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Guest from Cameroon Researches German Migration Literature

Humboldt scholarship holder Dr. Serge Yowa from Cameroon is currently a guest at the Faculty of Linguistics and Literary Studies at the University of Bremen. The scholar of German from Central Africa will research German migration literature in the next two years. His host is Professor Axel Dunker.

Serge Yowa, who studied at the University of Yaounde in his home country, chose a research topic that is politically explosive when taking the current flow of refugees into consideration. “Discourse about countries of arrival and countries of origin interest me”, he explained. “Many migrants believe that Europe is a paradise and is better at everything. At least that is the picture that is propagated. But is it true? What do migrants think of their new home? Are their original expectations relativized?” The researcher wants to find answers to these and similar questions in literature. Professor Axel Dunker, head of the Institute for Cultural Studies of Germany, points out that the picture of Germans in Africa is often a construction. “It is based on experiences from colonial times”. The exact title of Dr. Yowa’s work is: “Texturen der Räumlichkeit: Gedächtnis, Formen und Funktionen der Raumkonfigurationen in der deutschsprachigen Migrationsliteratur“ (Textures of Space: Memory, Forms and Functions of Spatial Configuration in German Migration Literature).

PhD Earned in Paderborn

Dr. Yowa, who studied German studies, psychology, sociology, German as a foreign language and its didactics in his home country, speaks outstanding German. Moreover, he also speaks fluent English, French and three of the hundreds of regional languages in Cameroon. The guest is already familiar with Germany. From 2009 to 2014, he earned his PhD in Paderborn with a DAAD doctoral scholarship. Professor Michael Hofmann, head of the Institute for German Language and Comparative Literature was his supervisor. He, in turn, often collaborates with Professor Axel Dunker. That is how the connection was made. Serge Yowa already chose an unusual topic for his doctoral dissertation, emphasized Dunker. “Autobiographie und Shoa” (Autobiography and the Shoah) is not necessarily an obvious choice for an African.

International Author’s List

The friendly academic from Cameroon is staying in Germany for a long period for the second time now. “We often need external help”, he explained with regard to his choice and continued to say that it is difficult to acquire specialist books and documents in his home country and that it is hard to finance one’s own research. “Our libraries are not always well stocked.” The scholar of German who has travelled far has put together an unusual literature list for his research in Bremen. “I do not want to only take German novels written by Africans into consideration but wish to extend the radius”, he stated. Thus, his author’s list includes Emine Sevgi Özdamar, a German-Turkish writer and winner of the Ingeborg Bachmann Prize, the Syrian Rafik Schami, the Russian Wladimir Kaminer and Jones Kwesi Evans from Ghana.

Serge Yowa only arrived on campus a few weeks ago and has just about managed to set up his office. Yet, he is already grateful for suggestions. “I was lucky enough to take part in Professor Dunker’s doctoral colloquium,” he beamed. He presented his topic and plans to his Bremen colleagues there. “I received very good literature tips.” One of said tips was the recently published novel “Herkunft” (Origin) by the Bosnia author Saša Stanišič. Yowa will include him in his corpus.

Surprised by the Tram

The guest is amazed by Bremen. “I originally thought it was a small town comparable to Paderborn”. However, when he went out of the airport and saw the tram, he was amazed. “I was astonished at what a lively city Bremen is”, he enthused about his temporary home of choice.

Seeing His Children Grow Up

The 43-year-old intendeds to carry out research at the University of Bremen for two years. His family stayed behind in Cameroon. He has five children: three girls and two boys. “I would like to see them grow up.” His wife works as a pharmaceutical consultant and he is still deciding whether his family should come to Germany at a later date or if he will travel home in between his work at some point. After completion of his research work, the Humboldt scholarship holder will go back to his home country. “I want to contribute to the development of my country. I am, after all, a teacher”, said Serge Yowa.


Dr. Serge Yowa
Institute for Cultural Studies of Germany (ifkud)
Faculty of Linguistics and Literary Studies
University of Bremen
Phone: +49 421 218-68252





two men discussing
Dr. Serge Yowa talking to his host, Prof. Axel Dunker.