Gender, nation, landscape, and identity in narratives of exile and return

Einhorn, Barbara (2000) Gender, nation, landscape, and identity in narratives of exile and return. Women's Studies International Forum, 23 (6). 701 - 713. ISSN 02775395

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Abstract

This article is concerned with issues of nation, landscape, and identity in narratives of exile and return. It is based on the oral testimonies and written narratives of German Jewish Marxist women who were driven out of their homeland by German fascism, yet returned after the end of World War II, dedicated to the building of socialism, or more precisely to realising the dream of a society free of prejudice and discrimination. What interests me here is to elicit a sense of the complex ways in which people construct their sense of identity in relation to notions of nation and belonging. In particular, I am fascinated by what impelled this largish group of refugees from Hitler's Germany to return, and how they felt about Germany as “their” country (Vaterland), their “homeland” (Heimat), or at the very least their country of origin. Nor was this relationship static. This is a group of women who have “migrated” twice in one lifetime: the first time fleeing their homeland in a forced migration to escape persecution and death; the return a voluntary “re-migration” in the name of an ideological commitment. Their narratives present both exile and return in retrospect. Thus, their subjective identifications with notions of nation are also retrospective, relating to Germany first from the perspective of involuntary exile, or second, towards the end of their lives, from the vantage point of a united Germany, achieved at the expense of the death of the socialist dream in whose service they returned. This means that they have been forced—through moments of historical crisis—to renegotiate both their own identities and their relationship to Germany multiple times during a single lifetime. The intimate inter-relationship of the personal and the political in these women's lives, and the retrospective reworking of their historically driven life decisions makes these women's narratives on the issues of landscape and homeland particularly rich sources on the subject of identity and belonging.

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: School of Law, Politics and Sociology > Sociology
Depositing User: Barbara Einhorn
Date Deposited: 06 Feb 2012 20:42
Last Modified: 22 Jun 2012 10:51
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/27542
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