White Rebels in Black

German Appropriation of Black Popular Culture
Priscilla Layne
Investigates the appropriation of black popular culture as a symbol of rebellion in postwar Germany


Analyzing literary texts and films, White Rebels in Black shows how German authors have since the 1950s appropriated black popular culture, particularly music, to distance themselves from the legacy of Nazi Germany, authoritarianism, and racism, and how such appropriation changes over time. Priscilla Layne offers a critique of how blackness came to symbolize a positive escape from the hegemonic masculinity of postwar Germany, and how black identities have been represented as separate from, and in opposition to, German identity, foreclosing the possibility of being both black and German. Citing four autobiographies published by black German authors Hans Jürgen Massaquo, Theodor Michael, Günter Kaufmann, and Charly Graf, Layne considers how black German men have related to hegemonic masculinity since Nazi Germany, and concludes with a discussion on the work of black German poet, Philipp Khabo Köpsell.

“What does it mean to see black people as rebels, black culture as rebellious? Isn’t rebellion positive? What happens when people are limited to the motif of rebellion? Focused on the image of the rebel in German depictions of black culture, Priscilla Layne’s lucid and engaging study advances critical race theory and German Studies through a productive dialog. She does not simply apply paradigms worked out in other cultural contexts; rather she advances critical race theory through her insightful readings of German texts. And likewise, seeing what often goes unnoticed, Layne’s discussion advances the work of German Studies by looking at texts of German literature, music, and film, with greater acuity. Layne explores white visions of blackness, dominated by a focus on African Americans and she takes up Black German cultural production with its Afro-European references and complexities. Covering 60 years of post war developments in both West and East Germany, her analyses help bring forward new critical paradigms.”
—Randall Halle, University of Pittsburgh

“An impressively theorized book . . . Priscilla Layne engages carefully with earlier scholarly works, situating her own text within the context they provide, and delineating ways in which she agrees or disagrees with and goes beyond those studies.”
—Sara Lennox, University of Massachusetts Amherst

“In her terrific new study, Priscilla Layne argues that German men’s embrace of black musical traditions constitutes a sort of literary minstrelsy through which, to quote Ralph Ellison, white Germans are ‘told on, revealed.’ Layne shows, too, how black artists responded to these fantasies by exposing the masquerade, and by proposing their own, Afrofuturist visions of diasporic masculinity."
—Katrin Sieg, Georgetown University

“Beautifully and intelligently constructed, White Rebels in Black boasts a broad array of intersections and interventions to compellingly reveal how much more complex constructions of Blackness are at this time—especially within a transnational perspective.
—Michelle M. Wright, Emory University

Priscilla Layne is Assistant Professor of German and Adjunct Assistant Professor of African and African American Diaspora Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Praise / Awards

  • "Priscilla Layne’s White Rebels in Black is a welcome addition to the field that turns our attention towards intersections of masculinity and race."
    --Black Perspectives
  • "Layne’s explicit and refreshing choice to home in on Black German masculinity and how its formation differs from white German hegemonic masculinity in postwar Germany is especially of interest, given the dearth of research in this area ... A must-read for scholars of Black German studies."
    --German Studies Review

Look Inside

News, Reviews, Interviews

Read: Priscilla Layne interviewed in AAIHS Black Perspectives Link | 1/24/2019

Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 272pp.
  • 3 illustrations.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Hardcover
  • 2018
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-13080-1

Add to Cart
  • $75.00 U.S.

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