When Sincerity Fails: Literatures of Migration and the Emblematic Labor of Personhood1

Leslie A. Adelson


Saskia Sassen’s landmark study Globalization and Its Discontents characterizes migrant laborers as “emblematic subjects” of a global economy. Reprinted from The Turkish Turn in Contemporary German Literature, here with a focus on one of Aras Ören’s earliest contributions to Turkish-German literature, “When Sincerity Fails” analyzes the emblematic labor of literary configurations of migration instead, by focusing on the aesthetic form and surprising cultural stakes of Ören’s impactful novella of 1981, known in German translation as Bitte nix Polizei. While much scholarship on literatures of migration continues to pre-suppose an authentic migrant self who suffers indignities sincerely, this article offers important alternatives for evaluating the rhetorical conceit and social deixis of literary “personhood” in transnational literatures of migration. The elusive cipher of the illegal migrant laborer in Ören’s novella allows us to contemplate the changing hieroglyphic of ethnicity—and the labor of reading—in increasingly networked times. (LA)

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