Re-thinking the Post-migrant Theatre: Possibilities for New Alternative Theater Movements in Germany

The true ‘people’s theatre’ of ancient times was the mime, which received no subvention from the state, in consequence did not have to take instructions from above, and so worked out its artistic principles simply and solely from its own immediate experience with the audiences.” A. Hauser

The Post-migrant theater movement (PMT), a new understanding of theater, sought the new possibilities of rethinking theater in the context of the post-migration condition, and at the same time, questioned the hegemonic mainstream “German” theater discourse. By doing so, the movement aimed to turn the dominant discourse of hegemonic “German” theater down. PMT produced plays against the migration regime and racism was a cultural resistance that engendered a new aesthetics. Challenging the existing system and attempting to change the given discourse became an agent of discovering a new theatre language. This politically engaged movement with migration arose from the intersection of anti-racist activism and anti-racist dramaturgy of alternative theater in Germany. PMT movement considered the struggle against racist discourse as a core of its anti-racist attitude and became the voice of the silenced, racialized, and victimized people by letting them tell their stories on stage. This movement went beyond all kinds of an essentialist understanding of identity and produced a new political theater language that questions racism and power relations.

PMT has been an alternative theater movement created by non-German second and third-generation artists adding the experiences of immigrant and exile artists raised in revolt in the theater field to their own experiences.

This rebellion in theater and cultural resistance has left a much wider impact than its own footprints. This movement indicates an existing potential in the field.  PMT is both an embodiment of and a response to the contradiction at the heart of German theater.  PMT (keeping in mind that theater is one of the dimensions of the social field and cannot be isolated from other social interactions) is an alternative pathway created by the unleashing of existing potential for rebellion. The hegemonic German theater itself produced this potential for revolt. PMT is a specific and unique example of this potential, it is particular but not singular. Therefore, when considering the PMT, both the environment that caused this revolt and the potential that makes this revolt happen Today this rebellion has converted, perhaps have lost its power, but it has not disappeared.  should be taken into account. This movement has transmogrified into different forms and turned into other forms of struggle that need to be examined. Besides that, this potential for rebellion is still alive and continues to exist.

Can today’s theater create radical off-movements in the here and now, as it always does in every location in every age? Could the German theater, dominated by the normative “German” culture/discourse, need this? What are the potentials of the PMT experience to contribute to the emergence of such an alternative theater movement?

Our intention is to discuss the migrant, post-migrant, and exilic fractures in the faultline of the ‘German’ theatre, and to mediate the transfer of the PMT experience and other theatrical experiences associated with this experience (such as migrant, diasporic, exilic, community theater, etc). We would like to review and examine the artistic / aesthetic / dramaturgical / political routes of these experiences in the context of their promises for tomorrow.

In discussing one of the burrs and cracks of the monolithic German theatre, we will use a series of pathways and proceed by taking these paths.

Migration, Culture, Trauma and Bridges

Traumas are open wounds. They don’t heal easily, otherwise, they wouldn’t be traumas. Discrimination is inevitable when collective trauma prevails. And discrimination becomes crueler when it is disguised. Discrimination follows the footsteps of trauma and affects all areas including art.

Culturally dynamic places are often crossroads. These intersections, where cultures of “the others” intersect, interact, interchange, and ultimately produce together, are places where new forms are formed and new stories are told. These cultural crossroads remind us that another story is always possible.

People change their places for reasons and forms specific to each period. Today, the form of mobility is mostly immigration, being refugees, and exiles. As a result of the crises created by capitalism, masses are displaced from their homes for various reasons or they move towards areas where they think they will live in safety and/or be less exploited. But, most of them crash to the boundaries and fall to pieces even more.

Today there are no more crossroads, there are more and more walls. The heart of art is in solidarity with the Oppressed, who can turn the borders they are stuck into crossroads/bridges.

Nation-state, Catastrophe and Collective memory

Nation-states need a “compulsory Other” in order to protect the produced borders. Consequently, nation-state models are inevitably traumatic, and trauma works bidirectionally. Those stigmatized as the “Other” as a result of migration movements that violate national borders are the most fragile of those. On the other hand, every trauma inevitably activates social memory. There is a collective memory accompanying every (collective) trauma. This memory is also vital for the preservation of social and personal integrity. Collective memory, on the other hand, is a field of resistance against all kinds of oppression established through othering. PMT operates with memory and trauma because it is a theatrical movement produced by a population accepted as the “Other” of a nation and beyond the imagination of the nation-states. There is a constitutive relationship between trauma (or conflict) and memory. Interpretation of PMT in relation to memory and trauma will make it simpler to understand. The effect of the trauma-memory relationship in the dramaturgical and aesthetic outcomes of PMT is also arousing curiosity.

Permanent Auschwitz and Cultural resistance

Adorno touched upon a very important point when he said that poetry could no longer be written after Auschwitz. This is not a “catastrophe” that poetry (art) as we know it can handle anymore. A new ‘poetry’ (art) is needed to describe this disaster. Subalterns who refined by this and similar new traumas should nail the last nail in the coffin of the theater. They need to make a new-u-r ‘theatre’ afterward and do it on their own. Because for the oppressed, there are no other means of expressing themselves and dialogue with the other. However, the third space of theater/art could make such contact possible. For the oppressed, ‘art’, especially ‘theatre’, is still vital!

Subalterns need to write their stories (or create a new theater language) without losing the critical perspective of being a “foreigner” to the society they live in. To understand their history in terms of other people’s history in order to beyond. They need to re-write their stories together with others, that is to say, the transformation of identity construction is a must. Subalterns need to change their conception of identity from a unitary viewpoint to the identity perspective that includes the other

Resistance and hope

Against all grief and trauma experienced, this is the land where the revolution once came knocking at the door and flourished the hopes. Despite all systematic erasure attempts, the main resistance codes that were transmitted through cultural memory must certainly have been inherited today. And there is also lots of resistance code carried by the new-u-r nomads of the era. Art is revolutionary as it could build bridges, and the theater is full of hope because of being a bridge, and to this respect, it is still irreplaceable.