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SoSe 2016 & WiSe 2016/17: New Directions in the Study of Culture

Summer Semester 2016 and Winter Semester 2016/17
New Directions in the Study of Culture


Winter Semester 2016/17
GCSC Anniversary Lecture Series

James Mark (University of Exeter / UK)

Socialism Goes Global: Eastern Europe and an Anti-Imperialist World 1954-1989

22.11.2016, 18-20, room 001, MFR

Professor at the History Department at the University of Exeter, UK.

Main Research Interests

  • Political Transformations
  • Re-remembering the Past in the Former Eastern Bloc
  • Memory of the Second World War in Hungarian and Romanian Communities in Transylvania

Publications (selected)

  • With M. Bracke: Between Decolonisation and the Cold War: Transnational Activism and Its Limits in Europe 1950s-1990s. Special Issue of the Journal of Contemporary History, 2015.
  • With R. Gildea, A. Warring: Europe's 1968: Voices of Revolt. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013.
  • The Unfinished Revolution: Making Sense of the Communist Past in Central-Eastern Europe. London / New Haven: Yale University Press, 2010.


This lecture will examine the ways in which eastern Europeans grappled with the challenge of a post-colonial world, addressing how politicians, intellectuals and travellers from across the smaller countries of eastern Europe – from Poland to Hungary to Yugoslavia – encountered a decolonizing world from the 1950s onwards. It will explore some of those (mainly leftist) intellectuals who imagined a new cultural and geopolitical orientation for their region. It will address those who positioned eastern Europe as an organic part of a global anti-imperialist space – as they forged solidarities with those countries which appeared to be 'going their way' ideologically. It will analyse how some challenged the assumptions of European whiteness that had been long absorbed by eastern Europeans – but now, they believed, needed to be questioned. Finally, through exploring the growing de-legitimisation of socialist internationalism, the revival of discourses on Europeanness, and the re-affirmation of older notions of whiteness in the 1970s and 1980s, this paper will lay out the broader historical context for the difficulties of bringing the study of post-Communism and postcolonialism together after 1989. This lecture is taken from research conducted as part of the Arts and Humanities Council (UK)-funded project 'Socialism Goes Global':


Stuart Elden (University of Warwick / UK)

Terrain – the Materiality of Territory

13.12.2016, 18-20, room 001, MFR

Professor of Political Theory and Geography at the University of Warwick, UK and Monash Warwick Professor in the Faculty of Arts at Monash University, AUS

Main Research Interests

  • Modern History
  • Political Geography
  • Philosophy

Publications (selected)

  • Foucault: The Birth of Power. Cambridge: Polity Press, forthcoming January 2017.
  • Foucault's Last Decade. Cambridge: Polity Press, 2016.
  • The Birth of Territory. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2013.
  • Terror and Territory: The Spatial Extent of Sovereignty. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2009.


Terrain is an important concept in both physical and military geography. However the term is often used in a relatively unproblematic way to describe the forms and textures that define particular spaces. This lecture draws elements from both traditions but situates them within a more explicitly theoretical-political inquiry, that of thinking the materiality of territory. Terrain is important in understanding territory because it combines materiality, strategy and the need to go beyond a narrow, two-dimensional sense of the cartographic imagination. Instead, terrain forces us to account for the complexity of height and depth, the question of volume. Terrain makes possible, or constrains, various political, military and strategic projects. It is where the geopolitical and the geophysical meet.

All attempts at fixing territorial boundaries and shaping territories are complicated by dynamic features of the Earth, including rivers, oceans, polar-regions, glaciers, airspace and the sub-surface – both the sub-soil and the sub-marine. These complexities operate at a range of spatial scales, from the boundaries of nation-states to urban infrastructure projects. Taking the measure of these factors is crucial for a political-legal theory of territory more generally. Essentially the key question is: how can theories of territory better account for the complexities of the geophysical?


Helen Atawube Yitah (University of Ghana, GHA)

Now Upon a Time: How African Folktales Speak to the Present and Beyond

06.12.2016, 18-20, room 001, MFR

Associate Professor and Head of Department of English at the University of Ghana, GHA

Main Research Interests

  • Gender Identity in Oral and Written African Literature
  • African American and American Literature
  • Eighteenth Century British Literature
  • Practice in Criticism

Publications (selected)

  • With Gordon Adika, George Ossom-Batsa: New Perspectives on African Humanity: Beliefs, Values & Artistic Expression. Accra: Adwinsa Publications, 2014.
  • After the Ceremonies: New and Selected Poems by Ama Ata Aidoo. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2014.
  • Critical Readings of Faceless. Accra: Sub-saharan Publishers, 2014.
  • Throwing Stones in Jest: Kasena Women’s Proverbial Revolt. Saabrücken: Lambert Academic Publishers, 2011.


In this lecture I look at ways in which the content and form of Ghanaian folktales are being subverted to reflect the narrators’ lived realities (or their dreams) and to articulate their ideological perceptions. The revised stories feature (1) open-ended plots that break the presumed “stylistic consistency” of the folktale and (2) characters who inscribe themselves onto a ‘modern’ scene which is a far cry from the fantasy world typically associated with the folktale. I examine how these features challenge long held views in narratology, especially as they pertain to the narrative subject—views which have resulted in a shift in literary studies away from narrative grammar in search of a pragmatics of narrative. Furthermore, given that folktale studies have provided a site for the construction and demonstration of literary and cultural paradigms, my analysis of the Ghanaian folktales will form a basis for exploring the potential of this genre for generating new directions in African studies, particularly with regard to dismantling the foundations of the seemingly intractable colonizing epistemological order that has held sway within the discipline.

Helen Yitah's key-note lecture will be followed by a response given by Stefan Helgesson, a professor of English and African literature at Stockholm University.


Albrecht Koschorke (University of Konstanz / DE)

Stories and Decisions. Toward a Theory of Factual Narratives


24.01.2017, 18-20, Phil I A3, MFR

Professor of Modern German Literature and Literary Studies at University of Konstanz, DE

Main Research Interests

  • Cultural Theory
  • Cultural Semiotics
  • Narrative Theory
  • German Literature from the 17th to 20th Century

Publications (selected)

  • Hitlers Mein Kampf. Zur Poetik des Nationalsozialismus. Berlin: Matthes & Seitz, 2016.
  • Wahrheit und Erfindung. Grundzüge einer Allgemeinen Erzähltheorie. Frankfurt am Main: Fischer, 2012.
  • Die Heilige Familie und ihre Folgen. Frankfurt am Main: Fischer Taschenbuch Wissenschaft, 2000. American Translation: The Holy Family and Its Legacy. New York: Columbia University Press, 2003.
  • Die Geschichte des Horizonts. Grenze und Grenzüberschreitung in literarischen Landschaftsbildern. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1990.


In my lecture, I want to explore the collaborative effects of storytelling, sensemaking, and decision-taking. My starting point is the assumption that social processes are determined by a general tendency to minimize effort through the limitation of attention, time, cognitive and semantic energy. Only in certain cases should they reach the level of meaningful action. And only particularly demanding meaningful actions require narrative support. The basic function of social narratives consists in the framing and closure of contentious situations. However, there are situations in which a moment of crisis does not simply allow itself to be narratively encapsulated but requires an act of decision. This raises the question of how decisions are dealt with on the level of storytelling—both in terms of preparating and reworking the turning point of decision itself.

With this line of thought, I try to combine the analysis of storytelling in everyday life with results from cognitive theory and theories of organization—as a possible (and hopefully plausible) “new direction in the study of culture.”


Tom Holert (Harun Farocki Institut, Berlin, DE)

Travelling the Image. On Navigation as a Paradigm of Digital Visual Cultures


01.02.2017, 18-20, room 001, MFR

Co-Funder of the Harun Farocki Institut Berlin, DE

Main Research Interests

  • Contemporary and Late Modernist Art
  • Governmentality of the Present

Publications (selected)

  • Übergriffe. Zustände und Zuständigkeit der Gegenwartskunst. Hamburg: Philo Fine Arts, 2014.
  • With Mark Terkessidis: Fliehkraft. Gesellschaft in Bewegung – von Migranten und Touristen. Köln: Kiepenheuer und Witsch, 2006.
  • With Mark Terkessidis: Entsichert. Krieg als Massenkultur im 21. Jahrhundert. Köln: Kiepenheuer und Witsch, 2002.
  • With Mark Terkessidis: Mainstream der Minderheiten; Pop in der Kontrollgesellschaft. Berlin / Amsterdam: ID Archiv, 1996.


In one of the last interviews preceding his premature death in 2014, filmmaker, artist and writer Harun Farocki pondered the question to what extent the prime visual metholodogy of political modernism, namely montage, has been replaced by the paradigm of navigation. Moreover, Farocki implicitly asked what the epistemological and aesthetic consequences of such a shift would be. In my talk I will attempt to continue this interrogation of the condition of contemporary digital visual cultures, mobilizing the notion of "navigation" to trace the terrain of operational image production and usage. Being particularly interested in the fate of the idea of the political or dialectical image, this line of questioning aims at addressing the modes through which images are being converted into dataspaces to be travelled as well as the instrumental life of images as tools of navigation (from neurosurgery to targeted killings).



Stefan Iversen University Aarhus, DK

The Culture of Inappropriateness: Value, Affect, and Narrative in Contemporary Rhetorical Discourses

07.02.2017, 18-20, room 001, MFR

Associate Professor at the Department for Aesthetics and Communication at Aarhus University, DK

Main Research Interests

  • Literary Studies
  • Narrative Theory

Publications (selected)

  • With Mikka Lene Pers-Højholt: Interlocking Narratives: The Personal Story and the Masterplot in Political Rhetoric. In: Narrativity, Fictionality and Factuality and the Staging of Identity. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 2016.
  • Narrative. In: Mads Rosendahl Thomsen, Dan Ringgaard: Literature: An Introduction to Theory and Analysis. London: Bloomsbury, 2016
  • With Henrik Skov Nielsen: The Politics of Fictionality in The Act of Killing and The Ambassador. In: European Journal of English Studies, 2016.
  • With Henrik Skov Nielsen, Jan Alber, Louise Brix Jacobsen, Rikke Andersen Kraglund, Camilla Møhring Reestorff: Why Study Literature? Aarhus: Aarhus University Press, 2011.


Decorum, a key concept in rhetorical theory and practice, designates perhaps the most important lesson to any speaker: say what is appropriate in the situation. Appropriateness, however, only becomes visible when it is not adhered to. Decorum and with it the rules governing deliberative culture emerges through indecorum. This talk springs from the observation that the meanings of the decorous and the indecorous seem to be undergoing radical changes, changes that go beyond what Boltanski and others have investigated under the heading of “sociology of dispute”. Across discourse realms such as political rhetoric, art, literature, and branding/marketing, debates about as well as practices of the indecorous have taken on new forms and functions. By combining insights from postclassical narratology (Phelan, Altes, Nünning), rhetorical criticism (Jasinski), affect studies (Ahmed) and sociology (Boltanski, Latour), the aim of the talk is to characterize cultural artefacts marked by this obsession with the inappropriate in order to better understand our current struggles with understanding each other.

Summer Semester 2016
GCSC Anniversary Lecture Series

Veronika Zink (JLU, Gießen, GER)

Post/Doc Perspectives: The Nano-Politics of Affect

Respondent: Andreas Langenohl (Professor of Sociology, JLU, Gießen)

26.4.2016, 12-14, room 001, MFR


Postdoc Research Fellow at at the International Graduate Centre for the Study of Culture at Justus-Liebig-University Gießen, GER

Main Research Interests

  • Sociology of Religion and Secularism

  • Economic Anthropology and Political Economy

  • Sociology of Emotions and Affect Studies

Publications (selected)

  • With Bernd Giesen, Francis Le Maitre, Nils Meise: Überformungen. Wir ohne Nichts. Weilerswist: Velbrück, in Print.

  • With Johanna Fernandez and Danae Gallo Gonzalez: W(h)ither Identity. Positioning the Self and Transforming the Social. Trier: VWT, 2015.

  • Von der Verehrung. Eine kultursoziologische Untersuchung. Frankfurt am Main: Campus, 2014.


Affect has become one of the key terms in contemporary critical thought and within post-deconstructive cultural studies. But, why are so many scholars in the humanities and social sciences fascinated by the idea of affect? Affect, as I will argue, does not only serve as a ‘new’ scientific concept, but even more as an ethical category and as a nano-political strategy conjuring the belief in the recreative value of affective connections as well as in affect’s capacity to exceed social subjection. In order to critically investigate the political potential of affect, one has to understand the theoretical claim for affect as a product of our current socio-historic condition. In my lecture I will demonstrate that the so-called affective turn represents an epistemological shift not only within critical-academic, artistic, and ethico-political discourses, but also in the overall way we envision social reality and humanity. Theorizing affect requires a quite specific social ontology. Taking this into account I want to disentangle the premises of affect theory to, first, analyze the underlying onto-political belief system that fuels affect theory in order to, secondly, demonstrate in how far this represents a new notion of the social, a vital political hope that is conditioned by the metaphysics of late capitalism.


Claire Kramsch (University of California, Berkeley, USA)

The Future of "Culture" in Applied Linguistics

17.05.2016, 18-20, room 001, MFR

kramsch Professor of German and Education at University of California, Berkeley, USA

Main Research Interests

  • Applied Linguistics

  • Second Language Acquisition

  • Cultural and Stylistic Approaches to Language Study

Publications (selected)

  • The Multilingual Subject. What Language Learners say About their Experience and why it Matters. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2009.
  • Language and Culture. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 1998.
  • Context and Culture in Language Teaching. Oxford University Press. 1993.
  • With Ellen Crocker: Reden, Mitreden, Dazwischenreden: Managing Conversations in German. Boston: Heinle & Heinle. 1990.


If Applied Linguistics is “an interdisciplinary field of research and practice dealing with practical problems of language and communication” (Li Wei 2014:2), the study of culture has long been seen an essential component of Applied Linguistics, if only because the problems created by language in the real world have very often to do with the social, historical and cultural context in which linguistic resources are put to use. That context, that both structures and is structured by language, is what we call “culture”. Before the advent of globalization, the Internet and the large scale migrations of the 21st century, culture was studied as the national context in which national languages were learned and used. Today, with the increasingly multilingual and multicultural nature of industrialized societies, the spread of English as a global language, and the relentless rise of neoliberal ideology, the notion of “culture” is seen as being less useful in Applied Linguistics than historicity and subjectivity, performativity and symbolic power.


Peter Gilgen (Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, USA)

Literature and the Post-Humanist Turn

07.06.2016, 18-20, room 001, MFR


Associate Professor of German Studies and Member of Graduate Field of Comparative Literature, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY

Main Research Interests

  • Eighteenth- to Twentieth-Century Literature and Philosophy

  • Literary and Media Theory

  • Lyric Poetry and Poetics

  • Systems Theory

Publications (selected)

  • Lektüren der Erinnerung: Lessing, Kant, Hegel. Munich: Wilhelm Fink Verlag, 2012.
  • With Peter Uwe Hohendahl and Thomas Teufel: Back to Kant II: The Fate of Kant in a Time of Crisis. The Philosophical Forum 41:1-2 (2010): 1-230.
  • Unterlandschaft. Eggingen: Edition Isele, 1999.



Astrid Erll (Goethe-University, Frankfurt am Main, GER)

New Directions and Challenges in Cultural Memory Studies: Past, Present, Future

14.06.2016, 18-20, room 001, MFR

Erll Professor of Anglophone Literatures and Cultures at Goethe-University Frankfurt am Main, GER

Main Research Interests

  • Anglophone Literatures and Culture

  • Transcultural Memory Narratives

  • Media Studies/Intermediality

Publications (selected)

  • Bibel und Literatur um 1800. München: Wilhelm Fink 2011.
  • With Ansgar Nünning, in collab. with Sara B. Young: Cultural Memory Studies. An International and Interdisciplinary Handbook. Berlin/New York: de Gruyter, 2008.

  • Kollektives Gedächtnis und Erinnerungskulturen. Eine Einführung. Stuttgart: Metzler, 2005.

  • With Ansgar Nünning: Media & Cultural Memory/Medien & kulturelle Erinnerung. Vols. 1ff. Berlin/New York: de Gruyter, since 2004.


This lecture discusses how cultural memory is studied today in different disciplinary, national and regional contexts – and how it might, or should, be studied tomorrow. After a quick look back at the evolution and main crossroads of the field in the past three decades, I will try to recapitulate some of the most important developments of memory studies in recent years. I am quite aware, however, of the sheer impossibility of constructing one single ‘state of the art’ of memory studies. Instead, I will show some of the more interesting ‘states’ that this highly diverse, international and interdisciplinary field has reached. Finally, I will zoom in on some examples (taken mainly from literary, media, and transcultural memory studies), and ask where the preoccupation with cultural memory may lead us in the future.


Philipp Schulte (JLU, Gießen, GER) & Falk Rößler (Theatre Collective FUX, GER)

Post/Doc Perspectives: Against Functionalization. On Artistic Research

Respondent: Gerald Siegmund (Professor for Applied Theatre Studies, JLU, Gießen)

28.6.2016, 12-14, room 001, MFR


Postdoc Research Fellow at Institute for Applied Theatre Studies at Justus-Liebig-University Gießen, GER

Main Research Interests

  • Contemporary Performance Art


  • Subjectivity and Identity

  • Theories of Space and Scenography

  • Theatre and Critique

Publications (selected)

  • With Anneka Esch-van Kan, Stephan Packard: Thinking – Resisting – Reading the Political. Zürich/Berlin: Diaphanes, 2013.
  • With Marion Tiedtke: Die Kunst der Bühne: Positionen des zeitgenössischen Theaters. Berlin: Theater der Zeit, 2011.
  • Identität als Experiment. Ichperformanzen auf der Gegenwartsbühne. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 2011.
  • With Marion Tiedtke: Die Kunst der Bühne. Zeitgenössische Positionen der Regie und der Choreographie. Berlin: Theater der Zeit, 2011.

Member of the Theatre Collective FUX

Main Research Interests

  • Aesthetic Strategies in Contemporary Performing Arts

  • Artistic Research

  • Quality of Life-Discourse

Publications (selected)

  • Eierlegende Wollmilchsäue? Anmerkungen zu Künstlerischer Forschung. In: Frankfurt in Takt. Schwerpunktthema Künstlerische Forschung. Frankfurt am Main: Magazin der Hochschule für Musik und Darstellende Kunst Frankfurt am Main, 2015.
  • Das starke Selbst. Stoische und zeitgenössische Lebenskunstkonzepte als Medien der Lebensgestaltung. München: Grin, 2011.
  • Benjamins taktiles Paradies. Zum Politischen in Walter Benjamins Kunstwerk-Aufsatz. In: Flade/Förster/Ugarte Chacón: Paradiese am Rand. Studentisches Denken. Marginalien an der Universität? München: USP, 2010.


A specter is haunting European academia – the specter of artistic research. This specter invokes an ambivalent promise: For some the hybridization of academic studies and art practice seems to be a worthwhile endeavor inasmuch as it aims to break with incrusted institutional structures within the field of art and knowledge production. Others hope to enhance the visibility of their institutions by acquiring public funds to establish new study and research programs that work at the intersection of art and research; or in short: artistic research has economic value.

In our lecture we will, first, address the discussion on artistic research by asking how an aesthetic critique of scientific knowledge production could look like. By, secondly, referring to concrete examples we will further question the potential of artistic research as a hybrid cultural praxis that receives its value precisely from sitting at the nexus of academic studies and art. Do we need to hold on to a constitutional difference between artistic practice and scientific praxis or does this distinction dissolve? In relating our thoughts to the institutional critique – specifically focusing on the critique of the higher education sector – we will assume that the praxis of artistic research can only fully unfold its potential if such a praxis gets encouraged by means of funding, but without institutionally embedding and regulating this very praxis.


Fatima El-Tayeb (University of California, San Diego, USA))

Europe's Racial Amnesia. An Intersectional Perspective

28.06.2016, 18-20, room 001, MFR


This event has been cancelled



Birgit Neumann (Heinrich-Heine-University, Düsseldorf, GER)

Pushing Narrative to its Limits: Ekphrasis and Visuality in Teju Cole's Fiction

05.07.2016, 18-20, room 001, MFR

Neumann Professor of Anglophone Literatures and Literary Translation, Heinrich-Heine-University Düsseldorf, GER

Main Research Interests

  • Anglophone Literatures and Cultures
  • Postcolonial, Global and Transcultural Studies
  • Postcolonial and Material Ecocriticism
  • Intermediality and Ekphrasis in Postcolonial Literatures

Publications (selected)

  • Präsenz und Evidenz fremder Dinge im Europa des 18. Jahrhunderts. Göttingen: Wallstein Verlag, 2015.
  • With Ansgar Nünning: Travelling Concepts for the Study of Culture. Berlin/New York: de Gruyter, 2012.
  • A Short History of English Literature until 1900: A Survey of Periods, Genres and Major Writers. Stuttgart: Klett, 2010.
  • With Ansgar Nünning: An Introduction to the Study of Narrative Fiction. Stuttgart: Klett, 2008.
  • Erinnerung – Identität – Narration. Gattungstypologie und Funktionen kanadischer Fictions of Memory. Berlin/New York: de Gruyter, 2005