What is the Historical Role of German Diasporas in Africa and Asia?
The role of German diasporas in Africa and Asia even more so than Central Asia where many of them ended up is largely absent from the Afro-Asian discourse. This is despite the fact that starting in the 19th century large numbers of Germans moved to Siberia, Kazakhstan, and Central Asia in Asia. This was the subject of the panel I put together for the Africa-Asia: A New Axis of Knowledge conference. Despite the fact that the German diasporas in Soviet Asia at one time reached over two million people it does not seem to have any place in Afro-Asian discourse. A similar neglect can be observed regarding the German diasporas in Africa, primarily Namibia where some 30,000 still live. Our panel was the only one dealing with German diasporas in Asia or Africa at the conference and it got very little attention. Yet, the large size, strong ethnic identification, length of settlement, and economic contributions makes these among the most important German diasporas in the world. It also makes them important contributors to the history of Siberia, Kazakhstan, Central Asia, and Namibia. Despite these facts attempts to integrate the study of the history of these German communities into a greater Afro-Asian scholarly discourse remains extremely limited. While currently there are many scholars in Africa that study China or India there are very few that study Central Asia. Outside my office the number who study ethnic Germans in the USSR is to my knowledge exactly zero. The subject is an important one that deserves its own academic conference. But, it is also one that has not managed to generate much interest due to institutional marginalization of the topic. However, if anybody would be interested in such a conference let me know.