"Imperial Expansion" explores translations that Austrian imperial travelers, German colonial officers, German-speaking writers, and non-Europeans performed around 1900. Their manifold work ranged from cultural hybridization, linguistic pidginization, and sexual miscegenation to literary borrowings and legal transpositions, exposing profound transformations on both sides of the color line. Built upon postcolonial and translation theories, my project examines those manifestations of imperial border-crossing.
What follows is not a history of Austrian imperialism or German colonialism Instead, "Imperial Expansion" consists of case studies focusing on exemplary AustroGerman imperial hybridizations with non-European cultures, languages, and laws. The readings resort to historical events, such as the first German colonial trial of cannibals, Emil Schwörer's construction of pidgin German, and Heinrich Klutschak's polar exploration, as well as literary texts written by past and present authors like Hans Staden, Peter Altenberg, Gustav Frenssen, Wilhelm Raabe, and Michael Krüger. The goal has been to explore linguistic or poetic articulations of hybridity in Austro-German imperial (hi)stories.
There are several conclusions to be drawn from my project. First, Austro-German imperial projects took place in a triangular negotiation between German speakers, other European imperial competitors, and non-Europeans; theirs could be simplified to a one-dimensional struggle between the colonizer and the colonized or between Europeans and non-Europeans. That negotiation is special to Austro-German imperial writings and may be teased out in the intersection between postcolonial and translation studies. Second, the study of Austro-German imperial narratives contributes to revising Eurocentric discourses of modernity into contesting conceptions of alternative modernities. Third, literary manifestations of imperial hybridization performed what was impossible or remained unfulfilled in reality. Translation thus functioned as a powerful trope for colonial fantasies.
The title of my dissertation works with two connotations of the word: expansion. On the one hand, it refers to translation as a necessary and imperialist means of spreading Germanophone cultures and the German language to the rest of the world. On the other hand, it alludes to the dissipation of authority and the effacement of authorship as foreign cultures and languages get incorporated in works of translation. Therefore, imperial expansion addresses imperial endeavors in conjunction with anticolonial resistance.