Cornell University

Dirk Uffelmann: Paradoxical Self-Proletarianization and the Intersection of Gender and Class in Prose by Polish Migrants to Germany, Ireland, and the UK

Monday, November 16, 2015 at 4:30pm to 6:00pm

A. D. White House, Guerlac Room
29 East Ave, Ithaca, NY 14850, USA

This talk investigates prose by Polish writers who have emigrated since the 1980s, mainly to Germany, Ireland and the UK, and started writing in the 1990s and 2000s. If read against the backdrop of sociological studies on the “contradictory social mobility” of Polish work migrants, devices of social self-degradation in migrant literature allude to the no less contradictory social situation that many migrant workers face. The literary transformation of their actual misery into a creative artistic device is paradoxical and therefore theoretically intriguing, because here the undesirable fact is seemingly ‘reproduced’ within the same socio-economic dimension. The theoretical challenge that results from this is to elaborate how such an apparent ‘reproduction’ nevertheless goes beyond the vulgar Marxist concept of Widerspiegelung. The methodological approach is taken from postcolonial theories, especially from those focusing on paradoxical appropriations of identity. Marxism serves less as a theoretical inspiration than as a discursive resource for conceptualising the mechanism of paradoxical re-evaluation that can be traced in the interrelated strategies of self-proletarianisation (and the more Germany-related cases of self-Orientalisation and self-Kanakisation).

Presented by Feminist, Gender, & Sexuality Studies. Cosponsored by Institute for German Cultural Studies

Event Type



Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies



Free and open to the public

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Contact Name

Samara Selden

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Dirk Uffelmann

Speaker Affiliation

University of Passau

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Faculty, students, staff and the public

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