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October 16, 2018

Who am I? Nationality, identity, and digital tools

October 16, 2018 | By | No Comments

In 1922, Albert Einstein said, “Since the theory of relativity is accepted by the readers, nowadays, I am recognized as a ‘German scholar’ in Germany and the ‘Swiss Jew’ in Britain. However, if my theory is no longer popular or accepted, then I immediately turn into the ‘Swiss Jew’ for the Germans and the ‘German scholar’ for the British.”*

The quote above is Einstein’s answer to the question “who am I?”. One can simply answer this one of the most frequently mentioned philosophical questions with his name, occupation, nationality or other characteristics. Nationality is one of the distinctive characteristics that could potentially help people to identify themselves. However, under the effect of the globalization and other historical events, the migration of populations tends to play a significant role at this present stage. Under this background, identifying oneself simply with nationality becomes more complicated. Not only does the individual need to find out to which nationality (nationalities) do they belong, but their choice is also affected by the question, “what do other people think I am?”

In Einstein’s speech, we can clearly see that his mental representation of his own nationality is hidden behind other people’s interpretation of his nationality, which is interchangeable based on his academic contribution, or so to say, his fame/his reputation.

In the past two hundred years, the effort of promoting democracy and freedom has been made and the achievement is remarkable. However, the biased judgment of one’s nationality based on one’s performance remains the same after almost a century. On July 22nd, 2018, in the official statement published by famous German football player Mesut Özil, he explicitly pointed out that “in the eyes of Grindel (German national football association) and his supporters, I am German when we win, but I am an immigrant when we lose.” Since the last May, Mesut Özil has been criticized by multiple media outlets for meeting the Turkish president during his UK state visit. Born and educated in Germany and winning the “Bambi Award” as an example of successful integration to German society doesn’t necessarily help his feeling of being part of the German society. He is identified as a German-Turkish, but not as a German. In his public statement of quitting the German national team, he raised questions at the end, those being: “Are there criteria for being fully German that I do not fit?… Why don’t people accept that I am German?”

Mesut Özil is not the first football player with immigrant background to play for German national team, but he is certainly the first one who decided to drop out because of being mistreated. Even though Özil identified himself as a German, the society, or so to say a specific group of people around him does not recognize him as part of the German society, rather than a German-Turkish. The relationship between one’s nationality and his identity is so delicate and complicated that it deserves us to give a closer look.

I believe bringing digital humanities tools into my research can greatly enhance people’s understanding of the history of the German national team. I intend to collect information of the national football team players and find out their demographic distribution. With the help of web mapping, I could create a story map followed by a chronological line for individuals with an immigrant background. The project I intend to work on would be a German national team players database, with a specific focus on players with immigration backgrounds and their reception and depiction on media/social media.

Since I’ve only recently started to learn about web mapping, the current plan still has a lot of room for improvement and polishing. More ideas might emerge along my way of learning more digital platforms. At this very moment, one thing I am almost certain of is that presenting my research through a digital form that combines historical facts and contemporary discussion, by displaying both text and image, will provide the readers a path to interpret nationality and identity in German Studies.

(*:”Noch eine Art Anwendung des Relativitätsprinzips zum Ergötzen des Lesers: Heute werde ich in Deutschland als “deutscher Gelehrter”, in England als “Schweizer Jude” bezeichnet; sollte ich aber einst in die Lage kommen, als “bète noire” präsentiert zu werden, dann wäre ich umgekehrt für die Deutschen ein „Schweizer Jude“, für die Engländer ein “deutscher Gelehrter”.)

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