Develops a theory of intercultural literature to reconcile diversity with traditional notions of German identity

Table of contents

            Political Contexts: Right-Wing Extremism in Contemporary Germany
            From Diversity to Interculturality in German Studies
            Organization of the Book
Chapter 1: Difference—The Link Between Interculturality and Human Rights
            Thinking Human Rights from a Right to Difference
            A New Model of Intercultural Competence
            Human Rights Literature
            Empathy for Intercultural Competence: Insights from Cognitive Criticism
            Moving Forward: Reading Human Rights Texts with an Intercultural Lens
Chapter 2: Other Neighbors: Genocide as a Crime of Cultural Exclusion in Bernhard Schlink’s The Reader and Nicol Ljubić’s The Stillness of the Sea
Genocide as a Crime of Cultural Exclusion and Its Remediation through Trials and Literature
            Schlink’s and Ljubić’s Literary Case Studies
Schlink’s The Reader: Cultural Ignorance and Universalist Empathy for a Perpetrator Generation
            Ljubić’s The Stillness of the Sea: Intercultural Answers to Cultural Exclusion
Concluding Thoughts and Pedagogical Approaches: Universalism and Interculturality for Spaces of Reconciliation
Chapter 3: Imprisoning Others: Captivity and Alienation in Herta Müller’s The Hunger Angel and Abbas Khider’s Die Orangen des Präsidenten
            The Imprisonment of Rightless Others
            Müller’s and Khider’s Transnational Narratives of Captivity
Müller’s The Hunger Angel: Losing Oneself, Language, and Certitudes
Khider’s Die Orangen des Präsidenten: The Political Prison as a Universal Rightless Space
Concluding Thoughts and Pedagogical Approaches: Deconstructing Exclusion through Alienation and Difference
Chapter 4: Exclusive Communities: Expulsion in Sabrina Janesch’s Katzenberge and Günter Grass’s The Call of the Toad
Heimat Ideologies and Cultural Exclusion in Intercultural Eastern Europe
            Janesch’s and Grass’s Literatures of Expulsion
            Janesch’s Katzenberge: The Re-Interculturalization of Silesia
            Grass’s The Call of the Toad: Intercultural Layers of Expulsion
Concluding Thoughts and Pedagogical Approaches: Deconstructing Heimat and Nostalgia in Reflective Intercultural Texts
Chapter 5: Becoming other: Refugees in Germany in Jenny Erpenbeck’s Go, Went, Gone and Shida Bazyar’s Nachts ist es leise in Teheran
            Refugee Rights and the Performance of Threat
            Erpenbeck’s and Bazyar’s Refugee Narratives
            Erpenbeck’s Go, Went, Gone: Universalist Empathy for o/Others
Bazyar’s Nachts ist es leise in Teheran: Intercultural Perspectives of Migration and Exile
Concluding Thoughts and Pedagogical Approaches: Telling Stories of Difference for an Intercultural German Society
Conclusion: Literatures of Uncertainty for an Uncertain World


The Right to Difference examines novels that depict human rights violations in order to explore causes of intergroup violence within diverse societies, using Germany as a test case. In these texts, the book shows that an exaggeration of difference between minority and majority groups leads to violence. Germany has become increasingly diverse over the past decades due to skilled labor migration and refugee movements. In light of this diversity, this book’s approach transcends a divide between migrant and post-migrant German literature on the one hand and a national literature on the other hand. Addressing competing definitions of national identity as well as the contest between cultural homogeneity and diversity, the author redefines the term “intercultural literature.” It becomes not a synonym for authors who do not belong to a national literature, such as migrant writers, but a way of reading literature with an intercultural lens.
This book builds a theory of intercultural literature that focuses on the multifaceted nature of identity, in which ethnicity represents only one of many characteristics defining individuals. To develop intercultural competence, one needs to adopt a complex image of individuals that allows for commonalities and differences by complicating the notion of sharp contrasts between groups. Revealing the affective allegiances formed around other characteristics (gender, profession, personal motivations, relationships, and more) allows for similarities that grouping into large, homogeneous, and seemingly exclusive entities conceals. Eight novels analyzed in this book remember and reveal human rights violations, such as genocide, internment and torture, violent expulsion, the reasons for fleeing a country, dangerous flight routes and the difficulty of settling in a new country. Some of these novels allow for affective identification with diverse characters and cast the protagonists as individuals with plural perspectives and identities rather than monolithic members of one large national or ethnic group, whereas others emphasize the commonalities of all people.
Ultimately, the author makes the case for German Studies to contribute to an antiracist approach to diversity by redefining what it means to be German and establishing difference as a fundamental human right

Nicole Coleman is Assistant Professor of German at Wayne State University.

“Timely and relevant, the book talks in a very constructive way about using the framework of interculturality as a way of approaching literary texts in the classroom that challenges traditional notions of German identity. Coleman presents a form of pedagogy that makes literature one way among others to reflect on political values and encourage students to think.”
—Daniel P. Reynolds, Grinnell College

- Daniel P. Reynolds

"Coleman moves deftly between literature, politics, cultural theory, and philosophy. Along the way, she delineates convincingly how literary representation, scholarly activism, and political action motivate each other in respecting the rights of ethnic and religious minorities."

- David Kim