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GCSC Keynote Lecture Series

The GCSC Keynote Lecture Series is open to anyone interested in attending. To provide relevant topics for the diverse set of research interests pursued within the GCSC, the lectures in this series are positioned for an interdisciplinary spectrum of listeners and centred on current concepts, questions and theories within the study of culture.

The lectures are oriented according to the research areas of the GCSC and deliver theoretical and methodological impulses.

Download the programme of the current semester here
Go to the KNL Series video archive

WiSe 22/23

Winter Semester 2022/2023



Timo Maran (University of Tartu)

Ecosemiotics of the Anthropocene: How to Reground Culture in Ecosystems?

25.10.2022, 18:00-20:00 (CEST), GGK/GCSC (MFR) & Online (BBB)



From a semiotic perspective, Anthropocene manifests as a massive multiplication and spread of abstract symbols that lack referential connections with biological and material processes. Such growth of symbols is anti-ecological because of the large amounts of matter and energy required to produce and upkeep various media and artifacts that embody signs. As symbols are signs based on human conventions, they cannot relate directly to changes in environmental and ecological processes (described as dissent by David Low 2009). It is the degradation of the object in the sign that is characteristic of the Anthropocene semiosis.

In the biological realm, organisms rely on the presence of objects (such as environmental constraints, ecosystem properties, and resources). Anthropologists Eduardo Kohn (2013) and Andrew Whitehouse (2015) have proposed the concept of semiotic ground to denote the semiotic basis of the ecosystem. The semiotic ground can be described as a tissue consisting of iconic and indexical signs that retain connection between object and interpretation and, accordingly, between material and semiotic realms. The semiotic ground is a semiotic system shared by human and non-human species alike.

We should find ways to reground human culture, that is, reestablish the connection between the human symbolic sphere and ecosystems. Juri Lotman’s concept of semiosphere (the entirety of culture) could be reinterpreted here as the ecosemiosphere. This would be a semiotic sphere comprising all species and their umwelts, alongside the diverse semiotic relations (including humans with their culture) that they have in the given ecosystem, and also the material supporting structures that enable the ecosemiosphere to thrive (Maran 2020; 2021). Means for moving towards more ecological culture are revising the existing cultural models of nature, emphasizing the role of iconic and indexical semiosis, and fostering connectivity and dialogue between semiotic processes of different complexity.



Florian Mussgnug (University College London, UK & University of Heidelberg, GER)

Transhistorical Speculative Fiction and the (Post-)Apocalyptic Anthropocene

06.12.2022, 18:00-20:00 (CET), GGK/GCSC (MFR)


Abstract: Apocalyptic thinking is often described as reactionary or escapist. In this lecture, we will encounter a radically different, imaginative and progressive attitude towards the end of (the) world(s). Contemporary speculative fiction from Argentina, UK, Canada, Italy, USA, Australia, Norway, the Dominican Republic, and Zambia will provide us with examples of an apocalyptic imagination that is post-anthropocetric, critical and creative, situated and relational: a stance which preserves the ethical and political urgency of religious millennialism, but views apocalypse not as an unspeakable end-to-come. Instead, apocalypse becomes a dynamic marker of the fundamental unpredictability of post-holocenic societies and ecologies. As we will see, this idea of the apocalyptic runs counter to Eurocentric, teleological narratives of the modern emergence of the global. It seeks to revitalize and reformulate the bonds between constellations that are frequently cast as disconnected and incompatible totalities: past, present, and future; the global and the local; human and nonhuman nature. In this way, transhistorical speculative fiction holds the power to disrupt the knowledge practices and imaginative frameworks of anthropocentric mastery and to inspire new forms of aesthetic and political recalcitrance.  





 Vitaly Chernetsky (University of Kansas, USA)

 My Own Private Ukraine: Utopia and Queer Futurity in Dark Times

24.01.2023, 18:00-20:00 (CET), GGK/GCSC (MFR)


Abstract: Engaging with the thought of queer theorists José Esteban Muñoz, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, and Michael Snedicker, as well as Ukrainian feminist literary scholar Solomia Pavlychko, this talk explores the expressions of queer desire and utopian hope in Ukrainian literature and film, seeking sources for perseverance and optimism in the dark times of the current war. From the pioneering articulations of queerness in the texts of Olha Kobylians’ka and Ahatanhel Kryms’kyi in the 1890s through the late-modernist explorations by V. Domontovych and Emma Andiievs’ka and developing further in the work of contemporary authors in prose, poetry, and film, it seeks to uncover and trace a persistent utopian impulse that survived and regrew despite the lengthy history of repression, violence, and trauma.



 Johannes Angermüller (The Open University, UK)

 Truth as a Discursive Positioning Game? Hypervisible Subjects in Political and Academic Discourse

31.01.2023, 18:00-20:00 (CET), GGK/GCSC (MFR)


Abstract: t.b.a.



 Sarita Monjane Henriksen (JLU)

 The Power of Mainstream Western Media in Influencing Discourses on Migration: Defying the Narrative

07.02.2023, 18:00-20:00 (CET), GGK/GCSC (MFR)


Abstract: This paper attempts to contribute to the transdisciplinary study of migration, mainly from a sociolinguistic perspective, and with factual evidence, it intends to challenge the narrative that the bulk of international migrations are south-north, and across oceans. The paper pinpoints that south-south migrations, in fact, are quite significant and that migrants are moving across land borders in the global south. By bringing together three different subject areas, namely, language policy and education planning, refugee and immigration studies, and translation and interpreting studies, the paper highlights the importance that the language factor plays in shaping society’s views, perceptions and understandings of migration processes, patterns, trends, figures, and related consequences. The paper argues that the key role played by language in migration studies, can be seen from a variety of lenses, such as, in documenting and reporting occurring migration phenomena, in resorting to translation and/or interpretation in order to breach the communication gap between migrants and the host country authorities (be it the court, police, immigration and/or health services), in facilitating access to the education system, as well as in determining whether persons in mobility will be granted the possibility to stay, and be integrated as active citizens of the host societies.




SoSe 2022

Summer Semester 2022



Uwe Wirth (JLU Gießen)

After Hybridity: Grafting as a Model of Cultural Translation

31.05.2022, 18:30-20:00 (CEST), GGK/GCSC (MFR) & Online (BBB)


Abstract: "All translation" states Walter Benjamin in his essay The Task of the Translator Walter Benjamin, "is only a somewhat provisional way of coming to terms with the foreignness of languages". The notion of cultural translation as it was developed by postcolonial studies attempts to cope not only with the foreignness of language, but also with 'the other' as a foreigner. In order to come to terms for the various interferences that occur in the course of processes of cultural translation,' Homi Bhabha and other postcolonial theorists have conceptualized interactions between different cultures on the one hand as an "activity of displacement within the linguistic sign", on the other hand as processes of hybridization.

 I would like to propose an alternative model for describing processes of cultural translation, namely the model of grafting that has been used not only by Jacques Derrida as a metaphor for textual cut and paste operations, but also by Johann Gottfried Herder and Friedrich Schleiermacher for the purpose of coming to terms with the foreignness of other languages as well as other cultures. Hence, one focus of my talk will be, in which sense grafting can also count as an activity of displacement in the interaction of different languages and cultures.



Annetta Alexandridis (Cornell University)

Plaster Casts in Enlightenment and Colonialist Discourses on Race

07.06.2022, 18:00-20:00 (CEST), GGK/GCSC (MFR) & Online (BBB)


Abstract: Due to their colonialist legacy museums and universities (including at Gießen) have come under pressure to examine their holdings for repatriation of objects and human remains. Understood within a broader call for “decolonizing” Western institutions of knowledge production, such a moment of reckoning invites to revisit other, seemingly unproblematic collections, such as plaster casts of Greco-Roman sculpture. Once a staple of Western style museums around the globe or of departments of archaeology, these replicas democratized access to ancient art, while simultaneously establishing a canon of art through “mere exposure.” Its impact proved to be particularly powerful in the 18th and 19th centuries when cast collections also served to provide ‘scientific’ evidence. Following a longstanding tradition, many enlightenment and colonialist “polymaths” bridged the arts and sciences in their work in a way universities our days would hail as “interdisciplinary”. From that, however, arose a blending of real and ideal, with fateful consequences: in the context of discourses on the “human races” the use of casts established the (white) European body as exemplary, whether as pinnacle of humanity, or as default, unmarked model (man as such). The paper concludes with proposing strategies to address this problematic legacy without completely giving up on plaster cast collections.

The keynote lecture will be followed by a conversation with Prof. Dr. Katharina Lorenz (JLU Giessen).



James MHarding (University of Maryland)

 The Invisible Vanguard: Reflections on Borders, Refugees, and Contemporary Avant-Garde Formations.

21.06.2022, 18:00-20:00 (CEST), GGK/GCSC (MFR) & Online (BBB)


Abstract: At the most basic level, my paper explores the concept of “invisibility” as a key register for a viable theory of contemporary political and artistic avant-gardes. In this respect, it does not take the existence of any contemporary avant-garde for granted as present or visible. Instead, I argue that that very idea of a contemporary avant-garde and a corresponding discourse for it must be distilled from contemporary political struggles and I suggest that in both the U.S. and in Europe those political struggles tend to be about recognition of those who are undocumented and who press over the borders (both physical and cultural) of accepted understanding of the nation-state. As their numbers increase, I argue, so does their political and cultural potential. But as undocumented, they remain an unrecognized and hence invisible avant-garde.


The keynote lecture will be followed by a Conversation with Prof. Dr. Bojana Kunst (JLU), Prof. Dr Gerald Siegmund (JLU) and Tasiana Artsimovich (GCSC).