Our spring sale is on! Use promo code SPRING24 at checkout to save 50% on any order!

An expansive study of imperial Germany to decolonize colonial narratives and national imaginaries


German Empires and Decolonial Fantasies, 1492–1942 investigates the ways German-speaking Europe’s cultural narratives reflect histories of entanglement with the colonial world. Drawing from an impressive range of sources, Patricia Anne Simpson decodes the ironclad colonial logic that reproduces and inflects tropes of the conquistador, scientific explorer, and pioneer-settler. She brings them into dialogue with a cast of historical agents who reimagine the cannibal, the enslaved, the conquered, Indigenous interlocutors, and the ungovernable. Throughout, intersectional attributes of race, gender, ethnicity, and religion reconfigure around shades of European whiteness. Individual chapters explore the Hohenzollern legacy in early modernity; debates about sovereignty and enslavement; recruitment literature, prose and fiction about migration and colonization in Africa and the Americas; and colonial memoirs driven by recolonial fantasies after 1918. German Empires and Decolonial Fantasies advances efforts to decolonize the multiple disciplines that intersect the field of German studies, including literary criticism, history, philosophy, art history, and anthropology.

German Empires and Decolonial Fantasies, 1492-–1942 draws from a wide range of sources, from a seventeenth-century Brandenburg fort on the coast of Ghana to a novella about a beleaguered colonial administrator in German East Africa, to advance an interdisciplinary discourse at the nexus of colonial narratives and national imaginaries. Through detailed case studies, Simpson argues for the inclusion of voices that pushed back against imperialist expansion or intervention, as well as those historical actors who disputed the supremacy of whiteness and the persuasive power of German-centric national history.

Patricia Anne Simpson is Professor of German at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

“Stretching over nearly 500 years and across much of the globe, Simpson makes a compelling case that the history of German speakers is inextricably linked to—and not infrequently shaped by—a colonial world order. The book will propel forward discourses on German history, migration, and the role of Germans in the world from 1492 to 1942 and signals a new phase of German studies, in which the full complexity of German colonial projects, patterns of mobility, and immigrants themselves is in focus. Simpson urges us to question the authority of nation-state narratives, a perspective that will resonate across academic disciplines beyond German studies.”

- Robert Kelz, University of Memphis