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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 2022

Summer Semester 2022


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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).



Winter Semester 2021/22

WiSe 2021/22: The Role of the Digital in the Study of Culture. New Horizons, Potentials, Challenges




David Lyon (Queen's University, Canada)

Pandemic Data: Surveillance Surge as Political Priority

09.11.2021, 18-20 (CET), online


The COVID-19 pandemic is both the most extensive—global—pandemic, prompting an unprecedented surveillance surge, comparable to post-9/11, but far larger. Some pandemic efforts are treated as “national security” matters. A collusion occurred of public health surveillance and a parallel expansion of surveillance centred on the domestic sphere. Remotely conducted activities such as shopping, learning and working all enjoy enhanced surveillance capacities. So “state” surveillance is significant, but also, “corporate” surveillance mushrooms with the two often working in tandem, through public-private agreements. Questions are raised about some public health surveillance such as contact-tracing and vaccination certificates, but few about the overall surveillance surge. If the increased surveillance remains in place as the pandemic subsides, this poses major political challenges. As well as indicating an urgent need to update already existing legal and regulatory instruments, a broader response is also required, to raise the profile of “data justice.” This points not only to the notion that “privacy” might be violated or “data protection” impugned, but that a more universal challenge has surfaced. As surveillance data is the means whereby people are made visible, represented and treated, “data justice” is a new political priority, to ensure fair treatment for all in an increasingly digital culture.



KNL Poster - Prof. Astrid Ensslin

Astrid Ensslin (University of Bergen, Norway)

Literary Gaming: Digital Culture Between Narrative Play and Electronic Literature

16.11.2021, 18-20 (CET), online


In this lecture, I introduce the concept of literary gaming as a way of understanding the hybrid media ecologies between lucidity (playfulness), narrativity and poetic expression in contemporary digital culture. Taking an aesthetic approach, I demonstrate how literary expression in digital-born media exceeds and subverts traditional notions of literature. Looking at examples of digital poetry and fiction, literary-narrative games and virtual reality installations, I showcase how concepts of worlding, multimodality, and procedurality open up entirely new hermeneutic, phenomenological and critical paradigms that require new, transdisciplinary research agendas for analyzing, understanding and co-creating  these complex works, and for exploring how they can help us address real-world questions and challenges.


Watch on YouTube






 KNL Poster Prof. Marcello Vitali-Rosati


Marcello Vitali-Rosati (University of Montréal, Canada)

The Factory of Thinking: Protocols, Algorithms, Formats, and Worldviews

18.01.2022, 18-20 (CET), online


For some years now, there has been talk of a "new materialism". Criticizing the idea of metaphysics of Aristotelian origin which opposes form to matter, this current - if it is one - tries to return to the materiality of thinking: there is no form without matter, matter makes form, or even better, matter is form. To say it with Karen Barad: "matter matters". This means in particular that text is also always an inscribed text. A certain ideality of the notion of text such as it has circulated in the post-structuralist tradition is thus put to shame. Thinking is always an inscription, a text is always an inscription. And thus there are no neutral tools in the hands of a thinking mind, tools, protocols, formats... are thinking. Protocols, algorithms, formats think. How do they think? What do they think? Based in particular on the example of textual writing formats, I will try to show this fusion between technique and thinking and its cultural and political consequences. In particular I will analyze the format docx and the implications of writing with Microsoft Word, and I will present the text editor Stylo which was created in order to propose an alternative way of writing in the field of Human and Social sciences.




KNL Poster Prof. Peter Haslinger


Peter Haslinger (Herder Institute for Historical Research on East Central Europe, Germany)

 Memory Politics in the Digital Age

08.02.2022, 18-20 (CET), online


Digital communication and the digital representation of the past are obviously closely related to memory cultures, and by that also memory politics. However, we still need a model that systematically captures this complex and multi-layered interrelationship. Also, the digital revolution raises a lot of new questions about the futures of historical knowledge and – given the political development in countries like Russia or China – especially of memory politics. The aim of the presention is therefore to give an impulse for the development of a new conceptional approach for future research. It will start with the critical potential of Digital humanities approaches when it comes to analyzing current trends in memory politics, especially in the form of populisms from above. It will then take a look at examples from Eastern Europe to address the intersection between memory politics and digital knowledge spaces and media systems. From that point of view it will in the end shed some light on how digital communication might pro-actively help to foster a digital knowledge environment that is based on multiperspectvity and a critical and ethical approach to memory cultures.