Meet Your Prejudice
The international newsagent at Cologne's main station. The entrance is a tangle of people and voices. The store sells an almost infinite range of newspapers and magazines from Germany and elsewhere. You have to know just what you're looking for to find it here.
But one magazine stands out from the crowd: Mikses – the "magazine for intercultural matters". 86 high-gloss pages with professional photos, an unconventional layout and an interesting mix of issues draw the eye and awaken readers' curiosity.
Reports on prominent figures, universities, writers, twin towns, fashion designers: almost every subject is "Turkish" – as are the majority of the magazine's staff.
So is it a hip young Turkish magazine? No – Mikses defines itself as a magazine for a new German generation, where various cultures are mixed and matched together. And these "mixes" are nothing exotic, but a perfectly normal part of everyday life.
Mousse T. meets AC/DC
The title story of the first issue sets the tone. In a ranking of the 30 "most important young new Germans", Mikses presents "movers and shakers in Germany". The names on the list include Feridun, Joy, Tarek and Aiman. Or Ikbal. "We think the German media need a new face," says Ikbal Kilic, editor-in-chief and the woman behind Mikses – a member of what's called the "second generation".
The 30 young "new Germans" with intercultural identities are successful artists, TV presenters, politicians and businesspeople. These people are not anonymous individuals on the margins of society – they have voices to raise and familiar faces.
The number one spot goes to the DJ and music producer Mousse T., pictured lounging on a hotel bed sporting a sly grin and an AC/DC T-shirt.
"Leitkültür" not Leitkultur
Mikses aims to present a wide-ranging and authentic picture of young Germans, addressing subjects such as real lives, politics, campus life and "LeitKültür" – a distinctly Turkish-flavoured play on the much-discussed German idea of a "defining culture".
The magazine sees itself as an antidote to the country's mass media, which tend to show only the extremes – integration problems experienced by "people with a background of migration". Mikses doesn't just want to be authentic and genuine. Mikses is like a glossy ad in praise of diversity.
There's certainly no lack of provocative photos and writing: "Help, I have a background of migration!" writes one author of nominally German descent. And the feature "Meet Your Prejudice" presents an anti-discrimination project at Malmö City Library, which loans out "living books" once a year – people from minorities. Borrowers get to keep the "living books", for example an imam, for 45 minutes – much longer than a normal encounter in everyday life.
The "high-class migrants"
In its second issue, Mikses turns the spotlight on "Little Tokyo" in Düsseldorf. The local Japanese community is described as a group of "high-class migrants". Yet hardly any of the individuals featured speak German, not even the young people. Most of them attend Japanese schools rather than German ones.
Parallel societies, voluntary isolation, integration problems: the German media have a few favourite terms when it comes to reporting on migrants. "I wouldn't talk about a parallel society. The fact is, certain cultures live together in close concentration in certain areas. That isn't necessarily negative," says Ikbal Kilic.
Elvin Türk, a staff editor at Mikses, sees the issue slightly differently: "It's nothing negative that people come together in certain parts of town; that's not what makes the parallels. What it is is that they have their own infrastructure. Their own schools and kindergartens. And they really can't speak German."
"We're all capable of much more"
Bearing this "exception" in mind, Mikses doesn't talk about integration, but about post-integration. The word integration sets up barriers that simply don't exist in the young generation.
For the makers of Mikses, the hurdle of integration is well and truly in the past: young people drink beer with their doner kebabs and dance to Mustafa Sandal in German clubs. Encounters between different cultures are a matter of everyday life. But the rest of the German media barely reflect this normality.
"The media are always talking about integration, but where are the journalists with Turkish backgrounds? Where are they on the editorial boards? Integration has to work both ways. You have to create acceptance by becoming part of society, but you also have to be accepted," says Ikbal Kilic.
The German media don't exclusively portray the reality in the country's society, which makes them come across as "artificial," says Kilic. There are a few strong voices in the media, such as the feminist academic Necla Kelek, but the young generation finds them far from authentic. "I don't know a single Turkish-German woman who feels represented by Ms Kelek," comments Kilic.
There is actually no shortage of German journalists from ethnic minorities. The question is where they work and what topics they cover. "As a Turkish-German journalist, you get pushed into the ethnic corner and all you get to write about is integration issues – there's no way to escape the whole subject," says Kilic, adding a firm conclusion: "But we're all capable of much more!"
© Qantara.de 2008
This article was published in cooperation with the Online-Magazine babelmed.net, "Meeting the Other". For more information about the project click here
Translated from the German by Katy Derbyshire