Benjamin Nickl | Turkish German Muslims and Comedy Entertainment

6th October, 2020 in Author’s corner

“Muslim integration in German society, or Europe in general, is a challenge. But the pop culture industry and humour can make a difference and really make a change.”

Comedy entertainment is a powerful arena for serious public engagement with questions of German national identity and Turkish German migration. In his book ‘Turkish German Muslims and Comedy Entertainment’ Benjamin Nickl presents the argument that Turkish German humour has moved from margin to mainstream by intervening in cultural incompatibility and Islamophobia discourse. 

Briefly and concisely explain in plain language what the book is about.
This book tells the story of how Germany’s largest Muslim community fought for its place in the cultural mainstream. It would take the Turkish German community 60 years, and the process is not over yet, but it has become part of German culture now. Wether it is film, literature, tv, or online, humour was the vehicle to achieve this. But the kind of humour the community used to make its way into the heart of German culture was distinctly non-German and non-Turkish. To break into mainstream in the 90s, the comedy entertainment piggybacked on the success of American mainstream humour. Then, once that had opened the door, Turkish German comedy became much more German, and finally, much more Turkish again. Today, while the journey is not over and the cultural change movement still has to go up against Islamophobia and mistrust in Islam, there are exciting new trends and currents the book also explains and lays out through the lens of the social pragmatics of humour.

What or who inspired you to choose this topic?
The ongoing and constant discrimination against minority groups and anti-religious bias. Germany, like so many countries, has these problems. And so many minority groups will be able to understand why books like this are important for integration debates.

Do you have any reading suggestions to share (books, blogs, journals, …) for anyone who wants to know more about the subject?
The subject of Turkish German culture and Turkish German culture studies is very popular in America and Germany, while other countries like The Netherlands approach the subject again from a very different angle. The works of Fatima El-Tayeb and Deniz Göktürk are very good to access this topic.

How did the writing process for this book go? Did you experience anything surprising, amusing or strange?
I think writing and thinking about the same jokes and gags and funny stuff for years had its own special issues and challenges. I don’t know how many times I annoyed my colleagues or friends by testing the same jokes or video clips on them to see if its still funny. Though this was the first research project my mom could relate to because she loved one of the tv series I am writing about.

What would you like readers to remember about your book?
Muslim integration in German society, or Europe in general, is a challenge. But the pop culture industry and humour can make a difference and really make a change.

Your book is published open access thanks to the support of the KU Leuven Fund for Fair Open Access. How did the open access publication process go? What makes open access so attractive for you/your book? Have you thus far noticed that your book reaches a wider audience?
I was able to secure additional funding for the OA Fund thanks to KU Leuven’s initial support and the standing of the Press. So another organisation and my university ended up chipping in too as did the Gülen chair at KU Leuven. It is a fantastic thing to know that this will be accessible to so many readers who usually don’t have any hope of accessing these books behind paywalls or university libraries. With Covid now, this is more true than ever before.

Do you have any plans yet for another publication? What will it be about? Would you consider publishing the book open access?
The next book will be about the American pop culture industry in the 1930s and how a transnational culture lens opens up new stories about its fascist nature—it is no wonder Hitler wanted to invade LA first before taking over the rest of America.

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