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Materiality and Ethics in Recent German Prose Narratives by Angelika Overath and Angela Krauß

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 December 2013

Emily Jeremiah
Affiliation:
Senior Lecturer in German at Royal Holloway, University of London.
Frauke Matthes
Affiliation:
Lecturer in German at the University of Edinburgh.
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Summary

At the beginning of the twenty-first century, there is a pressing need to engage critically with the way human beings belong to the material world. Under the impact of globalization and digital technologies, ethical dilemmas posed by materiality are changing and evolving rapidly. In ecological terms, for example, the need for sustain-ability, which requires the reduction of consumption by a wealthy minority and the simultaneous decoupling of development from resource use, presents challenges of unprecedented scale and urgency. On a social level, meanwhile, the disconnect between the global impact of consumption and local, lived practice is felt particularly keenly in our daily interactions with things. While in the developing world many do not have the material resources to sustain life itself, affluent consumers in wealthy economies are frustrated by choice and by the need to navigate competing discourses of sustainability in order to make their purchases in an ethical way. At the same time, the rapid development of information technologies has profoundly unsettled our psychological and physiological relationships with materiality, prompting anxious questions about embodiment and disembodiment, such as “how can we be present yet also absent?” and “what is a self if it is not in a body?” One example of the way in which such concerns coalesce is the current media and scientific interest in the phenomenon of hoarding, which appears to “speak to and about our moment.”

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Edinburgh German Yearbook 7
Ethical Approaches in Contemporary German-Language Literature and Culture
, pp. 47 - 64
Publisher: Boydell & Brewer
Print publication year: 2013

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