Shedding Waters: Cinematic Mediations of European Multiculture

This is part of our special feature, United in Diversity.

Once celebrated as a path-breaking project of peace, hope, and greater political cooperation in the new century, the unification of Europe under the auspices of the European Union appears, from the vantage-point of 2019, to be fraught with disunity, animosity, and peril. From Brexit to debates about Frontex and migration policies, from contested transcontinental gas lines to accusations of transnational interference in the domestic politics of EU member states, political accord is fraying amidst destabilization. Distrust in putatively democratic processes perceived to serve elites has accrued and yielded curious differentiations of the political spectrum. Insofar as turmoil on the continent reflects opposition to the EU, it constitutes one of many global instances of discontent in the twenty-first century’s nexus of politics, economy, and culture, palpably linked to world-wide capitalism’s structural inequalities and the unmooring of personal securities in a changing world. As nationalist discourse—precisely the kind of ideological formation the EU aspired to consign to the continent’s history—has resurged to subject the EU’s tenuous motto of unity in diversity to increasing duress, European unification and the future prospects of the Union itself have come under siege.

While the EU has largely championed the continent’s internal linguistic and cultural diversity within its overarching political framework, the migrant crisis and the emerging discord between EU member states’ responses to it have revealed inner political disunion as well as the limits of Europe’s embrace of multiculture in an age of large-scale transcontinental migration. The EU’s transnational aspirations to erase or rather newly configure its geographic borders have yielded binary oppositions that afflict the cultural and political imagination of Europe in the twenty-first century. These congeal around multiculture’s older and newer forms, such that being of vs. being in Europe,[1] as well as the prospects of European integration vs. the continent’s postcolonial integration[2] have come to constitute fault-lines in the European imaginary. Symptomatically bookending some two decades of the new Europe’s post-Cold War history, the telefilm Les Alsaciens ou les Deux Mathilde directed by Michel Favart and broadcast by the Franco-German television network ARTE in 1996 and Swiss filmmaker Markus Imhoof’s 2017 Eldorado feature relations in the upper (Franco-German) Rhine Valley and Mediterranean Sea and with that, inner and outer border sites of the European Union respectively. The real and symbolic ambivalence of the continent’s inner and outer waters as connectors and dividers demands a hydrocentric approach to European cultural life from the perspective of its watersheds—the kind of inquiry that can ascertain cinema’s role in promoting or inhibiting the cultural unification of a diverse continent.

In Lieu of Solid Ground

Amidst the continent’s ongoing turmoil, contemporary academic inquiry into the EU stands much to gain from the timely articulation and elaboration of Critical European Culture Studies. An appropriate framework for addressing “developments of culture on a European level,”[3] Critical European Culture Studies—polyperspectival, multinational, and multilingual—can absorb, reflect, and critique the continent’s transnational turn on the level of theory and method. This represents an important shift in the organization of relevant Humanities inquiry. As German and European Film Studies expert Randall Halle has noted, many humanist scholars of Europe received their training in national traditions and have remained oriented towards national horizons of culture.[4] The shape, purchase, and prominence of German, French, Italian, Russian Studies, etc. clearly derive from linguistic considerations and frameworks of cultural reference powerfully bounded by language. Yet, the continued adherence of inquiry to such an organization of knowledge, traceable to the rise of national orientation in the long nineteenth century, and continued across models of Area Studies amidst the geopolitical demarcations of the globe during the Cold War, may incur epistemological risks. Insofar as European unification has also staked new claims to cultural as well as economic unification,[5] humanists working in the continent’s cultures do well to take stock of the changing contexts of the phenomena they investigate. The demand on such a shift in perspective is less prescriptive than it is descriptive. Not only is multilingualism a fact of everyday life across much of Europe—the very cultural artefacts, including those in the linguistic media of print and theater, upon which humanist scholars of Europe’s present may turn their gazes, can themselves no longer be designated (if ever they could) as anchored in any single national tradition. The lifting of national enclosures unmoors artistic modernity on the continent, the imaginaries of which intermingle increasingly. An instantiation of globalization’s cultural flows, Europe’s contemporary artistic modernity will likely remain at large, even in the face of regressive nationalisms.[6] As individual nation-states and linguistically bounded cultural contexts wane in their status as ultimate frames of reference, humanist scholars can repurpose their interpretative tools to survey the real and imaginative courses being charted in future-oriented artistic work.

To be sure, the use of “flow” as a conceptual metaphor to address non-national permutations of culture accompanying globalization and mass migration in the work of Appadurai and others is by no means synonymous with the hydrocentric remapping of Europe that informs my approach here. For starters, the popularized usage of flow in analyses of globalization has been subjected to important critical review.[7] To wit, flow is just one of the things that water can do, in addition to becoming stagnant, drying up, freezing, evaporating—or flooding human habitats. As this whimsical turn on the conceptual-metaphorical options regarding H2O suggests, a view of European space from the perspective of water’s changing forms—rather than land’s alleged fixities—may prove more appropriate to the analysis of culture as a nexus of dynamic processes. A hydrocentric approach to European culture can sidestep national methodologies that grew out of politically territorialized soils,[8] defamiliarize and reconstrue the units constituting the continent’s topography, and lay bare focal points on transnational zones of contact and affiliation.[9] New configurations of inquiry—e.g. the pan-regional spaces of Danubia, the Baltic, and the Mediterranean—emerge thereby, putting longstanding deep cultural formations back into view. While such an approach can acknowledge the impact of water and its uses on civilizational development as well as the entwined cultural histories that rivers, seas and watersheds have entrained, the point in taking to Europe’s waters is not to reify any geo-ontologies by way of an ulterior geography, nor to assert new absolute divisions. As part of a critical European cultural studies, the hydrocentric approach rather adopts the aquatic perspective as a heuristic through which processual, dynamic, and conflictual complex connectivities between people in Europe can be productively reframed. In so doing, the hydrocentric remapping of European culture adheres to the ambivalence of the vital, as well as endangering element in which it treads by balancing out the old and the new, division and connection, catastrophic pasts and possible futures, existential threats and the prospects of survival in its analyses. But it also serves a cognitive interest in tipping the scales from imagined communities presumably built on rock rather than sand (or swamp) in favor of emerging communities to be imagined,[10] an undertaking that indeed demands some deft navigational techniques.

An example of such sailing may be found in Ex-Yugoslav and Vienna-based filmmaker Goran Rebić’s 2003 Donau, Dunaj, Duna, Dunav, Dunărea, one of many movies to imagine the European community and its demographic constitution anew in the twenty-first century amidst the EU’s post-Cold War eastward expansion underway officially since 2004.[11] Film (as well as music) has arisen as a kind of transnational art form par excellence for the new Europe, in part due to the greater mobility of its constitutive (i.e. visual and acoustic in addition to linguistic) elements across the continent’s language borders. Many European films—multinationally produced, multilingually constituted—have taken, like Rebić’s journey from Vienna down the Danube, to the waters in some way or other. Fluidity assumes no unambiguous status therein. Whereas water proved an ambivalent time-space portal for working through the dissolution of Yugoslavia in Bosnian-Serb filmmaker Emir Kusturica’s 1995 Podzemlje (Underground) or an entertaining backdrop and vanishing point of wild scheming in his 1998 Crna mačka, beli mačor (Black Cat, White Cat), the river yields no unifying convergence of the multinational narrative dimensions of Barbara Albert’s tough 1999 feature Nordrand (Northern Skirts), in some contrast to Fatih Akin’s 2000 Im Juli (In July), which avails itself of considerable fairytale to present the ultimately Bosphorus-bound waters of the Danube as a trail of (self-)recognition and reconciliation. But whereas Germans and Turks come together with one another respectively along national coordinates in Akin’s summer, Rebić’s film imagines the European community transnationally through his inspired constitution of the new European family of mixed and uncertain origins at the Danube’s mouth. Without exploiting the Danube itself, Berlin-based Polish filmmaker Stanisław Mucha’s whimsical 2004 documentary Die Mitte (The Center), also follows the river’s eastward flow. Eschewing Akin and Rebić’s fairytales in a realistic approach to grim socioeconomic differences between West and East, Mucha zeroes in on Ukrainian Rachiv and the Tisza river in a deconstruction of Europe’s center that places it outside EU borders. If Danubia figures prominently in such films, this is surely due to its artery being the most multinational of European rivers, meandering from the Black Forest through central Europe to the EU’s outer eastern limit and thereby traversing the continent’s twentieth-century geopolitical divide. Perhaps only the Mediterranean Sea could compete with the cinematic status that the Danube has achieved, but despite cradling Europe’s ancient birthplace, it has figured, not unlike the Black Sea in some of the aforementioned films, as Europe’s end, outer limit—and an interzone of peril, as in Angela Schanelec’s 2004 Marseille or Gianfranco Rosi’s 2016 Fuocoammare (Fire at Sea), the latter of which addressed the migrant crisis in its focus on Lampedusa, yet also turned the matter into a cinematic occasion to attend to the narrative trajectory of an Italian family thereby affected. On the other hand, as the EU’s most balefully nationalized river, the Rhine might prove a fitting site for a redress of the repercussions of nationalist history at western Europe’s heart, and was taken up accordingly by the Franco-German ARTE television network, which began transmitting from Strasbourg in 1992 and broadcast Les Alsaciens ou les Deux Mathilde in 1996.[12]

Who Buries Which Dead?

The space circumscribed by the four-part, 360-minute Les Alsaciens is that narrow swath of land “blessed by the gods” between the Vosges Mountains and the Rhine Valley long contested by France and Germany. Diachronically, the historical drama proceeds according to what might be called the Buddenbrooks-model of epic narration, insofar as it focuses on the plight of one fictional well-to-do family—Kempf de la Tour—across multiple generations from the onset of the Franco-Prussian War in 1870 to the aftermath of World War II. The story’s homodeigetic narration by fifth-generation Louis-Charles Kempf de la Tour invites spectators to identify with the descendants of the rich Alsatian industrialist Eugène-Victor Kempf as well as other residents in the town of “Alsheim” (filmed on location at Gueberschwihr, south of Colmar) via a somewhat conventionalist film aesthetics geared towards a general audience. Within these parameters, the telefilm familiarizes viewers with the twists and turns of Alsatian history during the period in question, registering the repercussions of the actions of neighboring political states on the fertile land and its inhabitants. Historically, the recalcitrance of region to nation-state and of language to political affiliation could perhaps be nowhere clearer than in Alsace, the old, deep multicultural layering of which, from the Celts on down, might recommend itself against any nationally distilled father-myths right of the Rhine. Alsace’s multicultural hybridization never quite squared—in times of peace or war—with French or German policies, both sets of which tend to be depicted in the film as foreign impositions. An emerging leitmotif thus sounded from the beginning until (almost) the end is that neither France nor Germany will ever understand the Alsatians, whose culture, identifications, and predilections fall askew of the reductive logic of the nation-states east and west of them.

While the Rhine itself figures more as a reference point, border, and object of nationalist desire than a profilmic element in Les Alsaciens, the nationalisms borne left and right thereof pierce family relations to the core—not only those of the featured Kempfs de la Tour. Politics make themselves felt at the very heart of individual and personal identities in each proper name, as can be gleaned from the first Mathilde de la Tour’s frustration with her son Louis, who, coming of age in the outgoing nineteenth century, becomes more Prussian-identified than his staunchly French nationalist mother who lost her husband, Louis’ father, to the Germans in the Franco-Prussian War. Louis restores his mother’s birth name Kempf to his own. In the vortex of nationalist history afflicting the region, blended names and hyphenated identities prove untenable against the logic of one or the other, for or against, as poignantly demonstrated in the mise-en-scène of Alsheim’s central square. The name of the square undergoes permutations over the course of the story told—from Place de la Mairie through Kaiser Wilhelm Platz, Place de la République, and Adolf Hitler Platz—until it memorializes, as Place des Deux Mathildes, the first as well as the second Mathilde, a code name for Katel, the narrator’s mother-in-law and agent of the Résistance from the town, who committed suicide upon being captured by the Gestapo near the end of WWII. The family drama is recounted with all the trappings those familiar with the history might expect: contentious language politics on display at elementary school, transnational friendships that cannot withstand the pressures of war, romance and libidinal affinities askew of nationalist super-egos, elusive or fleeting revenge, the specter of fratricide, melodrama, escape, resistance, spying, misapplications of justice (not least in the French prosecution of Alsatians forcibly conscripted into the Wehrmacht and SS)—and reconciliation by the end. While there are surely many other ways of telling the story of the region than the genealogically focused tale that Mathilde’s great-grandson Louis-Charles renders from the standpoint of the 1990s, Les Alsaciens ultimately fares well in both canvassing the travesties of multicultural life’s reduction to nationalist ideologies and appealing to the need for a more appropriate vessel for Europeans’ political interrelations. Offering a kind of pro-EU messaging that few viewers will be able to overlook (not least given Strasbourg’s prominence in the narrative), Les Alsaciens inscribes European unification into the continent’s historical teleology, underscoring the necessity of and affirming the EU.

What interests me here is the circumscription of the implied contours of European identity the film constructs. What Les Alsaciens ultimately drives home is a Europe in view of the past for those entirely of it, who have suffered from it, and who are to be delivered from the self-inflicted calamities of its nationalisms. For no other reason does the film culminate in poignant reference to the Monument aux morts in the middle of the Place de la République in Strasbourg’s Neustadt. The monument is conventionally read by the telefilm and referred to in any learned guidebook as a powerful instantiation of Alsatian identity: the mother’s bonnet recognizably marks her as regionally iconic, whereas her two sons, shorn of their respective French and German military garb, underscore the human costs of nationalism’s fratricidal effects. The monument thus bespeaks the raison d’être for new Europe’s overcoming of its treacherously war-torn past and turns Europeans’ gaze into a continentally more peaceable future.[13] The non-descript line “à nos morts,” common among Alsatian war memorials, would even seem, as Les Alsaciens’ narrator himself underscores, to elide the national determination of the nous in question: the dedication omits the prepositional predication “pour la patrie” found on war memorials elsewhere in France. Imagine, then, the onlooker’s surprise when viewing the monument as it stands today, on which added inscriptions also date the morts in question to France’s First Indochina and Algerian and wars. The same monument consecrating European transnationalism in the name of regional Alsatian sanctity and the well-to-do Aufhebung thereof in the EU extends its designation of the nous to fallen colonial forces.

This observation returns us to an oblique remark at the very beginning of ARTE’s family saga. Introducing viewers to his progenitors at the very beginning of the first episode, Louis-Charles’ voice-over comments on a photograph of his great-grandfather, the count Charles de La Tour. He mentions de la Tour’s service as a captain in the first regiment in the Chasseurs d’Afrique, thereby revealing his forebear and namesake as an agent of Algeria’s military subjugation by colonial France. Does that bode something of Alsace’s own plight? Are viewers being entreated to consider Alsace itself as a colony? While the telefilm fails to explore this undercurrent any further, references to colonialism bookend and haunt the saga’s own presentation of the European community to be imagined. Insofar as they are represented by Les Alsaciens, the prospects of the EU to speak to the continent’s erstwhile inner military conflicts reveals itself entirely oriented to Europe’s historical communities (its schicksalsgemeinschaftliche ethnoi). Omitted thereby is any signification of the continued creation of citizenship (demos) with regard to postcolonial realities, i.e. the extension of the imagination of the multicultural European community to those who are in it now, from lands in which European colonialist powers became so problematically embroiled.[14] As Louis-Charles dedicates the narrative to his own progeny, Les Alsaciens figures Europe’s actual future as a vanishing point, against which one may ask, what about the living, or rather: those still on the brink of survival? Political considerations and criteria for the demographic constitution of the future European community along axes of genealogy and memory that circumscribe a “nous” according to categories affixed to tendentious conceptions of the past—i.e. the foregrounding of suffering in Europe and the omission of suffering from Europe’s actions in Northern Africa, for example—cut straight through an actually already existing multiply diverse European population. While the Rhenian Les Alsaciens conjoins its three ethnic groups—French, Germans, and Alsatians—together idyllically in Alsheim and Strasbourg, it barely submerges the undertows of its narrative flow, which speak to the lingering challenges of Europe’s postcolonial integration.

Waters, Walls, and Windmills

As the reference to colonial France’s escapades in Northern Africa suggests, across Les Alsaciens’ Rhine-border of Franco-German reconciliation lies the Mediterranean as an interzone of Eurafrica[15] and site of Markus Imhoof’s synthetic documentary of Europe’s contemporary migration crisis in Eldorado.[16] Imhoof and his team spend about the first half of the film on board the Italian naval ship San Giusto, which is conducting rescue missions at sea, to focus on perils faced by migrants seeking access to the EU in the age of Frontex’s closed borders. What is more, the attention Imhoof pays to the plights of several individual migrants onshore in the film’s second half compels both a fuller account of the crisis as well as a multifaceted critique of Swiss and EU economic and migration policies. Throughout, the investigation of the contemporary crisis is interspersed with references to another migration tale, that of the Italian child refugee Giovanna, whom Imhoof’s family had taken in during World War II. The film’s opening sequence introduces Giovanna as the motivating factor underlying Imhoof’s Eldoradian journey in 2017 to the Mediterranean “to see, what I’ve no wish to see.” In a film that will abound in suggestive juxtapositions between its two points of diachronic reference, the first montage-cut abruptly transports viewers from the filmmaker’s calm Swiss interior, in which he reviews diary entries and photographs from his youth in a close-up shot set to soothing nondiegetic music, to a loud and unsteady shot from a helicopter looking down at shipwrecked migrants stranded at sea. The camera proceeds to oscillate chaotically between the view from above, views from rescue ships, and even submerged underwater shots before settling back in on the San Giusto, where the film’s titular golden paradise presumably projected by migrants’ hopes and aspirations morphs into the form of thermal blankets distributed to those recovered from the waters. Repeatedly drawing viewers in to the drama it depicts, Eldorado occasionally gives rise to the discomforts of a privileged voyeurism, but overall Imhoof maintains a respectful balance between sympathy and distance vis-à-vis the migrants populating his film.

Eldorado’s power turns largely on Imhoof’s sustained interweave, established by a deft and rhetorical use of montage, of the WWII and contemporary narrative threads. After first documenting the work aboard the San Giusto, Imhoof returns back to Giovanna, or rather the policies that led to her Swiss refuge, which derived, as the filmmaker later learned, on a curious arrangement between Switzerland and Nazi Germany, according to which the neutral country committed to accepting three child refugees per Jewish European it allowed entry or transit. Imhoof wields montage to highlight and interrogate the policies afflicting migrants in both narrative strands. As African migrants are racially profiled on an Italian train by Swiss border patrol agents at the Chiasso station, a child in one of the families affected and forced to deboard erupts in frustration, at which point Imhoof cuts back to a depiction of his own multinational family as well as a turn in Switzerland’s WWII policy, according to which child refugees, including Giovanna, were deported back home—a sequence countered by a close-up on a drawing by a young Imhoof that fancifully channeled his childhood wish to be reunited with his adopted sister. Eldorado elaborates Imhoof’s critical redress of his home country’s role in the refugee crisis then and now through a polyperspectival weave of asylum seekers in the canton of Bern, a civil servant in the State Office for Migration, a senior civil servant in the Bern government, and Rahel, an asylum seeker from Eritrea working in an assisted living facility.

The juxtaposition of the two Swiss civil servants is particularly telling. The former is shown at work interviewing, via an interpreter, a Syrian refugee of Palestinian descent. The complexities of the applicant’s story appear rather lost on the migration official, who seems bent on identifying alleged irregularities to the disadvantage of the man’s application. At the same time, the brief episode bespeaks long trajectories of forced displacement that lead from the Syrian Civil War back to the founding of the state of Israel and with that the Holocaust itself, not that the migration official finds any of that to be in his or, for that matter, Swiss purview. Whereas the migration official, who cannot recall ever having written a single positive verdict for any African asylum seeker to Switzerland and who has no idea who might be responsible for the crimes and hardships to which migrants are subjected, the senior civil servant from Bern’s government not only contrasts walls and windmills as responses to stormy times, indicating his preference for the latter option. He also delves into the political semantics of the distinction between migrants and refugees in reference to the baleful term “economic refugee” (Wirtschaftsflüchtling) to remind viewers of Switzerland’s own history of outward bound “economic refugees” to North America. Imhoof’s approach to Rahel, on the other hand, a woman traumatized by her journey to Europe through Libya, where she was imprisoned for seven months, not only represents humanist sympathy, but also turns into a general appeal for more liberal immigration policies as a form of justice as well as a chance for the renewal and even cultural, and not only demographic rejuvenation of an aging and shrinking population.

Such issues pertain not only to Switzerland, but rebound still more broadly across the European Union. Imhoof cites the Dublin Accord as a failure of EU politics and highlights the backward linkages[17] in play that lead to a situation in which Italy, for example, rescues, but then also patrols, incarcerates and possibly proceeds to deport refugees from precisely those African Horn countries it had previously colonized with military force. Attending to the economic dimensions of the crisis and its fuller story, Imhoof’s assessment confronts Europe with its own economic neocolonial policies of the kind that Hansen and Jonsson have uncovered and that one migrant from the Ivory Coast, residing in a migrants’ camp in which Imhoof and team linger for a time, canvasses generally in terms of Europe’s exploitation of Africa with regard to labor as well as resources that continues through the present. I restrict comments to two striking examples of Imhoof’s mediation of the crisis with regard to the Eurafrican economy. The first concerns the cheap and exploited agricultural labor of undocumented migrants that ensures Italy’s success in the agricultural sector, which Imhoof conveys cinematically via mostly long shots of fieldwork, tomato transport and the voice-over commentary delivered by labor-organizer Raffaele, who highlights the sale of the EU-subsidized tomatoes in cans sent back to Africa, where they could have been grown. Still more pointedly, Ba Yero, a Senegalese immigrant to Switzerland who opted to return to his country of origin to start a farm there, is depicted as facing the repercussions of a new trade deal between West Africa and the EU whereby European milk will be cheaper to purchase in Senegal than the milk Ba Yero can produce there. Excoriating precisely the kind of economic policies adopted by the EU that bear directly on the migration crisis it faces, Eldorado musters a powerful and important contribution to an understanding of that crisis’s fuller picture and mediation. Redirecting the attention of the European public and its politicians both to its underlying causes and the ways in which the crisis might be ameliorated through greater political cooperation at the level of economic as well as migration policy, the end of Imhoof’s film returns viewers to the ongoing existential duress of those trying still to cross the sea. The final maritime image of a stranded migrant vessel underscores the exigencies of the kind of offshore humanism[18] Eldorado has sought to advance.

In an important review of socio-theoretical as well as popular political discourses fueling the imagination of the contemporary European community, Gurminder K. Bhambra has drawn attention to a curiously diremptive aspect of terminology according to which “cosmopolitan Europe” frequently stands for the transnational unification of European states and peoples bounded within the continent’s “old” cultural diversity, whereas “multiculturalism” serves to designate the broader, but also stigmatized or excluded elements of European culture deemed non-European in origin.[19] The distinction, which corresponds to a racialized color-line, is largely analogous to the one Stuart Hall critiques in his use of the prepositions “in” vs. “of Europe.” By juxtaposing Les Alsaciens and Eldorado’s respective imaginations of the European community, I have intentionally highlighted the former as a narrative about old European multiculture, whereas the latter’s call for a cosmopolitan response to a humanitarian crisis can also serve as the basis for a redress—through critical self-reflection and correction—of the EU’s circumscription of its population along still colonialist lines and its attending neocolonial policies. The ability of the EU—or some future mediating entity—to facilitate greater inclusion on the continent will also turn on mediating, narrating and imagining relations between older and more contemporary forms of European multiculture anew. If, on the other hand, the cleavage between the two conceptions of community found in Les Alsaciens and Eldorado cannot be spanned, the continent’s waters will likely continue only to shed.

Matthew D. Miller is Associate Professor of German at Colgate University in Hamilton, New York. His first book The German Epic in the Cold War: Peter Weiss, Uwe Johnson, and Alexander Kluge appeared in 2018 at Northwestern University Press. He has published articles and book chapters on twentieth and twenty-first century central European literature and culture, co-edited Watersheds: Poetics and Politics of the Danube River, and is currently at work on a new project “Dreams from the End,” which revisits the politics of Austro-Hungarian modernism in the passage from empire to republic—and into Red Vienna.

This piece provides a cultural-historical supplement to Issue 23 of EuropeNow: Water in Europe in and the World, which addresses water from environmental and scientific, political, and economic perspectives.


[1] See Stuart Hall, “‘In but not of Europe’: Europa and its Myths,” Soundings: A journal of politics and culture, no. 22 (2002): 57-69.

[2] See e.g. Gurminder K. Bhambra, “Postcolonial Europe, or Understanding Europe in Times of the Postcolonial,” in The SAGE Handbook of European Studies, ed. Chris Rutherford (Washington, DC: SAGE, 2009), 69-85.

[3] Randall Halle, The Europeanization of Cinema: Imaginative Communities and Interzones (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2014), 10.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid., 12, see also Halle, German Film after Germany: Toward a Transnational Aesthetic (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2008), 6.

[6] Arjun Appadurai was one of the first to develop a path-breaking approach to the impact of globalization on culture generally in Modernity at Large: Cultural Dimensions of Globalization (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1996).

[7] See e.g. Tanya Richardson, “Where the Waters Sheds: Disputed Deposits at the Ends of the Danube,” in Watersheds: Poetics and Politics of the Danube River, eds. Marijeta Bozovic and Matthew D. Miller (Boston: Academic Studies Press, 2016, 307-336), especially 318.

[8] Cf. Ulrich Beck and Edgar Grande’s warnings against “methodological nationalism” in Cosmopolitan Europe, trans. Ciaran Cronin (Maiden, MA: Polity Press, 2007), 5 and 18.

[9] For a fuller commentary on the cultural mapping Europe’s watersheds, see Bozovic and Miller, “River Futures,” in Watersheds: Poetics and Politics of the Danube River, xx-xxi.

[10] On Europeanization as Europe’s self-creation, see Beck and Grande, ibid., 8. On deriving criteria for Europeanization and the definition of its demotic identity from conceptions of shared futures (rather than pasts), see Étienne Balibar, We, the People of Europe? Reflections on Transnational Citizenship, trans. James Swenson (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2004), 9 as well as Leslie A. Adelson, “Experiment Mars, Turkish Migration, and the Future of Europe: Imaginative Ethnoscapes in Contemporary German Literature,” in Ethnic Europe: Mobility, Identity, and Conflict in a Globalized World, ed. Roland Hsu (Palo Alto: Stanford University Press, 2010), 197. On the shift from imagined to imaginative communities, see Halle, Europeanization, 22.

[11] For an account of Rebić’s film, see Matthew D. Miller, “Bottled Messages for Europe’s Future? The Danube in Contemporary Transnational Cinema,” in Crossing Central Europe: Continuities and Transformations, 1900–2000, eds. Helga Mitterbauer and Carrie Smith-Prei (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2017), 312-348.

[12] Les Alsaciens ou les Deux Mathilde (Die Elsässer), dir. Michel Favart, ARTE 1996. DVD: ARD Video/Studio Hamburg Enterprises, 2014.

[13] In this, the monument could be said to mark the beginning of all those technologies of construction—the labelling, mapping, and narrating of Europe’s cultural infrastructure highlighted by Kathleen R. McNamara in the third chapter of her The Politics of Everyday Europe: Constructing Authority in the European Union (New York: Oxford University Press, 2015)—that abound across the Bas-Rhin/Oberrhein region today.

[14] See note 9 above and Bhambra, “Postcolonial Europe, or Understanding Europe in Times of the Postcolonial,” 74.

[15] See Peo Hänsen and Stefan Jonsson, “Eurafrica Ingonita: The Colonial Origins of the European Union,” History of the Present, 7, no. 1 (2017): 1-32.

[16] Eldorado, dir. Markus Imhoof, Thelma Films AG/zero one film GmbH, 2018. DVD: Majestic Collection, 2018.

[17] See Dirk Hoerder, Jan Lucassen, and Leo Lucassen, “Terminologies and Concepts

of Migration Research,” The Encyclopedia of European Migration and Minorities: From the Seventeenth Century to the Present, ed. Klaus J. Bade, et al. (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2011), xxxiii.

[18] I lift “offshore humanism” from Paul Gilroy, “Europe Otherwise,” the foreword to Postcolonial Transitions in Europe: Contexts, Practices and Politics, ed. by Sandra Ponzanesi and Gianmaria Colpani (New York: Rowman & Littlefield International, 2016), xxi.

[19] Gurminder K. Bhambra, “Whither Europe?” Interventions, 18, no. 2 (2016): 187-202. DOI: 10.1080/1369801X.2015.1106964.

Photo: Steampunk Man | Shutterstock
Published on April 2, 2019


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