Research Output
Rewriting 'Selves' and 'Others' in 'Postmigrant' Theatre
  The last decade has witnessed a proliferation of German-language plays engaging with stories of migration. After a relatively slow ‘trickle’ of plays narrating the experiences of Turkish ‘guest workers’ throughout the 1980s and 1990s, the opening of the ‘Ballhaus Naunynstraße’, a self-proclaimed ‘postmigrant theatre’, in Berlin in 2008 marked a significant turning point with a new generation of playwrights, directors and actors working to bring stories of migration, settlement and intercultural encounter to audiences in Germany. Several years later the rising number of refugees arriving from parts of Africa and the Middle East inspired theatremakers not only to tell these new stories of migration, but also to take issue with the responses of European governments to the so-called ‘crisis’ and to offer alternative, more hospitable responses. In all their rich variety of stories, forms and participants, these theatre texts and projects are examples of ‘cultural narratives and texts’, often combining the ‘fictional and non-fictional, poetic and prosaic, imaginary and autobiographical’, ‘through which (inter)cultural encounters can be critically engaged with, reflected on and interpreted’.

In this paper, I am interested in the creative forms that these narratives of ‘intercultural encounters’ take and specifically in the ways in which their authors rewrite existing texts. These ‘rewritings’ are both what Gérard Genette (1997) would term ‘allographic’ – e.g. the reworking of well-known theatre classics and rewritings of documentary materials such as interview transcripts – and ‘autographic’ – adaptations or rewritings of an author’s own works. They often involve multiple ‘translations’ – between languages and language forms, between different geographical, political and cultural contexts, between cultural forms and media, and across time. Of course, one might argue that all theatre is based on rewriting – is not every stage production a ‘rewriting’ or at least an ‘adaptation’ of an existing text? This may well be the case, but I would argue that the rewritings we find in so-called ‘postmigrant’ theatre in Germany go beyond the ‘normal’ adaptation or ‘translation’ of a play text for a stage production. These plays are not only ‘rewritten’ as part of the production process, but the rewritten play texts are published with established publishing houses and therefore exist as rewritings in their own right before they reach the production stage.

In this paper, I therefore explore further the specific relationship between rewriting and the ‘postmigrant’ by focussing on published texts based on rewriting. I do this by examining two forms of rewriting and two examples: the ‘allographic’ rewriting of canonical texts based on the example of Nuran David Calis’ reworking of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet (Romeo und Julia – Death is Sure life is not) and self-rewriting based on the work of Emine Sevgi Özdamar, with specific focus on Perikızı, a dramatic rewriting of her semi-autobiographical ‘migration’ novel, Die Brücke vom Goldenen Horn (The Bridge of the Golden Horn). In discussing these texts, I reflect on the ways in which postmigrant rewritings for the theatre might be considered a form of ‘writing back’ to a cultural ‘centre’ (cf. Ashroft et al. 2002) as well as a creative space for the exploration and articulation of so-called ‘new German’ identities (cf. Mandel 2008; Sharifi 2011).

  • Type:

    Conference Paper (unpublished)

  • Date:

    20 November 2019

  • Publication Status:


  • Funders:

    Edinburgh Napier Funded


Wilkinson, J. (2019, November). Rewriting 'Selves' and 'Others' in 'Postmigrant' Theatre. Paper presented at Translating Cultures, Cultures in Translation (19th Annual Conference of the International Association for Languages and Intercultural Communication), Universitat de València, Spain


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