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Dr Lorna Okoko

Home country: Kenya

Year of enrolment: 2012

Graduation date: December 2014

Department:  Modern Foreign Languages (French)

Supervisor: Dr Eric Leveèl

Dissertation title:Interkulturalitat und Afrikabilder in der zeitgenossischen Jugendliteratur

"Intercultural aspects and the image of Africa in contemporary German youth Literature"


Abstract: Globalization and the inherent shrinking of geographical boarders have rendered modern societies progressively culturally heterogeneous spaces. Increased encounters between people from different cultures have thus become a normal occurrence. Germany is in no way an exception to this socio-cultural phenomenon and has witnessed an emergence of multi-cultural societies, leading to concerted efforts in developing intercultural competence in all spheres of influence. Literature plays a pivotal role in the representation and transfer of culturally determined imaginations and perceptions of the "other". This role is further emphasized in the case of children's and youth literature, which has an imminent pedagogical function. For a long time, research in children's and youth literature has received very little attention as an integral part of literary studies; this is observed both in English and in German literature, though the pace of development differs slightly (Hunt 1999; Weinkauff and Glasenapp 2010; Ewers 2000). In Germany, historical development of children's and youth literature as an autonomous area of literature and field of study was influenced by societal values and attitudes as well as perceptions of childhood. This has continued to be the case, though recent research indicates a growing emphasis on children's literature as a tool to develop literacy as well as an appreciation of the aesthetic value of literature. A third component is the intercultural aspect it is able to offer. Impelled by the paucity of systematic analyses of the representation of Africa in German children's and youth literature, this dissertation sets out to offer a critical appraisal of intercultural aspects and the image of Africa in contemporary German youth literature. A corpus of literary works has been selected for this purpose. The central thesis of the study is that these literary works are involved in a sustained debate of questioning and contesting numerous representations of Africa and Africans. Given the fact that the study touches on several overarching issues, it draws from diverse theoretical perspectives that include intercultural theories on perceptions of the cultural "other" and "imagology" as well as postcolonial studies, with reflections on the pedagogical nature of youth literature. The study considers intercultural and postcolonial theories as conceptualized by Hofmann (2003; 2010), Mecklenburg (2003, 2006; 2008), Gutjahr (2002; 2010) and Göttsche (2003; 2010; 2011; 2012) as well as considerations on imagology as conceptualized by O'Sullivan (1989; 2000) and Beller (2007). In its exploration of the representation of Africa and Africans, this dissertation shows how literary works make use of diverse artistic, stylistic and narratological strategies and devices as possible ways of presenting and rethinking long-held perceptions about Africa. The present study proposes a reading and an appraisal of the corpus of literary texts as important discursive tools that allow for the expansion of self-conception and definition of otherness and the relationship to this otherness, thus contributing to increased intercultural awareness and competence among young readers.

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