Injecting Old Europe with New Ideas: Appropriating Black Music in Germany

600 S. Michigan Ave. – Ferguson Hall

About The Event

Join Dr. Priscilla Layne, Professor of German at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, for a talk about the changing meanings African American music has held in Germany.

This event will take place at 6pm on Thursday, May 4, 2023, at 600 S. Michigan Avenue, Chicago and it is free and open to the public. 

Despite the heterogeneous cultures existing within its borders, Germany has long thought of itself as a white, Christian nation. However, Germany has also represented at times a necessary and at other times an attractive destination for people of African descent. Furthermore, Germans’ tendency to imagine themselves as white did not foreclose their acceptance and even celebration of Black culture. From the age of colonialism to the present, Blackness has posed both an allure as well as a danger for Germans, especially those who view Black culture as challenging “old world” traditions. This talk poses the question, how does German appropriation of African American music help explain Germans’ fear and simultaneous love of Blackness? And how has music influenced the construction of Blackness in Germany in different historical moments? 

This program accompanies Shift: Music, Meaning, Context, an exhibition produced in collaboration between Goethe-Institut Chicago and Museum of Contemporary Photography.