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Doctoral Student Supervision (Jan 2008 - April 2022)
In German fiction, depictions of characters who are, or have been “wards of the state,” i.e., orphans, contracted-out, children and youth living in institutions such as residential schools, children’s homes or group homes, or foster children, are often drawn as asocial or antisocial characters. Many of these characters are seen by critics as metaphorical figures that have no foundation in the extra-literary world. They are perceived as being created to enhance readers’ understanding of social issues that are unrelated to these characters’ unique situation of growing up “without family.” Such a reading is problematic as it ignores centuries of marginalization, exploitation and other forms of abuse, most of which are particular to the status of “growing up in care.” My point of departure is Mariella Mehr’s novel Daskind, whose main topic is the history of this large group of “un-familied” people, and the silencing of their history. Mehr creates a highly intertextual text full of historical, international, socio-cultural and literary allusions. This calls for a theoretical framework which combines notions of power structures, including their subversion on a societal as well as an individual level, with notions of intertextuality.In order to investigate the historical context and plight of “un-familied” people, which has mostly been ignored in literary studies, I introduce the new acronyms WVHPKL (German), OHGFRI, (English) so as to accurately and respectfully address the literary representatives of this very diverse group of people, as listed in the first paragraph. Using the acronym/s does not deny the differences within this group, rather, the acronym/s highlights the differences without invisibilizing the common thread that runs through the different forms of state and community “care,” and deprived and in many cases continues to deprive children and youth from growing up in either any kind of family of origin or in a non-enforced adoptive family. I read Daskind as a critique of the notion of “foster care” and as an autonomous, non-centralized Foucauldean kind of theoretical production.This thesis hopes to provide the foundation to open up a broader interdisciplinary field of study dedicated to WVHPKL/OHGFRI people.