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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.

See the Video-Blog to view these lectures. There you can also find past lectures and events. Here you can download the poster.

Winter Semester 2019 / 2020

Isabel Paehr (Berlin) & Johanna Schaffer (Kunsthochschule Kassel)

Ambivalences of Visibility (Revised)

12.11.2019, 18-20, room 001, MFR


Isabel Paehr researches the relations between virtuality and concepts of the nonhuman. Her practice touches and connects different fields of knowledge production such as game development, media arts and theory.

Johanna Schaffer teaches and publishes in the fields of visual culture and material aesthetics with a queer-feminist, anti-racist focus. At the Kunsthochschule Kassel she has been building up the platform Theory and Practice of Visual Communication, and she has served as vice dean for study affairs for the past two years.

Main Research Interests

  • Political Dimensions of Aesthetic Processes
  • Code and generative, virtual materials
  • Lo-fi tech and programmed interventions into dominant network structures

Publications (selected)

  • With Dertnig, C.; Ferfoglia, S.; Holert, T.; Pichler, H.; Porsch, J.; Seibold, S. and Stockburger, A. (eds.): Troubling Research: Performing Knowledge in the Arts. Sternberg Press 2014.

  • “Formlos, wie Spucke”. In: Mader, R.: Radikal Ambivalent. Engagement und Verantwortung in den Künsten heute. Diaphanes 2014, 209-222.

  • With Mlangeni, S. and Bavyka, J.: “From the distance, closer: A conversation”. In: Mlangeni, S.: postapart/heid communities. Academy of Fine Arts Vienna 2014

  • With Meiners, J.: Webcamera Obscura in The Additivist Cookbook, edited by Morehshin Allahyari and

    Daniel Rourke,, 2016
  • With Huntemann, M.; Röder, J.: Invisible Machines in Privacy Arena, Kassel University Press, 2017


The book ‘Ambivalences of Visibility’, that Johanna published in 2008, was above all a plea to engage with the forms of specific representations, and not with questions of quantity (‘more visibility for…’). For, as Peggy Phelan has argued, if there were a causal connection between visual representability and political power, then in the liberal democracies of the West, young, scantily-clad heteronormative female performing persons would necessarily have quite a bit of power. In our changed media realities, we need to rethink the analytical/political usefulness of the concept ‘visibility,’ for in digital media realities visibility (= views = monetization) almost entirely loses its oppositional connotations. If ‘visibility’ is a concept that belongs to historically specific media realities and their critical languages, what can be learned from them for our current examinations? We also would like to suggest some other terms along the lines of ‘distributed agency’ and ‘infrastructure’ in order to discuss crucial interventions in the field of digital visuality and data-rich environments.


Rita Felski (University of Virginia)

Hooked: Art and Attachment

19.11.2019, 18-20, room 012, Alter Steinbacher Weg 44


Professor at the Department of English at the University of Virginia, USA

Main Research Interests

  • Comparative and Transnational Studies
  • Literary Theory
  • Modernity and Postmodernity
  • Literary Criticism

Publications (selected)

  • With Anker, Elizabeth (ed.): Critique and Postcritique. Duke University Press 2017.
  • The Limits of Critique. University of Chicago Press 2015.
  • Literature after Feminism. University of Chicago Press 2003.


My talk makes a case for “attachment” as a key word for the humanities. The word directs our attention to what carries weight: it has both affective and ethical force. Drawing on a range of examples, I discuss two important aesthetic ties: identification and attunement. Finally, I clarify how the language of attachment is relevant to pedagogy and to practices of interpretation in the classroom.


Mary Neuburger (University of Texas at Austin)

Meat Unpacked: Global Protein Narratives and the Making of a 20th Century Bulgarian Bio-imaginary

03.12.2019, 18-20, room 001, MFR


Professor at the Department of History at the University of Texas at Austin, USA

Main Research Interests

  • Southeastern Europe

  • Urban Culture and Consumption

  • Gender and Nationalism

Publications (selected)

  • Balkan Smoke: Tobacco and the Making of Modern Bulgaria. Cornell University Press 2015.

  • With Bren, Paulina (ed.): Communism Unwrapped: Consumption in Cold War Eastern Europe. Oxford University Press 2012.


This talk will explore the place of meat within the larger framework of global encounters between East and West, before and during the Cold War.  It will explore evolving connections (imagined and real) of meat—its mass production and regular consumption—to progress, and more pointedly, political and economic power. Consumption of meat expanded exponentially in the US, Europe and globally particularly after World War II, reflecting changes in commerce and taste, but also given new assumptions about the role of protein in twentieth century development narratives. Influential writings and polices grounded in the scientific community and international organizations like the League of Nations, the United Nations, the Food and Agriculture Organization, and the World Health Organization posited that a lack of animal protein in “national” diets was both the cause and the effect of underdevelopment, which was tantamount to “hidden hunger” and even a global “protein crisis”. As the talk will explore, however, such notions competed with global counter-narratives grounded in bio-ethics, biopolitics, religious practice, and/or differing opinions within food science. Using the capacious concept of the bio-imaginary, I will explore how such narratives were appropriated and deflected in the course of 20th century Bulgarian history, before and under socialism. Bulgarians appropriated both pro- and anti-meat assumptions from global religious, scientific, and policy-minded thinkers. They also domesticated and contributed to this global conversation and set of practices in a range of locally grounded ways. This took on particular forms under socialism, when Soviet-dictated food ideology required an embrace of meat—as fortification for the socialist body, as well as nutritional and gastronomic proof of the superiority of the system’s utopian promise. Even then, anti-meat narratives emerged as part of the Bulgarian “thaw”.


Erin James (University of Idaho)

Narrative in the Anthropocene

10.12.2019, 18-20, room 001, MFR


Associate Professor at the Department of English at the University of Idaho, USA

Main Research Interests

  • Ecocriticism
  • Narrative Theory
  • Postcolonial Theory

Publications (selected)

  • “What the Plant Says: Plant Narrators and the Ecosocial Imaginary”. In: Vieira, P.; Gagliano, M. and Ryan, J. (eds.): The Language of Plants: Science, Philosophy, Literature. University of Minnesota Press 2017[JK1] .
  • Storyworld Accord. Econarratology and Postcolonial Narratives. University of Nebraska Press 2015.
  • "Teaching the Postcolonial Ecocritical Dialogue." In: Garrard, G. (ed.): Teaching Ecocriticism and Green Cultural Studies. Palgrave Macmillian 2012.



When scholars speak of narrative and the Anthropocene, they tend to do so in one of two ways. The first is the conversation that dominates work in the environmental humanities and positions narrative as part of the problem of and solution to environmental crisis. Change the stories, these scholars suggest, and change the damaging attitudes and behaviors that have brought us to this point. A second group of scholars link narrative and the Anthropocene in a much less optimistic way, suggesting that narrative is a rhetorical mode deeply unsuited to our current epoch. These critics argue that narrative is intimately tied to human perspectives and, as such, cannot adequately represent the broader timescales and wider conception of inhuman lives that our current moment of environmental crisis demands. 


In this talk, I offer a third option for considering the relationship between narrative and the Anthropocene—one that questions what contribution the epoch stands to make to narrative studies and vice versa. I bring together the until now disparate conversations of the environmental humanities and narrative theory to propose an “Anthropocene narrative theory,” or a theory of narrative sensitive to matters commonly associated with the epoch, to explore how narrative and the Anthropocene inform and are influenced by each other. I do this by thinking through various ideas and issues that we associate with our new geological epoch—especially those relevant to representations of narrative time and space and the processes of narrative production and interpretation—and envisaging their possible narratological correspondents. As my talk explains, an Anthropocene narrative theory poses the following questions: how does narrative help us think differently about the Anthropocene? How do narratives provide us with safe contexts in which to explore how humans make and inhabit worlds in their own image? How does the reading of strata in rocks, tree rings, and ice cores, which are themselves material representations of sequences of events, challenge our most basic conceptualizations of narrativity? How do the materials that we associate with the Anthropocene—rocks and ice, but also the fiber cables and LCD screens of digital medias—change the way that we interact with narrative? How do the new, broad conceptions of geologic time and planetary space associated with the Anthropocene diversify models of narrative chronologies and spatializations? How does an awareness of collective agency of humans as a geological agent shed new light on types of narration and narrators?


Wendy Bracewell (University College London) & Leyla von Mende (University of Jena)

(In)Sights on Europe from the (Near) East

28.01.2020, 18-20, room 001, MFR


Wendy Bracewell

Professor of South East European History at the University College London, UK

Leyle von Mende

Researcher in the DFG-funded research project “The press as a (trans-)local space of communication. Istanbul’s Arabic press, 1860s-1920s”

Main Research Interests

  • Travel Writing
  • Nationalism and Gender
  • Modern History and Historiography

Publications by Wendy Bracewell (selected)

  • With Drace-Francis, Alex (ed.). Balkan Departures: Travel Writing from Southeastern Europe. New York/Oxford: Berghahn 2009.
  • Orientations: An Anthology of East European Travel Writing., ca 1550-2000. Budapest: CEU Press 2009.
  • With Drace-Francis, Alex (ed.). Under Eastern Eyes: A Comparative Introduction to East European Travel Writing on Europe. Central European University Press 2008.

Publications by Leyla von Mende (selected)

  • „Necmeddīn ʿĀrif: Studying in Paris (Egypt, 1904/05)”. In: Bentlage, Björn; Eggert, Marion; Krämer, Hans Martin; Reichmuth, Stefan (eds.). Religious Dynamics under the Impact of Imperialism and  Colonialism. A Sourcebook. Leiden/Boston: Brill 2016, S. 160-171.
  • „Tahsīl rehberi as a Source for Both the Traveler and the Historian”. In: Agai, Bekim; Akyıldız, Olcay; Hillebrand, Caspar (eds.). Venturing beyond Borders. Reflections on Genre, Function and Boundaries in  Middle Eastern Travel Writing. Würzburg: Ergon Verlag 2013, S. 159-177.
  • „Europäisierungsmißstände“ um 1900. Eine Kurzgeschichte des osmanischen Schriftstellers Ahmet Hikmet Müftüoğlu“. In: Themenportal Europäische Geschichte 2011.


Accounts of travels from Western and Central Europe to Eastern Europe haven been an object of academic research for a rather long time. These travel accounts have played a significant role in the formation of “mental maps” as scholars have demonstrated with regard to notions of “Eastern Europe” (Wolff) and collective imaginations of the “Balkans” (Todorova) as well as cultural constructions of “Europe” more generally. Recent scholarship has drawn attention to dynamic identity formations in the context of these encounters and, more specifically, the role of perceptions of Europe from alternate viewpoints. While the perception of Germany in Russia has been studied (e.g. Kopelew), the perspectives from south eastern directions have received less scholarly attention so far. In our master class we will discuss perceptions of Western and Central Europe and specifically perceptions of South European states in the eyes of travellers from the Ottoman Empire and Turkey.