Integration, Turkish Theatre, and Cultural-Political Interventions in West Berlin: Vasıf Öngören's Kollektiv Theater (1980–82)


Ela Gezen


In lieu of an abstract, the first paragraph of the essay follows:

The mid-1970s and early 1980s witnessed the development of a very active Turkish art scene in West Berlin.1 Various cultural institutions were integral to this process, especially the Kunstamt Kreuzberg and Neukölln (Arts Council for the districts of Kreuzberg and Neukölln), the Künstlerhaus Bethanien (Artists' House Bethanien, a center for arts and social affairs), the Deutsch-Türkische Gesellschaft e.V. (German-Turkish Society), and the Türkischer Akademiker- und Künstlerverein (Turkish Academics and Artists Association). Frequently collaborating with one another, these organizations sponsored recurring cultural events, such as ausländischer Berliner (foreign Berliner), the Fest auf dem Mariannenplatz (Festival on the Mariannenplatz), and the Türkische Kulturwochen (Turkish Cultural Weeks). Financially supported by the Berlin Senate, these public events showcased a variety of genres and media, including music, visual arts, theatre, and film; participants and organizers alike aimed to promote Turkish culture beyond folklorization, Orientalization, and essentialization.


1. Needing manual labor power, West Germany concluded multiple labor recruitment agreements—with Italy, Spain, Greece, Portugal, Tunisia, Morocco, and former Yugoslavia—between 1955 and 1968. The bilateral labor recruitment contract between Germany and Turkey was signed in 1961. The recruitment of foreign labor was regulated by what was called the rotary system, which mandated a temporary status for the foreign labor force. Treaties between West Germany and these countries of emigration laid out the conditions and basic terms of labor migration. In addition to West German cities like Stuttgart and Cologne, West Berlin became one of the main destinations for Turkish migrants, with 66,521 Turks living there in early 1973. Waves of immigration in the late 1970s and early 1980s included political refugees fleeing Turkey amounting to 57,913 applications for political asylum in 1980. Nermin Abadan-Unat, Turks in Europe: From Guest Worker to Transnational Citizen, trans. Caterine Campion (New York: Berghahn Books, 2011), 20.

Comparative Drama is carried by JSTOR and Project MUSE.