From the European South

a transdisciplinary journal of postcolonial humanities

The current crisis in the city of Chemnitz: analyses, commentaries and reflections

Cecile Sandten


This article examines the crisis in political and cultural debate and the media discourse that was triggered by the murder of Daniel H. on August 26, 2018, in the city of Chemnitz. Through a careful demarcation of the possible reasons for the reactions, primarily of the residents of East Germany, before, during, and after this event, the article seeks to uncover the xenophobic and racist – yet also complex – historical past and present that the city and its inhabitants have endured, particularly following German reunification. In addition, the article offers a critical reading of the hip hop song “Grauer Beton” (Grey Concrete) (2017) by the East German rap artist Trettmann. The exegesis of the video/song’s representational mode of giving voice to the idea of lost identity and lack of adequate representation, draws attention to its potential as political intervention. By taking on board cultural studies scholar Lawrence Grossberg’s concepts of “radical contextuality” and “conjunctural analysis,” the article contends that in East Germany, and in Chemnitz in particular, past and present are intricately interpellated by the so-called void – the impossibility of narrating an identity as East German – that has ensued in the wake of German reunification. Taking up current cultural and political debates from a selection of writers and scholars, the article, by providing a set of three comments, contributes to the discussion of the political impasse implicit in the present political crisis.


Chemnitz, crisis, Grossberg, East Germany, German reunification, xenophobia, Trettmann



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