Racialized Emotions: Empathy versus Envy
(University of Cambridge)
Paper short abstract:
This presentation focuses on moments when Muslim minority Germans are judged as not engaging with the Holocaust correctly and not showing enough empathy with its victims. It discusses how empathy assumes a certain subject position, leaving other emotions racialized and outside the moral fold of the German/European identity.
Paper long abstract:
In the last decade there is a widely shared discomfort about the way the racialized Muslim minority Germans engage with the Holocaust. They are accused of not learning the correct lessons from it, not showing empathy towards its Jewish victims, and as a result re-importing anti-Semitism to a country that has otherwise dealt with it. In my ethnographic research about diverse Muslim engagements with the Holocaust shows that when Muslim minority members were judged as not empathetic enough were the moments when they were seen as expressing fear that something like the Holocaust may happen to them and envy that Islamophobia was dismissed at the expanse of recognizing anti-Semitism. By focusing on such instances in which the emotional reactions of Muslim minority Germans towards the Holocaust are judged as not empathetic enough and morally wrong, this presentation explores ethnically exclusive processes behind Holocaust commemoration as the basis of German national identity. Expanding Edmund Husserl’s embodied approach to empathy to a socially situated one, through focusing on the process of paarung, allows to reinterpret the exact moments of fear and envy, seen as failed empathy, as instances of intersubjective connections at work. Hence grandchildren of workers who arrived Germany after the World War II to rebuild the country resist an ethnisized commemoration of Holocaust and engage with it keenly through their own subject positions. Socially situated empathy can be seen as the basis of unanticipated connections across ethnic, national, racial, and class backgrounds.
The (im)mobility of race: European perspectives [Anthropology of Race and Ethnicity Network]