Colonising the play world : texts, toys and colonial fantasies in german children’s stories around 1900

  • In German children’s literature around 1900, the representation of childhood in pseudo-colonial realms participates in a construction of racial identities based on transcultural play. Acts of reading and scenes of instruction intersect with material objects to convey a pedagogy of race dominated by learned whiteness. This article asks: How does German children’s fiction around 1900 reconfigure national identity as imperial experience? An analysis of a noncanonical though exemplary fictional text about a jungle adventure demonstrates strategies used to include the child in the colonial experience. Imagining this ›play world‹ replicates for the child reader a sense of agency and citizenship through encounters with an indigenous mediator, an impish primate and imaginary landscapes – each represented through the lens of European epistemologies. These tropes produce tension between historical fact and imaginative fiction, working together to map a colonial geography of German identity on to a model transatlantic German childhood. Framed by theories of material objects and toys, and supported by the work of literary scholars and cultural historians, I examine the brief story »Die kleine Urwälderin« [The Little Jungle Girl] from Auerbachs Deutscher Kinder-Kalender auf das Jahr 1902 [Auerbach’s Almanac for German Children, 1902]. In it, the Amazonian setting aspires to historically factual representation, which, however, cedes considerable territory to the realm of fantasy. The projection of a German forest adventure on to a Brazilian geography elides historical truths, such as centuries of the transatlantic slave trade, and instead inserts imperial signifiers into an established syntax of the European child at play. The resulting national ideology of childhood identity in this German language story imposes colonial order on a reimagined play world.

Download full text files

Export metadata

Additional Services

Share in Twitter Search Google Scholar
Author:Patricia Anne Simpson
Parent Title (German):Jahrbuch der Gesellschaft für Kinder- und Jugendliteraturforschung : GKJF
Publisher:Gesellschaft für Kinder- und Jugendliteraturforschung
Place of publication:Frankfurt am Main
Document Type:Article
Date of Publication (online):2019/12/01
Date of first Publication:2019/12/01
Publishing Institution:Universitätsbibliothek Johann Christian Senckenberg
Release Date:2022/03/29
Page Number:12
First Page:133
Last Page:144
Institutes:Neuere Philologien / Neuere Philologien
Dewey Decimal Classification:3 Sozialwissenschaften / 37 Bildung und Erziehung / 370 Bildung und Erziehung
8 Literatur / 83 Deutsche und verwandte Literaturen / 830 Literaturen germanischer Sprachen; Deutsche Literatur
Germanistik / GiNDok
Zeitschriften / Jahresberichte:Jahrbuch der Gesellschaft für Kinder- und Jugendliteraturforschung
Licence (English):License LogoCreative Commons - Namensnennung-Nicht kommerziell 4.0