The Gorki Theater’s Exil Ensemble as State-Sponsored Repudiation of Citizenship

  • Marike JanzenEmail author
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Literature, Culture and Human Rights book series (PSLCHR)


In 2016, one year after record-breaking numbers of refugees arrived in Germany, Berlin’s state-sponsored Gorki Theater founded an acting troupe, called the Exil Ensemble, comprising professional actors forced to flee their homes in Afghanistan, Palestine, and Syria. In 2017, the group premiered a play titled Winterreise—a reference to Franz Schubert’s 1827 song cycle of the same name—that documents a bus tour the ensemble took through Germany in 2016. By highlighting non-citizens’ stories about Germany, the piece, and the theater, lay bare a tension between the precarious situation of non-citizens in the country, and the German state’s historical commitment to promoting theater as a significant space for shaping model citizens through training in a national canon and public engagement with social issues. This paper argues that the Gorki’s efforts to foreground exile voices within the context of national culture and state cultural programs presents a noteworthy rebuke to a state system working to keep refugee bodies out of its territories and beyond its sphere of protection.



Research and writing of this essay was supported by funding from the General Research Fund of the University of Kansas.

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of KansasLawrenceUSA

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