Germany, as one of the examples of population receiving country, still faces racial problems. From the middle of 20th century, Germany became one of the most popular immigration destinations of European countries. United Nations listed Germany as the third highest number of international migrants worldwide. ("International Migration 2006" (PDF). UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs. Retrieved 18 March 2011.) Before 1950s there were few ethnic minorities in Germany. However, “ The recruitment of guest workers, the influx of Spät-Aussiedler (ethnic Germans from Eastern Europe and the former Soviet states), as well as the reception of asylum-seekers have led to the growth of the immigrant population in the country.”(http://focus-migration.hwwi.de/Germany.1509.0.html?&L=1) By the beginning of the 21st century nearly one-tenth of the population—some eight million people—were non-Germans. (http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/231186/Germany/58004/Ethnic-groups)
In fact more than 16 million people are of foreign/immigrant descent (first and second generation, including mixed heritage and ethnic German repatriates and their descendants). However, about half of them are still not having German citizenship. “Migrant background” is still emphasized in Germany and many German still defined Germany as “monoracial country”. Throughout Germany people still keep asking, “where are you from” and with implicit follow up “when do you go back”. An quote from an African German is good illustration for current situation ethnic minorities faced in Germany. "For hundreds of thousands of years, identities were created by excluding those who weren't part of the crowd, by drawing up borders," he says. "And this is why becoming a German — when you are from Africa, Asia or Turkey or elsewhere — is such a difficult thing because not only do you have to subscribe to everything that's normal here, you also have to overcome this exclusion barrier." (http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=99189265) Ethnic minorities are still treated as “invisible”, isolated from the major society.
People are taking actions to overcome such exclusion, both white German and non-white German.Artists or students from minorities groups in Germany lead an immigrant vanguard in seeking more social inclusion by the society. The idea behind this is a different type of social activism, also called creative activism. (Want one definition of social activism from the paper we read). Young German students direct musicals “Yes We Can” and “Wedding on the Street” to examine racial issues in Germany. Director of Maxim Gorki “made a nexus for plays tackling issues like immigration, race and assimilation” in their theater so that they move daily life of ethnic minorities to a public stage. They used stage performance, a form of “human medium”, as their pathway to share their perspectives. They are seeking an echo not only among the minority group, but also in the entire society. Those efforts in self-expression of ethnic minorities and promoting creative activism are worth to gain much more insights about them. QUESTION: From every German teacher I took class with, they all mentioned about the Turkish community in Germany. It is the largest minority group in Germany and also the most developed one. They formed a fully functional social system including educational, social system, which is just like a small Istanbul within Germany. This information triggers my interests in life of immigrants and their descents in Germany. After learning about the current situations of German ethnic minorities, I am interested in the current actions taken by the German ethnic minorities and compared those with the civil right movements for African American in American history. But at the same time, I am also super interested in the arts in Germany, especially in Berlin. Artworks are derived from people’s daily life, which are good reflection of the social environment of a place. In order to understand the particular culture and social norms in Germany, artworks and artists are good pathway to gain some insights.
I struggled a lot at first to determine which direction I should choose. However, after reading the passage from “German Minorities Still Fight To Be Seen[rW1], Heard”, especially the part about how young German use musicals to examine racial problems in German society, I found a connection between my two interests. From these two perspectives, I came up with my current research questions that “How artists with different background in Germany try to use stage performance arts to seek social inclusion or as a way of creative activism?”
I tried to generalize my research question in a way that I still have different options to narrow it down after I go to Berlin. One of the options I have is that I can focus on artists from specific ethnic groups, for example Turkish artists in Germany and analyze their works in terms of self-expression or seeking social inclusion. Another possible option is that I can focus on one specific artwork and make deeper analysis, not only from artist’s side but also from audience’s perspective. The reflections and feedbacks from audience can shows how they interpret the artwork and what messages they receive from it. The third option is that I focus one theater and target on audience so that I only analyze the reactions of audience. In this case, the resources I can have in Germany will determine how I narrow my question down and which option I choose. CULTURAL SENSITIVITY: I live in China for my first seventeen years. Even though there are fifty-six peoples in China, I am belonging to “Han”, which includes majority of Chinese people. I came to US about two years ago. Even though, as a foreigner here, cultural difference is influential on me, I am still stay at here a short period of time and don’t have very deep involvement with the society. Unlike immigrants who migrate to a different country and live there for years, it might be difficult for me to fully understand the situation they faced for years. Moreover, the financial condition of my family is relatively wealth compared with average level in China or in United States. Therefore, I never face a tight budget conditions. It is less likely for me to obtain same understanding about suffering or struggles that some social groups have. However, in terms of gender issue, I might be more sensitive to it since I am a female and the gender discrimination in where I come from is very noticeable. There is possibility that gender issue may be amplified in my mind than it should be if observe very objectively. DAILY SCHEDULE : People (names, titles, etc.) Artists from different background who create stage performance related to ethnic minorities. Places (location and transportation) Maxim Gorki and other similar theater. Equipment (cameras, video recorders, paints, logbook, etc.) Cameras, recorders, notebooks, writing tool, dictionary. Information you’ll gather (photos, notes from interviews, observations noted in logbook, etc.) Questionnaire about audience reactions, photos about performance, interview with artists and audience, my personal observation of stage performance, short videos if allowed. Reference: (To be edited)