This article interrogates the discursive regimes that underpin Leitkultur (guiding culture) discourse in contemporary Germany and argues that Leitkultur conjures Germany’s imagined “freedom from history” from within Enlightenment temporalities of liberal freedom. This requires that liberal Germany mark its limits in certain moments of German history—namely, National Socialism—while disavowing its role in the constitution of German colonialism. The return to the Enlightenment implied in hegemonic formulations of Leitkultur restores Germany’s freedom from an ugly past; this imagined return can carry the promise of a “diverse” and “inclusive” Germany only insofar as Germany’s colonial heritage is suppressed. The article aims to expose how Germany’s colonial legacy underpins dominant Leitkultur discourse while it is nevertheless hidden from it.

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