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Gender Studies at the Centre – Excellence in Higher Education

As an international graduate center with about one hundred PhD students, the GCSC actively promotes research in the field of Gender/Queer Studies and acknowledges its vital role in the study of culture and in higher education more generally – within and beyond Justus Liebig University.

While providing financial and non-material support for its members, the GCSC at the same encourages prospective PhD students to apply for scholarships with projects that bear a relation to Gender/Queer Studies.

These individual research endeavors are embedded in a vibrant network of local cooperation dedicated to Gender/Queer topics, such as the “Research Network in Queer Studies, Decolonial Feminisms and Cultural Transformations (QDFCT)”, the Reading Group “GenderQueer”, the workshop series “Posthumanist Feminism” (with the University of Marburg) or the “Equal Opportunities Committee”. 

The GCSC hosts several projects that deal explicitly with a variety of Gender/Queer related discourses and topics. Only amongst the recent cohorts, this includes for example the following:

In her literary studies project, Lea Hülsen (cohort 2015) analyses the work of black female Caribbean intellectuals (Beryl Gilroy, Claudia Jones and Sylvia Wynter) to show how they reconceptualize the concept humanism and construct black, female, Caribbean subjectivities outside the Western discourse on what it means to be human. The intellectuals challenge anti-black thought, which is central to the foundation of Enlightenment humanism. They argue that the Western concept of being human is based on colonial and patriarchal ideologies. Their non-fictional and fictional work offers alternatives to our current epistemology, mode of writing and mode of being. It disrupts and subverts the marginalization and negation of black people and people of color while offering strategies for dealing with their displacement.


Uygun Cicek (from the cohort of 2016) scrutinizes in her ethnographic research project individual narratives of divorced mothers with Turkish migrant background in Germany about their daily struggles, which may include constant negotiations between a wide range of elements such as child’s well-being, financial problems, time management, exploitation of their labor, sexual stigmatization, or social exclusion. In her project, entitled “Daily struggles as the violence of everyday life: Narratives of divorced mothers with Turkish migrant background in Germany” she approaches these struggles of divorced motherhood as structural problems caused by gendered power relations, and asks, how divorced mothers with Turkish migrant background in Germany narrate and make sense of their everyday encounters in relation to existing perceptions on these struggles as personal problems, or cultural problems of being Turkish and/or Muslim. 


Oliver Klaassen works also since 2016 on his dissertation project “I Spy my Eye With! A Queer Reading of Radically Ambiguous Politics of Representation in Contemporary Photography”. He elucidates, that in today’s times of neoliberalism and homonationalism, when eurocentric political agendas assume a gay citizen whose affective fulfillment resides in assimilation, inclusion and normalcy, ambivalences and ambiguities in the field of the visual culture have gained the status of an empowering and protective tool. Against this backdrop, a growing trend of contemporary photographs demonstrates that it is possible to address non-heteronormative issues without necessarily picturing a human body to identify, dis- or counter-identify. He focuses on this hitherto not systematically researched and archived photographic phenomenon by analyzing photographs by Kaucyila Brooke, Dean Sameshima, David Benjamin Sherry, Rafael Soldi, and Wolfgang Tillmans. The broader social relevance lies in researching aesthetic strategies that counteract discrimination based on gender and sexuality. 


In his project “Embodiment and Literary Criticism: Rethinking Discourse and Human Agency” Alexander Flaß (from the cohort of 2017) ponders the relevance of Merleau-Pontian phenomenology for literary and cultural studies. Through a proper appreciation of the human body’s active role in meaning-making, he seeks to reframe the dominant understanding of cultural identity by bringing more nuance to the entanglement between identity formation and cultural classification in basic human experience. He suggests to take a corporeal feminist perspective that offers a new interpretative horizon for cultural criticism through which the study of gender (and social categories more generally) can be enlarged, diversified, and particularized. Leaving behind the lingering dualisms underlying deconstruction theory, a turn towards embodiment gives a fresh spin on the ways cultural markers are perceived, embodied, and (re)produced in everyday social experience.