Postmigrant Theatre

One in five people in Germany now have what is termed there a ‘background of migration’. In recent years this has been reflected in the ‘postmigrant theatre’ movement in Germany; a movement which aims to create space for postmigrant perspectives and artistic practitioners within the theatrical establishment.

The term ‘postmigrant theatre’ was made popular by the work of the Ballhaus Naunynstraße theatre under the leadership of Shermin Langhoff.

The phrase ‘postmigrant’ provides an alternative to the more sociological term ‘Menschen mit Migrationshintergrund’ (People with a Background of Migration) which is often used to describe people whose parents, grandparents or even great-grandparents migrated to Germany in the latter half of the 20th Century. Langhoff explains that the term ‘postmigrant theatre’ is a ‘Kampfbegriff’ , a linguistic tool with which to fight or make a point, rather than a term which aims to essentially define or delimit the work of particular artists.

The success of the theatre created under this umbrella at the Ballhaus since its opening in 2006 has been phenomenal and following this Langhoff was made artistic director of the famous Gorki Theatre in Berlin. Plays such as Neco Çelik’s Schwarze Jungfrauen (Black Virgins) have since also made the move from the Ballhaus to the Gorki.

Neco Çelik on the importance of theatre for postmigrant life:

Bürger mit nicht-deutscher Herkunft [müssen] aktiver an der Theater- und Filmkultur teilnehmen […]. Sie zahlen Steuern in Deutschland und subventionieren damit die Kultur mit. Viele wissen das nicht einmal. […] Aber einfordern und nicht teilnehmen – das geht überhaupt nicht.

Citizens of non-German origin have to take part more actively in theatre and film. […] They pay taxes in Germany and through this they help fund the cultural sphere. Many people don’t even know that. […] But paying for it and not taking part in it – that’s just not acceptable.

To find out more about postmigrant theatre see:

In English:

Ellis, Robin / Salzmann, Marianne (2012): “They Misoverestimate Us: On the Attempt to Throw a Middle Class Pearl Necklace like a Lasso Around the Ballhaus Naunynstraße – A Comedy”, in: Transit (8/1), 1—4 <>

Kömürcü Nobrega, Onur Suzan (2011): ‘“We Bark from the Third Row”: The Position of the Ballhaus Naunynstraße in Berlin’s Cultural Landscape and the Funding of Cultural Diversity Work’, in: Türkisch-deutsche Studien (2), 91—112.

Sharifi, Azadeh (2013): ‘Mapping Intercultural Networks: Postmigration, Theatre and Artists of Color’: Keynote Talk at Europe Now Festival (Amsterdam) <>.

Sieg, Katrin (2010): “Black Virgins: Sexuality and the Democratic Body in Europe”, in: New German Critique (37/1), 147—185.

Sieg, Katrin (2011): “Class of 1989: Who Made Good and Who Dropped Out of German History? Postmigrant Documentary Theater in Berlin”, in: Silberman, Marc (ed.): The German Wall: Fallout in Europe, New York, 165—183.

Stewart, Lizzie (2014): ‘Black Virgins, Close Encounters: Re-Examining the “Semi-Documentary” in Postmigrant Theatre’, in: Türkisch-deutsche Studien (5), 81-102.

In German:

Krug, Hartmut: ‘Postmigrantismus für alle’, in: Freitag (06.05.2011) < >

Kulaoğlu, Tunçay (2010): “Das kulturelle Kapital der Postmigranten ist riesig”, in: Allmanritter, Vera / Siebenhaar, Klaus (eds): Kultur mit allen! Wie öffentliche deutsche Kultureinrichtungen Migranten als Publikum gewinnen, Berlin, 159—180.

Langhoff, Shermin, and Kristina Ohr (2010): ‘“Theater kann eine Identitätsmaschine sein”: Interview mit Shermin Langhoff’, in: nah & fern: Das Kulturmagazin für Migration und Partizipation (43), 18-23.

Sharifi, Azadeh (2011): “Postmigrantisches Theater: Eine neue Agenda für die deutschen Bühnen”, in Schneider, Wolfgang (ed.): Theater und Migration: Herausforderungen für Kulturpolitik und Theaterpraxis, Bielefeld, 35—45.

N.B. this is just a small selection of the available sources.