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“Heimischwerden Deutscher Art und Sitte” Power, Gender, and Diaspora in the Colonial Contest

  • Eva Bischoff


In 1909, in a public lecture on German colonial politics, author and colonial activist Clara Brockmann emphasised the crucial role of female emigration to the colonies of the Kaiserreich (German empire). With special reference to German Southwest Africa, she argued:

The immigration of the German woman in our colony is much talked about and much is done for it. The aim is quite obvious: the prevention of mixed marriages, which are the mental and economic ruin of the settler, the achievement of a profitable farm business, which cannot be fully developed without the assistance of the housewife, and the establishment of German manners and mores, of German family life, which is created foremost by the presence of the woman.

Brockmann was one of many women who were committed to “the colonial cause” during the Kaiserreich. Most of these activists were organised in the Frauenbund der Deutschen Kolonialgesellschaft (Women's League of the German Colonial Society). Its central aim was to support and organise the emigration of German women to the colonies of the German Empire. This paper takes a closer look at the rhetoric and politics of the Frauenbund, its claims for the decisive role women were to play in the colonial project, its emigration scheme, organised to provide German settlers with racially “appropriate” wives, and its underlying assumption that Germanness itself was under threat in colonial space. The Kaiserreich's female colonial activists have been the object of numerous studies so far. None of these studies, however, reflects on the issue within the larger context of nineteenth-century global white mass migration or white diasporic movements as described, for instance, by Jürgen Osterhammel.



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* Eva Bischoff teaches international history at Trier University and is the author of Kannibale- Werden. Eine postkoloniale Geschichte deutscher Männlichkeit um 1900. Her research interests include the history of British, German, and US colonialism, postcolonial studies, and gender/queer studies. The author would like to thank Rabab Njeri, Till van Rahden, and the anonymous reviewers for comments on various parts of this article.

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“Heimischwerden Deutscher Art und Sitte” Power, Gender, and Diaspora in the Colonial Contest

  • Eva Bischoff


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