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Writing Politics: The Emergence of Immigrant Writing in West Germany and Austria

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This paper compares the emergence of immigrant writing in Germany and Austria with a view to explaining why a guestworker literature emerged in Germany in the 1970s but not in Austria despite the fact that the two countries' immigration histories were comparable. Whilst these differing developments can be traced back to a number of factors, the paper argues that a critical factor is the opportunity structure within the receiving countries. Using this approach and Bourdieu's theory on the literary field, I show that the changes in the literary field in Germany were conducive to such a development at the time, while the structure of the literary field in Austria hampered such a development. However, when the first immigrant and ethnic minority publications eventually appeared in Austria in the 1990s, the circumstances were comparable to those in Germany in the 1970s: the writers positioned themselves as immigrants to express their opposition to mechanisms of political and cultural exclusion. Yet, the responses to these developments differed: while the works written in 1970s' West Germany display a strong belief that change can be brought about by workers' solidarity in the fight against capitalism, the novels published in the last decade in Austria seem to subscribe to a more individualised approach to social change.
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Keywords: Austria; Germany; Immigrant Writing; Literary Field; Opportunity Structure Approach

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 November 2008

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