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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

SoSe 23

Summer Semester 2023




Prof. Dr. Eduard Arriaga (Clark University)

Afro-Brazilian Community Data Networks: Technological Hybridity, Data Decolonization and Human Reaffirmation

09.05.2023, 18:00-20:00 (CEST), GGK/GCSC (MFR) & Online (BBB)

In this talk, Dr. Eduard Arriaga (Clark University) will present an overview of his research on Afrolatinx digital culture in the Americas, emphasizing how Afro-Brazilian groups and organizations are creating networks of hybrid technologies in search of data and technological decolonization. Dr. Arriaga will show how the studied groups adapt and adopt diverse media, digital tools, and platforms from an Afro-Brazilian Black feminism perspective to challenge data and technological determinism. Likewise, he will discuss the way these groups get connected to local, regional, and global nodes to develop critical pedagogies of the digital from the South. The talk will conclude discussing how Afro-Brazilian Community data networks become an example of hybrid Black communal digital practices that require complex approaches that go beyond the boundaries of fields such as the digital humanities.  


Prof. Dr. Cristina Florea (Cornell University)

Crossroads of Empires – Revolutions and Encounters at Europe’s Eastern Frontiers

16.05.2023, 18:00-20:00 (CET), GGK/GCSC (MFR)

Bukovina, a former borderland of the Habsburg empire now divided between Ukraine and Romania, was a place of mutual observation, competition, emulation, and conflict between the different states and governments that laid claim to this territory and its population. Over the course of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the province experienced repeated regime changes - many of which occurred seemingly overnight. Bukovina and the Eastern European borderlands, more generally, became a place of unexpected entanglements between modern states and sovereignties. This talk will examine how the shared challenges of governing Bukovina facilitated mutual influences between regimes that otherwise viewed each other as ideological opposites. It will do so by exploring these regimes’ recurring preoccupation with culture, understood as literacy, modernization, and urbanization, as an instrument for total transformation.

Prof. Dr. Ursula Heise (University of California)

Into the Multiverse: Cultural Studies and Environmental Futures

20.06.2023, 18:00-20:00 (CET), GGK/GCSC (MFR)

The multiverse or existence of parallel worlds has come to the fore as a major theme as well as an important narrative strategy in novels and films of the last twenty years. The scale of these parallel worlds ranges from the individual life decisions in the Oscar-winning film Everything Everywhere All At Once (2022) to the ecological transformations in Gibson's novel The Peripheral (2014), social structures and racial inequality in the animated film Spider Man: Into the Spiderverse (2018) and Micaiah Johnson's The Space between Worlds (2020), all the way to different evolutionary trajectories in M.R. Carey's Infinity Gate (2020). Narratives such as these reflect, on the surface, on socioeconomic disparities and culture clashes, but they also engage with a deeper sense of epochal change, environmental crisis, and pervasive uncertainty that prevents not only confident forecasting of the future but also cognitive mapping of the present. This presentation will argue that the meme of split and parallel worlds has also affected cultural studies, which has increasingly fractured into tenuously connected epistemic ventures since the turn of the millennium. The paradigm of justice (social, economic, and environmental) has provided a new connective tissue over the last five years, but is itself subject to cultural divergence. The lecture will explore to what extent the cultural studies of the future need connecting paradigms and to what extent the multiverse might prove a productive metaphor for research on cultures.


Prof. Dr. Ralph Grunewald (University of Wisconsin-Madison)

This is Not Storytime: The Narrative Construction of Guilt and Innocence in Wrongful Conviction Cases

27.06.2023, 18:00-20:00 (CET), GGK/GCSC (MFR)

Wrongful convictions—cases in which an innocent person is convicted of a crime they did not commit—have been studied primarily through the lenses of law, psychology, and the social sciences. Despite a large body of scholarship, a very simple question has not been answered: How is it possible that prosecutors can convince juries and themselves of the guilt of an innocent defendant, often even against strong exculpatory evidence? In his book, “Narratives of Guilt and Innocence” (NYU Press 2023) Ralph Grunewald addresses this crucial question by analyzing the power of narrative and how it influences the construction of legal reality and the evidence for it. Wrongful convictions exemplify the uncomfortable relationship between narrative and truth in law, and they also provide insights into how differently legal cultures narrate truth in law. Grunewald will discuss the effects of different cultural narrative blueprints (the American and German) and how our narrative desire as a human trait has a universal power with a persistence that transcends the regulatory and procedural setup of a given system.

Prof. Dr. Insa Härtel (IPU Berlin)

 Aesthetics of the Sexual: On Sheaths, Scenes, and Screens

11.07.2023, 18:00-20:00 (CET), GGK/GCSC (MFR)

He brings a condom into play, she – mocking him – blows it up like a balloon. This sequence from "Looking for Mr. Goodbar" (USA 1977) is quoted in the film "Test" (USA 2013), set in the gay 1980s San Francisco modern dance milieu. Based on the composition of such scenes and going beyond the actual use of the condom, this lecture deals with interlayers and screens, the performance character of sexuality and the aesthetic constitution of the latter.


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.  




Keynote Lecture Poster. Prof. Vitaly Chernetsky, My Own Private Ukraine: Utopia and Queer Futurity in Dark Times



Prof. 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.






Keynote Lecture Series Poster Prof. Johannes Angermüller



 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: Struggles over truth and post-truth are at the heart and centre of contemporary political discourse. How do we as discourse analysts position ourselves vis-à-vis the truth and post-truth of discourse? I will take my point of departure from the Strong Programme in Discourse Studies, which makes the case for epistemological symmetry between truths and post-truths: if post-truths (of others) can be accounted for in discursive terms, then we should also be able to explain our (scientific) truths in the same way. Against this philosophical background, I will suggest an analysis of political and scientific discourses that both are organised around few but hypervisible subject positions. If both truth and post-truth discourses are a product of the monopolization of visibility in discourse, how can we account for the many discourse participants who remain invisible and unheard? And more importantly, if truths are discursively constructed just as post-truths, how can we keep criticising post-truths in the name of truth? In this talk, I will invite you to take a resolutely discursive perspective on the ongoing controversies around populism without giving in to the populist idea that truth and post-truth are all “nothing but discursive constructions”. 






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.