Promoting dialogue between scholars and the public, the Heidelberg Center for American Studies offers a wide range of informative events to its audience.
In case you were unable to attend an event, these pages give you the opportunity to inform yourself about the main arguments and results of the debates and talks.
The following pages will provide a retrospect of selected events in chronological order.
Panel discussion: “Trump’s World: The First 200 Days”
July 25, 2017
The HCA capped the semester with a panel discussion on current U.S. politics: “Trump’s World: The First 200 Days.” The journalists Ali Aslan and Andreas Horchler and the HCA’s Martin Thunert joined for a discussion moderated by Tobias Endler (HCA). It evolved around Trump’s voters, domestic policy changes, and the role of the media before and after Trump’s election. Tobias Endler briefly summarized the state of the current administration, the president‘s eccentric outbursts, his twitter craze, and the tumultuous politics that are the result of all this. At the onset of the congressional summer recess, it seemed right to stop for a moment and reflect upon what is going on in the United States of America. First, Dr. Endler addressed Andreas Horchler, who until July of this year was the ARD correspondent in Washington. Mr. Horchler had lived and worked in the U.S. for four years, so what was the atmosphere like? Was the capital the “cesspool” Donald Trump had repeatedly talked about? For many, Trump’s presidency was a never-ending nightmare, Mr. Horchler responded. Washington, D.C. was deeply Democratic; to find actual supporters of Trump, one had to go into the country. Only recently he had talked to an arms dealer in North Virginia, who had explained to him that the scandals Trump was involved with were meaningless, and that, as their president, he did his best.
The next question was directed at Ali Aslan, who had lived in the U.S. from 1992 until 2006 and had started his career with CNN. After working for NBC News, CNN, ABC News and Channel News Asia, the moderator, journalist, and political scientist is now working for the online format “Die richtigen Fragen“ on bild.de. Where did Trump draw his support from? He did not appear out of nowhere, Mr. Aslan responded. Similar developments could be observed in Poland, Turkey, and Hungary. Contrary to public belief, the conflict was not between left and right, but between rich and poor. It was partly the Democrats‘ fault that the underprivileged voters had turned to Trump, because they had allowed it. Ali Aslan voiced his concern about the arrogance Germans and Europeans displayed while judging the recent political developments in the United States. The situation overseas could not be judged by European standards of thinking. In the States, the election of a reality TV star was only logical.
All panelists agreed that Trump had started campaigning for a second term already and that his re-election was a possibility. What did Trump achieve in his first 200 days? New standards had been put into place, Ali Aslan responded; Trump possessed a Teflon character, and nothing seemed to affect him. The scandals he was involved in would have cost his predecessors’ careers. The extent of this fall from grace was huge, agreed Andreas Horchler. “No-drama-Obama“ was definitely over. He saw Trump’s greatest impact in the appointment of Neil Gorsuch as Supreme Court judge. His conservative stand on family planning and abortion would influence American legislature possibly for decades. However, Martin Thunert, who worked for the United States Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions in the past, added that so far the Trump administration had not actually influenced any legislation. The relationship between the first branch of government, the executive, and the fourth estate, the media, had changed already during the elections, said Dr. Endler. What was the panelists‘ perspective on this? The media had made Trump bigger than he actually was, Ali Aslan said. To show a Trump Hotel opening for thirty minutes and devote only two minutes to politics was an outrage; the fact that CNN had become a 24/7 Trump channel in order to secure the president’s favor showed weakness. Secretly, everybody in media agreed: Trump was good for business. The press had lost its function of gatekeeping, Dr. Thunert said, via Twitter the president can communicate directly with the entire world. The attempt to make Trump look foolish might backfire; Breitbart was only the tip of the iceberg.
Soon, Tobias Endler opened the discussion, and the audience was primarily concerned with Trump’s character. What explains the Teflon effect? Trump was New York through and through, responded Ali Aslan. He had profited from the social divide and “gridlock Washington.” His wealth played a role, although nobody knew whether he is a wealthy as he claims. Also, he had never obeyed the rules of political correctness, a fact that his voters cherish. Martin Thunert said that Trump was not the first Teflon president; voters had overlooked Ronald Reagan’s misgivings time and again. In contrast to Reagan, who drew appeal from his sympathetic and communicative manner and his naivité, Trump offensiveness ís considered a plus; his voters interpret it as honesty and candor. Furthermore, many politicians were even more unpopular than Trump. Other topics of the open discussion were “fake news” and migration. Ultimately, Trump was a phenomenon, said Tobias Endler. And, Ali Aslan added, the Women’s March had drawn more people than Trump’s inauguration, and the U.S. was more than just Trump. In less than seven and a half years this presidency might be over anyhow.
“The Nuclear Crisis: The Arms Race, Cold War Anxiety, and the German Peace Movement of the 1980s” (HCA Book Launch)
July 18, 2017
For the last book launch of the summer semester, Wilfried Mausbach, Martin Klimke, and Claudia Kemper took the stage at the HCA’s Atrium to celebrate the recent publication of The Nuclear Crisis: The Arms Race, Cold War Anxiety, and the German Peace Movement of the 1980s. Dr. Mausbach, the executive director of the HCA, introduced his colleagues Professor Klimke, who co-edited the book, and Dr. Claudia Kemper, who contributed a chapter on civil defense. Both talked about their participation in the project, and a discussion with the audience, led by Dr. Mausbach, ensued. It was quite the homecoming for Martin Klimke, since he had received his M.A. and Ph.D. from Heidelberg University. Today, Professor Klimke is the Associate Dean of Humanities and Associate Professor of History at New York University Abu Dhabi. He described how the group of five editors set out in 2011 to bundle current research in one volume. Professor Klimke gave a short and entertaining tour through the public display of Cold War anxiety, starting with the popular board game “Fulda Gap” from the 1970s and various movies about the possible aftermath of nuclear attacks and ending with the far more serious issue of protests against nuclear weapons in Mutlangen, Germany.
Claudia Kemper, who is a research associate at the Hamburg Institute for Social Research, had dealt with the topics of the book prior to her article. The German Research Foundation had funded her postdoctoral project on physicians in the anti-nuclear peace movement in the 1980s. Dr. Kemper is also co-editor of the series "Frieden und Krieg" (Peace and War) at the Klartext publishing house. Her article discusses civil defense in the face of a possible nuclear attack and the worst-case scenarios that were prepared by scientists and politicians. They included in particular the upkeep of infrastructure and buildings as well as the survival of civilians. There were public and individual plans, both based on prognosis, calculation, and scenarios that the author called “currency in the debate of nuclear defense.” Different stakeholders tackled the question of a possible “Euroshima” in different ways. Dr. Kemper stated that East Germany had big plans but suffered from a serious lack of material to prepare for civil defense, while Sweden and Switzerland were far more technically advanced, Switzerland gaining a reputation for their bunker systems in the 1980s. West Germany, on the other hand, from the 1950s onwards, had focused on researching the effects of a nuclear attack, specifically radiation damage, radiation sensitivity, and the effects of biological and chemical weapons.
After Dr. Kemper’s contribution, Dr. Mausbach opened the discussion to the audience. Philipp Gassert, Chair for Contemporary History at the University of Mannheim, another co-editor of the volume, asked his colleagues whether they thought the publication had made an impact on the discussion of the topic among historians and other scholars. They had failed in creating a new brand, but definitely succeeded in their conceptual approach, said Professor Klimke. The book had introduced a cultural dimension which worked in this specific case. The next question addressed the need for further exploration of and research on societal aspects of a looming nuclear crisis; Dr. Kemper thought that two main narratives needed to be explored: the transnational character of the peace movement and the assumed blending of the protest movements against nuclear weapons and nuclear power plants. The members of the peace movement are often perceived and presented as naïve “peaceniks,” Dr. Mausbach added. There had been a great divide between the U.S. and Europe; while U.S.-Americans were mostly focused on the binary conflict, Europeans had aimed to overcome the Cold War. The discussion developed further, proving once again the relevance of the topic. After tackling the heat of the day with some cold beverages, the audience left the HCA into a fine summer evening.
Patrick Roth: "Death and Resurrection in L.A." (HCA trifft...)
July 11, 2017
Book readings are always special at the HCA. In July, for the series “The HCA trifft...,” the author Patrick Roth read from Die Amerikanische Fahrt and Johnny Shines. The first is a standalone novel, the second is part of the Christus Trilogie, which was published as a complete edition by Wallenstein publishing house in 2016. The commentary to this edition was written by Michaela Kopp-Marx, who accompanied the author this evening and asked about his personal history and his experience in Los Angeles. Prof. Dr. Kopp-Marx teaches contemporary German literature at the University of Heidelberg and, since 1998, is responsible for coordinating the lectureship for poetry (Poetikdozentur), which Patrick Roth received in 2004 and 2012. Jan Stievermann, Professor for the History of Christianity in the U.S. at the HCA, added some questions and lead through the open discussion afterwards. The generous support of the Society for the Promotion of the Schurman Library for American History at the University of Heidelberg made this evening possible.
Michaela Kopp-Marx introduced the author. After a year in Paris and some semesters of studying at the University of Freiburg, Patrick Roth received a DAAD scholarship for two semesters at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. Although he was registered for English literature, he had applied in order to study film production and directing at the Cinema Department. Somehow, he made the switch and afterwards decided to stay in California. He started to write and stage plays, published as audio plays in Germany later on. Since the 1990s, he is primarily known as an author of novels. He published short stories, novels, narratives, and narrative cycles such as the Christus Trilogie.
What was so attractive about the U.S., asked Prof. Kopp-Marx. The narrative cinema, answered Patrick Roth; back then the U.S. had been home and lyceum of narrative filmmaking and the best place to learn was the famous USC Cinema Department. The year at USC had been very intense, the author mused, classes had started with silent movies, so the students could learn to tell stories solely with pictures. His creative process had mostly started with a “splinter,” a fragment or a perceived atmosphere he dwelled on for a long period of time. He would retreat to his room; laying on the floor with drawn shades, playing a record with rain sounds, he roamed through the realm of his fantasy. Rain and wind sounds had always inspired him, but were rare in Southern California. During Mr. Roth’s reading a thunderstorm went down on the Atrium’s glass roof, creating the “perfect mix,“ the author said happily. In his novel Die amerikanische Fahrt: Stories eines Filmbesessenen, he tells about his enthusiasm for movies, actors, and the directors John Ford, Howard Hawks, and Alfred Hitchcock and recounts an unexpected meeting with his hero Henry Fonda. He also explains how the studying of movie making became the base of his writing.
How did Patrick Roth grapple with the Bible, which became the foundation of the Christus Trilogie, asked Michaela Kopp-Marx before the author turned to the second reading. Primarily, it had been fascination for the language. Only later did he read the Bible as a mythological text, and did it not contain many of the images humanity has been dealing with for centuries? Patrick Roth described the Bible as a “treasure of archetypical images, thought about and commented.” In Johnny Shines, Patrick Roth tells the story of a young man who obeys the “Jesus command,“ trying to revive recently deceased people from neighboring communities. The author read an excerpt, which deals with the protagonist’s day-to-day life. How should readers interpret Mr. Roth’s messianic figures, asked Professor Stieverman after he had joined the conversation on the stage. Was it about the sacrilization or the profanization of biblical content? One should just let text sink in, answered the writer, spontaneous reactions were often suppressed by intellectuals, but it was this reaction that he, as an author, was most interested in. Which contemporary authors inspired him? Next to none, Patrick Roth responded; he did not spend a lot of time with contemporary authors. The only ones that had stood out to him in the last two decades were Breece D'J Pancake and David Mamet. Then it was the audience’s turn, which was full of praise for the author’s reading and his candor. Meanwhile, the rain had finished and the audience left the HCA into a fine summer evening.
Manisha Sinha: "The Abolitionist International: Anatomy of a Social Movement"
July 6, 2017
Manisha Sinha wrapped up the twenty-first semester of the HCA’s Baden-Württemberg Seminar on July 6 with a talk that presented the findings of her new book The Slave’s Cause: A History of Abolition. Currently the James and Shirley A. Draper Chair in Early American History at the University of Connecticut, Professor Sinha holds a Ph.D. from Columbia University. Her first book, The Counterrevolution of Slavery, was named one of the ten best books on slavery in Politico in 2015. In 2017, she was named one of Top Twenty Five Women in Higher Education by the magazine Diverse: Issues in Higher Education.
After an introduction by Manfred Berg of the HCA and the History Department, Manisha Sinha commenced her talk by establishing her research as a history of abolition in the long durée. Abolitionism was a radical, interracial movement centered on African Americans that can be dated back to the American Revolution. Yet, historiography often pictures abolitionists either as fanatics that caused the bloodiest war in American history or as bourgeois reformers who were paternalistic and economically conservative. Professor Sinha, on the other hand, contended that “slave resistance, not bourgeois liberalism lay at the heart of the movement.”
Slave rebellions in colonial America inspired the first Quaker-dominated abolition societies, and fugitive slaves united all factions of the movement. Emancipation was not a wartime event in 1863, but a hundred-year drama played out in law, politics, literature, and activism. Introducing many lesser-known protagonists of the movement, Professor Sinha pointed out that abolitionism was a movement working across the rigid race, class, and gender lines of the early republic. It questioned the enslavement of labor, gave voice to theoretically sophisticated black abolitionists, and helped birth the first women’s right movement. The demise of abolition went hand in hand with the expansion of American democracy. In addition, abolitionists linked American slavery to other wrongs of the world and joined international radical movements like utopian socialism, feminism, and pacifism, supporting Native American, immigrant and workers’ rights. Ultimately, the cause of the American slave became “intertwined with that of democracy, civil liberties, and the emancipation of women and labor.” Professor Sinha closed her fascinating lecture by pointing to the legacy of the American abolitionists who wanted to perfect American and, indeed, global democracy. Not surprisingly, a lively debate followed, and quite a few members of the audience availed themselves of the opportunity to obtain a signed copy of The Slave’s Cause.
Michael Rodegang Drescher: “Poets of Protest: Mythological Resignification in American Antebellum and German Vormärz Literature” (HCA Book Launch)
June 20, 2017
“The United States and the European Union will not overcome their divisions if their political cultures cling to simplistic perspectives that only look to the past and hope to make something or other ‘great again,’” claimed Michael Drescher, who presented parts of his doctoral thesis at the HCA on June 20. Both his advisors, Günter Leypoldt and Dietmar Schloss, were present to congratulate their mentee. Professor Schloss introduced the promising post-doc, who has worked as a tutor both at the HCA and at the English Department. During the research for the thesis, Michael Drescher held a scholarship of the Studienstiftung des Deutschen Volkes and spent time at Harvard University as a research fellow.
In his talk, Dr. Drescher focused on how Nathaniel Hawthorne and Heinrich Heine endeavored to rewrite the national mythologies surrounding American Puritans and European emperors. Most importantly, he gave insights on how the topic of myth can be explored and introduced the term “mythological resignification.” Hawthorne and Heine re-negotiated national identity through their writings on both sides of the Atlantic at the beginning of the nineteenth century. They were politically-minded authors who tried to re-write stories that defined the cultural foundations of the U.S. and Germany. In the Antebellum and the Vormärz, discontent about politics and the overall political structure grew. The authors used storytelling to introduce a worldview that resonated with the changes they had in mind for their home countries. They saw stories as a vehicle for political change, argued Dr. Drescher.
The disassembling and resignification of myths turned out to be a powerful device. Dr. Drescher built his interpretation of myth on Roland Barthes’ and Hans Blumenberg’s writings. Myth was both a personal and a cultural phenomenon, which created unity where there was fragmentation and a social reality, “a comforting perception of the world that is necessary to make insecurity and terror of existence bearable.” Dr. Drescher specified myths that explicate the foundation of nations, like The Scarlet Letter or Deutschland. Ein Wintermärchen as civic myths. They were most desired in times of turmoil like the Antebellum and the Vormärz. When resignified, myths were infused with new thoughts and political ideas; in Hawthorne’s and Heine’s cases, they had democratic qualities. These authors did not rewrite in order “to describe the past but to affect the present,” Dr. Drescher stated. In his doctoral thesis, he argued that “solving our political problems requires more, not less democracy.”
Inspired by Michael Drescher’s talk, the audience had numerous questions, for example, how could Hawthorne make the Puritans credible in his work? They were long gone when he started writing The Scarlet Letter. The Puritans in Hawthorne’s work were imagined, responded Dr. Drescher. It was a vision most Americans share today. Myth did not care for truth or history. Hawthorne had done his research, but he was also looking for a branding that would work in favor of his arguments. Myth and ideology were closely connected, claimed another member of the audience. Was that dangerous? In his thesis, Michael Drescher answered, he had solely focused on the brighter side of myths and the authors who championed democracy. After all, he said, it depends on the hand that wields the pen.
Daniel Barber: “The Solar House Principle: Bringing the Environment into American Architecture, 1944-1959”
June 8, 2017
For the penultimate event of the spring semester of the Baden-Württemberg Seminar, the HCA welcomed Daniel A. Barber, who is an assistant professor of architecture at Penn Design, the design school of the University of Pennsylvania. Anja Schüler, who coordinates events at the HCA, introduced the architectural historian. Professor Barber holds degrees from Columbia University and Yale University and received a post-doctoral fellowship at the Harvard University Center for the Environment. In 2016, he received a Fellowship for Advanced Researchers from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, which he is spending in residence at the Rachel Carson Center in Munich intermittently until 2020. Daniel Barber’s research does not solely focus on architecture. He has also looked at technological developments and the social and political circumstances that influenced the architectural idea of a solar house. His talk showcased some experiments in solar house heating in the U.S. and around the world. After World War II, solar houses were seen as an element of the American architectural future. One important idea Professor Barber presented is that creativity can come from a point of scarcity: to meet the challenge of designing something that makes use of the resources a society possesses instead of obsessing about dwindling resources. The first solar houses were built at the beginning of the war, and some architects and urban planners saw in them a glimpse of the future that would await post-war America. George Van Dyne, a pioneer of systems ecology, attested the solar house “a meaningful influence on macro climate,” and it surely was a step away from dependence on fossil fuel. Glass walls with shades created a climate inside the house, in which – without additional heating – “little Toby didn’t even get the sniffles.” The more experimental drafts showed houses with an algae patch on top, to provide food when “wheat fields and cattle ranches are in the past.”
Generally, solar houses were popular in countries with a hot climate. Professor Barber presented two examples, both in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. One is the ministry of education, Ministerio de Educación de Río de Janeiro, the other an apartment building, Edifício MMM Roberto / Irmãos Roberto. Both were constructed in 1945, and their inside climate was regulated with façade layers and a manual shading system. Regrettably, Daniel Barber said, the shades were not taken care of after the oil frenzy started, and the rooms were cooled with individual air conditioning units. The audience’s interest was sparked, and a lively discussion ensued. Why did solar houses never have a real breakthrough? They definitely do not come cheap, Barber said, especially small units as would be in demand in the suburbs. The site of a future solar house needs to be thoroughly analyzed, shades have to be meticulously adjusted, the insulation is expensive, and the purpose influences the shape. For investors who want to build large numbers of houses in a short time anywhere, a solar is unprofitable. Why was solar energy not explored further between the 1950s and the late 1970s? Fossil fuel was cheap and ready for a long time, up until the energy crisis. Renowned institutions like MIT used their solar energy funds to build a nuclear plant on campus. Where was President Carter on this, did he not support solar energy and even ordered the installation of solar panels on top of the White House? Yes, said Professor Barber, he installed thirty-two panels as a symbolic act and in 1979 told American families to turn down the thermostat and put on a sweater. Obama had focused on food instead of energy, and politicians who survived their commitment in the fight against climate change were rare. With this last comment, the evening’s time travel concluded.
Harry Stout: "Lincoln’s God and the Emancipation Proclamation" (Pennington Award 2017)
May 17, 2017
In 2017, the HCA and the Faculty of Theology bestowed the James W.C. Pennington Award on Harry S. Stout, the Jonathan Edwards Professor of American Christianity at Yale Divinity School. The award ceremony and a celebratory reception took place in the Atrium and garden of the HCA. The James W.C. Pennington Award honors distinguished scholars who explore fields that were important to the former slave and minister: slavery and emancipation, social reform, religion, peace, education, and intercultural communication. Endowed by the Manfred Lautenschläger Foundation for the sixth time, the award enables its winners to spend one month in Heidelberg to advance their research. The award ceremony opened with speeches by the HCA’s founding director, Professor Detlef Junker, the benefactor, Dr. h.c. Manfred Lautenschläger, and Jan Stievermann, professor for the history of Christianity in the United States.
Harry S. Stout received his Ph.D. from Kent State University in 1974, has published and edited numerous books on religious and cultural history, and is professor of American religious history at Yale University since 1986. In 1991, he became the Jonathan Edwards Professor of American Religious History. In his work, Professor Stout has explored Puritanism, Evangelicalism, and especially religion in the context of the American Civil War. Like Pennington, he is interested in the religious motifs behind the emancipation of slaves. In his talk at the HCA he focused on “Lincoln’s God and the Emancipation Proclamation.”
Unlike his Gettysburg Address and second inaugural speech, historians have not celebrated Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 as particularly inspirational. For a long time, it has been perceived as dry and merely rhetorical, lacking the substance and eloquence of other Lincoln speeches. The proclamation has also been criticized because it freed all slaves who resided in the Confederacy, but not those living in the border states. In his talk, Professor Stout presented arguments and evidence that probed the question whether God played any particular role in Lincoln’s decision to emancipate the slaves. Lincoln, he said, was so caught up in this single proclamation that he waited for affirmation from God. Professor Stout also argued that in framing the argument for his proclamation, Lincoln strove for more than mere emancipation that manifested itself in racial equality and full citizenship. He wanted moral equality for all races, a demand that, according to Professor Stout, had a “revolutionary dimension.” A similar moral and religious force had also inspired the Gettysburg Address and Lincoln’s Second Inaugural. Lincoln’s God was the Puritan God of the Hebrew Bible who engaged in relationships with chosen people and nations, who in turn had to act in a certain way to stay in his favor. His scorn was to be feared, and His embrace was glorious. Lincoln’s God informed the Emancipation Proclamation and the following events from start to finish and is part of our history today. The Emancipation Proclamation, according to Professor Stout, is part of a revolution that is still alive. Yet, the divide between the ideas of equality as manifested in the American Constitution and today’s reality of prejudice, self-interest, and violence prevails. How we deal with this divide is how we, like Lincoln, will be judged by future generations. Under fervent applause, Professor Stout received the award and a merry reception ensued under blue skies in the HCA back yard.
Jason Reblando: "New Deal Utopias"
May 15, 2017
The HCA’s Baden-Württemberg Seminar continued in May with a talk by Chicago photographer Jason Reblando, who is about to publish his recent work on greenbelt communities with Kehrer Verlag Heidelberg Berlin this fall. Daniel Sommer, who is the managing editor at the Kehrer Verlag and teaches rhetoric classes at the HCA, led through the evening.
Jason Reblando is based in Chicago. He holds an MFA in photography from Columbia College Chicago and a B.A. in Sociology from Boston College. He received a U.S. Fulbright Fellowship to the Philippines and an Artist Fellowship Award from the Illinois Arts Council. His photographs have been exhibited in museums throughout the East and the Midwest of the US. His interest in the greenbelt communities was sparked by his photographic projects on Chicago public housing between 2000 and 2006, and he began researching what are perhaps some of the most innovative public works projects undertaken by Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal administration: the three greenbelt towns Greenbelt, Maryland, out-side Washington, D.C., Greenhills, Ohio, north of Cincinnati, and Greendale, Wisconsin, near Milwaukee.
In the 1930s, the U.S. government, through the United States Resettlement Administration, constructed three planned communities to resettle displaced farmers and poor urban dwellers. Reacting to housing problems caused by the Great Depression, planners wanted to re-design American cities based on the “Garden City” principles of British urban reformer Sir Ebenezer Howard, who wanted to create living spaces at the intersection of city and nature. Their residents would benefit from both worlds and have the social and economic advantages of living in a community. In spite of protest by conservative politicians and invectives by anti-New-Deal newspapers, the Resettlement Administration constructed three planned communities that contained spaces for residents, industry, and agriculture. The houses were arranged so all dwellings were easily accessible from the town center that contained a municipal building, retail stores, a movie theater, a gas station, a swimming pool, and a public school, which doubled as a community center. The short distances on foot paths encouraged walking instead of driving; natural, wide-open spaces dominated the set-up. The construction lasted from 1935-1938 and provided jobs for twenty-five-thousand unemployed workers. As wonderful as these “New Deal Utopias” were, today, certain facets merit a rather harsh judgement. The greenbelt cities were designed to house low or moderate-income families; the poor were exempt, and thus those who suffered most, said Jason Reblando. Many who were interested in moving to the garden cities were either too rich or to poor. Furthermore, African-Americans helped to build Greenbelt, Maryland, but were not allowed to live in it; they were confined to a separate development, Langston Terrace. All garden cities were exclusively white until the 1950s.
In the 1930s, cities were “out,” Jason Reblando stated, projecting a poster which read: “Death is in Streets. Which Playground for your Child,” referring to the dangers of the city for playing children. “The City,” a movie from 1939 showed the urban centers as a chaotic, unhealthy space, defiled by consumerism and hostile to children. “Greenbelt or gutter,” Jason Reblando condensed. In the end, the resettlement effort stayed limited to the three communities, private real estate took over, and the free space around the green cities was used for housing, which was inconsistent with the green city philosophy. New Deal Utopias will show how life and living in the green cities play out today; the structures are still visible after eighty years, but overall seem stuck in time. He felt strange at times, the photographer said, taking pictures in streets that seemed unpopulated, where life only manifested itself in the swift motions of curtains. In Ohio, he had the “feeling that everything is there by accident.” However, the greenbelt towns still inspire visits of urban planners from around the world. Jason Reblando’s talk was accompanied by a range of images, all of them telling stories in strong contrast and color. Or maybe, the photographs were accompanied by the talk. Together, they generated an ambivalent feeling in some members of the audience that did not quite leave them until they stepped out on Heidelberg’s busy main street.
Manfred Berg: "Woodrow Wilson. Amerika und die Neuordnung der Welt" (HCA Book Launch)
May 9, 2017
The first book launch of the summer term celebrated the publication of Woodrow Wilson: Amerika und die Neuordnung der Welt (“Amerika and the Reordering of the World“), the most recent work of Manfred Berg, the Curt-Engelhorn-Professor for American History at the History Department of the University of Heidelberg. The founding director of the HCA, Detlef Junker, who knows Prof. Berg since 1980 and fostered his academic career, spoke the welcoming words. Professor Junker emphasized some highlights of Professor Berg’s career, including the Ruprecht-Karls-Award of Heidelberg University in 1990, his appointment at the Ruperto Carola in 2005, the David-Thelen-Award of the Organization of American Historians, the joint appointment at the HCA since 2009, and his book Popular Justice: A History of Lynching in America, published in 2011. In 2016, Professor Berg received the Distinguished Historian Award of the Society of Historians of the Gilded Age and the Progressive Era. Woodrow Wilson: Amerika und die Neuordnung der Welt is his eighth monograph and was published by C.H. Beck.
In a reading from this new Wilson biography, the author presented some aspects of the life of the 29th president of the United States, who, to this day, is a rather controversial historical and political figure. While scholars and popular media alike constantly reappraise the lives of the “national heroes” – Washington, Lincoln and Roosevelt – they seem to be much less interested in Woodrow Wilson, both in the U.S. and Europe. Professor Berg’s book is the first biography in German in several decades although Wilson led the U.S. into the First World War and thus also influenced the fate of Germany significantly. In his own country, Wilson is rather infamous for one specific brainchild, the Federal Reserve Act, ratified in 1913, which strengthened the influence and power of banks. Also, the Southerner Wilson did not distance himself from the racism of his time. Moreover, Manfred Berg describes Wilson as a powerfully eloquent intellectual, who in only two years moved from the Princeton presidency to the governorship of New Jersey. Today, Princeton students are demanding to rename the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs because of the racist views of his namesake.
It is Wilson’s ambiguous legacy which makes a reappraisal of his life so exciting one hundred years after the United States’ entry into the First World War. He is remembered for his foreign policy and especially the Wilsonianism or international liberalism that was invoked by some of his successors. The most important components of this policy were the globalization of democracy and a market economy and the dismissal of isolationist politics. This included military strikes if world peace was endangered or the United States’ interests were threatened. Wilson‘s ideas inspired people who saw themselves and their home countries as part of a global community and strove for a fairer world order.
An analysis of Wilson’s life and actions certainly holds potential for many disputes. Nevertheless, argued Professor Berg, international liberalism is underappreciated nowadays. The United States of America elected a neo-isolationist into the White House, a fact which worried the audience in the ensuing discussion to no small extent.
Panel Discussion: “Donald Trump‘s First 100 Days: Developments in Foreign and Security Policies“
May 3, 2017
"'Everything is more complicated than we thought,' could be the motto of Donald Trump’s first one hundred days in office," remarked Dr. Wilfried Mausbach, executive director of the Heidelberg Center for American Studies, at the opening of "Donald Trump‘s First 100 Days: Developments in Foreign and Security Policies," organized by the Außen- und Sicherheitspolitische Hochschulgruppe Heidelberg and the HCA. Since the forty-fifth American president took the oath of office on January 20, it has become increasingly clear that he is overwhelmed by the multifarious demands of the presidency and downright "allergic to complexity."
Moderator Marco Fey (Hessische Stiftung Friedens- und Konfliktforschung) started the conversation by inquiring why everybody is so interested in an evaluation of a new president after only three months: “Trump has put less than seven per cent of his term behind him – 1361 days of Trump lie still ahead of us.” Dr. David Sirakov (director of the Atlantische Akademie Rheinland-Pfalz), however, felt that the first one hundred days are especially important: "Ideally, American presidents have to realize their campaign promises in the first 18 months of their administration. After that, the political process could get tough because of changing majorities in Congress." All panelists agreed about the future foreign and security policies of the United States: "There simply is no strategy," said Franka Ellman (German Marshall Fund of the United States). Analysts and diplomats are increasingly convinced that Trump is stumbling over the diplomatic stage, acting mostly on impulse. Add to that his numerous political about-faces, which make it hard to calculate and assess his political actions. “Trump is leading the country with utter political ignorance. He also still needs to fill many key positions,” contributed Dr. Sirakov. That is why his Executive Orders, like the “muslim ban,” are often easily overturned. Lacking competent advisors, the executive orders are often written haphazardly. The audience was particularly interested in one question: What will happen to German-American relations under Trump? “Trump did not exactly treat Ms. Merkel politely during her recent visit,“ remarked a guest in the HCA Atrium. Ms. Ellman was relatively unconcerned: “Things are still quite normal and the diplomatic exchange is up and running. German and American heads and secretaries of state certainly did not meet during the first one hundred days of the Obama administration. Back then, the priorities were in Asia.“ The new administration certainly considers Germany an important international player. So we do not have to lose sleep over the next 1361 days? “The system of checks and balances is still working,” says Franka Ellman. Dr. Sirakov thinks that Trump, like all U.S. presidents at the beginning of their administrations will have somewhat of a learning curve when his ideas meet the reality of the White House. Dr. Mausbach agreed: "So far, neither the best nor the worst case scenarios have materialized." (Mirjam Schulz, transl. Anja Schüler)
HCA Commencement 2017
April 28, 2017
On April 28, the HCA once more celebrated the commencement of the BAS, MAS and Ph.D. classes of 2017 in the lecture hall of the Old University. The ceremony opened with greetings by the rector of Heidelberg University, Professor Bernhard Eitel. He conveyed the best wishes of the Ruperto Carola to the newly-minted graduates and wished them luck for all they endeavored, acknowledging the university’s motto “semper apertus” (“always open”). Professor Detlef Junker, the founding director of the Heidelberg Center for American Studies, then welcomed the graduates and their families as well as the friends of the HCA. He emphasized the interdisciplinary and intercultural aspects of the HCA programs and encouraged the graduates to put their expertise about the United States to good use. He then introduced the commencement speaker, Heidi Crebo-Rediker, who is an adjunct senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and the CEO of International Capital Strategies.
The 2017 commencement speech on “Multilateral Ties That Bind” started out with a look back at the 2016 U.S. presidential elections, which have raised questions about the future role of the United States in the world. Heidi Crebo-Rediker emphasized something HCA students have certainly experienced – as long as the ties that bind us are stronger than the forces that try to tear us apart, everything will be fine. The multilateral ties at the HCA bind students together and ties among countries work the same way: For common purposes and challenges, countries work together and communicate with each other, even though each has its own interests. Heidi Crebo-Rediker hopes that this will hold true for the current U.S. administration because problems such as climate change, energy security, migration, or economic crises can only be solved by international cooperation. Yet, multilateralism could be at a crossroads. While the U.S. has a multilateral tradition, the new administration seems openly opposed to it. However, Heidi Crebo-Rediker thinks that after a certain period, the U.S. will realize that by cooperating with other countries it can exercise more power than by acting on its own. If not, other countries could assume leadership role and promote multilateralism. She illustrated this by pointing to the role of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, two institutions that depend on multilateralism. U.S. support for both institution has waned, and other countries seem to be ready to take on responsibility. China, for instance, has founded the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank in 2014. Overall Heidi Crebo-Rediker thinks that the U.S. should embrace and maintain its tradition of multilateralism.
After the presentation of the diplomas and a fabulous rendition of George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” by the Papermoon Orchestra, the valedictorian of the MAS Class of 2017, Aljay Pascua, shared some of his memories of the HCA. Following the ceremony, the graduates and their family and friends joined the other guests for a reception at the HCA, where they reminisced and made future plans. Congratulations to all 2017 graduates!
Derek Gregory: "'The Clouds in Their Eyes': The United States, Nuclear War, and Military Drones"
April 25, 2017
In cooperation with the Institute of Geography at Heidelberg University, the HCA welcomed Derek Gregory, Peter Wall Professor at the Department of Geography at the University of British Columbia, Canada, as the second speaker in the spring semester of its Baden-Württemberg Seminar. Ulrike Gerhard, professor for Human Geography of North America at the HCA and the Institute for Geography, introduced Professor Gregory. His works were well known amongst the audience that spilled over to the gallery of the HCA’s Atrium. Derek Gregory currently focuses on where wars literally “take place,” specifically on unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and their usage since the World War II, especially during the Obama era and at present in Afghanistan/Pakistan, Yemen, and elsewhere. Professor Gregory, in his research on space, place, and territory, would not fall back on old-school geography, Ulrike Gerhard emphasized. His focus is on processes of historical and geographical change, and he applies a large range of critical theories, constantly re-thinking concepts of space. The L.A. Times has called him “refreshingly angry.”
The beginning of Professor Gregory’s talk revolved around distance, dispersal, and the global battle space. Nuclear arms had distorted the perception of the battlefield, Professor Gregory summarized Frédéric Megret and his book War and the Vanishing Battlefield, and UAVs , or “drones,” pushed this development even further. Since the Obama administration embraced drone technology, the idea of “controlled” warfare surfaced, giving the issue a “clean” image. World War II had been “the last war of the pilots.” Since then, warfare has switched to remote control; the dream of the “robot flight” had come true. From 1945 onwards, after the results of tests on the Bikini Atoll had been published, the public started discussing “push-button-wars” mostly fearfully but also in awe of the technological developments. The first drones collected data from atomic clouds – all under the motto of securing American lives. The U.S. had found a way to execute power without exposing her citizens. However, the U.S. citizens did not see themselves as possible threats, but as possible victims – what would happen if drones were directed at American cities, asked LIFE magazine in November 1945. Mock attacks were staged, keeping citizens in constant awareness of the impending threat of a nuclear attack by the Soviets. The next step to sanitize nuclear warfare was “the bureaucratization of homicide,” as Henry T. Nash, former analyst of the Air Targets division at the Department of Defense, put it. A complicated system of target developing, target-authorization, and “actioning” works its way to a possible deployment of drones. Kill lists, signals intercepts, and visual feeds render targeted killing an objective, rational, and reasonable process. Officials insist that the number of casualties is minimized through drone warfare. At the end of his talk, Derek Gregory showed a photograph of a Pakistani family who had lost a member in a drone attack. Zubair Rehman, the victim’s son, said: “I no longer love blue skies. In fact, I now prefer grey skies. The drones do not fly when the skies are grey.” On this note, the talk ended, and Ulrike Gerhardt invited the audience to pose questions to the speaker.
Was it not the government’s task to minimize victims on its side of the conflict? Did not drones kill fewer people, asked a member of the audience? Distance is not a moral absolute, answered Derek Gregory. If something is wrong from afar, how close does it have to be to become okay? Drones can only be deployed in uncontrolled air space, which causes issues of asymmetric warfare. In current American thinking, David is deemed unfair, not Goliath. How do the soldiers steering the drones cope with their experiences? When soldiers fought a war in the actual warzone, on an actual battlefield, they had their buddies around who were making the same experiences. Now drones are piloted from a military base in the U.S., and the soldiers go home to their families after their shift. Of course, there is no socializing and the war is brought home in many ways, said Professor Gregory. The battlefield is becoming global, creating complicated geographies. On bases within the U.S., from where the drones are maneuvered, signs are put up, saying, “You are now leaving the U.S.”
As always, the discussion benefitted from the various backgrounds of the members of the audience who left the HCA contemplating the lecture and the discussion.
Russell Brian Goodman: “Some Continuities in American Philosophy”
April 20, 2017
The first guest of the spring semester of the HCA’s Baden-Württemberg Seminar came on a spring-like evening from the Philosophy Department of the University of New Mexico. Russel Brian Goodman visited Heidelberg for a few days and delighted the audience in the HCA Atrium with his talk on nineteenth-century philosophy in the U.S., specifically its protagonists Waldo Emerson and William James. The talk was organized in cooperation with the Fulbright Commission Germany and drew many listeners. Jan Stievermann, Professor of the History of Christianity in the U.S., welcomed the philosopher at the HCA and briefly highlighted the peaks of his academic career. Russell Brian Goodman finished is Ph.D. in philosophy in 1971 at Johns Hopkins University after which he moved to the Southwest to continue his career at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. In 1991, he gained full professorship and apart from a positions as an exchange lecturer in Spain and England, stayed loyal to UNM. His latest book, American Philosophy before Pragmatism, published in 2015, concluded with the discussion of “some continuities in American philosophy.” The continuity between Emerson and the pragmatists was the topic of the talk.
William James, older brother to the author Henry James, had visited Germany in the late 1860s because of his physical ailments and there had turned to philosophy. He even had visited Heidelberg, Professor Goodman knew, but nobody had paid attention to him. William James was one of the greatest thinkers in the nineteenth century, the speaker emphasized, contributing weightily to the establishment of psychology as science. He wrote The Varieties of Religious Experience, localizing the heart of religion in the religious experience itself. James, often named along John Dewey and Charles Sanders Peirce, was a pragmatist. He viewed pragmatism as a mediator between “tough minded” and “tender minded” philosophical temperaments. James tasted “the bitterness on the bottom of the cup,” while he viewed Whitman and Emerson as “blue sky and optimistic” and at the same time as authentic and particular. The Jameses would read Emerson at the dinner table, and William James’ copies of Emerson’s books swarmed with notes where James had cited him. James and Emerson’s works show a coherence in their philosophy, and it seems as if there was an evolving system of values between them. So was Emerson a kind of pragmatist? Not exactly, stated Professor Goodman, he omitted thoughts that are central to pragmatism, but Emerson’s themes invaded the work of James and Dewey.
Following the talk, the audience discussed some questions with Professor Goodman. Was Emerson actually a philosopher? Was James trying to tap into Emerson’s prestige? Unlikely, Professor Goodman responded; both had been individually successful. Both were philosophers; James had described Emerson as a “seer.” Today nobody would think of Emerson as a philosopher, but contemporaries did: John Dewey, Stanley Cavell, and Friedrich Nietzsche.
Exhibition: "The Cold War: Origins - History - Legacy"
March 16 – April 27, 2017
On March 16, yet another exhibition opened in the HCA’s Atrium: “The Cold War: Origins - History – Legacy,” created by the Berlin Center for Cold War Studies and the Bundesstiftung Aufarbeitung, a federal foundation for the study of the Communist dictatorship in Eastern Germany. More than 160 photographs, documents, and charts looked at the years between 1945 and 1991 – from the end of World War II to the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Considering recurrent tensions in East-West relations and the ongoing debate about a return of the Cold War, the exhibition seemed especially timely. It depicted the ideological, political, military, and economic dimensions of the Cold War in a global perspective and reminded its visitors how profoundly this conflict shaped societies on both sides of the Iron Curtain. One focus of the exhibition were the dynamics of the nuclear arms race, which was decisive for the origin and aggravation of the Cold War; another the “hot wars” in the “Third World,” the effects of which continue until today; a third the diplomatic and civic initiatives that managed to contain the Cold War at least temporarily.
This exhibition invited its visitors on opening night and in the ensuing weeks to look back; at the same time, it linked the history of the Cold War to current international conflicts and pointed out the legacies facing Europe today. Bernd Greiner from the Berlin Center for Cold War Studies returned to some of these themes in his opening night lecture “The Cold War: Observations on an Age of Extremes“. Professor Greiner’s talked was followed by a lively discussion, and many guests also used the opportunity to take a first look at the exhibit.
Mark Valeri: "Free Conscience, Conversion, and Social Realities in Eighteenth-Century America"
February 7, 2017
For the last talk of its fall Baden-Württemberg Seminar, the HCA welcomed Mark Valeri, who gave a talk on how social realities influenced Puritan communities in eighteenth-century America, the role of free conscience, and the implications of conversion. Jan Stievermann, Professor of the History of Christianity in the U.S. at the HCA, introduced Professor Valeri, who emphasized how much he enjoyed to be back at Heidelberg University. Professor Valeri’s areas of specialization include social thought, the political history of Puritanism, and enlightenment moral philosophy. He holds the Reverend Priscilla Wood Neaves Distinguished Professorship of Religion and Politics with the Danforth Center on Religion and Politics at Washington University, St. Louis. Professor Valeri’s latest book, Heavenly Merchandize: How Religion Shaped Commerce in Puritan America, analyzes social transformations in the American economy from the early 1600s, when Puritans argued that common welfare stood above personal profit, to the 1740s, when Christians increasingly viewed commerce as an unqualified good such as happiness. Those who deserved it got to experience its success. The communities embraced the market because it funded them. In those communities, piety led to industry and frugality, serving both as cause and as consequence. Professor Stievermann praised this work for not turning to politics as an ultimate cause for the development of commerce in the early settlements, but keeping the focus on theology. Mark Valeri kept this focus in in his talk, presenting his view of the history of U.S. capitalism.
In Puritan communities, proponents of the free market saw a chance for their improvement: it would bring social mobility and affluence, which strengthened the social union. Professor Valeri quoted John Wesley, who was experienced in trade, had read advice books about economy, and contended that it was important to stay up to date with economic tidings. Wesley advised to gain and save as much as possible in order to give as much as one could. The Calvinists, however, had no enthusiasm for free transatlantic markets, struggling with the tension between the ideas of piety and moral freedom. William Tennant and John Edwards ascribed to the individual the power to select a way of salvation, fostering the idea of religious choice. Parallel to this, the American Revolution was afoot. Professor Valeri argued that eighteenth-century Puritans wanted to use the “language of freedom,” but did not know how to. The eighteenth century had a touch of optimism, said Professor Valeri; a confidence that society would be built with a sense of pleasure. After all, hate, love, and esteem derived from sensations. Edwards wrote about the affections people have when they experience true conversion. On the one hand, he stated that determination of will is formed by affections outside of personal power, on the other “people seemed to will as they pleased, because what pleases them is their will.”
After sharing his thoughts, Professor Valeri invited the audience to an open discussion. His listeners were impressed by his rich and dense talk. However, what about slavery, was this not a part of the market as well? Edwardians had opposed slavery early on, Professor Valeri answered; whether they did so with the concept of free will in mind, he could not say. Most Moravians, on the other hand, would have seen it as an anomaly of capitalism, which actually emphasized free labor. Furthermore, natural ability and moral competence were discussed, as well as the relation between “God” and “I.” Replete with new and expanded ideas, the audience left the HCA, some surely with a sense of time travelling when they took the first step out the door.
Bernadette Wegenstein, "The Good Breast Documentary: U.S. Breast Cancer in the Age of the Mastectomy"
February 2, 2017
For the penultimate event of the Baden-Württemberg’s winter semester, the HCA, in cooperation with the equal opportunity office of Heidelberg University, welcomed the filmmaker Bernadette Wegenstein, Professor of Media Studies and Director of the Center for Advanced Media Studies at Johns Hopkins University. Professor Wegenstein presented her 2016 movie The Good Breast Documentary, which explores breast cancer as ritual and indeed sees the increasing rates of mastectomy in the U.S. as a modern form of breast sacrifice. Shot with great sensitivity, the documentary shows the bodily, emotional, erotic, and psychic scars of breast cancer patients, their families, and communities. It juxtaposes veteran breast cancer surgeon Dr. Lauren Schnaper, who contended that many mastectomies in America are medically unnecessary, with four breast cancer patients and their very diverse stories in search for the “good breast.” Allowed intimate access to their mastectomies and their most personal breast reconstructions, the audience in the HCA Atrium witnessed the ups and downs of the women’s breast loss and reconstructions, ranging from infected implants to an almost miraculous breast reconstruction.
For each patient, the loss of the breast meant far more than just losing an organ but rather illustrated the complex meaning the breast has for the history, suffering, and resilience of women. Presenting medical, scientific, and religious myths regarding mastectomy, The Good Breast ultimately offered a brilliant diagnosis of personal and cultural imaginaries of female bodies. The film artfully blended footage of surgery and archival material on the history of the mastectomy with the surprising journey Dr. Schnaper took to Catania, Sicily, to experience Saint Agatha, the annual festival of the breast. The captured viewers learned about the Sicilian saint of the breast as an ancient symbol of female strength and made the connection between the American culture of the mastectomy and this ancient veneration of the breast, which triggered many questions for a spirited debate with Bernadette Wegenstein
Gary Gerstle: “Race and Nation in the Age of Obama”
January 24, 2017
A full house welcomed historian Gary L. Gerstle, Paul Mellon Professor of American History at the University of Cambridge, who gave a talk as part of the HCA’s Baden-Württemberg Seminar in cooperation with the History Department at Heidelberg University. Professor Gerstle talked about a new chapter that he added to the latest edition of his 2001 book American Crucible: “Race and Nation in the Age of Obama, 2000-2016.” Manfred Berg, the Curt Engelhorn Chair in American History at Heidelberg University, introduced the speaker and gave a brief overview on Professor Gerstle’s work, highlighting his research endeavors in a possibly neglected field of American history: the history of labor. The chapter Professor Gerstle talked about constituted an analysis of the Obama presidency and connected the dots that led to the election of Donald Trump. As usual, the winner claimed it was fate. However, said the historian, sometimes it is very little that brings about change.
Professor Gerstle then introduced two major concepts of nationalism: “Racial Nationalism,” as experienced in Germany during the Nazi regime, and “Civic Nationalism,” which is more of a tradition in the United States. In Civic Nationalism, common law and common political identity characterize a nation, one chooses membership by immigration, and the government succumbs to the rules of a pluralist democracy. In early America, a group sharing the same blood and skin color deemed itself solely capable of holding the nation together; thus the Naturalization Act of 1790 ensured full citizenship to immigrants that were free and white. Subsequent immigration legislation affirmed the desire of the U.S. to be white and European; if Eastern and Southern Europeans were welcome, they were considered second rate. The goal was for America to remain very white and very protestant. If American Civic Nationalism meant that everyone could become American, immigration laws often put restrictions on this. In 1969 and the 1970s other tensions rose and almost became unmanageable. Among those were the tensions between white supremacy and the civil rights movement; voices of feminists and people who demanded acceptance of their way of living outside of the mainstream also started to get louder. These groups critiqued and repudiated American nationalism, challenged the idea of manifest destiny, and held its subscribers accountable for the crimes of slavery, Native American genocides, and exploitative capitalism.
With Bill Clinton, Professor Gerstle contended, American society “moved left,” racism was out and civic nationalism prospered. He emphasized how extensive the exposure to black culture was at the time; writer Toni Morrison and comedian Chris Rock, among others, called Clinton the “first black president.” This went beyond mending fences, and a part of America turned towards multiculturalism and away from nationalism altogether. George W. Bush had also encouraged this, Professor Gerstle argued, coming from Texas and being familiar with and appreciative of Latino culture. He also appointed the first black Secretary of State. Clinton and Bush thus paved the way for the Obama presidency. He had never believed that in his lifetime a black president would come into office, but neither had he believed in the fall of the Soviet Union, Professor Gerstle admitted. As a candidate Obama could not avoid addressing the racial problems of the country; indeed, he confronted them in a memorable speech in March 2008, in which he drew a connection between his personal dream and the constitutional dream. While many Americans rejoiced after his election and a million-strong crowd witnessed his inauguration, polls showed that only 28 per cent of all Americans thought this was the American dream come true. President Obama’s positions were soon challenged. Opponents accused him of being secretly Muslim and of having funded his campaign with drug money. Some shared the perception that blacks now dominated whites, and hence whites must defend themselves. Gun sales increased. The bottom line was: America is a white country and cannot be ruled by a black president. In the end of 2009, the tea party came in with a vengeance, seen by many as the last resort to defend the “values” of a country in peril. The party emphasized the “African other,” an image of Obama as a witch doctor went viral, and protest signs depicted him as a monkey.
In November 2016, the newly-elected president promised to restore the “American way.” First, he made clear that Muslim refugees and Mexican immigrants were no longer welcome. Mexicans, Professor Gerstle argued, now serve as a stand-in for people of color, seen as prone to violence and crime. As Donald Trump ducked all charges and then counter-charged, the primary voters could not get enough. Professor Gerstle also emphasized that Hillary Clinton would have won the election without the “giant push by the FBI.” As for the Obama legacy, the Trump administration might have the power to push Obama out of the history books and to tell children in the future that his presidency was irrelevant. In the end, the paradox that is America is created between the poles of Civic Nationalism and Racial or Ethnic Nationalism, concluded Professor Gerstle before he opened the discussion with the audience.
Many questions were raised, for example, why did Americans give Obama a chance? Obama had inspired Civic Nationalism, in sync with the tidings within the population, he was an outsider, not part of the Washington environment, and voters deemed him capable of change. He also grew up as a black child in a white family. He wholeheartedly believed that the racial divide could be crossed and mended, which inspired American voters. Perhaps, Gary Gerstle said, there was never a greater believer in the American Dream than Barack Obama.
Jamie O’Connell: "Power and Weakness: Can International Courts Stop Atrocities?"
January 19, 2017
For the first Baden-Württemberg Seminar of the new year, Jamie O’Connell visited the HCA in order to talk about international courts and whether they can actually put an end to atrocities. Jamie O’Connell is a senior fellow at the Honorable G. William and Ariadna Miller Institute for Global Challenges and the Law at the University of California, Berkeley. His teaching and research focuses on the fields of human rights and international law; he has worked on human rights and development in several countries in Africa, the Americas, Asia, and Europe. He is founding president of International Professional Partnerships for Sierra Leone, a non-governmental organization that works with the government of Sierra Leone to enhance public offices and agencies. Manfred Berg, the Curt Engelhorn Chair in American History at Heidelberg University, introduced Jamie O’Connell and contemplated on the perception of international courts in public and on events and trials that stood out. Professor Berg brought the Nuremberg Trials to mind, the Balkan wars, the Ruanda genocide, and their legal aftermath as well as the Rome Statute of 1998, which established the International Criminal Court (ICC).
In a 2005 article, “Gambling with the Psyche: Does Prosecuting Human Rights Violators Console Their Victims,” Jamie O’Connell had focused on the effect international court trials had on the victims of atrocities. In his talk at the HCA he shared these thoughts on whether and how international courts can actually stop atrocities from happening in the first place. There is a basic question when it came to ending atrocities, he said: ”How did they start?“ He offered two possible answers: They were either committed because of a “sickness in the heart” or a rational thought process. The first could not be helped, the latter could be explored.
The ICC, which took up its work in 2002, has the jurisdiction to prosecute individuals for genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. There already is a European Court of Human Rights, an Inter-American Court of Human Rights, and an African Court of Human Rights. However, their jurisdiction is geographically limited; they act regionally, not globally. They exist to enforce particular human rights treaties and to evaluate the responsibility of states in individual cases. The human rights courts may decide over the responsibility of a state while the ICC may decide over individuals. The good relationship of human rights courts and the ICC with the domestic authorities of the respective countries is crucial. Domestic authorities are the primary generators of justice, and international institutions only become active when they fail. They have no jurisdiction until the domestic remedies are exhausted. Jamie O’Connell described the evaluation of the impact of international courts; for example, how it would change the causal dynamics of a case if the international courts were excluded? The existence of international courts influences individual perpetrators, it acknowledges legal versus illegal punishment, and it undermines social acceptance of crimes and perpetrators. The citizens’ influence on regional courts and judges is tremendous, which might prevent a fair trial because local politics may play a role. In this sense, international courts can have an impact on the commission of atrocities or their nature. In his conclusion, Jamie O’Connell said that courts might never stop atrocities but that they can save lives and that the ICC has prevented crimes in the making; public announcements of persecution have deterred perpetrators and facilitated bargaining for peace; the courts have encouraged people and agencies to work against destructive powers in their countries. What would be the ICC’s dream, asked a member of the audience in the following discussion. Ideally, human rights courts for Asia and the Middle East would be established, African countries would stop to withdraw, and domestic courts would improve. Victims’ participation units would work in all courts and re-define who participates in justice. Also, Jamie O’Connell wished for wisdom for the ICC in its political operations – when to threaten, when to indict. The ensuing discussion was lively, and the opinions varied; the audience left the HCA’s atrium both informed and inspired.
Rebecca Boehling, “From Allied Tracing Bureau for Nazi Victims to International Archive and Documentation Center: A Uniquely American Perspective on the International Tracing Service”
December 8, 2016
For the December Baden-Württemberg Seminar, the HCA, in cooperation with the American Academy in Berlin, welcomed Rebecca Boehling, Professor of History at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and Berthold Leibinger Fellow at the Academy. Anja Schüler, who coordinates the Forum events at the HCA, introduced the speaker and gave an overview of Professor Boehling’s extensive work in the fields of modern European history, German history, women history, and Judaic studies. In 2013, Professor Boehling was appointed the director of the International Archive and Documentation Center in Bad Arolsen. In her talk, she depicted the history of the International Tracing Service (ITS), founded in 1943, which turned into the International Archive and Documentation Center, thus offering “a uniquely American perspective.”
After the abandonment of the Nazi concentration camps, little documentation was left on the sites; yet, with the documentation of prisons, labor camps, the index catalogue of the Reichsvereinigung der Juden, forced labor and Gestapo materials, a huge archive took shape. The ITS collected all documents pertaining to victims of Nazi persecution which the World War II allies had confiscated. The service picked up the traces of displaced civilians, researched their personal histories, helped families reunite, and facilitated immigration to other countries. In 1945, the archive included vast arrays of documentation, including lists provided by the Child Search Branch, the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration, and the International Refugee Organization, administration and care documents, medical records, registration cards, materials related to repatriation and emigration, and even personal effects. The victim relief services were in charge of administering measures for relief of war victims in areas under control of the United Nations. Displaced people had to register in order to receive basic necessities like food, shelter, and clothing; a “Sonderstandesamt” had to confirm deaths that had occurred in concentration camps; some victims wished neither to become citizens of the country they had escaped to, nor to stay German, but preferred to be registered as “stateless,” congruent with their forced displacement.
In recent years, the administration of the ITS faced many challenges, among them the digitization of documents, the preservation of those documents, and, most importantly, making the documents available to the public. Changes occurred in the staff as well, as the ITS needed academically-trained archivists and historians and the de-compartmentalizing of tasks became necessary. Since 2007 the ITS offers free access to the archives and free research, also for those who cannot or do not want to come personally to Bad Arolsen. It also facilitated access for genealogists and journalists. Professor Boehling reminded her audience that for some families documents were the only proof of existence or fate of a dead family member, the only means to gain personal closure. The uniqueness of the ITS lies in its international character, also legally; national privacy laws do not apply. It is under international control, but it is paid for by one country: Germany. Its scope of documentation in order to gather information about victims of Nazi persecution is also unique. As of June 2013, the archive is recognized as part of the UNESCO Memory of the World Register. Since the 1970s, the ITS has facilitated eighty-one reunions between family members. Professor Boehling presented the case of a young woman who travelled to Bad Arolsen in order to find about her family and discovered that her grandfather had had a family before meeting her grandmother in Israel. The family had died in concentration camps. The granddaughter described feelings of loss but also of satisfaction. The audience in the HCA Atrium was very interested in the function of the archive in post-war trials; Professor Boehling confirmed that the archive had worked together closely with public offices concerning the persecution of Nazis and had offered conclusive files. She concluded that the archives proved to be both a treasure and a minefield, not the least because of the involvement of persons in crimes that had emerged as public figures in post-war Germany.
Kenneth Marcus, "African American Ballet in Postwar Los Angeles"
November 11, 2016
For the second event of the HCA’s Baden-Württemberg Seminar, the historian Kenneth H. Marcus came to Heidelberg to talk about a culturally significant part of postwar Los Angeles: African American ballet. Dorothea Fischer-Hornung, who used to be a Senior Lecturer in the English Department of Heidelberg University and at the HCA, welcomed the speaker, who received his education in the U.S., Germany, France, and the United Kingdom and started teaching history at the University of La Verne in California in 2001. Prof. Marcus’ interests are diverse; his research stretches over centuries of both European and North American history and pedagogy. He also produced two projects with the Arias Troubadours, interpreting folk and dance music of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Professor Marcus’ talk gave insights into the circumstances of the founding of The First Negro Classical Ballet. Most cultural historians are familiar with the Harlem Renaissance, African American writers, poets, as well as Jazz and Blues musicians, but, Professor Marcus argued, much fewer are aware of the role of African Americans in classical music and dance. In 1946 the white choreographer Joseph Rickard founded one of the first African American ballet companies. The company embodied multiethnic cooperation in the arts in a Jim-Crow environment. Bernice Harrison, who later became the prima ballerina of Rickard’s troupe, was turned away at a classical dance studio with her little daughter and forwarded to a tap dance studio. Rickard witnessed this and felt the need to create a space for African Americans who wanted training in classical ballet. A ballet company consisting of his most talented students ensued. For the first three years the company was called Ballet Americana, and its first performance was held at the Danish Auditorium in Los Angeles in the fall of 1947. The Los Angeles Sentinel sponsored, advertised, and reviewed the performance, celebrating it as the opening “of an entire field of expression to Negroes.” Over the more than ten years the company existed, it consisted of more than thirty dancers who needed to keep their day jobs throughout their dancing careers, always working on a shoestring budget when it came to the development of the plays and touring. Kenneth Marcus mentioned the costumes, which were different from other ballet companies, shortened and designed to show the dancers’ figures to the best advantage, clinging to the bodyline. The troupe performed “dance dramas” which incorporated Jazz and Boogie Woogie and in which males performed as females. The ballet did not fit the cliché and excluded anything that might have referred to voodoo or Uncle Tom. The First Negro Classical Ballet faced harsh critiques replete with racism. One of the dancers said in an interview that the female dancers of the company were regularly reminded that they would not possess the bodily qualities, their bottoms being too large and their bodies in general not up to the task. Despite horrendous prejudice and the meager financial situation, the company fulfilled its dream of classical dance; also, the quality of the plays affirmed interethnic collaboration and the fact that there is no place in the arts for racism. However, due to diverging interests and the lack of money, the company merged with the Ward Flemyng’s New York Negro Ballet. After the talk, the audience and Professor Marcus discussed classical and modern ballet, impressed by the hurdles the company overtook and the devotion its members showed to dance.
Panel Discussion: “The United States after the 2016 Presidential Elections“
November 9, 2016
Some states were still counting, but the election results were clear on the evening of November 9: The Republican candidate Donald Trump is the new president-elect and will move into the White House on January 20, 2017. On the day after the U.S. election, the HCA invited three experts on the political and cultural landscape of the United States for their commentary: Alexandra Gleber, a German-American who is a B.A. student at the HCA and has been a member of the “Democrats Abroad” since 2013; Anthony Santoro, who was born and raised in Virginia, received both his M.A. and his Ph.D. degrees from Heidelberg University and taught seminars on American religion and American religious history at the Institute for Religious Studies and the HCA for several years and currently works as a Senior Information Developer at SAP; and Martin Thunert, the the senior lecturer for political science at the HCA. Anja Schüler, who coordinates Forum events at the HCA, moderated the discussion. All participants have lived in the U.S. for an extended period time, but had to admit that none of them foresaw the outcome of this year’s election. Neither had most of the audience; the Atrium and the galleries were filled to the brim.
So what factors came together for this unexpected election result? Martin Thunert gave a couple of reasons: Trump’s image and actions changed in the weeks before the election; he appeared to be more confident, started to address issues, and sprinkled his demeanor with a bit of self-deprecation; in short, he had become more likable. Democrats, on the other hand, seemed to have forgotten about their traditional voters in the rust belt and blue collar workers in general who felt they lost out in an increasingly globalized world. Many suspiciously eyed the tidings of greener policies, when their livelihoods depended on oil. Alexandra Gleber mentioned the rural regions and the “invisible majority,” mainly consisting of white males with a basic education who felt empowered by Trump’s promises. Anthony Santoro added that most voters had known Hillary Clinton for twenty years but also had distrusted her for the same period of time. For decades, they had been appalled by “old broken Washington,” epitomized by the Democratic candidate. This had been an election campaign of white men and although the “invisible minority” seemed a joke at first, it did take over the election in the end.
Pointing out that the new president would get to fill at least one seat on the Supreme Court, Anja Schüler asked the panel whether the Obama administration would have a legacy – what would remain of “change”? Martin Thunert saw a clear defeat of the Obamas, who had so fervently fought for Clinton and very openly spoken out against Trump. It was now in Trump’s power to denigrate Obama to a mere footnote in American history. Alexandra Gleber remarked that Trump had announced to leave most policy-related tasks to his vice-president and his advisors so he could concentrate fully on “making America great again.” She quoted an online source that Trump thought being president somewhat equaled being a king. Ms. Gleber expressed concern over the ruthlessness of Trump’s voters and the hardening lines between liberals and conservatives. Anthony Santoro then voiced doubts that Trump had ever really intended to becoming president. He had said more than once how quickly he got bored once he accomplished a goal. For Mr. Santoro, Mike Pence was the man to watch. His stance on treaties with countries as Korea and Japan was crucial for future policy-making. What was left of Obama’s time in office was disappointment. Was the world ready for Trump, asked the moderator. What would happen next in foreign policy? Every trade treaty, Martin Thunert said, would be examined closely. Trump would have to keep the promises he made to his blue-collar constituency. He would also realign the NATO budget. Yet, all of this could only happen once the staff issues were solved, a challenging task in itself. Alexandra Gleber also addressed the promises Trump made to blue-collar workers. Now he had to prove how much of a problem solver he really was. This would include putting an end to the Islamic State.
Why did almost everybody in the media predict a Clinton victory? And why did opinion pollsters and forecasters at website like fivethirtyeight.com fail on such a large scale? Polls were mere snapshots in time, Martin Thunert said, not predictions of the future. The “Millennials” and the “Rainbow Coalition” probably participated less in polling than expected. Political scientists, experts, and journalists had some soul-searching to do, as had the German press, which had largely failed to report accurately about the campaign and mostly delivered a one-sided image of the current political landscape in the US. So, would Bernie Sanders have been the better candidate for the Democrats after all? No one could say, all members of the panel agreed. Maybe it was not the right time for a liberal woman to be elected, both Santoro and Gleber speculated; the candidacy of an outsider who could distance himself from the political establishment and could have competed with Trump in this respect might have proven successful. Martin Thunert pointed out that Sanders had left out two important groups in his campaign, Hispanics and African Americans, a mistake that might not have been mended in time. Hereafter the discussion was opened to the audience. What would prevail, free trade or protectionism? What would change when workers found out the improvements Trump offered were not feasible? How can the Democratic Party rise from its ashes? The last question addressed worries about future developments in Europe that might lead to a rise of populism and right wing politicians. It was time, said Anthony Santoro, to realize people with a poor education were not inherently bad; rather, fear and anger can impede political judgement. A cooler and more rational electorate would not have demonized Hillary Clinton or forgiven Donald Trump. Anja Schüler then closed the discussion, wishing everybody who had stayed up until the wee hours a good night’s sleep.
Beth Ann Fennelly & Tom Franklin, “His, Hers, and Ours: Creativity and Collaboration”
October 27, 2016
On October 27, the HCA was delighted to welcome two distinguished authors to the first Heidelberg event of the Baden-Württemberg Seminar, Beth Ann Fennelly and Tom Franklin. Margit Peterfy, who is a Senior Lecturer in American Studies at the English Department of Heidelberg University, welcomed the two writers and gave an introduction to their lives and works. Beth Ann Fennelly is the current Poet Laureate of Mississippi and teaches poetry and nonfiction writing at the University of Mississippi, where she also directs the MFA program. Her first poetry collection, Open House, was published in 2001 and won several awards. Two more collections, Tender Hooks (2004) and Unmentionables (2008), are also highly acclaimed works. She received several fellowships and read her poetry at the Library of Congress at the invitation of the U.S. Poet Laureate. Tom Franklin writes novels, which are crime stories only at first glance, as he remarked. Among his publications are Poachers (1999), a collection of short stories, Hell at the Breech (2003), Smonk (2006), and Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter (2010), which was awarded the Crime Writers’ Association Gold Dagger and the LA Times Book Prize for Best Mystery/Thriller. He is an associate professor for fiction writing at the University of Mississippi.
The evening consisted of vivid readings from books by the two individual authors as well as from their collaboration. Tom Franklin made the start with Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter, a novel set in small town Mississippi of the 1970s. “M-I-crooked letter-crooked letter-I-crooked letter-crooked letter-I-humpback-humpback-I” goes the venerable chant that serves as mnemonic device for learning how to spell the state’s name in elementary school. In the small town of Chabot lives Larry Ott, the hamlet’s weirdo. Twenty-five years ago, a young woman who had dated Larry Ott vanished. There is no proof, but town people still think he abducted the girl; thus his nickname “Scary Larry.” Pampered by his mother and bullied by his father, he wishes for nothing more than a friend. The childhood scenes depict the town’s change after the collapse of the old class and race hierarchy; tension built up around the freshly desegregated school. Now, another young woman is missing, Larry Ott immediately becomes a suspect, and the town knows and acts on it. He is shot in the chest. The constable to both cases, the abduction and the assault, is Silas Jones, who after years has come back to Chabot and is confronted with the secrets he and Larry Ott share. The book’s themes revolve around friendship, culpability, and shame and delves deeply into questions of history and psychology. Beth Ann Fennelly then read from Heating and Cooling: 52 Micro-Memoirs, which will be published in the fall of 2017 at W. W. Norton. She talked about the small and big events in life that come to one’s mind once in a while; why not write them down? What she does could be described as poetic truth-telling; she puts memories in verse. One micro-memoir stood out: “Daughter, they’ll use even your own gaze to wound you,” in which Ms. Fennelly describes situations when, as a young girl, she imagined being sucked into male fantasies through her gaze. Another – funnier – micro memoir describes how her husband, in many of his stories, created a character named Colin, who always meets an untimely end – Colin was the name of a former boyfriend.
Both authors then performed the third reading, from The Tilted World, published in 2014 after over four years of research on the great Mississippi flood of 1926-27, the most destructive flooding in the history of the United States. The authors stated that more than 700,000 people were heavily affected by the disaster and more than 300,000 needed to be rescued, a vast majority of them African Americans. The authors set their story in those tidings: Two federal agents find a child in the middle of a murder scene, the county’s most popular bootlegger takes little Willy in, and the story develops into murder and conspiracy. After this last reading, the audience engaged in a lively discussion with the two authors. How do you write together and stay married was the general question. The two described the initial process, in which they split the text in two parts and then revised each other’s drafts. Mr. Franklin claimed his texts had been “terribly ugly things” before Ms. Fennelly tended to them; Ms. Fennelly talked about how she, in the past, had refrained from writing about violence, but over the course of writing The Tilted World came to see that there are situations in which “violence comes to everybody” – indeed, most people do not choose to live with violence. The talk slowly turned into a book signing, many small conversations sprung from the discussion, and finally the sizeable audience left the HCA’s Atrium, happily hugging their new books by these two great authors.
Film Clips: “Best Of the 1960, 1988, 2008 and 2016 Campaigns”
October 25, 2016
A week after the third presidential debate in the U.S. 2016 election and two days after the release of Hillary Clinton’s newest campaign video, “Mirrors,” four specialists on presidential election campaigns convened in the HCA Atrium to talk about what happens when the medium film and presidential candidates meet. Raluca Cimpean, Styles Sass, Martin Thunert, and Abraham de Wolf discussed the election campaigns of John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon, George H. W. Bush and Michael Dukakis, Barack Obama and John McCain as well as the ongoing race between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. The HCA’s executive director Wilfried Mausbach moderated. The evening started out with historic campaign ads, including “Daisy Girl,” according to Wilfried Mausbach “the mother of campaign commercials.” Even if Twitter might be the greatest ad force by now, campaign commercials have kept their importance in the elections. The first talk was given by Raluca Cimpean from Romania, a graduate of both the HCA’s M.A. and Ph.D. programs. In her dissertation, John F. Kennedy Through the Looking Glass: Docudramatic Representations of the JFK Image, she emphasized how important the perception of the public is for a candidate. She claimed that the Kennedy campaign used this fact consciously and successfully for the first time in U.S. election history. JKF famously said, “it’s not who you are, it’s who people think you are.” Raluca Cimpean illustrated this with excerpts from the 1960 documentary Primary and Kennedy’s New Frontier campaign movie, in which the audience witnessed a war hero, a charismatic senator enchanting the crowds, and a loving family man coming home after work to his wife and children. She pointed out that the presentation of both the private and the public side of a candidate was replicated more or less successfully in every campaign thereafter.
In the presentation that followed, Martin Thunert, lecturer and senior research fellow in political science at the HCA, turned, as he put it, “away from Camelot and to the dark side” of presidential elections. The “Willie Horton Ad” from the 1988 George H.W. Bush campaign can be interpreted as the turning point in favor of Bush. The Democratic candidate, Michael Dukakis, had voted for a furlough program for long-term inmates, including so-called weekend passes, to be extended to first degree murderers, such as Willie Horton, who did not return to prison after his furlough but brutally assaulted a man in Maryland and repeatedly raped his fiancée. The ad made Dukakis look soft on crime and reinforced the stereotype of black-against-white crime (Horton was African-American). Furthermore, the ad was a stern warning of what would happen if the electorate voted for a Democrat in the White House for a third term. Dukakis later said that he realized the importance of the case too late. The third participant of the evening, Styles Sass, is also a graduate of both the HCA’S M.A. and Ph.D. program. His presentation returned to Camelot again, “Camelot 2.0,” as he termed it, and looked at the importance of foreign policy and the “change of brand” Barack Obama was after in his bid for the presidency in 2008. Obama’s speech in Berlin on July 24 was the zenith of that change, an event that left its witnesses with the “poetic feeling of history in the making.” An American politician admired abroad, a candidate who at that point had not received the democratic nomination yet, swayed over 200,000 people. This was a harsh contrast to the negative international image of George W. Bush, and the Obama campaign portrayed the Republican candidate, John McCain, as a continuation of the Bush regime. At one point McCain felt compelled to say: “I’m not Bush!” He stepped in with an ad, “Celebrity,” which presented Obama as “all sizzle, no steak,” not a politician, but a celebrity like the it-girls the ad showed. The punch line stuck: “I want a president in the White House, note a celebrity.” Obama reacted promptly, reduced crowds and held gigs at night, so the press could not report simultaneously.
The last speaker of the evening was Abraham de Wolf, who partly grew up in the U.S., is a lawyer and involved a local civic organization, “Citizens for Heidelberg.” He is strongly connected to the USA and follows the political tidings closely. He showed several ads of the current election and pointed out the many differences between the two candidates’ commercials. Many of Donald Trump’s ads do not exceed thirty seconds and mostly show him at rallies. Hillary Clinton’s commercials are up to four minutes long, expensively produced, and skillfully carry a positive undertone even in the negative ads. Two commercials stand out, both reactions to Trump campaign strategies. The first is “Captain Khan,” an ad about the mourning father of Humayun Khan, a Muslim American soldier, who died in Iraq because he protected his comrades during a suicide attack. Donald Trump had insulted the family after they had appeared at the Democratic convention. The second is the aforementioned “Mirrors” ad, which shows young girls eyeing themselves in mirrors and through their cellphone cameras. In the background Donald Trump’s comments on women at various occasions are audible. “Is this the president we want for our daughters?” the spot asks. After the screening of “Mirrors,” Wilfried Mausbach opened the discussion to the audience, who was mainly interested in the changes in campaign ads over time and the question whether ads can do more for the candidates than mobilize their voters.
Awarding of the Rolf Kentner Dissertation Prize 2016
October 20, 2016
On October 20, 2016, the HCA once more awarded the Rolf Kentner Prize. For the seventh time, this award, sponsored by one of the most active benefactors of the HCA, recognized an outstanding dissertation in the field of American Studies. This year, the prize was awarded to Birte Wege, who is currently the acting junior professor for American Literature at the John F. Kennedy Institute in Berlin. She studied English literature and linguistics, political science and Islamic Studies at the University of Freiburg and received an M.A. in English literature. At Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, she then completed an M.A. in Business Administration. In the summer of 2015 Birte Wege finished her Ph.D. at the Graduate School of North American Studies at the John F. Kennedy Institute with a doctoral thesis entitled “Drawing on the Past: The Graphic Narrative Documentaries of Emanuel Guibert, Ho Che Anderson, Art Spiegelman, and Joe Sacco.”
After a welcome by the HCA’s Founding Director Detlef Junker, Wilfried Mausbach, executive director of the HCA, quoted from the laudation of Professor Günter Leypoldt, member of the award committee, who stressed that Birte Wege’s “dissertation gives a quite thorough overview of the historical development of graphic narrative documentary and charts the possibilities of the new genre as well as the ongoing differentiations of the genre; furthermore, she locates the particular place that the graphic documentary is occupying at this moment within the broader field of the graphic novel. She brings out the potential of this genre and produces valuable insights into the historical, the genre-specific, and the cultural conditions that are relevant to the graphic documentary narrative.”
Dr. Wege’s talk “Drawing on the Past: Photography and Graphic Narrative Documentary” focused on one of the graphic narrative documentaries that her dissertation builds on, Ho Che Anderson’s King: A Comics Biography of Martin Luther King, Jr. Anderson’s work, a report on King’s life in the years 1935 and 1936, is based on photographs. One of the panels Dr. Wege used as an illustration is a drawn version of the most iconic photograph of lynching in America, the lynching of Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith in Marion, Indiana on August 6, 1930. Birte Wege pointed out that it was this photograph that brought Abel Meeropol to write a poem about this horrific event: “Strange Fruit,” which came to fame through Billie Holiday’s musical interpretation. Meeropol was to brush history again, when at a Christmas party at the home of W.E.B. Du Bois, he and his wife met the sons of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, who had been executed for nuclear espionage some time before. Another story behind the Indiana photograph is that of the third person the crowd attempted to kill, James Cameron. A crowd broke into the jail and dragged out three teenagers; the mob assaulted, beat Abram Smith to death and hung Thomas Shipp from a window. The picture was taken after the bodies were hung from a tree for display. James Cameron was about to be killed when someone in the crowd talked the murderers out of hanging him, and he was brought back to his cell. Dr. Wege also pointed out that “only comics can” add color to a picture; in one version of the drawing of the Indiana lynching, the bodies are painted red – they become “colored” bodies in more than one sense. Dr. Wege argued that this and other African American graphic narratives also comment on the debates of justification of police violence against African Americans. She claims that with a new medium like graphic narrative documentary, there is a new chance for minorities and specifically for African Americans to tell their story and to add to the historical discourse from an original point of view. The audience in the HCA atrium was captured by this fascinating talk and had lots to discuss during a post-award reception in the HCA’s Bel Etage.
Panel discussion: “Making Transatlantic Dialogue Great Again?”
October 19, 2016
On the eve of the third and last presidential debate in 2016, the Forum für Internationale Sicherheit (FiS), the Deutsche Atlantische Gesellschaft e.V., and the HCA staged another panel discussion at the Curt and Heidemarie Engelhorn Palais. In his welcoming remarks the founding director of the HCA, Detlef Junker, recalled the transatlantic relations of the fifties, sixties and seventies, specifically the NATO double-track decision of 1979. On the podium, Josef Braml, a political scientist and political adviser at the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Auswärtige Politik, and Martin Thunert, senior lecturer for political science at the HCA, discussed the past, present, and future of transatlantic communication; Stefan Artman (FiS) lead through the evening.
While Josef Braml, like in his most recent publication Auf Kosten der Freiheit. Der Ausverkauf der amerikanischen Demokratie und die Folgen für Europa, painted a rather dark picture of America’s near future, Martin Thunert highlighted the resilience of the country. The 2016 presidential campaign provided the red thread for the discussion; other topics were security policy, NATO, TTIP, and the position of the candidates regarding the conflict in Syria. What goals would a President Clinton or President Trump set for their country’s future? What means would they choose to achieve those goals? Josef Braml and Martin Thunert agreed on Trump’s notion on nuclear weapons. They declined the likelihood of an atomic war but thought the regional deployment of nuclear weapons possible. As commander-in-chief Trump would have a relatively free reign to do as he pleased, and both allies and opponents would have a hard time predicting his actions. Josef Braml saw this unpredictability as a virtue, arguing “staged threat” is immensely important for the domestic and foreign politics of the United States. Without an enemy, keeping the defense budget of currently 600 billion dollars might be hard, and the economy would suffer. Martin Thunert called attention to the fact that Trump’s critique of Obama’s full disclosure of military strategies, for example the dates of withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, is justified. Oppositional forces like the Taliban only had to wait to regain power of certain territories. Part two of the discussion involved NATO, and here also the opinions diverged. The image of the U.S. as a liberal hegemon was breaking apart, argued Josef Braml; NATO turned against China, and Germany had closed its eyes for too long. Martin Thunert, on the other hand, emphasized that mercantilism would become the base for security policy under Trump. If financing proved inadequate, the U.S. under Trump would partially withdraw from the Western alliance. Clinton, however, had hinted at a completely different approach and was convinced that Vladimir Putin actively tried to prevent her from becoming president. The third part of the discussion turned to TTIP, first and foremost to the question whether the treaty was still alive. TTIP is dead, claimed Josef Braml, the business of America was business, and TTIP had only been a new name for old ideas. Free trade was caught in a downward spiral, and Europe had to pay attention and be cautious of protectionist ideas. Martin Thunert did not dare to predict the future of TTIP. If trade policies would remain an issue in the new administration, new treaties were feasible, TTIP could die and be resurrected as “TTIP light.” Finally, Syria became a topic. Stefan Artmann posed the question whether Trump’s election could prove to be beneficial for solving the conflict because he was unprejudiced and had better connections to Putin than Clinton. Martin Thunert thought Putin played a rather minor role in this; the situation was challenging, Obama had been elected as a peacemaker, but since the Geneva Convention of 2013, the interim agreement with Iran concerning its nuclear program, the peace making had come to a halt; a no-flight-zone would only provoke Russia; there was no good way out of the conflict. Josef Braml agreed and added that he was skeptical that Clinton would be able to take the measures needed in Syria; in the end, Russia would benefit from the instability in the region. Upon this Stefan Artmann opened the discussion to the audience. Its main questions were about policy structures and the concern whether a Trump presidency would have a bigger effect on the domestic or the foreign policy of the United State. In the end, Martin Thunert asked what the true meaning of the election slogan “Make America great again!” was: which part of the past and history was idealized? With this thought, the audience was released into the crisp fall night.
Enjoy Jazz at the HCA: “Mary Lou Williams: The Lady Who Swings the Band” (in cooperation with “Bürger für Heidelberg”)
October 13, 2016
As part of the Enjoy Jazz festival in the Rhine-Neckar delta, the HCA screened Carol Bash’s documentary “Mary Lou Williams: The Lady Who Swings the Band” in cooperation with “Bürger für Heidelberg.” The atrium of the HCA turned into a movie theater, popcorn was available, and a full house enjoyed the show. Mary Lou Williams is not a household name. Yet, if you have not heard about her, you have missed out on something, and it is time to catch up. Her musical genius was detected when she was two years old – she could copy her mother’s piano play instantly. At seven she started to appear publicly in Pittsburgh, enjoyed some fame as "the little piano girl of East Liberty," and helped to provide for her ten siblings. She left home early to join a travelling band. At one point she was told to drop the clownery and become serious, which she did. In Kansas City she played with musicians who later became stars of the business like Coleman Hawkins and Count Basie. She joined the Andy Kirk band as a teen and met her husband, John Williams. There, the struggle the rare woman jazz musician had to face became apparent. She had to convince her band leader and colleagues that she was “as good as a man.” Furthermore, she was constantly suspected to cause a ruckus within the band because she was a woman. She left the band at the beginning of the forties and moved to New York. Carol Bash documents how Williams thrived on the innovations in jazz music on the one hand and how she struggled to establish herself as a serious artist with a focus on music and not sex appeal on the other.
The film presents Mary Lou Williams’ troubles as a dark-skinned female artist in detail, contrasting her to the few other popular female artists of her time. She went to Europe and came back crushed. She turned to faith and after a long break picked up arranging and composing music again. In her sixties she was at her absolute artistic peak, a fact that distinguished her from most of her contemporaries who stuck with what they were known and famous for. Mary Lou Williams inspired modernists, including Thelonious Monk. From the thirties to the seventies she was a driving force in the development of American Jazz. In the documentary Williams stated that she did not compose music but had to release it. At the beginning of the movie, Bash points to the superstitions of the American South –Mary Lou Williams was born with a piece of placenta on her head, which attests to a close connection to the supernatural world. Animations of Williams’ artwork underline this notion of an artist plagued by demons. In the end, however, she did not come across as an eccentric musical genius, but as energetic, hard-working, and ambitious. With her documentary “Mary Lou Williams: The Lady Who Swings the Band,” Carol Bash contributed immensely to expanding the audience of this great jazz musician.
Styles Sass: "Swaying the Nation: Campaign Narratives in the 2008 Presidential Election" (HCA Book Launch)
July 19, 2016
In the course of the HCA’s series on the 2016 presidential campaign, Dr. Styles Sass, a graduate of the HCA’s master and doctoral programs, presented his recent publication on campaign narratives in the 2008 presidential election. Dr. Sass opened by explaining the necessity of narratives, which arrange single events into a logical order and thus create coherence. Therefore, narratives not only determine how a campaign is perceived from the outside but are also important tools for candidates to easily and attractively convey necessary information. However, as soon as the narrative is public, every other new event or information becomes either supportive, and thus a beneficial contribution readily incorporated, or critical, and consequently rebutting the narrative.
As a result, it is important to know the qualities of a successful narrative, and to identify one, Styles Sass presented the analytical model he had developed in the course of his dissertation. He observed that successful narratives all fulfilled two criteria, namely coherence and fidelity, and that these had to apply to all four strands of the narrative. Therefore, the family strand, the national strand, the party strand and the counter narrative all had to intertwine in order to create a working narrative. By analyzing the 2008 campaign narratives of Barack Obama and John McCain, Dr. Sass then proceeded to apply this model. John McCain, who largely drew on his military background, succeeded in creating a coherent narrative, yet the topic did not match the zeitgeist of the election year and therefore did not radiate enough fidelity. In contrast, Obama was able to create a competing narrative under the slogan “A Change We Can Believe In,“ which was both coherent and suggested a high degree of fidelity. Therefore, Obama’s narrative embedded itself into a beneficial environment and turned out to be successful. Furthermore, Dr. Sass offered the audience a similar analysis of the current campaign narratives of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Trump, who did not have a coherent narrative, still succeeded in convincing people of its fidelity, which enabled him to be credible to some voters even though he did not present them with concrete ideas. Hillary Clinton, in contrast, offered the public a narrative which connected her to Barack Obama’s eight-year story of social progress. By advancing “Hillary for America,” this narrative was not only more coherent but also suggested continuity. However, Styles Sass criticized that she has not drawn on the full potential of a strong counter narrative to Trump yet, which could push her campaign even further. In the following discussion, the audience addressed further hypothetical narratives and scenarios and benefited from Styles Sass’ profound knowledge of earlier campaigns.
Rashida Braggs: "Jazz Diasporas: Race, Music and Migration in Post-World War II Paris" (HCA Book Launch)
July 7, 2016
On July 7, the HCA welcomed Rashida Braggs, Assistant Professor for African American Studies at Williams College Massachusetts, for the first HCA Book Launch of the spring term. Rashida had been the Ghaemian-Scholar at the HCA in 2009-10 and returned to introduce her recent publication on African American Jazz artists in post-World War II Paris. Professor Braggs argued that the reality of African American diasporic life in Paris did not resemble the color-blind image that the general public and many scholars have assumed previously. Even though American Jazz artists were widely respected for their musical talents, their skin color and ethnic background determined their personal freedom to a large extent.
To support this, Professor Braggs highlighted biographies of members of this Jazz diaspora, such as Hal Singer or Sidney Bechet, in her book. Sidney Bechet especially often used his talent in playing multiple instruments to construct different subjectivities of himself, which he then presented to the Parisian public. Thus, his success relied largely on his ability to reinvent his public persona and image as an artist. Such images then grew to tremendous public success and helped to create the myth of African American Jazz in Paris. Nonetheless, Rashida Braggs emphasized that often the relationships of these musicians to their community were more complicated than they appeared at first. It was not uncommon among African Americans in Paris to remain silent on political issues regarding their home country since this would have had a tremendous impact on their opportunities to succeed in Parisian society. In order to explore the field of creating multiple subjectivities, in her teaching Professor Braggs combines her background in theatre and performance studies with her historical research in African American Jazz musicians. In the course of multiple classes, she has challenged her students to not only gain a deeper understanding of the subject they were researching, but also to come to realize how their own subjectivity influenced their perception. This performative research was then incorporated into her book and was crucial in aiding the reader to understand the full scope of African American life in post-World War II Paris.
Panel Discussion: "The Race for the White House: Analyses and Prognoses Preceding the Party Conventions"
July 5, 2016
In the course of the HCA’s series of events about the U.S. presidential elections, the HCA staged a panel discussion on July fifth. Together with Laura von Daniels, research fellow at the Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik, Andreas Schwarzkopf, journalist with the Frankfurter Rundschau, and Martin Thunert, senior research fellow for political science at the HCA moderator Tobias Endler, who works as a research coordinator at the HCA, analyzed how polarized American society actually is and how domestic and foreign policies might change during the upcoming year. Tobias Endler opened the discussion by asking the panel members to state their opinion regarding the current state of American society. Even though pluralism is not new to Americans, it is obvious that social polarization is growing as are the gaps among different social groups, according to Andreas Schwarzkopf. The resulting differentiation of identity politics, which has become increasingly populist at heart, is, however, not solely an American phenomenon, emphasized Martin Thunert.
Similar trends can be observed throughout Europe, starting in recent years and culminating in events like the Brexit. Yet, the new social complexity initiated by polarization haa paralyzed many American think tanks which, in an attempt to grasp the full dimensions of phenomena such as Donald Trump, have resigned to an observing position, remarked Laura von Daniels. At this point, Tobias Endler turned towards the role of the media in reinforcing this complex polarization. Even though Andreas Schwarzkopf saw the media’s role as a neutral reporting organ, Laura von Daniels criticized that the majority of the domestic and international press helped to solidify prevailing stereotypes such as the “coldhearted” politician Hillary Clinton. This selection bias played a crucial role in how voters perceived candidates and thus influenced their chances of winning the elections. Here Martin Thunert noted that Trump, who as an outsider was favored by the electoral system, could easily use such stereotypes to increase his own chances of winning.
In the second part of the discussion, Tobias Endler shifted the main focus away from the domestic analysis towards aspects of transatlantic partnership and the current issues of TTIP. According to Laura von Daniels, a prevailing sense of uncertainty has dominated German politics and public opinions. Even though Trump was said to initiate a dramatic shift towards a protectionist market economy, there was a great amount of uncertain about Hillary Clinton’s handling of TTIP as well. In the end, whoever both candidates will choose as their running mate will have a substantial influence on their political decision. Furthermore, as Andreas Schwarzkopf highlighted, German politics and the public yet have to fully realize the U.S.’ new “pivot to Asia,” which had changed the significance of American politics on German issues. Martin Thunert reminded the audience panel members to be cautious in their judgements. As could be seen from Trump already, he will analyze all foreign relations according to a strict cost-benefit-system, and since the president is the pivotal point determining all foreign relations, changes might occur suddenly. Laura von Daniels agreed and opposed hasty judgements, as especially Trump has not presented any distinct policy plans yet. In a closing note, Andreas Schwarzkopf emphasized that, regarding current changes in the EU, it will be very likely that Germany will remain the most important European partner for the U.S. in the future. Therefore, the German-American relationship will be of a continuing importance to both sides. Following this reminder, Tobias Endler opened up the discussion to questions from the audience, which in the remaining time discussed issues such as social polarization and current events.
Jeffrey C. Alexander: "Seizing the Stage: Social Performances from Mao Zedong to Martin Luther King, and Ferguson Today"
June 30, 2016
On June 30, the HCA concluded the spring program of its Baden-Württemberg Seminar with a lecture by the Lillian Chavenson Saden Professor of Sociology at Yale University, Professor Jeffrey C. Alexander. In his talk, which was co-hosted by the English Department, Professor Alexander highlighted the performative character of historic protest movements. He began by describing how Mao Zedong became the narrator of the Chinese Revolution. Due to their religion, Chinese peasantry had developed a tolerance towards poverty and injustice and had to be won over for the revolutionary cause first. The Chinese communists achieved this through Suku, which means as much as speaking bitterness. Suku was meant to teach the peasantry to hate the ruling class through narrating their suffering, and thus the CCP needed dramatic narrators with whom peasants could readily sympathize. In combination with carefully staged acts of symbolic violence, Suku developed into such a success that the CCP still used it after the revolution to consolidate its political power. According to Professor Alexander, the American civil rights struggle used a similar strategy. Its activists deliberately provoked violent acts of Southern whites against African Americans in order to publicly demonstrate the need for social reform. Thus, the civil rights movement often did not attempt to overcome oppression immediately but rather activated a powerful intervening force to accomplish this on its behalf.
In order to be successful, the protest actions of the current blacklivesmatter campaign have to follow a similar pattern. Through carefully staging victims’ last words in different media channels and organizing public events, blacklivesmatter has already drawn from the successful means of earlier protest movements. However, Professor Alexander criticized that blacklivesmatter relies too much on police violence and too little on class struggle and thus has not been able to achieve similar results yet. The lack of a charismatic leader like Mao or King also makes it harder for blacklivesmatter to push their agenda. Professor Alexander nevertheless pointed out that the interactive protest, an outstanding and new quality drawing on American protest traditions, would be powerful enough to enable such a leader to seize the stage fairl quickly.
In a short comment by Barbara Mittler, Professor for Sinology and China Studies at Heidelberg University, the audience then was able to gain more insight into Mao Zedong’s strategies; he supported the civil rights movement as a class struggle against American imperialism. Mao used speaking and writing to reinforce his powers and thus created a field of force surrounding his person and cause. The various reproductions of his image and works became mise en abyme, reproducing performances of Mao’s works within themselves. This made him into a powerful and frequently referenced icon of civil protest at the time and encouraged many participants of other movements to draw on his fame.
John Witte Jr.: "Religion and Human Rights: What James Pennington Still Teaches Us" (Pennington Award 2016)
June 14, 2016
On June, 14, the HCA celebrated the fifth James W.C. Pennington Award. In cooperation with the Theology Department and supported by the Manfred Lautenschläger Foundation, the HCA awarded the prize to Professor John Witte Jr. for his outstanding scholarship in the field of international human rights and religious freedom. University Rector Bernhard Eitel opened the ceremony by referring to the premise of the Pennington Award, which honors exceptional scholars of African American religion, literature, history, and culture. Rector Eitel emphasized that the annual Pennington seminar hosted by Professor Stievermann and the respective Pennington laureate is a special contribution to the Ruperto Carola, since it allowed students of several faculties to explore the laureate’s field of expertise in depth.
Following the rector’s introduction, Dr. h.c. Manfred Lautenschläger described the genesis of this award in more detail. In 1849, James W. C. Pennington received the first honorary doctorate ever awarded to an African American from the Theology Department of the Heidelberg University. Pennington, who had escaped slavery more than once, had educated himself and eventually been admitted as a guest student to Yale University. Dr. Lautenschläger stressed that the Pennington Award was dedicated to scholarship which fostered social equality and understanding. In another short address, Professor Gregory Sterling, dean of the Yale Divinity School, agreed to this and emphasized how precious the rediscovered history of James W.C. Pennington was not only to cultural history but also to his university. Moreover, it gave new incentives for closer cooperation between the universities of Yale and Heidelberg, not the least to shed more light on the history of both institutions in connection to the life of James W. C. Pennington.
In his laudatory speech, Professor Stievermann then pointed out the extensive scholarship Professor Witte has produced in the fields of law and religious history. By honoring him, the theology department and the HCA were awarding this prize to someone who had worked in Pennington’s spirit. As the director of the Center for Study of Law and Religion at Emory University, Professor Witte has long been active exploring the tensions between law and religion. With his scholarship on religious freedom, he has made an essential contribution to the general understanding of how Protestantism and Western culture are inherently linked. Professor John Witte Jr. then dedicated his speech to the Protestant origins of international human rights and to highlighting how religious freedom had been a driving force behind their creation. Rebelling against tyranny had been an innate tradition of Protestantism, most famously initiated by Martin Luther himself. Soon, however, Protestants were not only engaged in political rebellion but, moreover, concerned about spiritual tyranny which affected many religious groups. Since the idea of rebellion was not in accordance with Protestant Bible reading, they began to change their understanding of the world surrounding them, resulting in the incorporation of a differentiated view of just and unjust sovereignty. By forsaking the latter any divine support, they created a Protestant law of self-defense, which, according to Witte, later was reformed by the social contract. Said concept guaranteed all citizens protection in exchange for obedience, and it was protection from religious discrimination that the majority demanded. In addition to protection from discrimination, many Protestants soon began to demand freedom of conscience as well, another concept that James W. C. Pennington also advocated. As a pacifist, Pennington had demanded non-violent resistance to slavery and its tyranny that affected both slaves and preachers who attempted to grant them spiritual support. Pennington claimed that especially congregations had to be more active in integrating African Americans as equals into their communities. Thus, Pennington had been a passionate advocate for social change, solidarity, and communal support, paving the way for Martin Luther King, who was to follow a century later. Moreover, Pennington had been convinced that African Americans had an innate right to freedom, and, therefore, braking discriminatory laws in order to gain this privilege was justified. However, Pennington himself never abandoned his pacifist convictions but, consequently, through his actions and words opened a new era of liberal Protestant theology and civil rights. He was certain that the church had to be at the heart of every rebellion against injustice. By this Pennington not only predicted the key role religion would play in shaping modern culture, but also its influence on the formation of international human rights. According to Professor Witte, Pennington’s extraordinary concept of spiritual and physical tyranny continues to challenge many scholars to question their idea of legitimate and illegitimate sovereignty. Following the official award ceremony, the guests enjoyed drinks, food, and more intriguing conversation during a reception in the HCA’s Bel Etage.
Karen V. Hansen: "Encounters on the Great Plains: Scandinavian Settlers and Dakota Indians, 1890-1930"
May 30, 2016
On May 30, the HCA continued the spring term of its Baden-Württemberg Seminar with a lecture by Karen Hansen, Professor of Sociology, Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Brandeis University, and Distinguished Fulbright Chair Professor at Uppsala University. In her lecture, Professor Hansen highlighted the history of Scandinavian settlement in the Dakota reservation. Since her grandmother had moved to the territory of the Dakota Indian reservation as a Norwegian homestead woman, the history of this settlement had always fascinated her. Just as the Indians used bone dowsers to rediscover unmarked graves of their ancestors, Hansen wanted to bring back the unrecognized history of this community.
The early coexistence of Dakotas and Scandinavians was dominated by simple misunderstandings, such as the Indian custom of entering someone else’s house without knocking on the door. These misunderstandings were the result of the different cultural upbringings of both ethnicities. According to Professor Hansen, both neighbors soon got used to the cultural habits of the other, and friendly relationships developed. Frequently, Dakotas asked Protestant ministers to baptize their newborn children, and Presbyterians even went so far as to publish a Bible translation into Dakota. However, conflicts surrounding the issue of landownership were not as easily overcome. After the Dakota War, Dakota Indians were forced to resettle in a reservation, and when this territory too was opened to Scandinavian settlers, Dakotas feared to be expropriated once again. The majority of them regarded the Scandinavian settlers as land-hungry farmers, bluntly ignoring their modern lifestyle and their attempts to assimilate. In return, the non-materialistic Dakotas did not understand the newcomers’ eagerness to accumulate property. Even though Dakotas tried to repurchase former territory, Scandinavians soon became the biggest landowners within the reservation. Even more conflicts arose due to the personal attachment Scandinavians developed to their land, which they passed on to their children. Nevertheless, Professor Hansen argued, both ethnicities faced similar problems, like maintaining their ethnic heritage, building new communities, and making a living. Both had to become Americans and get accustomed to a new culture dominated by race and ethnicity. Even though communication was not easy, the two unfamiliar cultures managed to coexist. Finally, Professor Hansen stated that through personal actions Scandinavians continued to attempt to reconcile their guilt created by dispossessing Dakota Indians until today, and that these personal actions could help redefine the Dakota-Scandinavian relationship. Following Professor Hansen’s fascinating insights into Scandinavian-Dakota history, the discussion was opened up to the audience who asked additional questions about conflicts and events in the history of Scandinavian settlement.
Mark Peterson: "On the German Road to Athens: Boston's Reformers at a Crossroads, 1815-1848"
May 24, 2016
On May 24, the Baden-Württemberg Seminar continued with a lecture by Mark Peterson, professor for American history at the University of California at Berkley. He focused on the influence of German reformers on Bostonian culture in the nineteenth century. Boston, whose inhabitants were renowned for a peculiar self-centeredness in their provinciality, shifted its main source of economic income from trading with the West Indies towards the cotton trade and industry. A growing dislike towards the federal government, whose trade embargos had triggered said economic change, also resulted in an increased cultural focus on the urban areas and immediate surroundings of Boston. Simultaneously, the interest in German education as a leading force for the international development of the humanities grew, and Bostonians soon recognized allies in the Germans, particularly because they resisted a Napoleonic Europe. Thus, four graduates of Harvard University decided to continue their post-graduate education in Göttingen and moved to Germany in 1815. While in Germany, they visited, among others, the cities of Hamburg, Berlin, Leipzig, and Jena and had the opportunity to meet important cultural figures such as Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. This experience made a strong impression on the young Bostonians, who, upon their return, established a new tradition that would encourage young American academics to pursue their post-graduate education in Germany.
These Bostonians developed a strong bond with German culture, not only because of their university education, but also because they marveled at the independence of the German cities. Recognizing an example of their own vision of Boston, they regarded German urbanites as pious, community-oriented people, who endured the republican constitution. Such ideas and impressions resulted in a strong affiliation with German traditions. Bostonians also followed the example of German students who aimed at preserving Athenian culture by participating in the Greek revolution against the Ottoman Empire. Furthermore, German culture and academic methods were imported to Boston, ranging from child education, university organization, and German gymnastics to ideas about public housing, mental asylums, and prison structures. Boston reformers demonstrated a variety of ideas which were largely based on the experience of German culture and were aimed at establishing an “Athens in America.” This development also made Boston a place of refuge for German radicals such as Karl Follen, who tried to escape German legal persecution. These radicals soon recognized the German influences on the other side of the Atlantic and, to their surprise, found themselves intellectually firmly settled among Boston’s political and social mainstream. At least for some time, former radical social outcasts were able to participate and integrate into Boston’s elite and were only expelled from elite circles when they joined the abolitionist cause. In his conclusion, Professor Peterson emphasized that even though the awareness for the presence of German culture in Boston is today fairly unknown, this transatlantic bond was by no means unusual. Stating that many cities had had these transatlantic bonds, Professor Peterson opened the floor for questions; in the following lively discussion, he explored further aspects of the topic with members of the audience, among them Goethe’s relationship to Boston and the history of German influence in the United States of America.
Naomi Wood: A Reading from Mrs Hemingway
May 12, 2016
On May 12, the HCA’s Baden-Württemberg Seminar was enriched by a reading from Naomi Wood’s second novel Mrs Hemingway. The London-based writer and lecturer for creative writing at Goldsmith University had published this work two years ago. Now, in the course of the publication of the German translation by Hoffmann & Campe, the author had traveled to Germany for a reading tour. Concluding her tour at the HCA, Naomi Wood gave a short lecture on the life of Ernest Hemingway, and the event then proceeded to a reading from both the German and the English version. Highlighting her prolonged love for the writer Ernest Hemingway, Naomi Wood began with a short account of what lead her to write Mrs Hemingway. The media had always presented this author, who had married four wives in the course of four decades, as the self-declared, masculine, “Uber”-American. This image, according to Naomi Wood, was barely reconcilable with Hemingway’s many and often serious relationships. In order to uncover this private side of the Nobel Prize winner, Naomi Wood decided to highlight a persona not found in the prevailing media images.
Trailing the lives of Hemingway’s wives, Naomi Wood begins her novel from the perspective of Hadley Richardson, daughter of a wealthy St. Louis family, who met Hemingway at a party. After their wedding, the couple moved to Paris, where Hemingway’s first son was born, and where the writer came across Pauline Pfeiffer, a Vogue journalist and Hemingway’s second wife, whom Wood calls “Fife.” Together with Hemingway, Fife moved to Key West after their wedding in 1927. There she gave birth to Hemingway’s second and third son and lived with him until he met his third wife, Martha Gellhorn, in 1936. The young war reporter impressed Hemingway greatly, but even though Gellhorn and Hemingway got married in 1940, the settled life in Key West soon became unbearable to Martha. After the couple split up, Hemingway married his fourth wife, Mary Welsh, who was a war reporter too, in 1946. The two of them lived together until Hemingway’s suicide in 1961. His alcoholism and the trauma he had suffered from a plane crash in 1950 turned him into a difficult personality who Mary Welsh struggled to support.
The following reading, which was supported by Marie Harnau and Maria-Claudia Scheckeler of the HCA’s Performing Arts Club, demonstrated the care and attention to detail with which Naomi Wood gave the four women a voice. Alternately Naomi Wood, Marie Harnau, and Marie Scheckeler read from the English and the German version of the novel to give insights into all four characters. It was especially surprising to see that even though those four extraordinary women competed for the love of the same man, they all maintained a close relationship with each other even after Hemingway’s death. Granting new perspectives on the life of Ernest Hemingway, Naomi Wood delivered a wonderful reading to the fans of the Nobel laureate. Throughout the concluding discussion, she also highlighted more detailed aspects of Hemingway’s life, such as his relationship to his critics and other writers as well as of her research in the U.S., England, the Caribbean, and France.
David Woolner: "America at a Crossroads? The Progressive Tradition and the Presidential Election of 2016"
April 28, 2016
For the second lecture of its Baden-Württemberg Seminar, the HCA invited David Woolner, Senior Fellow and Resident Historian of the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute in Hyde Park, New York. The lecture of this longtime friend of the HCA connected the history of American progressivism with this year’s elections and explained why America is at a crossroads in 2016. Referring to political phenomena such as the Greenback Party, Professor Woolner emphasized that the origin of progressive tendencies in U.S. politics lie in nineteenth-century populist movements. Those populists were crucial to politicizing problems which were not much referenced in the politics of the days and laid the foundations for twentieth-century progressivism. According to Professor Woolner, the redistribution of wealth was a matter especially important to nineteenth-century populists and later influenced the policies of presidents such as Franklin D. Roosevelt. Since U.S. politics traditionally relied heavily on a conservative center, the consistent lack of an established social democratic party transferred the responsibility for social reforms to so-called political progressivists. Professor Woolner argued that the populist roots of progressive reformers such as Franklin D. Roosevelt were still noticeable in his rhetoric, which relied largely on emotional appeals. Yet, compared to nineteenth-century populists, progressivists eventually aimed at less radical reforms, which mainly demanded social equality and social change. By analyzing contemporary U.S. society Professor Woolner then led over to the second part of his lecture.
Asking the question of why America was at a crossroads, he referred to several interlocking social mechanisms which gave rise to twenty-first-century populists such as Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders. Professor Woolner sees the gap between the two candidates was a fairly good representation of the gap between their constituencies. While Trump addresses specifically middle-aged, male, white Americans who suffer from changes in the labor market, Sanders appeals mostly to young, male, white students facing tremendous amounts of student debts and thus advocating greater social justice. Yet again, both candidates use highly emotional language to reach out to their voters and especially to the American middle class, which is frustrated by the prevailing insecurity of the labor market. Emphasizing the historic development of the American political landscape into the formation of two rigidly fixed, monolithic parties, Professor Woolner noted that the lack of a political center has led to a steady decrease of productive political discourses. This stagnation, in turn, affected especially the new populists who addressed the longing for change among the American people. Therefore, Professor Woolner concluded, America is at a crossroads, and the 2016 elections will be decisive. How American society will develop within the next years will be determined in November. With this survey of American progressive traditions, Professor Woolner opened a discussion that shed more light on additional qualities of U.S. politics and on American society.
Steven Hill: "The Future of Work: Will America's 'Uber Economy' Eat Our Jobs?" (HCA Commencement 2016)
22. April 2016
On April 22, students, staff, family, and friends of the HCA gathered in the old lecture hall of Heidelberg University to celebrate the graduation of 38 B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. graduates of the HCA. The commencement festivities were opened by the Papermoon Orchestra, a musical duo consisting of Johannes Alisch on the contrabass and Alexander Schindler on the piano, whose intimate yet entertaining Jazz music accompanied the event terrifically.
Inspired by the historic location, Rector Bernhard Eitel praised the long tradition of international academic exchange embraced by the Ruperto Carola. He was proud to see such a diverse group of graduates participating in the traditional commencement ceremony and congratulated all of them on their academic achievements. Reminding the graduates about their responsibility to shape the global future, he encouraged them to remain positive, curious, and engaged and invited them to return to Heidelberg University on their future career paths.
Rector Eitel’s congratulatory address was followed by Professor Detlef Junker, the HCA’s founding director, who was not only proud to welcome such a great number of graduates but also delighted to see students from all three study programs of the HCA coming together for their commencement for the first time. He extended his good wishes to the nineteen BAS graduates who had had the opportunity to engage in the HCA’s multidisciplinary international program and gather experiences worldwide. He was glad to see eleven MAS graduates from different backgrounds who came together at the HCA to experience and study new cultures. Moreover, he congratulated eight Ph.D. graduates on completing their demanding journey and praised them for their exceptional and original research projects. Professor Junker stressed that even though the HCA’s multidisciplinary study programs were challenging, all the graduates completed them successfully. Thanks to the generosity of private sponsors, namely the Schurman Verein and the Friends of the HCA, the institute was able to offer such a unique study opportunity to a variety of different aspiring scholars
Professor Junker’s good wishes resonated in the keynote address of Steven Hill. As a rigorous advocate for social, environmental, and governmental change, Steven Hill, who is a Senior Fellow with the New America Foundation and a Holtzbrinck Fellow at the American Academy in Berlin, used the opportunity to raise awareness for the changing employment market which he discussed in his recent book Raw Deal: How the ‘Uber Economy’ and Runaway Capitalism are Screwing American Workers. He demonstrated vividly how technological progress already has and will continue to change the labor market dramatically. As temporary labor becomes increasingly popular, Hill said, employees struggle to create financial security or attain sufficient health care. Steven Hill advised the graduates to take responsible action to counter this trend and, referring to story of the Good Samaritan, create a more tolerant and equal capitalist society.
After the diplomas had been handed to the graduates by Professor Junker, Maren Schäfer, a student of the M.A. class of 2016 who had demonstrated exceptional achievements, was awarded this year’s book prize. In her valedictorian speech, she praised the HCA’s master program as a unique opportunity to engage with people from different cultural backgrounds and, as a result, become more familiar with one’s own as well as the American culture. Going abroad as well as participating in the multidisciplinary approach of the HCA had broadened her horizon significantly, for which she extended her gratitude to the professors, advisors, staff, and students of the HCA as well as to their families and friends. After a musical interlude the celebration moved to the Atrium and the Bel Etage of the HCA. Accompanied by the Papermoon Orchestra, students, faculty, and family celebrated the occasion with food, drink, and good conversation for the rest of the night. We congratulate all graduates of the B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. classes of 2016!
Exhibition: "Dorothea Lange: Iconic American Photography"
March 10 to April 21, 2016
Dorothea Lange was a pioneer of Ameican documentary photography. Eighty years ago, she joined her colleagues Walker Evans and Gordon Parks in documenting the plight of sharecroppers, displaced farm families, and migrant workers for the Resettlement Administration and the Farm Security Administration. In March 1936 Lange passed through a pea pickers camp in Nipomo Mesa, California and shot the iconic pictures of Florence Owens Thompson, the "Migrant Mother" who became the face of the uprooted women and men of the Great Depression. Some of Lange‘s pictures appeared in the San Francisco News on March 10. As a result, food was delivered to the camp to prevent starvation.
Dorothea Lange‘s pictures had a lasting impact on documentary photography. Her pictures of marches and strikes, welfare recipients and migrant workers, people waiting in bread lines or at labor exchanges left their stamp on the collective memory of the Great Depression in America and became widely known. On occasion of the eightieth anniversary of "Migrant Mother," the HCA showed a selection of Dorothea Lange‘s iconic photography, curated by Reinhard Schultz: portraits of the unemployed and homeless, migrants and farm workers, but also little known pictures of big landowners and women factory workers. Many interested visitors joined us for the opening night in the Atrium and continued to come during the following five weeks.
Rabbi David Teutsch: "Empowerment, Assimilation and Renewal: Recent Trends in the American Jewish Community"
January 21, 2016
For the last event in the fall series of its Baden-Württemberg Seminar, the HCA welcomed Rabbi David Teutsch, director of the Center for Jewish Ethics of Reconstructionist Rabbinical College and a widely known author and organizational consultant. His most recent book is A Guide to Jewish Practice: Shabbat and Holidays, the second volume in a proposed three-part series which inspires readers to shape their own approaches to each milestone of the Jewish calendar. In 2011, volume one of the series, A Guide to Jewish Practice: Everyday Living, won the Myra H. Kraft Memorial Award and the National Jewish Book Award for Contemporary Life and Practice.
A graduate of Harvard University, Professor Teutsch received his Master of Hebrew Letters and Rabbinic Ordination from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in New York City and earned his Ph.D. at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, where his work focused on organizational ethics. He served as president of RRC from 1993 to 2002, following appointments as executive vice president and dean of admissions.
At the HCA, Rabbi Teutsch talked about the diversity of the Jewish community in the United States and about how it has changed over the past decades. After emphasizing that most humans have a need for living in a strong community and being surrounded by people who share the same believes, Rabbi Teutsch described the Jewish community in the U.S. as a strong spiritual community sustained by friendship and people who have been sharing their experiences for generations. It is a community built on familial solidarity. He pointed out that the American Jewish community looks back on its history to a significantly bigger extent than other religious communities in the country. Yet, it does not exert pressure to join it, and there is no way to join automatically.
Rabbit Teutsch also pointed out that the vast majority of American Jews live their lives within the framework of the American community in general and work in the American economy; yet, they focus on their religion to conform their mores and demands. The strength of the Jewish community helps its members to concentrate on their Jewish roots while living in America and to continue to respect traditional Jewish values. Yet, over the decades, the Jewish community in the United States has changed. Many congregations have left traditional ways of living behind or changed their patterns and techniques to maintain Jewish life under American conditions. Yet, Jews have been able to generate many new aspects of religious life which has helped the Jewish community to grow even stronger. Before the lecture turned to the discussion, Professor Teutsch explained the significance of charity work. To be part of the Jewish community in America often means being part of a charitable organization or doing some voluntary work.
In the spirited discussion with the audience that followed, Rabbi Teutsch answered many questions about what is happening to the Jewish community in America right now, for example in connection with the upcoming presidential elections.
Detlef Junker, Daniel Silliman, and Jan Stievermann: “Religion and the Marketplace in the United States” (HCA Book Launch)
January 12, 2016
For the first book launch of the new year the HCA welcomed Detlef Junker, Jan Stievermann, and Daniel Silliman, two editors of and one contributor to the book Religion and the Marketplace in the United States. The book came out of a conference held at the HCA in 2011. Its chapters span from colonial American mercantilism over modern megachurches and literary markets to popular festivals and thus explore the mutual relationships between religious behavior and commercial practices. Rejecting a straightforward narrative, the contributions of the volume show that the interaction between religious and commercial practices in U.S. history is manifold, mutual, and often highly contradictory.
After two of the editors of the volume introduced some general themes of the conference and the book, Daniel Silliman shared some insights about his research on Left Behind, a series of 16 novels that deal with the Christian End Times. Rather than asking why faith fiction is so in demand, he looked at the supply-side, at how and where faith fiction is available. His work demonstrates that changes in the book market are critical to any understanding of the commercial and cultural impact of faith fiction. Other essays in this section also show how book commerce is tied up in religious experiences and practices, whether it is mass market fiction, spiritual self-improvement literature, or modernist experimentalism. The introduction of the overall framework and the more detailed studies sparked a lively discussion with the audience that was continued over a drink afterwards.
Anthony Marra: A Reading from The Czar of Love and Techno
December 10, 2015
The last event of the HCA’s Baden-Württemberg Seminars in 2015 was an evening with U.S. author Anthony Marra, who read from The Czar of Love and Techno, a collection of short stories. Anthony Marra graduated from the University of Southern California with a B.A. and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop with an MFA. From 2011-2013 he was a Stegner Fellow at Stanford University. Anthony Marrra is the winner of a Whiting Award, a Pushcart Prize and the Narrative Prize.
His work was anthologized in Best American Nonrequired Reading 2012. His first novel, A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, was published in May 2013, received the inaugural John Leonard Prize of the National Book Critics Circle, and was translated in over a dozen languages. The German translation, Die niedrigen Himmel, also received rave reviews. Anthony Marra is currently a Jones Lecturer in Fiction at Stanford University.
The evening started with some very entertaining anecdotes about the time Anthony Marra lived and studied in Eastern Europe. The people he met there and the situations he experienced inspired the characters of his short stories collection.
In the opening story of the book, the reader encounters a 1930s Soviet art censor who removes images of people who have fallen in disgrace under Stalin, including a ballerina and his own brother from a family photo. The next story jumps to Siberia in 2013, to the granddaughter of the ballerina from the opening story. In The Czar of Love and Techno, every short story stands for itself; yet, the stories are held together by the fact that characters keep appearing in successive stories, often slightly altered. The stories span the political and social landscape of the Soviet Union and Russia from the 1930s to the recent chaotic aftereffects of the dissolution of the USSR. During the lively discussion that followed the reading, Anthony Marra described his work as a long story about loss, relationships, love, and family as well as a story about art and liberty.
Martha Davis: "Small Places, Close to Home: U.S. Cities and Human Rights"
December 3, 2015
The Baden-Württemberg Seminar of the HCA continued on December 3, when Professor Martha Davis gave a talk on “Small Places, Close to Home: U.S. Cities and Human Rights.” Martha Davis is Professor of Law at the Northeastern University School of Law and holds the Fulbright Distinguished Chair in Human Rights and Humanitarian Law at the Raoul Wallenberg Institute, Lund University, Sweden. At Northeastern University, Professor Davis is the faculty director of the Program on Human Rights and the Global Economy and the NuLawLab. She teaches constitutional law and professional responsibility. Her fields of expertise are civil rights, constitutional law, domestic violence, gender and the law, human rights, international law, legal ethics, poverty law, and professional responsibility.
Professor Davis commenced her lecture by pointing out that a large part of the discussion about health as a human right concentrates on global health initiatives and ignores the application of human rights principles on the socio-economic and racial questions that figure prominently in the United States. A look at the great gaps in the American insurance system and the access (or lack thereof) to quality preventative health for minorities makes it clear why human rights movements have focused on health care and its universal supply. A report of the Institute of Medicine points out that the health of Americans continues to deteriorate, and human rights strategies could be factors for better social health.
Professor Davis then looked at the application of international human right principles to improve the situation of America’s most vulnerable populations and analyzed the “right to health” in the U.S. by pointing out how already existing laws could be used to support health as a human right. The U.S. does not have any record of successfully applying human right principals nationally, especially when it comes to social rights. Yet, recent developments show that a broader health and human rights movement is under way. New studies that document the health status of Americans in an international context show that the health of the American people is regressing compared to other countries and that social factors are decisive for the supply of quality health care. To ensure access to health insurance and health care, a human rights agenda is necessary. It should include measures that counter negative social factors and promote useful environmental, economic, and social conditions for health. To develop an effective human right strategy, however, disadvantaged populations and communities need to be heard. Only then will it be possible to identify the social conditions that have a negative effect on the health of underserved populations, support a broader engagement, and improve the situation. Professor Davis stressed that an effective strategy on health and human rights includes partnerships between health care providers, public health systems, and lawyers to identify violations of human rights and to mobilize the community for a policy change.
Heather Love: "Practices of Description: Reading the Social in the Post-War Period"
November 24, 2015
On November 24, the HCA and the English Department of Heidelberg University welcomed Heather Love to the Baden-Württemberg Seminar. She gave a talk on “Practices of Description: Reading the Social in the Post-War Period,” which is also the title of her new book project. Heather Love is the R. Jean Brownlee Term Associate Professor at the Department of English at the University of Pennsylvania. Her research is concerned with comparative social stigma, compulsory happiness, transgender fiction, spinster aesthetics, reading methods in literary studies, and the history of deviance studies as well as gender and sexuality studies, twentieth-century literature and culture, affect studies, sociology and literature, disability studies, and critical theory. She received the “Lindback Award for Distinguished Teaching” in 2014.
Professor Love’s talk commenced with a look at sociological research in the 1950s and 1960s, a period now strongly associated with microanalysis. During this time, new techniques and methods of research were developed, and researchers focused on concrete communication exercises to prepare detailed portraits of smaller social societies. This research took place across the boundaries of disciplines and interdisciplinary teams cooperated to create portraits of social interaction using a micro scale.
This resulted in more comprehensive and more concrete findings. Professor Love’s book project introduces several of these projects in anthropology, biology, linguistics, psychology, sociology, and communication to understand the challenges of the time with specifically developed methods. She compares the projects of the social sciences with cultural developments, involving post-war novelistic realism and the temporal performance of observational cinema. Her work looks at post-war novelistic realism in the context of contemporary methodological debates in sociology.
According to Professor Love, the turn towards post-hermeneutics and a descriptive manner of reading as well as the increase of empirical human sciences was a result of the employment of quantitative research methods and the insights of the neo sciences. Heather Love stressed that most critics dismiss the value of this new form of empirical research. She, on the contrary, thinks that older forms of empirical research offer abundant epistemological and methodological resources and ethics for today’s human sciences.
Edward Goetz: "Ruins of the New Deal: Dismantling Social Housing in the U.S."
November 12, 2015
The HCA’s Baden-Württemberg Seminar continued on November 12, when Professor Edward Goetz from the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota spoke about how and why public housing in the United States is “dismantled.” Professor Goetz explained that the United States has seen a transition away from New Deal policies and large-scale government-built housing. Instead, the country is moving towards privatization by large management companies of what was once deemed a “public housing” facility.
Originally, public housing was not conceived as a welfare program, as it is seen today. Professor Goetz pointed out four facts that explain why public housing is on its way down. First, the “neighborhood effect,” which was generated by the social science fields in the 1980s and 1990s. This theory tried to explain how a neighborhood can have certain negative and positive effects on its residents, for example that public housing affects children raised there negatively. These findings in turn influenced social and political discourses as well as some federal government’s decisions on public housing. Second, neo-liberal changes to public housing policy in the 1980s and 1990s tried to disperse disadvantaged segments of the population into “mixed” housing in hopes of preventing people from feeling trapped in these neighborhoods. “Mixed” housing is when an apartment building has tenants that can afford to pay the full amount for rent and those that have a government voucher to pay most or all of their rent. This was seen as a good way to get low-income families into “opportunity neighborhoods” where their children would be able to attend better schools and feel safer.
Third, the process of gentrification in many urban areas has increased property values and made it more difficult for the poor to stay in that area. Gentrification is usually brought about by investors whose main concern is to generate a profit. Cities like it when investors want to gentrify a neighborhood that had or still has public housing because the city will make more money off the property tax once the project is complete. This is when many public housing sites are left to decay and are then torn down. The gentrification process displaces many residents. Finally, Professor Goetz found that race played a large role in the decision which public housing facilities were torn down and when. He found that on average predominantly black public housing facilities were torn down at a higher rate than those occupied by any other race. Many groups formed in opposition to this discrimination. However, none of them were strong enough to fully fight back against the companies interested in gentrification and the government. Professor Goetz’s very informative and interesting talk illustrated current public housing policy and the reason behind its dismantling. A lively discussion ensued, not the least driven by those members of the audience who had observed this effect in or near their own neighborhoods.
Tobias Endler and Martin Thunert: "Entzauberung: Skizzen und Ansichten zu den USA in der Ära Obama" (HCA Book Launch)
November 10, 2015
On November 10, Tobias Endler and Martin Thunert, HCA research associate and senior lecturer in political science, respectively, introduced their new book Entzauberung: Skizzen und Ansichten zu den USA in der Ära Obama (Disenchantment: Sketches and Opinions of the United States in the Era of the Obama Presidency). It examines the state of the union after eight years of the Obama presidency, especially the economic changes of that era. Entzauberung asks whether the U.S. is still a super power, looks at the global role of the country, especially its relationship to Germany, and discusses the imminent end of the Obama presidency as well as the upcoming election campaign.
Interviews with experts on the USA from universities and think tanks serve as the basis for the authors’ lucid analysis of the domestic and foreign policy developments, among them John Mearsheimer, Dali Yang, Deborah Larson, Robert O. Keohane, and Fay Hartog Levin. Through a critical discussion of these interviews, the book reflects how leading intellectuals assess their country during Obama’s second term and how they forecast its future path, both nationally and internationally.
The authors consider domestic factors, like the currently highly polarized political landscape, and pivotal policy fields like energy, education, or immigration, as well as the role of the United States’ global power and international authority during the Obama presidency. The opinions of those experts are as diverse as the interview partners. However, there is a broad agreement that the U.S. is not on the decline. Rather, most experts agree that the country needs to compose a new international portfolio, which, contrary to widespread expectations, will not mean a decline of the country’s global role. Martin Thunert and Tobias Endler stress the considerable robustness of the one remaining super power. Even if the framework of the current international situation has changed, the consequences of the proposed new portfolio remain relevant for other states.
Martin Thunert considers the task of getting the governmental system working on a federal level again as one of the greatest challenges for the new president of the U.S., who will also have to make sure that the pay-off of globalization and digitalization is not limited to the upper class. On the international level, the authors emphasize the role of China as a great financial backer of the USA and are mindful of geopolitical movements, particularly in the eastern hemisphere. Regarding one of the most polarizing Republican candidates for the presidency, multi-billionaire Donald Trump, Tobias Endler stresses that Trump’s leading role in national surveys stems from a prevailing populist mood among parts of the electorate.
As a presidential candidate, Trump addresses the middle and lower classes and opposes the political as well as the media elites. Endler sees the antithesis to Trump in the self-professed democratic socialist Sanders. who in turn considers the economic and financial elites as his opponents and turns away from the political establishment by claiming independence and authenticity. Both candidates profit from stirring up and then addressing the fears of their respective electorates. Both authors predict that the issues of the campaigns will shift once the debates start in 2016, turning to tangible political questions and problems. Trump and Sanders will successively lose ground, as the media in particular will focus on Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush during the primaries.
Tobias Endler stresses the tradition of political dynasties in the United States, citing the Kennedys and the Roosevelts as two further examples. Yet, he does not think that these dynasties endanger American democracy in the United States. In fact, Tobias Endler sees the strong ideological polarization and the heavy influence of donations as factors that are considerably dangerous. It is well known that it is virtually impossible to gain political office without a substantial campaign fund. According to Martin Thunert and Tobias Endler, the best chance for a Republican candidate to capture the White House in 2016 is the fact that the chances for a party to do so three times in a row are extremely slim. Yet, the Republicans have to win some key states that went “blue” four years ago. Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, needs to avoid to be considered the “natural” candidate.
Awarding of the Rolf Kentner Dissertation Prize 2015
October 15, 2015
On October 15, 2015, the HCA awarded the Rolf Kentner Dissertation Prize for what was already the sixth time. On this occasion, we also introduced our new MAS and Ph.D. classes to the wider academic public. Sponsored by one of the HCA's most active benefactors, Rolf Kentner, the award recognizes an outstanding and yet unpublished dissertation in the field of American Studies completed at a German university.
In 2015 it went to Tom Kaden of the University of Leipzig. The recipient is a member of the DFG-Graduiertenkolleg "Religious non-conformism and cultural dynamics" at the University of Leipzig. He studied sociology and German at the Johann-Wolfgang-Goethe University in Frankfurt/Main as well as at the Albert-Ludwig-University Freiburg. The price recognized his thesis "The Development of American Creationism from the 1960s to the present: A Sociological Perspective." It examines the social dynamics of creationism in the past decades, looking particularly at transformation processes in the sciences which in turn have reacted upon the ideas of creationism.
After a short introduction by Professor Günter Leypoldt from Heidelberg University's English Department, Tom Kaden briefly introduced the audience to his award-winning dissertation. He sees American creationism as a form of religious deviance. Since the late 1950s it has developed in reaction to the conformity expectations raised by secular science and often reaffirmed by judicial decisions. Nevertheless, at the base of the quarrel lie very different world views; Tom Kaden has coined the term "naturalism with restrictions" for the different variations of creationism, and these restrictions vary quite considerably. Thus, creationists limit themselves to defending a certain position but rather exhibit an inner impetus to change society as a whole.
Tom Kaden argues that the U.S. educational system is at the core of this conflict and that the balance often tips in favor of the creationists due to court decisions and high visibility in the mass media. His dissertation does not primarily deal with the historical development of creationism but rather with the social dynamics it produced in scientific discussions and research. This has caused transformation processes labeled "science education" and "new atheism," which, in turn, influence the development of creationism. Creationism and its secular opponents therefore form a dialectical unit that brings about strategic, ideological, and institutional innovations. This insightful, entertaining, and originally illustrated talk captured the audience, which continued the conversation during a reception in the HCA's Bel Etage.
Joan D. Hedrick: "Harriet Beecher Stowe and the Holiness Movement"
October 13, 2015
The eighteenth semester of the HCA’s Baden-Württemberg Seminar commenced on October 13 with a talk by Joan D. Hedrick, the Charles A. Dana Professor of History at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, and winner of the 1995 Pulitzer Prize. Professor Hedrick opened her lecture about “Harriet Beecher Stowe and the Holiness Movement” with a little story about the husband of the famous nineteenth-century author: Calvin Stowe, a scholar and advocate for public education, who also worked as the literary agent for his wife. On a trip to Europe to purchase a library for Lane Theological Seminary, Stowe was impressed by the romantic power of Heidelberg, and so, Professor Hedrick pointed out, was she. In the 1840s, the United States were divided on the topic of slavery, as were the Christian churches. At the same time, a number of women became outspoken seers, speakers, and writers. Professor Hedrick’s talk focused on the role of Ellen White and Harriet Beecher Stowe, the American author who is best-known for her anti-slavery novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin, published in 1852, which became the best-selling novel of the nineteenth century. The novel was based on a vision Stowe had when she went to church. Instead of seeing Jesus Christ on the cross, she imagined a slave being whipped. She would later turn this vision into the most-discussed chapter of her novel. By seeing Jesus Christ in a slave, Stowe had found a way to mobilize her central prophetic powers for a book and to evoke a powerful response in her readers. Many visions behind the novel combined American folk culture and religion.
The ideas of Harriet Beecher Stowe had an enormous effect on nineteenth-century culture and politics. Stowe was a very conservative woman with traditional believes. She emphasized that that she did not write Uncle Tom’s Cabin but that “God did.” Professor Hedrick pointed out that Stowe’s religious believes were fostered not by the Calvinism of her youth, but by the so-called “Holiness movement” of the nineteenth century. It was based on the simplicity of classic and basic Christianity and embodied by small meetings in people’s homes, where its members talked about religion and their visions and created their own entertainment, like poetry or religious stories. Professor Hedrick’s talk then turned to another female protagonist in nineteenth-century American religion: Ellen White, a prophet and co-founder of the Seventh-Day-Adventist Church. She was not as well-known as Stowe in the early radical period of Adventism, but not less important for its history. Ellen White and her family had been Methodists until the family became followers of the Baptist preacher William Miller, who proclaimed that Jesus Christ will return to earth on October 22, 1844. The fact that Christ did not appear on that date or a rescheduled date became known as the “Great Disappointment.” Throughout her life, Ellen White feared that Christ would return to earth and people would fail to recognize him. While White was not a fan of Uncle Tom’s Cabin because she considered fiction the work of the devil, she saw that she and Stowe had a lot in common, for example their religious experience and the struggle to have their voices heard in a men’s world. Both Ellen White and Harriet Beecher Stowe were very influential in American Christianity. Both women were inspired by their criticism of the complicity of organized religion in the perpetuation of slavery. Both are examples for the fact that the Civil War empowered women to speak about the topics of slavery and freedom even if the role of a prophet was hardly considered proper for women at the time. Stowe in particular pointed out that she hoped every woman who could write will would speak out about slavery during the Civil War. She felt that the time had come when women were empowered to speak. Both Stowe and White had the ability to see, to picture, and to include others into their visions.
Panel Discussion: "Der Adler, der Stier und der Bär: Die USA, Europa und Russland auf Konfrontationskurs?"
July 14, 2015
On July 14, the HCA staged a panel discussion about current foreign policy issues. John Deni from the Strategic Studies Institute (USA); Inna Melnykovska from the Freie Universität Berlin; Martin Thunert from the Heidelberg Center for American Studies; and Simon Weiß from the Political Science Department of Heidelberg University discussed the Ukrainian crisis. Tobias Endler from the HCA moderated the discussion and started out with a quote by the former security adviser of U.S. President Jimmy Carter, Zbigniew Brezinski: “There is already another Cold War.” What exactly does the Ukrainian crisis mean? How could things come to a head? And what are possible solutions?
Inna Melnykovska began by taking a look at the current tense situation in the Ukraine and the renewed fighting that has once more escalated. She then turned to the problem of internally displaced persons. It is difficult to determine their actual number since only a few of them are registered, but the Ukrainian population is very supportive. She also pointed out that the Ukraine will develop an additional crisis, since political and economic reforms have not been properly implemented. The GDP has sunk last year by eight per cent, which results in a difficult situation for much of the population.
What role does Russia have, from the point of view of the Ukraine? Simon Weiß emphasized that the situation is new for both sides. Many Russian find themselves on different sides of the dispute; not everybody favors Putin. However, this mood is not comparable to that during the Maidan movement. Russia relies on the Minsk II process, an agreement from February about the de-escalation of the war in Eastern Ukraine. Many already doubted immediately after it was signed that a cease-fire would be implemented and heavy weaponry removed.
John Deni doubted that the conflict is high on the foreign policy agenda of the State Department. For the U.S., the main relevance of the Ukraine lies in the European context. The U.S. is primarily worried about sovereignty, border protection, and inter-European alliances, not about economic support. The Americans are assuming that European borders are stable; Putin has shown that this is not the case. The Ukrainian crisis has given “insecurity” a new meaning.
Martin Thunert emphasized that there is no monolithic position about the Ukrainian conflict in the U.S.; the opinion of the Obama administration often differs starkly from public opinion. According to Thunert, President Putin pursues expansionary politics in his second term of office. Support of the separatists is not understood as preparing a takeover but rather as overturning the European project and a permanent destabilization. This is the only way to prevent a closer association between Ukraine and the European Union.
So what is next? Simon Weiß juxtaposed the general accusation of expansionism with the concept of the so-called “new foreign countries,” a zone that Russia would consider privileged. The Ukraine is the most important country in this zone. There are no attempts to invade any of those countries. The core states of NATO draw a red line and their respective populations stand behind them, as they consider an eastward expansion of NATO undesirable. There is a certain readiness on behalf of the U.S. to station missiles in Eastern Europe, which in turn alarms Russia. It sees NATO as the main problem here.
Inna Melnykovska said that the Ukraine is surprised that NATO is supposed to be the main problem; she sees it in the legitimization of the regime. All this is about the fact that Russia suddenly violates western law. In the Budapest Memorandum Russia assured Ukraine, among other things, that it would recognize its sovereignty and existing borders and would support the country. Melnykovska agreed that the protests had many reasons, internal and external, which were often evaluated in different ways. The reason why a small protest became a big one, is internal and had nothing to do with the European Union. Nevertheless, the Ukraine has gone substantially forward; it has elected a new president and the parliament will not go on a summer break this year. Many Ukrainians consider the Russian gas supply as some sort of drug that hinders economic development. In the end, all participants of the discussion agreed that a stronger association of the Ukraine with the European Union will be unlikely. The U.S. is against a NATO expansion that would include the Ukraine, and an association with the west is no substitute for the present Russian economic relations with the Ukraine.
Loïc Wacquant: "From Venice to Chicago: The Making and Unmaking of the Ghetto"
June 24, 2015
The spring semester of the HCA’s Baden-Württemberg Seminar concluded with a talk by Loïc Wacquant, currently Professor of Sociology and Research Associate at the Earl Warren Legal Institute, University of California, Berkeley, where he is also affiliated with the Program in Medical Anthropology and the Center for Urban Ethnography, and researcher at the Centre de sociologie européenne in Paris. Professor Wacquant’s work is best known for linking diverse areas of research on the body, urban inequality, ghettoization, and the development of punishment as an institution aimed at poor and stigmatized populations.
At the HCA he spoke about the making and unmaking of the ghetto – from Venice to Chicago. Professor Wacquant commenced his spirited talk by pointing out that while historians, sociologists and anthropologists have published abundantly about the ghetto, most research lacks a robust analytical concept of the institution. Professor Wacquant then introduced a rigorous sociological concept of the ghetto socio-spatial institution with the twin mission of isolating and exploiting a dishonored group. The categories he developed apply to such diverse institutions as the Jewish ghetto of Renaissance Europe, the black American ghetto of the Fordist United States, and the reserved districts of the Burakumin in post-Tokugawa Japan, but differs from nineteenth century American notion of the “ghetto” that designated residential concentrations of European Jews in the Atlantic seaports and extended during the Progressive era to encompass all inner-city districts wherein exotic newcomers gathered, including African Americans fleeing the Jim Crow regime of racial terrorism in the South.
The “ghetto” then referred to the intersection between the ethnic neighborhood and the slum, where segregation was believed to combine with physical disrepair, overcrowding, criminality, family breakdown, and pauperism. This notion contracted rapidly after World War II under the press of the civil rights movement and now signified mainly the compact and congested enclaves to which African Americans were forcibly relegated as they migrated into the industrial centers of the North. European social scientists then popularized the concept as the fear of the “Americanization” of the metropolis swept the continent in the face of postcolonial immigration and postindustrial economic restructuring.
Professor Wacquant then developed his own model by revisiting the ghettos of the European renaissance, special districts where the city’s political and religious authorities consigned the Jewish population, first to attract, then to control it. The ghetto served as a space that maximized the material profits extracted from its stigmatized population and minimized intimate contact with it at the same time. While this seclusion led to overcrowding, housing deterioration, excess morbidity, and mortality, it also supported institutional flowering and cultural consolidation, visible in markets, business associations, charity and mutual aid societies, or places of religious worship and scholarship. The renaissance ghetto already contained the four elements that constitute the institution today, according to Wacquant’s model: stigma, constraint, spatial confinement, and institutional parallelism.
Thus Wacquant’s model views the ghetto not only as a place where the sword of the dominant majority is omni present but also as an organizational shield and cultural crucible for the production of a unified identity that can result in resistance and eventually revolt against seclusion. He also proposed that the best analogy for the ghetto are not districts of dereliction but other forms of forcible containment, such as the prison, the reservation, and the camp. Finally, Professor Wacquant pointed to the connections between ghettoization, segregation, and poverty and proposed an ideal-typical opposition between ghetto and ethnic cluster that helps to compare the fates of various stigmatized populations and places in different cities, societies, and epochs.
The Performing Arts Club of the HCA: "The Poet Emily Dickinson"
June 11/12, 2015
The Performing Arts Club was founded by a student initiative in May 2014. Directed by Ida Bahmann and Hanna Konradt, the group started out with improvisation and exercises for body and voice to approach literary texts. At the beginning of the winter term 2014-15, the Performing Arts Club decided to stage a play which would be performed in the summer of 2015. Because all group members are women, they decided to commit to the work of a female American author.
Because of the many facets of her work, the Performing Arts Club chose Emily Dickinson for inspiration. In her poetry, Dickinson deals with topics such as religion, nature, pain, and death. The in-house production focused on selected poems and letters. Every actress portrayed a different, sometimes contradictory aspect of Dickinson’s poetry: Religious Emily; or Emily in pain, who is angry at the world; or nature-loving Emily, who still refuses to leave her room. These different Emilys also stand for different parts of Dickinson’s life.
The production premiered on June 11 in the Theater im Romanischen Keller to a sold-out audience. On the following day, the second and last performance also attracted many visitors. In general, the feedback was very positive and the Performing Arts Club would like to start a new project in the coming academic year.
William L. Andrews: "James W.C. Pennington and Mark Twain: Slavery and the Moral Conscience of American Literature" (Pennington Award 2015)
June 9, 2015
On June 9, the HCA celebrated the fourth James W.C. Pennington Award. This year, Professor William L. Andrews received the prize for his work on the history of African American literature. The award is named in honor of James W.C. Pennington, a former slave who received an honorary doctorate from Heidelberg University in 1849, quite possibly the first honorary doctorate for an African American in the world. The Manfred Lautenschläger Foundation has graciously provided funding for the first five awards.
Rector Bernhard Eitel opened the ceremony by pointing out that this award brings together the Faculty of Theology, the university’s oldest, and one of its youngest research institutions, the Heidelberg Center for American Studies. Dr. h.c. Manfred Lautenschläger then congratulated Professor Andrews and briefly spoke about the life and achievements of James W.C. Pennington, whose legacy had impressed him immensely. Pennington escaped slavery at the age of 21, taught himself how to read and write, was the first African American to attend Yale Divinity School and became a Methodist minister. In 1849 he traveled to the World Peace Congress in Paris, where he met the Heidelberg Professor Friedrich Carové, who urged the university to bestow an honorary doctorate on Pennington.
Professor Jan Stievermann from the HCA then gave the laudation of Professor Andrews, who is the E. Maynard Adams Professor of English at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. He received both his M.A. and his Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. Before his appointment at UNC, Professor Andrews taught at Texas Tech University, the University of Wisconsin Madison, Justus Liebig University, Gießen, and the University of Kansas. His work focuses on the historical linkages between white and black writers in the formation of American literature, African American literature, and southern literature.
The award winner commenced his talk by drawing the attention of the audience to the literary analysis of slavery, something that does not only connect the works of James Pennington and Mark Twain but also decisively influenced American literature as a whole. Quite possibly, Twain’s story of Huckleberry Finn and Jim, the refugee slave, was inspired by Pennington’s past. In his biography “The Fugitive Blacksmith,“ written in 1841, Pennington used his own story to condemn the institution of slavery. He argued that slaveholders can never be true Christians, no matter how they treat their slaves. Pennington saw slavery as a violation of the Ten Commandments and education as the best way to ending any kind of bondage. He also described the moral dilemma he encountered many times during his escape when asked where he came from. He decided that protecting his freedom was more important than saying the truth.
Professor Andrews then pointed out that several ante-bellum novels focus on this question of the moral righteousness of slavery and the priciples of a Christian life, among them Mark Twain‘s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. The story deals critically with the “peculiar institution,” emphathizes with refugee slaves, and picks up Pennington’s dilemma. In one scene, Huck Finn convinces slavecatchers that the boat they want to search for the escaped slave Jim is infected by small pox. Huck‘s shameless lie violates a Christian commandment but follows through with another one. Christian principles manifest themselves in his deeds; in this respect, the story is a social critique of American society, inside and outside of the South. Professor Andrews suspects that Twain knew of Pennington‘s fate and that it might have inspired the character “Jim.“ Compared to the educated Pennington, though, Twain’s Jim is very down to earth. Comparing both texts it becomes clear that neither Jim nor Pennington took their quest for freedom lightly.
After this engaging lecture and the award ceremony, the guests enjoyed a reception and more good conversation in the HCA’s garden.
Lloyd Ambrosius: "World War I and the Paradox of Wilsonianism"
June 2, 2015
Llyod E. Ambrosius gave the first June lecture of the HCA’s Baden-Württemberg Seminar. The research of the Samuel Clark Waugh Distinguished Professor of International Relations at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln focuses on U.S. foreign relations, the American presidency, and international history. He was a Fulbright professor at the Universities of Cologne and Heidelberg as well as the Mary Ball Washington Professor of American History at University College. Professor Ambrosius currently serves as the Vice President (2013 – 2015) and President-elect (2015 – 2017) of the Society for Historians of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era.
He commenced his talk on “World War I and the Paradox of Wilsonianism” by defining Wilsonianism as ideological perspectives or principles on foreign policy; they include national self-determination, advocacy of the spread of capitalism and democracy, economic globalization, opposition to isolationism and non-interventionism, as well as collective security and a fundamental belief in progressive history, which can be quite optimistic about the outcome. “Wilsonianism” originally described the policies of Woodrow Wilson, the twenty-eighth president of the United States, who summarized these ideas and outlined liberal internationalism in his “Fourteen Points,” an address to Congress on January eighth 1918. Professor Ambrosius pointed out that even if Wilson’s idea of a peaceful world order failed, Wilsonianism continued to shape U.S. foreign policy.
According to Professor Ambrosius, Wilsonianism is based on Wilsons own traditional understanding of America; it comprises political principles of the old world and the new that date back to the eighteenth century. Wilson’s Americanism shaped his Wilsonianism. In his “War Massage to Congress” on April second 1917, Wilson had pointed out that a call for war against Germany would be a call for war against all mankind, against all nations. His understanding of foreign policy was that America had to spread liberty across the world to make it “safe for democracy.” The United States had a God-given role to serve all mankind. But Wilson also was a southerner and identified with the South. His global political framework drew a color line around the world. Wilson identified with the British Empire, even as many of its citizens as well as Americans had begun to reject the idea. Wilson figuratively placed the American people on the top and Africans on the bottom of a big bottle. The people at the top represented the kind of liberalism that Wilson wanted to spread around the world; Wilsonianism was designed for the West.
In his lecture, Professor Ambrosius scrutinized Wilson’s idea for its American roots and pointed out its dilemmas and the dissent about it. He also made clear that it would have caused enormous problems had the U.S. employed Wilsonianism completely in its foreign policy. Wilsonianism simply would not have been compatible with cultural pluralism as well as global economic and political interdependence.
Christopher Parker: "Identifying the Roots of Reactionary Movements: A Comparative Analysis of European and American Cases"
May 21, 2015
The Baden-Württemberg Seminar of the HCA continued with a talk by Christopher Parker, the Stuart A. Scheingold Professor of Social Justice and Political Science in the Department of Political Science at the University of Washington, Seattle. Professor Parker received his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in 2001. His lecture “Identifying the Roots of Reactionary Movements: A Comparative Analysis of European and American Cases” linked past and present reactionary movements and thus examined the motivations and political implications of the Tea Party. He focused on questions around the Tea Party movement in America and its supporters. Is the Tea Party the upcoming transformation of the Republican Party? Is it an economic movement? Are Tea Party supporters just very conservative citizens? Are they racists? Do they object to President Obama because of his skin color? Professor Parker offered new perspectives on these questions and drew a picture of the Tea Party as a political movement fueled by the fear that America has changed for the worse. He pointed out that supporters of the Tea Party are not necessarily racist and not just pushed by their own ideology. Rather, he thinks that they are afraid of losing their country and afraid that America is no longer property of what they consider “real Americans.” This belief came to the fore when Barack Obama became president.
According to Professor Parker’s analysis of in-depth interviews with Tea Party supporters, they are made up of skeptics as well as mainstream conservatives who, for example, do not tolerate gay marriages. Race also matters for Tea Party sympathizers. Professor Parker pointed out that this combination was nothing new or unusual in American politics. Conservative movements always come up when a group of citizens think that social changes will make the classic values of that country disappear. Tea Party supporters are quite aware of the changing demographics of their country. In the 1970s about 80% of the American population was white, as opposed to 60% today. Curiously, many supporters of the Tea Party seem to blame the current president for that. 74% of them think that Obama will destroy their beloved country, and not many of them believe that Obama was born in the U.S. or that he is practicing Christian. In their point of view, Obama clearly does not love the same country they do. While the Tea Party is often portrayed as a mainstream conservative movement that aims to lower taxes, balance the budget and put an end to entitlement programs, Professor Parker describes the movement as reactionary and pointed towards some of its predecessors: the Ku Klux Klan of the 1920s or the John Birch Society of the 1950s. His lively talk was followed by an equally spirited discussion with the audience.
John Corrigan: "Religious Intolerance and American Foreign Policy"
May 12, 2015
The HCA’s Baden-Württemberg-Seminar continued with a talk by John Corrigan, currently the Lucius Moody Bristol Distinguished Professor of Religion and Professor of History at the Florida State University and Fulbright Distinguished Research Chair of the Roosevelt Studies Center, Middelburg, The Netherlands. Professor Corrigan opened his talk on “Religious Intolerance and American Foreign Policy” with a reference to a 2009 incident at the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), which offered the job of a South Asia policy analyst to a lawyer from Arkansas fluent in Hindu and Urdu to research religious freedom as well as the human rights situation there in the area. After a few months on the job, she was dismissed by her boss, an international Christian religious freedom advocate and very conservative Catholic, and successively sued USCIRF. Even if cases are slow going through the courts, Professor Corrigan is fairly certain that the outcome will be quite embarrassing for USCIRF. So is there even such a thing as religious freedom? Professor Corrigan first pointed out that the history of intolerance in the United States started with the Puritans, who, contrary to common belief, did not support religious tolerance in the colonies, even if they left their home country because of it. While they sought freedom for their own faith, they did not tolerate other Christian beliefs and expelled Catholics and Quakers from the colony of Massachusetts.
John Winthrop’s “city upon a hill” allowed no dissent, religious or political. Starting with the Puritans, American history has witnessed many manifestations of religious intolerance. Anti-Catholicism, in particular, proved to be especially long-lasting and fueled Philadelphia’s bible riots of 1844. Six years earlier, Missouri Governor Lilburn Boggs had expelled all Mormons from his state with Executive Order 44, which became to be known as the “Extermination Order.”
Professor Corrigan emphasized that since the early twentieth century, many text books have either papered over or tossed aside the bloody tales of religious strife and favored a tidy narrative of religious freedom and tolerance, which has become very popular with American politicians. While the United States declined the principle of state religion early and regulated the separation between church and state, this was implemented against the backdrop of an influential hidden dominant religion. So how does this repressed history of national religious conflicts translate into American foreign policy, asked Professor Corrigan. The idea of religious freedom has become part of the national identity and a political principle. Yet, in spite of all the talk about religious freedom and tolerance, this principle does not translate easily into American foreign policy, as is evident in many State Department policies. Prof. Corrigan cited the War on Terror as one example and USCIRF as another. It seems that many foreign policy officials want to protect religious freedom but fall short in practice, for example dismissing staff because of their religious belief.
James D. Bindenagel: "Does the West Still Matter? America and Europe in the Twenty-First Century" (HCA Commencement 2015)
April 24, 2015
On April 24, the HCA celebrated the commencement of the BAS and MAS Class of 2015, once more in the lecture hall of the Old University. The commencement ceremony was opened by the rector of Heidelberg University, Prof. Dr. Bernhard Eitel. Acknowledging the university’s motto “semper apertus” (“always open”), Professor Eitel expressed his heartfelt wishes to the graduates, who stand now before newly opened doors and could start changing the world tomorrow. After that Prof. Dr. Henry Keazor, the vice dean of the Faculty of Philosophy, reminded the class of 2015 that they can change the world but should always remember their roots in Heidelberg, a place to be, to study, and to return to. Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Detlef Junker, the founding director of the Heidelberg Center for American Studies, then welcomed the graduates and their families as well as the friends of the HCA. He pointed out that the students will profit from their interdisciplinary and intercultural education and reminded them to expand their skills every day so they can put to good use their knowledge about the politics, culture, economy, and society of the United States. Professor Junker then introduced the commencement speaker as someone who has built bridges across the Atlantic and the whole world.
James D. Bindenagel is a former U.S. ambassador, a career diplomat, and expert on Germany, who currently holds the Henry Kissinger Chair for Governance and International Security at the Friedrich-Wilhelms-University Bonn. He started his keynote-address by comparing the friendship and camaraderie of the HCA students with the transatlantic relationship – both are based on trust. Born after the end of World War II and in a sense the child of President Truman’s containment policy, the special German-American relationship was also an important pillar for the U.S.-European partnership, both military and economic. This pillar remained a mainstay of U.S. foreign policy for decades, but, according to Professor Bindenagel, the question “Does the west still matter?“ needs to be recast as “Is the grand bargain still valid?” While President Obama repeatedly emphasized the “America has no better partner than Europe,” Professor Bindenagel thinks it is the other way around – Europe has no better partner than America.
Professor Bindenagel’s commencement speech then turned to the topics of liberty and freedom, which are at the core of both nations. He reminded the audience that nothing epitomized the meaning of liberty and freedom better that the fall of the Berlin Wall twenty five years ago. It also marked the beginning of a new era in transatlantic relations. Their continued importance has become evident many times since 1989, most recently in the Ukraine crisis. It showed that peace in Europe cannot not be taken for granted; at the same time, challenges for the foreign policy of the U.S. and its partners remain around the globe: the Middle East, the emergence of the Islamic State, Iraq, and North Korea, to name only a few. While the planned Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership or the NSA affairs could put a strain on the U.S.-German relationship, Professor Bindenagel reminded the graduates that they should always act on the knowledge they gained at the HCA to defend freedom. Europe and America need to stand together. The commencement speaker encouraged the students to find their own answer to the question of whether the West still mattered and ended his remarks with a quote by Nelson Mandela: “As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
After a musical interlude with Joscha Sörös (piano) and Jan Prax (sax) and the presentation of the diplomas, the valedictorians of the MAS Class of 2015, Leah Karels and Everett Messamore, shared some of their memories of the HCA. Following the ceremony, the graduates and their family and friends joined the other guests for a reception at the HCA, where they reminisced and made future plans. Congratulations to both the BAS and MAS Classes of 2015!
Exhibition: "Behind Barbed Wire: Prisoners of War in Germany and the United States"
March 19 to April 23, 2015
During World War II, more than two million American soldiers fought in Europe. About 90,000 of them came to Germany as prisoners of war, whereas about 370,000 German POWs were interned in the United States. The exhibition “Behind Barbed Wire” shed light on their lives on both sides of the Atlantic. The more than forty panels illustrated the capture, life in the camps, the return home as well as acts of reconciliation after the war.
While all POW experiences revolve around issues of war and peace, justice under arms, human rights, and international reconciliation, the everyday experience in the camps could not have been more different. Many American POWs only survived with food and medical supplies from the Red Cross, whereas German soldiers were often sent out to harvest crops, build roads, lay city sewers and construct housing. In the Midwest, many of their supervisors could still speak German, and some even found relatives or former neighbors among the interned. On the other hand, more than half of the American POWs came from the Midwest, and many of them had German roots.
The exhibition documented several cases that illustrate this entangled history: Some farmers sent CARE packages to POWs’ families after the men returned, many exchanged letters or cards for many years after the war, and many POWs happily revisited the U.S. after the war; it is estimated that about five per cent of German POWs eventually emigrated to the United States. In the American camps, German soldiers witnessed democracy and individual freedom, and some of them returned to actively participate in the founding of the German post war democracy.
The third part of the exhibition explored one of the least known subchapters of U.S. World War II history, the internment of approximately 11,000 German resident aliens and German-Americans; more than 2,000 of them were shipped back to Germany during World War II in exchange for German-held U.S. nationals, and more were deported after the war. The exhibition opened with a talk by Professor Jörg Seiler, president of the “Verein Spuren,” the German auxiliary of the St. Paul-based project “Traces,” which conceptualized and realized the exhibition. Professor Seiler emphasized in his opening speech that “by telling history we live history in order not to become prisoners of our own or a collective fate.”
On opening night and during the following five weeks, many visitors found themselves in engaged debates in the HCA Atrium.
Norbert Röttgen: "Jenseits von Spionen und Sanktionen – gibt es eine transatlantische Agenda für die Zukunft?" (HCA trifft...)
February 10, 2015
In its series “HCA trifft…” the HCA welcomed Dr. Norbert Röttgen for a lecture and discussion. Norbert Röttgen received his doctorate in law from the University of Bonn and has been a member of the CDU since 1982. He was Federal Minister for the environment, nature conservation and nuclear safety from 2009 to 2012. His main political interest is foreign policy, and he is currently chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee. In his lecture, Dr. Röttgen characterized foreign policy as the being and domestic policy as the well-being of nations. But what does all this have to do with transatlantic relations? The CDU politician sees the disintegration of the Ukraine and the first treaty of Minsk in 2014 as a historic turning point, which opened a third historic chapter after the end of the Second World War.
The first chapter, the Cold War, ended in 1991. The second chapter was the post-Cold War era. Many politicians, including himself, had assumed that the horrors of the twentieth century would be a thing of the past. A war in Europe was not conceivable; we were encircled by friends. But the Ukraine conflict ended this security of the European peace order. Unlike the Cold War, the Ukraine crisis is not a bilateral conflict. It is about a state exercising power over other states. In this context, Röttgen referred to Putin's claim to a so-called "New Russia." According to this definition, Russia is everywhere Russians live. The biggest strength of the West is its unity whereas Putin – and ISOS – want to divide.
Russia’s hegemonic claim is also directed towards its domestic policy, an effect similar to that of the attacks on Charlie Hebdo and the expansion of ISOS. The latter is about ideology and religion, an exclusive combination of traditional claims to power and fanaticism. The CDU politician emphasized that nowadays everybody’s safety is immediately threatened. Such attacks are about the globalization of power and the diffusing of power and war. We are affected, threatened and acting at the same time.
Undoubtedly, the security policy frame has changed, and the transatlantic relationship is again as important as during the Cold War. However, a rejuvenation of transatlantic relations must reject any proselytization and must aim at peaceful conflict solution. Unfortunately, the current situation in the United States is difficult, especially the legacy of the Bush years and a weariness of foreign policy issues. For Norbert Röttgen, this is a wake-up call for a European foreign and security policy, but we have a long way to go. He described the political situation of many states as a political sclerosis; the domestic political coherences must converge and result in a European security policy.
In the ensuing discussion with HCA Founding Director Professor Detlef Junker, Dr. Röttgen once more turned to Russia’s hegemonic understanding of security, which Putin also assumes for the West. The Russian president strives for a position of power in Europe and since his domestic legitimation is based on Russian nationalism, he constantly has to “feed” this sentiment. Röttgen sees the discussion over arms supplies for Ukraine as a threat for western unity. In his view, they would increase the cost of war for Putin, but on the other hand, would also accelerate the conflict. The chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee argued, however, in favor of a long-term financial support.
Asked whether Putin would dare to attack a NATO state, Norbert Röttgen did not mince words: "I am sure that Putin would not like to trigger article 5, the alliance case. However, I think that provocations from a Russian side are still in the cards." He reminded the audience how Putin blackmailed Ukraine in 2005 by switching off its gas supply. But at the same time the politician emphasizing mutual dependence, because Russia would like to sell the gas that Europe needs. After the lecture, Dr. Röttgen stood ready for further questions and discussions with the audience.
Rhein Neckar Forum für transatlantische Fragen
"Brauchen wir TTIP? Freihandel mit Nordamerika – Analysen und Kontroversen"
February 6, 2015
On Friday, February 2, the HCA continued its series Rhein Neckar Forum with a panel debate on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, better known as TTIP. In cooperation with the Transatlantic Business Council, six panelists informed about, analyzed and discussed recent developments in the proposed partnership: Matthias Kruse, Managing Director International at the IHK Rhein-Neckar, Dr. Beate Scheidt, expert for macro-economics and international economic policy at the IG Metall executive board, Jun.-Prof. Isabel Feichtner, junior professor for law and economics at the University Frankfurt, Hanno Woelm, policy director, Transatlantic Business Council, Jan von Herff, Senior Manager Trade & Industry Policy BASF, and Ernst-Christopher Stolper, BUND and former undersecretary for economics in Rhineland-Palatinate. The opponents and supporters advanced their positions on the podium in groups of two.
The first couple discussed “investor protection by court of arbitration methods.” Jun.-Prof. Feichtner is skeptical about TTIP. She referred to the Investor State Quarrel Settlement, ISDS. She sees the danger of a “cannon gun diplomacy” if enterprises can sue states. In her opinion, only states that export capital have an advantage here. The junior professor pointed out that a court of arbitration is meaningless between two highly developed economies. She would like to see a settlement of the different political and legal interests as the focus of the TTIP negotiations. Jan von Herff applauded the process of juridification and the withdrawal of military force in modern investment protection law. Moreover, investor protection encompasses both, small enterprises and multi-national groups since both are in danger of an unjust treatment if they invest abroad. He also likes that this time and for the first time, the contracts are negotiated from the EU point of view. This has only been possible since 2009. Primarily he sees in TTIP a bigger market entry for investors.
The next couple discussed “harmonization of standards”. Dr. Scheidt stressed that TTIP is about the reduction of regulations, both concerning trade and the adjustment of standards. The latter can lead to cost saving and increasing demand, what could provide growth. Regulatory cooperation, however, could also lead to greater restraints; the democratic process could be undone, the opportunities to ensure better environmental, health, or consumer protection could diminish. Agreements would no longer have to be reached only among the EU partners, but now in addition with the USA as well. Dr. Scheidt considers the pressure on work and social standards that could result from TTIP a clear disadvantage. Matthias Kruse, however, emphasized how important the export is for German companies in particular. The USA are one of the most important markets. It is important for companies to expand into growth economies and even better if those economies adhere to the same standards as their own country. Through standard adjustment, TTIP will result in lower costs for companies and investors abroad.
Generally Hanno Woelm of the Transatlantic Business Council does not think that TTIP is about a veto power for the EU or the USA but rather about more transparency. Who sets the norms? Who will if we don’t, then? We don’t have any chance to set standards, another state will do the job. For him, the prospect of more and better-paid jobs for the German middle class is a strong argument for TTIP. Finally, Ernst-Christoph Stolper stressed that TTIP is not about the reorganization of international norms but about the adjustment of standards. The latter is a sign for a well-operating economy. He is suspicious, however, because in questions of liability, Germany operates on the precautionary principle, whereas the U.S. applies a postcautionary principle. After the participants of the panel discussion had advanced their different positions, a lively debate with the audience followed.
Myles Jackson: "The Genealogy of a Gene: Patents, HIV/AIDS, and Race in the Age of Biocapitalism"
January 29, 2015
The HCA wrapped up this semester’s Baden-Württemberg Seminar with Professor Myles Jackson and his talk on “The Genealogy of a Gene: Patents, HIV/AIDS, and Race in the Age of Biocapitalism.” Myles Jackson is the Albert Gallatin Research Excellence Professor of the History of Science at New York University, Professor of History of the Faculty of Arts and Science of New York University, and Director of Science and Society of the College of Arts and Science at NYU. He is the current recipient of the Reimar Lüst Award for Scholarly and Cultural Exchange from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation.
“I am more fascinated by genes than humans,” Professor Jackson said. Biology gives us something interesting: In science it is well known that different populations have different alleles, which are alternative forms of the same genes. Therefore, our DNA has stereotypes, but they are not necessarily congruent with our stereotypical thinking. For example, if we imagine a person from Ireland, we think of pale skin, red hair, and a pot filled with gold. The DNA stereotype of an Irish could be a black person without hair or with red hair. Professor Jackson stressed that historians have a role in this controversy: They need to think about patentability and the biology of difference. If DNA “stereotypes” are about history and not racism, the question is whether we can understand the differences between populations. Ultimately, we might need special drugs to treat special populations. These days, the development of drugs no longer follows a one size fits principle but rather looks at DNA. If you send in your DNA, the pharma industry will create a remedy for you.
For Myles Jackson, genealogy is a story about the present: Who we were and how we became who we are. His book with the same title is about public vs. private research in the post-cold-war-world. A lot of private money goes into biologically applied research. But who owns the knowledge private companies gain? The WHO? Welcome to the dilemmas of what Professor Jackson calls “biocapitalism.” He argued that intellectual property is not protected and that much in biocapitalism is a question of ownership and protection of knowledge. The classic example is that you cannot patent a thing of nature like a gene or a human being. However, this becomes a possibility if certain properties of the patent material, gained by isolation or abstraction, distinguish it from its natural homologue. Thus, human genes have been patented in the U.S. since the 1980s, and over two thirds of those patents belong to private companies. In the U.S., you can receive a patent for anything that has a new quality, and the government will protect it for twenty years. It does not matter whether the company actually uses the patent, but if the gene turns out to be useful, the company owns it and can make a lot of money. Patents work differently in the European Union and Japan; there is no one standard.
Professor Jackson’s talk “The Genealogy of a Gene” focused on the story of the CCR5 gene to show where science, technology, and society find a common ground. The CCR5 gene turned out to be a block buster for the pharmaceutical industry, since it is a co-receptor of the AIDS virus and plays a key role in the immune system. HIV does not kill but weakens the immune system so any infection can kill you. Studies have shown that even if one partner dies of AIDS, it is possible that the other never gets it. Similarly, an infected partner and a healthy partner can have children who do not have the virus. Some HIV-infected persons only carry the virus and never get AIDS. The reason for this is the bridge protein, which determines how a DNA is formed. HIV sometimes does not stick to the DNA because it needs the CCR5 gene, a so called HIV-1 co-receptor.
The CCR5 gene became the base for a blockbuster drug that slows down the development of AIDS; the company that had patented the gene made a fortune. Yet, Professor Jackson also pointed out the problematic aspects of this development. Not everybody can afford this drug; it is even difficult for some Americans because of the lack of universal health insurance and certainly difficult globally. The fight against AIDS and health in general becomes a class issue. Professor Jackson’s talk resulted in a lively debate with the audience, and in the end, he had a great piece of advice: “Go where your passion is, so it will be fun to go to work.”
"The United States as a Divided Nation: Past and Present" (HCA Book Launch)
January 20, 2015
At the first book launch of the year, four HCA Ph.D. students presented their work in progress. Maria Diaconu, Eva-Maria Mayer, Maarten Paulusse, and Styles Sass talked about the essays they contributed to the book The United States as a Divided Nation: Past and Present.
“In No One We Trust: Memorialization and Communicative Pathologies in Amy Waldman’s The Submission” by Maria Diaconu deals with a dystopian alternate history: A non-practicing Muslim architect wins the blind jury project competition for the memorial at Ground Zero. His proposal is a memorial in the shape of a garden. For the methodology of her essay Diaconu referred to Jürgen Habermas and Jacques Derrida as important philosophers in the time of terror. In her talk about commemoration and the culture wars, Diaconu emphasized the architecture of commemoration, and, in this case, the relationship between the garden and democracy. The garden memorial proposed by the fictional character includes a potential Islamic element, a mix of modernism and Islamic art. Called the “garden of flags,” the memorial exudes a static view of the past and national self-representation, which includes patriotism, “the state of exception,” and “autoimmunity.” Diaconu concluded that the novel itself performs the cultural work of 9/11.
The next essay presented was “9/11 Securitized? The Crisis as a Unifying Moment in U.S. History” by Eva-Maria Kiefer. She proposed that a crisis can unify a nation and focused on the avoidance of future losses in policy debates, which made U.S. public opinion and elite opinion accept greater levels of risk. Her approach centered on the prospect theory developed by Kahneman and Tversky. It holds that when information is encoded as either positive or negative it affects the actor’s risk attitude. The results of her research show that the framing of 9/11 had a rallying effect in Congress and that loss framing is a major independent variable in the causal explanation for a congressional rally. She concluded that presidents have greater success in obtaining the passage of laws in Congress by using loss framing.
Maarten Paulusse then presented his essay “Bridging the Divide: The Occupy Movement as a Site for Experiments in Religious Pluralism.” His started his talk with some definitions: According to those definitions, religion is a process of giving values that engage a divine higher power; spirituality is a process of giving values that engage the “scared self;” and religious pluralism is some kind of affirmative attitude toward religious and spiritual diversity. Paulusse then talked about the broad coalition the Occupy Movement created and its experiments with new forms of religio-political activism. To bridge the generation gap he suggested that closing the gap between “religious” and “secular” and striving for unity was a good strategy. As a conclusion he stressed that many activities aimed at “closing ranks” within progressive activist circles, and that progressive activists were not afraid to welcome religion and spirituality to the public sphere. He summarized that new forms of religio-political activism, for example altars, satire, performances, or Internet “memes” have the potential of crossing the religious-secular divide within American society.
The final presentation of the book launch was Styles Sass’ essay “No Country for Old Visions: The 2008 and 2012 Presidential Campaign Narratives.” After analyzing the campaign rhetoric of Barack Obama and Sarah Palin and presenting bar charts of different popular vote percentages, Sass concluded that there was something like a “Civil War” going on in America, a battle among rival factions within the Republican Party, and that Old South is losing ground. A candidacy of Hillary Clinton in 2016 would add the next episode to the Democratic Party’s narrative of progress by expanding the presidency to include woman; the United States today is clearly no country for old visions.
Monica Black: "Healer, Messiah, Rock Star: Bruno Gröning and the Early Federal Republic"
December 11, 2014
For the last event in the Baden-Württemberg Seminar before the Christmas break, the HCA welcomed Monica Black, Associate Professor of History at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. Professor Black is a historian of modern Europe. She completed her Ph.D. at the University of Virginia and her B.A. at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. Her book, Death in Berlin: From Weimar to Divided Germany, was published in 2010. It tells the story of Berliners’ evolving relationship to death and traces transformations in rituals of burial and mourning in the city over three turbulent decades. The book received the Fraenkel Prize in Contemporary History in 2010 and the Hans Rosenberg Prize in 2011. It was based on Professor Black’s dissertation, which was awarded the Fritz Stern Prize of the Friends of the German Historical Institute Washington.
In her lecture about faith healer Bruno Gröning, Professor Black told the story of a German post-war phenomenon. Early in 1946, the mayor of Herford received letters requesting to let a certain Bruno Gröning treat the sick of the city. Other letters opposed and condemned the so-called miracle healer. Bruno Gröning was called many things, including “Third Messiah,” “Angel-Doctor,” and “Devil worshipper.” After allegedly having healed a boy with a degenerative muscular disease by telling him to “go play,” Gröning became famous as a healer. Soon, many of his followers came to Herford seeking treatment, despite the city’s ban on the performance of his healing rituals. Gröning said of himself that he had no medical education, took no directives from people or books, and only healed those who believed in God and were good at heart. If he healed “bad” people, he would get a fever and the “bad” he had healed would lose their health again. He claimed God had given him his healing powers that even worked at a distance. Some of his healing rituals included handing out little tin foil balls containing his hair, fingernails or even semen, and a “Heilstrom.” Some observers relayed that when he got out of the tub, his bathwater fizzed.
Soon, crowds gathered everywhere in the hope of being healed. In Rosenheim, where Gröning had taken up temporary residence and occasionally appeared on the balcony to heal people in the crowd, up to 18,000 people gathered. Most of these people had chronic illnesses, had been diagnosed by their doctors as beyond recovery, or had psychological issues. Some had come just to watch or were skeptical. There were reports of several healed patients but many waited in vain. By fall, the phenomenon had ebbed away and newspapers had branded Gröning a quack and a swindler. The media attention waned, and most people returned home disillusioned. Gröning himself had not created the hype: In 1946 many rumors were spread by the media – even reputable news outlets – about the impending end of the world in the form of natural or nuclear disaster. The media played a crucial part in creating the phenomenon around Gröning. The threat of apocalypse paired with reports of Gröning’s supporters and opponents and descriptions of him as “divine” and “hellish” fostered an otherworldly atmosphere around the issue.
The magazine Der Spiegel did not help matters by reporting that Gröning could remember his own birth, had been born hairy, and that his own father had looked at the baby and said “Now the devil is in the house.” Germans had, as a people, collectively lost trust after the war. Another factor was that people had lost trust in their doctors during the Nazi regime and the Holocaust. Many had suffered or witnessed forced sterilization and euthanasia. The sick continued to endure a stigma even after 1945, especially the mentally ill. Professor Black raised the question: If you do not trust anyone, whose diagnosis do you believe to be true? This dilemma also contributed to the Gröning phenomenon of 1946. In the 1950s, Gröning was prosecuted several times. While he was appealing a conviction, he died of cancer.
Michael Kühlen: "Die drei ??? und die weiße Anakonda" (HCA Book Launch)
December 9, 2014
What do academics do in their spare time? Some of them write juvenile literature and author, for example, detective novels for the iconic series "Die drei ??? (The three investigators)." On December 9, HCA associate Michael Kühlen introduced his book: Die Drei ??? und die weiße Anakonda. At the HCA, Michael Kühlen works for the project "Patterns of Economic Policy Advice in Germany and the United States with a Special Focus on the World of Work." Before joining the HCA, he served as a legislative assistant to Congressman Rush D. Holt, as a senior policy advisor to the Bertelsmann Foundation’s CEO, and as editor, author, and translator for various publishing houses.
The juvenile mystery series for children, "The Three Investigators," originated in the USA. The original was translated into German, and after its discontinuation in the US in the 1990s, German authors added new episodes. "The Three Investigators" are brought to their audience in the form of novels, movies, and audiobooks; the latter are particularly popular in Germany.
Michael Kühlen‘s novel has a special format: It allows readers to actively take part in the story by choosing different story threads at certain junctions in the book. The readers or, on that night, the HCA audience decide which course the case was about to take: How do the three investigators react when a valuable reptile is stolen right under their eyes? Who can they trust? And should Justus really put on his good shirt? Michael Kühlen guided his audience through a case in which the investigators have to solve the mysterious theft of a particularly valuable anaconda and face many difficulties before they can solve the case.
After the reading, the author answered questions and explained, for instance, the rules that all authors of the series must adhere to: No fatalities, drugs or drinking are taboo, and sex is also off limits. Michael Kühlen also described the colorful and diverse fan culture. Following the question and answer session, Michael Kühlen signed many books for his fans, and the HCA invited the audience to converse with the author over a glass of wine or juice.
John Witte, Jr.: "Sharia in the West? What Place for Faith-Based Family Laws in Modern Liberal Democracies?"
December 3, 2014
The HCA’s Baden-Württemberg Seminar continued on December 3, when Professor John Witte, Jr. held a lecture entitled "Sharia in the West? What Place for Faith-Based Family Laws in Modern Liberal Democracies?" Professor Witte is the Robert W. Woodruff Professor of Law and the McDonald Distinguished Professor and Director of the Center for the Study of Law and Religion at Emory University. He is also a very prolific writer with broad interests. His latest publications include Religion and Human Rights: An Introduction (2012), Religion and the American Constitutional Experiment (2011), and two volumes of Sex, Marriage, and Family Life in John Calvin’s Geneva (2005, 2014).
In his talk, Professor Witte posed the question whether Sharia as a faith-based family law should find application to Muslims living in modern liberal democracies. He pointed out that the institution of marriage was at the core of the question. Marriage, deemed sacred in most religions, has long been regarded as the force that holds everything together. John Locke spoke of marriage as the “first society.” Liberal democracies have, in recent history, largely privatized marriage, leaving incest and polygamy the only consensual sex crimes. Many Muslims in the West decry these liberal changes to marriage and family laws. This has led to informal domestic solutions. Many Muslim couples get married in Islamic majority countries and draw up prenuptial agreements there. Another development, according to Professor Witte, are shadow Sharia courts in Western countries.
Professor Witte proceeded to explain three arguments for Sharia in the West and some problems with these arguments. Firstly, in favor of Sharia, he named religious freedom to opt out of state laws in matters of state and family laws. Furthermore, there are Christian church courts which are apparently not questioned even when they deviate from state laws. The same holds true for Jewish courts. So, why, Professor Witte asked, can Sharia not be applicable to Muslims in the West? Thirdly, he argued, according to liberalism, marriage is a pre-political institution. Hence, why should the state have exclusive jurisdiction over it? And why is state jurisdiction over marriage necessary and accepted?
With regard to religious freedom, Professor Witte made the point that many believe religious freedom must always trump, which he considers problematic. The guarantee of religious freedom does not bring with it the liberty to commit crimes such as corporal punishment. This holds especially true when minors are involved. Concerning the question why the state holds jurisdiction over the institution of marriage, Professor Witte pointed out that coercive power can only ever lie with the state. Due process and human rights are guaranteed by the states. Lastly, Professor Witte addressed the point of accommodation of Christian and Jewish laws in state law. He explained that this developed over a long period of time. For instance, states have come to accept Jewish courts as Jewish laws have evolved over time and ingrained other laws. A mutual acceptance has developed. In this way, Jewish courts with patience and mutual respect gained the right to handle family-related issues. Furthermore, it is crucial to note that these courts do not demand jurisdiction over all Jews or Jewish issues – only those who wish to settle their issues within these courts – and only use persuasion to achieve settlements.
Professor Witte argued that it takes time and patience for a secular community to allow religious courts some room. Also, it is absolutely necessary for the “host” society’s core values to be respected and embraced by those who seek to establish religious law within them. Western cultures will not accept others who denounce democracy and liberty and at the same time demand Sharia law, Professor Witte predicted. He closed his talk by pointing out that Western Muslims have an opportunity to go through a slow process of picking their core values and working with their “host” cultures to find a mutual understanding based on mutual respect.
Matthew A. Sutton: "American Apocalypse: A History of Modern Evangelicalism" (HCA Book Launch)
November 18, 2014
American evangelicals have been waiting for the world to end for a long time. Their apocalypticism has inspired evangelistic crusades, moral reform movements, and generations of political activism. In his latest book, Matthew Avery Sutton, professor of history at Washington State University and currently the Marsilius Visiting Professor and HCA-Scholar-in-Residence, traces this history of American evangelical apocalypticism from the end of the nineteenth century to the present day. In the process, he proposes a revised understanding of American evangelicalism, focused on the urgent expectations of the end of human history. If you want to understand modern evangelicalism, Sutton says, you have to understand its End Times theology.
At the book launch, HCA research associate Daniel Silliman discussed the main points of American Apocalypse with the author. Asked why he picked the topic in the first place, Professor Sutton responded that one of the main questions that initially sparked his research was why fundamentalists and their evangelical heirs are so skeptical of the state and critical of the federal government, especially in the context of the recent health care debates. Based on the apocalyptic theology that developed in the 1880s and 1890s, radical evangelicals believe that all nations are going to concede their power in the End Times to a totalitarian political leader. Professor Sutton also emphasized that while apocalypticism was a fairly radical and unconventional idea in the nineteenth century, it has become central to fundamentalists and evangelicals today.
In fact, the belief that there is going to be a Rapture and Jesus is going to come back is what separates evangelicals more than anything from other Protestant groups and greatly affects how they live their daily lives. Believing the world is rapidly moving to its end affects how evangelicals vote, how they structure their education and that of their children, how they understand the economy, how they treat global events, and how they look at organizations like the United Nations. Professor Sutton then gave a broad outline of this theology: Instead of the idea that Christians are building the kingdom of God on earth, the earth is on a quick, slippery slope descending to the End Times – hell. Yet, the practical effect of this expectation is not indifference; rather, evangelicals, far more than many other Christians, believe they have a responsibility to act as vehemently, as radically, and as urgently as possible.
American Apocalypse also revises the standard narrative of white evangelical history as a great withdrawal from society in the 1920s and then a reengagement in the 1950s, leading to the religious right in the 1980s. Rather, fundamentalists stayed involved in politics and social reform. For example, most of them were very critical of the New Deal. For Americans who were actively looking for signs of the coming Antichrist in the context of the 1930s, Franklin D. Roosevelt had all the markings of someone setting the stage for the End Times. Professor Sutton also looked at what the anticipated apocalypse meant for African-American evangelicals. While they had the same sense of anxiety and hope for Jesus’s Second Coming, for them one sign of the coming tribulation was lynching. They did not see the Antichrist coming out of the New Deal, but as an extension of racist state governments. They expected a different kind of leader to bring a different kind of peace and a different kind of justice.
Professor Sutton’s final point in this discussion was that apocalypticism shaped modern evangelicalism, and particularly Billy Graham, more than most scholars believe. For example, Graham’s famous 1949 revival in Los Angeles began just days after Harry Truman announced that the Soviets had tested an atomic bomb, indicating the End Times. Post-war evangelicalism got bigger, broader, and more inclusive, with some leaders preaching a respectable, moderate apocalypticism and others preaching a radical populist apocalypticism that harkened back to the first third of the twentieth century. Yet the apocalyptic never left. It is now assumed by hundreds of millions of Americans that the Rapture is a real thing and that Jesus is coming back. Naturally, the fascinated audience in the HCA Atrium had many questions and the opportunity to continue the conversation over a drink.
Kenny Cupers: "Human Territoriality and the Downfall of Public Housing"
November 11, 2014
The fourth lecture of the HCA’s Baden-Württemberg Seminar was devoted to questions of human territoriality and public housing. On November 11, the HCA welcomed Kenny Cupers, an assistant professor at the Illinois School of Architecture at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and currently an Alexander von Humboldt Fellow. Professor Cupers is a historian who specializes in nineteenth- and twentieth-century European architecture and urban history. His research interests focus on the historical epistemology of global modernism. His current book project focuses on imperial Germany and tries to answer the question of how environmental science shaped the logic of modernism. He is the author of The Social Project: Housing Postwar France (2014) and editor of Use Matters: An Alternative History of Architecture (2013).
Professor Cupers’ lecture first introduced his audience to the term “environmental determinism,” the idea that living conditions shape people’s lives. He then gave an overview of the development of public housing and discussed the problems it has faced. In the 1950s, there was a desperate need for housing in many Western industrialized countries. Experts, who initially targeted white middle class families, wanted the new neighborhoods to include everything people needed in addition to the housing itself. These new conglomerates were going to be called “habitats.” The idea to include shops, medical care, and all other necessities in the dwelling area, had a direct impact on the organization of the suburbs, which were sub-divided according to the inhabitants’ everyday needs. But the “habitat” suburbs reinforced gender inequality by assuming housewives had more limited mobility than their husbands and placing schools and nursery schools closer to the homes, ensuring that women had no need to be mobile. In the 1960s, residents began to complain about certain aspects of their “habitats,” such as the long commutes to work. Also, some demanded direct involvement in the creation or changes of their “habitats.” This was granted, or at least attempted, and architects started to work out plans so people could personalize their flats.
Oscar Newman then came up with the idea of “latent territoriality,” the notion that all people have the inherent wish to control their direct living situation. He found out that the absence of a clear barrier between the private and the public sphere in the habitat caused issues like elevated crime rates, as individuals extended their territoriality from their homes to their entire neighborhood or suburb. Robert Audrey’s concept of the “deterritorializing of man,” meaning that the absence of private ownership is directly responsible for issues such as juvenile delinquency, seemed to back up Oscar Newman. In England, vandalism was also blamed on public housing. Therefore, the idea of privatizing even public places in the hope of making them less prone to vandalism became very popular. Concluding his talk, Professor Cupers pointed out that there was no singular natural relationship between people and their homes, but rather a dispute between different concepts. After his lecture, Professor Cupers engaged his audience in a lively debate on public housing in Europe and the USA, home ownership, and the role of architecture in the downfall of public housing.
Barbara Ladd: "Beyond the Plantation: Race and Class at the Edge of the Swamp"
October 30, 2014
For the second event of the Baden-Württemberg Seminar, the HCA welcomed Barbara Ladd and her lecture entitled “Beyond the Plantation: Race and Class at the Edge of the Swamp.” Barbara Ladd is professor of English at Emory University in Atlanta and Fulbright Professor at Charles University Prague. She mainly works in late nineteenth- and twentieth-century American literature, specializing in southern literature with particular interests in race, gender, transatlantic studies, America Studies, American modernism, and William Faulkner. She is the author of Resisting History: Gender, Modernity, and Authorship in William Faulkner, Zora Neale Hurston, and Eudora Welty (2007) and Nationalism and the Color Line in George W. Cable, Mark Twain, and William Faulkner (1997). Professor Ladd is currently at work on a book dealing with transatlantic routes in southern literatures and editing a collection of essays on William Faulkner written chiefly by scholars from the southern regions of the globe.
In her lecture at the HCA, Professor Ladd discussed the concepts of race and class applied to the location of Great Dismal Swamp, a marshy area in the coastal plain region of southeastern Virginia and northeastern North Carolina. She began her talk by stating that the static racial narrative continues to shape Southern literature. Professor Ladd explained that race and class intersect in the South, and most people are affected by one or the other. An example for the intersection of both concepts is that poor Southern whites are always portrayed as illiterate, stupid, or sickly in the literature – yet these poor whites always find their “racial superiority” to blacks a source of pride. The real-life region of Great Dismal Swamp is a recurring theme in Southern literature. For instance, Harriet Beecher Stowe described it in her book Dred. Boats were used on the canals within the swamp, and houses and farms were located at its edges. The density and dangers of the swamp made permanent settlement difficult – but likely not impossible.
Archeological and historical evidence suggests the swamp was a hiding and dwelling place for escaped slaves, Native Americans, and criminals. Quakers lived at the edges of Great Dismal Swamp, and the marshy land was also a gathering place for lovers away from the constraints of society. In Great Dismal Swamp, slaves were treated as freedmen, most likely because their knowledge of the tricky area was much needed. Some earned money in the swamp and could purchase their freedom. The swamp was not so much a perspective as a refuge to poor whites, blacks, slaves, Native Americans, and criminals – in short, to all poor who were not desirable members of society. Professor Ladd concluded her talk with a suggestion for future research: In order to truly understand the intersection of class and race in Southern literature, she elaborated, a new paradigm was needed. After her lecture, Professor Ladd answered many questions and engaged her eager audience in a debate on race, class, and the American South.
Penny von Eschen: "Satchmo Blows Up the World: Jazz as a Global Culture of Dissent"
October 23, 2014
The sixteenth semester of the HCA’s Baden-Württemberg Seminar commenced on October 23, when the HCA welcomed Penny von Eschen as part of the Enjoy Jazz Festival. Penny von Eschen is professor of history and American culture at the University of Michigan. Her studies mainly focus on transnational cultural and political dynamics and the political culture of United States imperialism as well as on race, gender, and empire.
Her talk at the HCA was based on the research for her book Satchmo Blows Up the World: Jazz Ambassadors Play the Cold War (2004). Professor von Eschen began her talk by stating that, of course, Jazz did not win the Cold War, as there were no winners in this conflict. Yet, after Dizzy Gillespie was the first Jazz artist to go on an international propaganda tour during the Eisenhower administration, hundreds of Jazz and Blues musicians were sent on propaganda missions by the U.S. government, making Jazz part of the Cold War. Jazz had already been brought abroad by the occupation of the Philippines and musical entertainment for the troops in World War II and the Korean War. It was seen as a unique form of American modernism and freedom – Jazz’ structural freedom became an allegory for freedom in the USA. Also, some of the most important producers of Jazz, like Dan Morgenstern and George Wein, had Jewish-American backgrounds and had experienced the Holocaust and displacement in Europe.
While the State Department organized the first propaganda Jazz tours, Jazz artists at home were discussing Jazz and freedom. They saw freedom and democracy as something to aspire to – the Civil Rights Movement was just starting and blacks struggled for their freedom in many parts of the country. Dizzy Gillespie, meanwhile, was blacklisted from future tours, as he was unwilling to gloss over segregation in the U.S. while touring Iran. President Nixon, ironically, used black American culture for diplomatic gains but did not support the Civil Rights Movement at home. The fact that Jazz artists like Thelonious Monk and Charles Mingus openly broadcast their anti-war views on their Jazz tours made U.S. officials nervous but greatly increased the artists’ popularity in Europe.
The last official Jazz tours organized by the State Department took place in 1978. After 9/11, however, the tours were reinstated. This time, they were less restricted and artists were allowed to mingle and improvise with local musicians; the State Department refrained from controlling the artists voicing their opinions. Professor von Eschen concluded her lecture by pointing out that, while the U.S. State Department was instrumental in the globalization of Jazz, the musical style had been created by transnational upheaval in the first place and had, therefore, never belonged exclusively to the USA as a “fundamental part of American culture.” After the lecture, Professor von Eschen answered many questions and engaged her audience in a lively debate on Jazz and American foreign policy.
Awarding of the Rolf Kentner Dissertation Prize 2014
October 16, 2014
On October 16, 2014, the HCA continued yet another tradition and awarded the Rolf Kentner Dissertation Prize for the fifth time. On this occasion, we also introduced our new MAS and Ph.D. classes to the wider academic public. The main part of the evening, however, was reserved for the awarding of the Kentner Prize. Sponsored by one of the HCA's most active benefactors, the award recognizes an outstanding and yet unpublished dissertation in the field of American Studies completed at a German university.
This year's recipient was Dr. Juliane Braun, who received her Ph.D. from Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg in 2013. Juliane Braun studied English and American as well as Romance languages and literatures, specializing in French literature, at the universities of Mainz, Reading (England), and Dijon (France), and also at the Bread Loaf School of English in Santa Fe (USA), and received both a master degree from Mainz and the Maîtrise in Dijon in 2006. When she embarked on her doctoral project, Juliane Braun stayed true to her interest in both American and French literature by working on French theatrical culture in nineteenth-century Louisiana. Earlier in 2014, Juliane Braun also received the dissertation prize of the Bayerische Amerika-Akademie.
In her talk titled "Imagining Freedom in the Black Theatres of Francophone New Orleans," Dr. Braun explained to a sizeable audience how Louisiana's theater tradition took up, altered, and incorporated elements from both French and more recent American theatrical culture. Subsequently, she took her audience on a journey from the opening of the first French theater in New Orleans in 1791 all the way to the beginning of the Civil War seventy years later. Dr. Braun made it clear that for more than a hundred years, the theaters in the Crescent City constituted social centers, helped manage the city's heterogeneous population, functioned as showcases for local dramatic literature, and generated money that contributed significantly to the city’s economy. However, theaters also represented sites of struggle over cultural sovereignty, ethnic identity, and national belonging. Faced with the growing dominance of the Anglo-American population, French-speaking residents of New Orleans developed new strategies in order not to fall into obscurity, and theaters emerged as their most powerful weapon in the battle for cultural survival.
Instructive, entertaining, and beautifully illustrated, Dr. Braun's talk garnered much applause, also because it featured a wide range of fascinating photos and drawings illustrating the playhouses and their location in the city of New Orleans, and the architecture of the respective buildings as well as the interior characteristics of the venues. The evening was framed by musical interludes fitting the occasion presented by the duo Florence Launay and Michael Cook. Offering a selection of French romances that became hugely popular in the United States in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, such as "Plaisir d'amour," the French singer and her pianist treated their audience to an artistic experience underlining Juliane Braun's talk. A reception in the HCA's Bel Etage provided ample room for more inspiring debate, accompanied by snacks, drinks, and more live music.
Joseph Crespino: "Strom Thurmond and the Rise of the Modern American Right"
July 17, 2014
The spring seminar of the HCA’s Baden-Württemberg Seminar concluded on July 17, when the HCA welcomed Joseph Crespino, who gave a lecture on one of the longest-serving politicians in U.S. history. Joseph Crespino is a professor of history at Emory University and Fulbright Distinguished Chair of American Studies at Eberhard Karls University Tübingen. HCA guest professor Marc Wilson introduced Professor Crespino to the audience as one of the leading historians of U.S. political history. Professor Crespino authored a biography of Strom Thurmond which, as Professor Wilson jokingly pointed out, says a lot about his strong work ethic, as Strom Thurmond lived to be one hundred years.
Professor Crespino started his talk by recalling the journey that led him to the biography. In 2002, Senator Trent Lott of Mississippi caused a controversy by praising Strom Thurmond’s work on the latter’s one-hundredth birthday, saying that, had Thurmond been elected U.S. president, many mistakes would have been avoided. This sparked a public debate because Strom Thurmond was a professed segregationist and Jim Crow demagogue, who switched from the Democratic to the Republican Party in protest of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. At the time of the controversy of 2002, as a result of which Senator Trent Lott resigned as Senate Republican Leader, Professor Crespino wrote an op-ed about previous comments made by Lott about Thurmond. He realized at that point that 650 words about Strom Thurmond would not suffice and went on to write a full-fledged biography.
Professor Crespino outlined Thurmond’s career as senator for South Carolina. Thurmond strongly opposed desegregation and was one of the first “sunbelt conservatives,” deeply involved in issues associated with this particular political movement. He spoke at various Anti-Communism rallies all over the country, blocked any labor legislation that crossed his path, and was affiliated with evangelicals of the religious right. Professor Crespino then focused on the role of race in Southern politics and in Strom Thurmond’s life. Despite being a segregationist and propagating the separation of the races, Strom Thurmond fathered a black daughter, Essie Mae Washington-Williams, whose existence remained a rumor largely ignored by mainstream media outlets and only picked up by the black media. Only in 2003, six months after Senator Thurmond’s death, Essie Mae Washington-Williams publically confirmed that he was her father. Her name was later added to the memorial that already listed his four white children. The Thurmond family agreed to this addition in order to honor Essie Mae’s loyalty and devotion to their father, but really, as Professor Crespino pointed out, her refusal to expose her father’s hypocrisy.
After his lecture, Professor Crespino answered numerous questions and engaged his audience in a discussion about Strom Thurmond’s attitude towards segregation and its impact on Southern politics and Thurmond’s personal life.
Panel Discussion: "Eagle, Dragon, Bull: The United States, China, and Europe in the 21st Century"
July 16, 2014
On July 16, 2014, the HCA hosted the panel discussion “Eagle, Dragon, Bull: The United States, China and Europe in the 21st Century.“ The HCA welcomed Prof. Dr. Sebastian Harnisch of the Institute for Political Science at Heidelberg University, Dr. Saskia Hieber of the University of Munich, and journalist Olivia Schöller to discuss issues of foreign affairs and analyze the self-perception of the actors in the triangle as well as their relationship to each other. Dr. Tobias Endler of the HCA chaired the discussion.
Olivia Schöller emphasized that generally the US does not perceive itself to be on the decline. From a U.S. point of view, the country’s leadership role is self-evident. Instead of debating whether to take on a leading role at all, the question in the US is how to embrace it. During Obama's tenure, there has been a shift regarding the international conduct of the country. The US has become a “smart power,“ which increasingly deals with a crisis with diplomacy instead of military action. Moreover, while the international perception remains unchanged, the greatest issue of the US seems to be national polarization. The rise of China is seen by the US as unstoppable, yet incomplete. Thus, the overall objective is to channel this rise as best as possible and assert U.S. influence in the region. The “pivot to Asia“ is not to be mistaken for a turn away from Europe. In fact, the recent Crimean political crisis underscored the importance of a community of shared values. However, the US is disappointed in Europe's role regarding “burden sharing“ and calls for greater international involvement of the latter. Dr. Hieber pointed out that unity in China is not merely created by the military. Instead, it is supported by a large majority of the population. The country’s political interests primarily revolve around protecting the exporting industry and boosting domestic growth. The “big is beautiful“ ethos is demanded rather than just being accepted by the populace. Still, China is no “smart power.“ It is unable to create deep and meaningful alliances with other countries. Even within its region, China is isolated politically. Moreover, the US “pivot to Asia“ is heavily debated in China. On the one hand, China rejects US military presence in its orbit as well as a European commitment in Afghanistan and Central Asia. However, the alleged failures of European and US interventionism have led to destabilized regions, which is similarly undesired. The overall strategy of China is characterized by a strict pragmatism; outside of the West, Russia remains the closest ally.
In the course of the fiscal crisis and the situation in Crimea, Europe lost international attraction. Within Europe, this became particularly obvious by the success of eurosceptic parties at the polls. Prof. Dr. Harnisch stressed that the security of Europe as a “soft power“ is chiefly based on its cultural and economic dimension. As such, Europe is not only regarded as a political union. Rather, it is a continuous, often badly-copied peace project. The crisis in the Ukraine demonstrated that the US remains vital for Europe; foreign policy crises can only be solved by mutual cooperation.
Also at the center of the panel were the limitations of the actors to understand each other. Since Europe, the US, and China do not share a common political culture, intra-communication often rests on error-prone conceptions. This is illustrated by Europe's incomprehension of Chinese territorial behavior. China, on the other hand, is skeptical about purported lessons drawn from the European unification process. And while US domestic wealth heavily depends on Chinese products, many international claims of China remain puzzling to US-Americans. In their closing remarks, all participants agreed that Europe and the US seek to build on their respective economic relations with China. Europe and the US, on the other hand, constitute a community of shared values that clearly transcends that.
Afterwards, a lively discussion ensued about the US economic model, the espionage scandal in Germany, and the economic success of China in the context of the countries’ respective self-perception.
Celebrating Ten Years of the Heidelberg Center for American Studies
July 4, 2014
On July 4, 2014, the Heidelberg Center for American Studies celebrated its tenth anniversary in the Old Lecture Hall of the university. Professor Dr. Dieter W. Heermann, Vice-Rector for International Affairs at Heidelberg University, and Professor Dr. Dr. h.c. Stefan Maul, Dean of the Faculty of Philosophy, opened the celebration and wished the HCA many happy anniversaries, praising the institute’s interdisciplinary approach and its support by private funding, unique in the German humanities. Dr. Wilfried Mausbach then introduced the keynote speaker, Professor Carmen Birkle, the newly-elected president of the German Association for American Studies. She is also a Professor of American Studies at Marburg University. Her research is primarily focused on women and gender studies, as well as minority studies.
In her keynote address, Professor Birkle highlighted three key features that should be part of every American Studies program but are difficult to attain. Firstly, she named interdisciplinarity as a crucial attribute. It is difficult to achieve, as it requires different fields to establish a solid communication. The second important factor is visibility, meaning efficient marketing and global availability. As the last important defining feature, Professor Birkle named transnational work. The HCA, she went on to say, is one of the very few institutes of American Studies that are thriving. It is the most visible, transnational, and interdisciplinary institute in Germany and the only one to offer its own American Studies B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. programs. The HCA hosts many international conferences and has established close affiliations to various departments, allowing for a great deal of interdisciplinarity. Referring to a quote from John Winthrop’s “A Model of Christian Charity,” Professor Birkle called the HCA “a city upon a hill” in American Studies and praised Founding Director Professor Junker’s “Yes-We-Can”-attitude in creating the institute. On behalf of the German Association for American Studies, she congratulated the HCA on its visible success and concluded that the center really is a city upon a hill.
In the following part of the ceremony, several guests shared their personal recollections of their time at the HCA. Professor Kirsten Fisher, Visiting Scholar in 2008 and 2011, praised the culture of respectful dialogue between faculty and students at the HCA that does not exist to this extent in the U.S. and that impressed her immensely. She pointed out that Professor Junker had envisioned and created an incomparable institute, a gem for faculty and students alike. Jasmin Miah, a former student of the BAS Class of 2014, fondly described her life as a member of the first ever BAS class at the HCA and particularly emphasized the familial atmosphere and vibrant social life at the HCA. Axel Kaiser of the MAS Class of 2011 congratulated the “Founding Father” of the HCA and thanked the faculty and staff for always making everyone feel at home and providing him with knowledge that has greatly shaped his career. Dr. Karsten Senkbeil, member of the Ph.D. Class of 2010, described his first ever colloquium at the HCA and pointed out that the HCA challenges its students and in return rewards them with the opportunity to learn a great deal from a whole team of professors and classmates. He referred to his time in Heidelberg as his “Champions League years.” Professor Stanislaw Burdziej first came to the HCA for the Spring Academy where his Ph.D. thesis received harsh criticism that caused him to drastically change his project. He later returned to the HCA’s MAS program. His week at the Spring Academy significantly shaped his entire career. Professor Burdziej expressed his gratitude for the HCA’s investment in him, the fantastic rewards of which he was reaping now.
Professor Dr. Dr. h.c. Detlef Junker thanked the speakers and was deeply moved by their praise, memories, and witty recollections. In his own reflection, Professor Junker described the creation of the HCA as a success story that could have failed. He hypothesized that, had the HCA been founded after 2008, it would have failed due to the financial crisis, which would have rendered a public-private partnership impossible. He praised the input of the Schurman Society and pointed out that without such a good team, the HCA might have failed even before it had properly begun its development. He thanked the founding team that “hit the ground running.” He also thanked the entire current HCA team. Dr. Mausbach then explained that this Fourth of July celebrated three anniversaries: The 238th Independence Day, the 10th Anniversary of the HCA’s founding, and Professor Junker’s 75th birthday. He thanked Professor Junker for his good humor, roaring laughter, and enthusiasm – and for founding the HCA and dubbed him the “George Washington of the HCA.” Music performed by Eva Mayerhofer and Christian Eckert accompanied the ceremony.
After the official program, Professor Junker invited all guests to an American barbeque in the HCA’s back yard to celebrate the HCA and watch Germany beat France in the quarter finals of the Soccer World Cup.
Laurie Maffly-Kipp: "James W.C. Pennington and the Origins of African American Historiography"
June 24, 2014
On June 24, 2014, the HCA celebrated the third bestowal of the James W.C. Pennington Award. This year’s recipient is Professor Laurie Maffly-Kipp, Distinguished Professor in the Humanities at the John C. Danforth Center on Religion and Politics at Washington University in St. Louis. The Pennington Award was created in 2011 by one of the oldest institutions of Heidelberg University, the Faculty of Theology, and one of its newest, the Heidelberg Center for American Studies. The award is named after James W.C. Pennington, a former slave who received an honorary doctorate from Heidelberg University in 1849 as the first African American to ever receive this title from a European university. The first stipends of the Pennington Award are endowed by the Manfred Lautenschläger Foundation. Dr. h.c. Manfred Lautenschläger congratulated Professor Maffly-Kipp on this achievement and briefly introduced the life and work of James W.C. Pennington whose story and legacy Dr. h.c. Lautenschläger described as moving and inspiring. Pennington was born a slave and escaped as a young man to become a strong voice against slavery. He attended Yale Divinity School and was ordained a minister. The purpose of the award is to honor outstanding research in the area of African American History and Religious Studies.
Professor Stievermann then introduced Professor Maffly-Kipp as a leading scholar of African American religion, American religion, religion and gender, and the history of Mormonism. Professor Maffly-Kipp has received numerous fellowships and awards. In addition to her outstanding academic work, she is also striving to make her findings relevant for the broader public. Professor Maffly-Kipp has published articles in various journals and is the author of a number of books. Currently, she is particularly interested in the role of denominationalism in the black church, in race histories, and in women’s work in religion from Antebellum America to the Harlem Renaissance. Embarking on her talk “James W.C. Pennington and the Origins of African American Historiography,” Professor Maffly-Kipp thanked the HCA, the Faculty of Theology, and the Manfred Lautenschläger Foundation for the award and then introduced her audience to the man whose name the award bears. She explained that James W.C. Pennington, a close friend of Frederick Douglass, wrote a “race history” – a history of the black people. He also, later in life, wrote an autobiography of his escape. In this autobiography, Pennington recounted an anecdote in which he was asked an essential question: Who do you belong to? The answer to this question was ultimately that he belonged to no-one but himself. In order to more closely acquaint her audience with James W.C. Pennington, Professor Maffly-Kipp described his four core affiliations: His family, his race, his religion, and the international scope of the war against slavery. Pennington was comparatively “lucky” enough to grow up a slave on a small farm with his family intact. He felt that by escaping from slavery he was abandoning his parents and his ten siblings. He described in his book the fear of putting his family in harm’s way by running from his master. It turned out that after his escape, some family members were sold, and the family was torn apart. He wrote a letter to his family, inviting them to embrace the Christian faith so they could all be symbolically united in their belief.
James Pennington argued against black inferiority and saw slavery as a collective struggle and systemic injustice. He described blacks as a limb of the body of the “human family.” As long as this limb was being injured, the whole body of humanity was suffering. Therefore he promoted the war against slavery. This war – he used the term deliberately, as so much blood was being shed – was one of international proportions. Pennington criticized the British system of indentured Indian labor and the need of all modern nation states for cheap labor, which in his eyes was the root cause for slavery. In his struggle against slavery all over the world, religion provided meaning and solace but was also a source for passion. James W.C. Pennington continued his attempts to reunite with his family and managed to free his parents and some of his siblings. Eventually, he purchased his own freedom.
After this engaging lecture and the award ceremony, the guests enjoyed the balmy evening and a reception in the HCA’s garden.
Florian Pressler: "Die erste Weltwirtschaftskrise: Eine kleine Geschichte der Großen Depression" (HCA Book Launch)
June 10, 2014
For the ultimate book launch of the summer semester, the HCA welcomed Dr. Florian Pressler from the University of Augsburg. He talked about his volume “Die erste Weltwirtschaftskrise. Eine kleine Geschichte der Großen Depression,“ which came out as part of beck’sche reihe. While the recent financial crisis has produced dozens of volumes on the “new global crisis,” even after many decades, lots of questions about the “old global crisis” remain to be answered. Dr. Pressler’s book is an introduction to the topic and aims to deliver explanations which are relevant today. It casts a wide net, commencing in the 1920s when the developments that led to the crash of the stock market in 1929 started, over discussing the plan of the allies for a global economy after 1945 to the problems and debates of today’s financial crisis. Dr. Pressler understands the Great Depression as a global crisis, even if the book mainly takes a transatlantic perspective in its attempt to intertwine economic, political, and social developments. The talk traced those developments from the “roaring twenties“ with their steadfast belief in entrepreneurship, mass consumption, and international monetary policy over the Great Depression to Keynesianism. In doing so, Dr. Pressler interweaved biographies of people who shaped the crisis or were shaped by it: The American banker Charles Dawes, for example, developed a plan to stabilize German finances; the Dawes bonds provided Germany with start-up funding to re-launch its economy after the war. Germany owed its “Golden Twenties“ largely to American money; at the same time, an international merry-go-round of debts was set into motion. In the aftermath of the stock market crash of October 1929, US President Herbert Hoover held on to economic orthodoxy for too long and acted too late and too cautiously. His successor Franklin Delano Roosevelt, on the other hand, intervened on a scale never before seen and with unprecedented activism, however, to a certain extent at the expense of his European partners. The transatlantic dimension of the crisis was epitomized by the biography of Ivar Kreuger, the Swedish „King of Matches,“ who gave loans to broke countries in exchange for a match monopoly. He thus secured three fourths of the global match market, but went bankrupt in the course of the Depression. Like the Weimar Republic, Kreuger depended on US credit and met serious difficulties when they were stopped. Both Kreuger and the first German democracy did not survive the Depression. After this engaged talk, interspersed with passages from the book, Dr. Pressler gladly took questions from the audience.
Thomas Sugrue: "The Education of Barack Obama: Race and Politics in the Age of Fracture"
June 3, 2014
The HCA’s Baden-Württemberg Seminar continued on June 3 with a talk by Thomas Sugrue, the David Boies Professor of History and Sociology at the University of Pennsylvania and the director of the Penn Social Science Forum. He is the author of Not Even Past: Barack Obama and the Burden of Race and his talk to the capacity audience in the HCA Atrium focused on several aspects of this book.
At the beginning of his lecture on “The Education of Barack Obama,” Professor Sugrue pointed out that many consider the current U.S. head of state the most intellectual president since Woodrow Wilson. He is a graduate of some of the nation’s best schools, holds a degree from Harvard Law School, and fused the knowledge acquired there with his experience as a resident, activist, and politician living and working on Chicago’s South Side. From this, Obama has developed an analysis of the relationship of racial discrimination, economic restructuring, family dysfunction, and poverty that is at the same time powerful and politically pragmatic.
Professor Sugrue argued that Obama’s way to the White House is a story of debt to the past generation of the civil rights movement, a story of redemption, as his career realized the dream that skin color is no longer a bar to ambition, and a story of hope and promise, as it opens opportunities to the next generation. To understand Obama’s relationship to America’s racial past, one has to understand the contested cultural, intellectual, and political milieus from the 1960s to the present. When he came onto the political scene at the end of the twentieth century, America still lived in the shadow of the unfinished civil rights struggles while influential journalists, politicians, and scholars hailed the emergence of a postracial order. Yet Obama does not accept an America where identities are multiple, fragmented, and contested but defines himself as fundamentally American and a representative of the new postracial order.
After his lively and well-received talk, Professor Sugrue took many questions from an interested audience.
Fred Gardaphé: "Breaking and Entering: An Italian-American’s Literary Odyssey"
May 27, 2014
The HCA’s Baden-Württemberg Seminar continued on May 27, 2014, when Professor Fred Gardaphé gave a talk entitled: “Breaking and Entering: An Italian- American’s Literary Odyssey.” Professor Gardaphé is Distinguished Professor of English and Italian American Studies at the John D. Calandra Italian American Institute, Queens College, City University of New York. In his lecture, he described his journey of discovering Italian-American literature and becoming a professor for this literary genre. In his youth in Chicago, he reminisced, reading was not very popular, as it required solitude. Solitude was not easy to come by in his busy, bustling Little Italy home, where homework was done at the kitchen table, surrounded by chatting family. Reading for Fred Gardaphé would have required escaping, but he could not go to the library, as that would have clashed with his desire to be perceived as “tough.” He only discovered the library when he was chased by the police for committing petty theft, and it became his sanctuary. He quipped: “If it weren’t for reading, I would have become a criminal. I know that for a fact.” The audience laughed, but Professor Gardaphé was quite serious. After his father had been murdered in his pawn shop, Fred Gardaphé was given the book The Godfather by his aunt, although books as a gift were taboo back then. His aunt argued that if the boy had to read, he might as well read something Italian. After having been told his school assignment on the mafia lacked objectivity, Fred Gardaphé became an expert on crime by checking out books from the library and telling his friends how to structure their crime rings, raking in money for his tips.
After college, Professor Gardaphé taught high school. Eventually, he visited his grandfather’s hometown in Italy. This turned out to be a very emotional journey that reunited him with part of his Italian family and identity. Back home in the United States he decided to pursue a Master’s degree in Italian literature. He discovered Italian-American literature for himself but also realized that it seemed to be the step child of both cultures. He decided that Italian-American writers needed a literary advocate. So he relentlessly followed and critiqued them in a newspaper column. Professor Gardaphé wanted to prove to the world and to some authors that there was such a thing as “Italian-American literature” and focused on this in his Ph.D.thesis. Eventually, he started to teach Italian-American Studies at Stony Brook and created an Italian-American network designed, as Professor Gardaphé put it, to bring some American Studies to Italy. Professor Gardaphé became the first ever Distinguished Professor of Italian-American Studies. This very engaging lecture was followed by an equally lively debate.
Detlef Junker and Thomas W. Maulucci Jr.: "GIs in Germany" (HCA Book Launch)
May 20, 2014
The HCA continued its book launches on May 20, 2014, when HCA Founding Director Professor Dr. Detlef Junker and Professor Thomas W. Maulucci Jr. of the American International College launched their book GIs in Germany: The Social, Economic, Cultural, and Political History of the American Military Presence. The book is a compilation of conference essays. As a special guest, the HCA welcomed Professor Brian McAllister Linn, Professor of History and Ralph R. Thomas Professor of Liberal Arts at Texas A&M University and Bosch Public Policy Fellow at the American Academy Berlin. Professor Maulucci started his presentation by outlining the importance of the presence of US troops in Germany during the Cold War and pointed out that, besides other factors, the political message that the USA cared about Europe was vital. Another important factor was the purchasing power of the soldiers who supported the local communities economically. Many German- American marriages resulted from the occupation, as the non-fraternization policy was first ignored and then dropped. Over the years, “Little Americas” developed in the bigger cities, and the Germans were introduced to US pop culture like Jazz, Country music, and Rock’n’Roll. Professor Maulucci argued that the Germans got on fairly well with the American GIs due to relative cultural familiarity and due to the fact that the GIs were seen as protectors rather than a threat. In the late 1960s, the relationship between the German public and the GIs became more difficult, as the younger generation of Germans saw the American troops as part of a larger problem. Anti-Vietnam War protests deepened the divide. Young Germans wondered aloud whether the US troops were really in Germany to fulfil their NATO mandate, or whether it was simply convenient for the USA to have troops stationed in Germany to facilitate their reach of other military destinations such as Vietnam, even if Germans did not approve.
Professor Junker took a more regional approach and presented the case study of Heidelberg’s early occupation. He began his talk by pointing out that, compared to most military occupations in world history, the occupation of Germany, particularly of Heidelberg, was most humane. Professor Junker explained that the American GIs had the mission to transform the German society. Denazification was the first step towards democracy, a goal which American politicians thought Germans were unable to reach on their own. In Heidelberg, widespread confiscation of housing for the purpose of providing space for the GIs caused some resentment among the public, and the situation was worsened by Washington’s permission to bring family members from overseas to Germany as a means to improve troop morale. On the whole, Professor Junker stated, the citizens of Heidelberg were both willing and able to cooperate with the GIs. He summed up his talk with two statements: Firstly, without the denazification of institutions by the GIs, the change of German society would have been less extensive. Secondly, Germans were simultaneously both liberated and occupied by the American troops. Professor McAllister Linn praised the book as very likely to set the course for future research for at least the next decade. He found the volume to be rich in diverse subjects, yet coherent, and applauded both editors for their courageous step to publish essays by young and unknown scholars along with those of well-known researchers. This step, Professor McAllister Linn stated, was a great asset of the book. He then encouraged young scholars to fill the blanks of GI history in Germany and to focus their research on local issues. After a lively debate about GIs in Heidelberg and the question of possible armed resistance against the GIs anywhere in Germany, the HCA invited all guests to discuss the volume over a glass of wine.
George Packer: "America – What Went Wrong, What Can Be Done?" (HCA Commencement 2014)
April 25, 2014
On April 25, the HCA celebrated the commencement of the MAS Class of 2014. This year’s ceremony featured the graduation not only of ten MAS students, but also of the HCA’s first B.A. in American Studies (BAS) class. In the tradition of the HCA’s commencement celebrations, this year’s ceremony once more took place in the Alte Universität’s solemn and magisterial Aula. Opening this ninth commencement ceremony, Professor Dr. Dr. h.c. Stefan Maul, Dean of the Faculty of Philosophy of Heidelberg University, acknowledged and praised the achievements and efforts of this year’s graduates. Deploying Heidelberg University’s motto, semper apertus (always open), Professor Maul expressed his heartfelt wishes to the graduates, who stand now before newly opened doors. Professor Dr. Dr. h.c. Detlef Junker, Founding Director of the HCA, warmly welcomed the graduating students, their families and friends as well as faculty, staff, and friends of the HCA. Stressing the remarkable efforts and achievements of this year’s MAS class, Professor Junker also extended his congratulations to the HCA’s first graduating BAS class. “Graduating the first 12 students of the Bachelor of Arts in American Studies at the HCA shows how remarkably the HCA has grown as an institute for higher education,” he explained. “So far, 144 students from 44 countries have gained ‘inside knowledge with an outside perspective’ within the MAS program. No fewer than 256 applications were sent in for the BAS program last year.”
After describing the studies of the MAS graduates in the previous fifteen months, Professor Junker introduced this year’s guest speaker, George Packer. Packer is a staff writer for The New Yorker and the author of eight books, including two novels, a play, and five works of non-fiction. His latest book The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America won the 2013 National Book Award. Providing expert knowledge from an inside perspective, Packer presented the main thesis and structure of his new book. “As a journalist I know a little about a lot of things,” he confessed. “The Unwinding is a book about the key factors that have shaped America from 1978 to 2012.” Packer took the audience through his book by presenting the different lives of its protagonists, including Oprah Winfrey; Tammy Thomas, an African American woman from Youngstown, Ohio; and Sam Walton, who founded and managed Wal-Mart. Packer summarized The Unwinding as a journalist’s study of the breakdown of formerly functioning institutions and, with them, the breakdown of the social contract; this, he explained, used to mean that if you worked hard, you had a chance at a secure future and expanded opportunities for your children. Whether this remains the case, Packer said, depends on whether these breakdowns over the past thirty-five years can be halted or reversed.
Following the keynote speech and Sebastian Bausch’s musical interlude, the presentation of the B.A. and M.A. degrees began. Once the graduates were awarded their diplomas and pictures were taken, this year’s valedictorian, Edward Palmi, took his place at the venerable lectern. Palmi received the HCA’s annual book prize for his outstanding academic achievements and his M.A thesis, “The Games and Rules of a ‘More Perfect Union’: The Political Economy of Constitution-making in America 1787.” Reflecting on his time at the HCA, Palmi singled out the graduates’ families and the HCA’s faculty for particular thanks, acknowledging that the continuous support the graduates received helped them to aim high. This input and guidance, combined with the students’ own hard work and dedication, opened new doors for the graduates to proceed further in their academic engagement with American Studies or their chosen professional fields and made the HCA a home that they will be excited to return to.
Following the ceremony, the graduating students, their family and friends, together with HCA faculty and staff proceeded from the university back to the Curt and Heidemarie Engelhorn Palais, where the joyous occasion was celebrated with food and drinks. The pleasant atmosphere at the HCA topped the evening off, while memories of the HCA and future plans were exchanged. Congratulations to both the BAS and MAS Classes of 2014!
Panel Discussion: "On the Sidelines? The Civil War in Syria from Regional and International Perspectives"
April 24, 2014
On April 24, 2014, the German Atlantic Association, the Heidelberg Forum for International Security (FiS) and the HCA hosted an international panel discussion on the Syrian Civil War and the international community’s influence on both the future course of the conflict and its dramatic consequences for the civilian population. Ongoing since 2011, the Syrian Civil War has claimed nearly 150,000 lives, displaced and traumatized millions, and created a tremendous humanitarian crisis. Although the UN Security Council’s Resolution 2139 (2014) called on all conflict parties “to immediately end all violence which has led to human suffering in Syria,” ongoing clashes, sieges, and killings imply that little has changed on the ground. Has the world – as it was claimed by the Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and also stressed in the opening remarks of HCA’s Executive Director Dr. Wilfried Mausbach – failed Syria? While Professor Werner Arnold, Director of the Department of Semitic Studies at Heidelberg University, stressed the importance of international protection for religious minorities in Syria, Ms. Carrie Shirtz, Political Officer for foreign and security policy of the U.S. Embassy in Berlin, informed the audience about recent efforts by the United States to integrate the regional powers in broader strategies of finding a political and comprehensive solution to the conflict. In contrast to her very positive outlook, however, Professor Eyal Zisser, Dean of Humanities at Tel Aviv University and a well- known expert on Syria, described the current situation as a strategic nightmare, especially for Israel as a neighboring state. Moreover, Professor Sebastian Harnisch, Chair of International Relations at Heidelberg University, pointed out that international cooperation and crisis management has been limited to very specific issues such as proliferation of chemical weapons. The discussion was chaired by Magdalena Kirchner, Ph.D. candidate at the Institute for Political Science at Heidelberg University.
Amid an emerging threat of state failure in the border area to Turkey and Iraq, the aggravation of other regional conflicts, and the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) as a major factor of regional stability, all panelists agreed that the international community cannot afford to stay on the sidelines of the conflict. Given the current stalemate especially in the UN Security Council, there was little optimism about the international community’s ability to overcome its rift and find a comprehensive and lasting political solution. The lively and also thought-provoking debate continued in the course of the ensuing Q&A session with the audience as well as during the following reception in the Bel Etage.
Panel Discussion: "(No) New Cold War? Ukraine, Russia and the West after the Crimean Crisis"
April 10, 2014
On April 10, the HCA welcomed four panelists to its Atrium to discuss current events in Ukraine: Professor Dr. Tanja Penter, professor for Eastern European history at Heidelberg University, Dr. Hans Joachim Spanger of the Peace Research Institute Frankfurt, Dr. Martin Thunert, Senior Lecturer of Political Science at the HCA, and Simon Weiß of the Institute of Political Science at Heidelberg University. Professor Detlef Junker, who moderated the discussion, introduced the panelists and the topic of debate.
Before the debate, each participant was given the opportunity to express their view of the crisis. Professor Penter described the revolution as a sharp break in the country’s history, which was comparatively peaceful. The conflict itself, she assessed, was not new; however, the scope of the conflict has changed drastically. She explained the Russian view of Ukraine. In Russia, Ukraine is perceived as a “little brother” whose culture is inferior and whose language is a “Russian dialect.” This perception and the fact that Putin is playing with the Russians’ historical fears – she referred to Napoleon and World War II – was complicating the political situation. Simon Weiß emphasized the strong interconnection between Russia and Ukraine. He also maintained that the West regarded Janukowitsch as more pro-Russian than he really is. He explained that Janukowitsch unsuccessfully attempted to play Russia out and the EU against each other for Ukrainian benefit. Simon Weiß called the annexation of Crimea by Russia a breach of international law.
Dr. Spanger described the European reaction as surprisingly discordant compared to the reaction to Saddam Hussein’s annexation of Kuwait which had led to a war. Dr. Spanger maintained Putin’s responsibility for the crisis and demanded that he be stopped. Dr. Thunert focused on the role of the USA in the conflict. The American public does not favor an intervention as long as there is no direct threat to the security of the United States. The Obama administration regards Russia’s actions as a breach of international law and the contract between Ukraine and Russia that granted Ukraine territorial and political integrity in return for handing over nuclear weapons to Russia. Ukraine kept up its side of the bargain. Dr. Thunert pointed out that Putin was a product of globalization and could be stopped by the same. He named freezing assets of Russian oligarchs as one possible step.
In the debate that followed, the panelists discussed questions such as what Putin’s goals might be and how Europe should react if Putin were to stop delivering gas to EU countries. Although the opinions diverged on details, the participants found a consensus concerning the necessity of increased cooperation among the EU states themselves and the EU and the USA in order to stop further Russian aggression.
Exhibition "The Rejection Collection: Cartoons You Never Saw and Never Will See in The New Yorker"
March 20 to April 24, 2014
The New Yorker is not only known for its excellent reporting, commentary, and literature but is also regarded as the Pantheon of American humor. To have a cartoon published in The New Yorker is the ultimate accolade for every cartoonist. In March and April, the HCA showed the “Rejection Collection,“ a selection from 250 Cartoons by New Yorker regulars that were never printed – the best of the rest. Strolling through the exhibition, one could not help but notice that some of the cartoons were truly too dumb, too dark, too naughty, too politically incorrect, or simply too bizarre to be published in the venerable magazine. Yet, most cartoons are actually rejected because of the sheer mass submitted to The New Yorker – about 500 a week by the regulars alone.
However, there seem to be a few genuine criteria for rejection, some which were described by Dr. Anja Schüler in her introductory lecture: Too low-brow, too politically incorrect, making fun of race or religion, too dark, too weird. The New Yorker also seems to reject cartoons that are overtly or specifically political, too difficult to understand, or too dirty. And then there are some really bad cartoons; mainly puns, “the domain of amateurs.” Dr. Schüler’s entertaining talk certainly aroused the interest of the sizeable audience, who then enjoyed the official opening of the exhibit and a glass of wine.
Daniel Markovits: "Snowball Inequality: The New American Aristocracy and the Crisis of Capitalism"
January 30, 2014
The fall semester of the HCA’s Baden-Württemberg Seminar concluded on January 30, 2014, with a lecture by Daniel Markovits on the new American aristocracy and the crisis of capitalism. Daniel Markovits is the Guido Calabresi Professor of Law at Yale Law School and a fellow at the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin. His main fields of interest are the philosophical foundations of private law, moral and political philosophy, and behavioral economics. He has authored articles on contract law, legal ethics, distributive justice, and democratic theory.
Before diving into the concept of “snowball inequality,” Professor Markovits outlined the differences between the current economic situation and that of the 1960s. While measuring poverty is complicated for empirical and conceptual reasons, some changes can easily be seen. Between 1967 and 2011, income was transferred from the stagnant middle class to the upper class. The poor have been catching up to the middle class. The wealthy are not comprised of the leisure rich today, but mainly the working rich. Although assessing how much people work is a very imprecise endeavor, evidence does show that the rich work much harder today than 60 years ago and are mainly self-made. There is also an inverse relation between top earners and tax rates: The extremely rich have seen a large raise in income and a drop in taxes. Contrary to popular thought, the past fifty years have not seen a decrease in upward mobility.
After establishing these facts, Professor Markovits explained the main reasons for the snowball mechanism he described. One of the problems is skill divergence: Workers with medium skills are not much in demand anymore, as routine jobs have largely been replaced by technology. In contrast, jobs at extreme ends of the skill spectrum, namely manual and abstract skills, are not yet replicable by technological means. The second problem is training concentration. The top 25 percent of earners spend six times as much on the education of their children as the average American. This difference has tripled since the 1960s. The elite in the USA is skewed, because children of rich parents are so conditioned by prep schools and other private means that they are over-represented in elite universities. This creates a very narrow elite. The situation is not helped by an increasing gap in college completion rates between students from well-off and poorer families. Combined, skill divergence and training concentration create snowball inequality.
As an example for snowball inequality, Professor Markovits noted that the finance and banking sector has exchanged an army of mid-skilled workers with a highly skilled elite within the last 60 years. In his assessment of the meaning of snowball inequality, Professor Markovits argued that it perverts the political process and alienates the super-rich from society. After his lecture Professor Markovits discussed issues such as race and class as determining factors of inequality. Despite seeing race as still very problematic, Professor Markovits sees class as the more powerful economic marker. Also, he added, the issue of gender is still absolutely underrated in the world of economics.
Manfred Berg and Cornelis van Minnen: "The U.S. South and Europe: Transatlantic Relations in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries" (HCA Book Launch)
January 21, 2014
On January 21, 2014, the HCA celebrated its first book launch in 2014. Joint editors Professor Manfred Berg and Cornelis van Minnen introduced their book The U.S. South and Europe: Transatlantic Relations in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries. Professor Manfred Berg is the Curt Engelhorn Professor of American History at Heidelberg University. Cornelis van Minnen is the Director of the Roosevelt Studies Center (RSC) in Middelburg in the Netherlands and professor of American history at Ghent University in Belgium. His main areas of study are US-Dutch and European relations of the nineteenth and twentieth century, specifically diplomatic relations, immigration, and the cultural history of the United States. Professor Berg introduced Professor van Minnen and explained that the book The U.S. South and Europe resulted from a conference on this topic and is a compilation of essays by seventeen authors teaching in eight different countries.
Professor van Minnen then introduced the volume in more detail. He explained that the conference focused on various aspects of the relations between the U.S. South and Europe, which is an emerging scholarly field that benefits from a transnational perspective. The topics of the book include the mutual perception of the South and Europe, the Jim Crow South and the Civil Rights Movement, and the Southern view on European decolonization. Professor van Minnen maintained that the essays show a vivid exchange between the U.S. South and Europe, although immigration into the USA largely passed the South by and racism and segregation posed a problem. Professor van Minnen expressed his hope that this volume might challenge students of the field to focus on this topic and inspire further research. After the presentation of the book, Professor van Minnen once more proclaimed his admiration for the HCA and Professor Junker for his outstanding work and declared Professor Junker an honorary member of the Roosevelt Studies Center for life.
David Scheffer and Caroline Kaeb: "What, if Anything, Does Europe Have to Learn from the United States about Corporate Social Responsibility?"
December 5, 2013
The Baden-Württemberg Seminar of the HCA continued on December 5, 2013, when David J. Scheffer and Caroline Kaeb gave a lecture posing the question “What, if anything, does Europe have to learn from the USA about Corporate Social Responsibility?” Ambassador David Scheffer is the Mayer Brown/Robert A. Helman Professor of Law and Director of the Center for International Human Rights at Northwestern University School of Law and currently Bosch Fellow in Public Policy at the American Academy in Berlin. His main areas of research are international criminal law, international human rights law, and corporate social responsibility. Dr. Caroline Kaeb is a Visiting Assistant Professor of Law at Northwestern University School of Law. She is also an affiliated faculty member at the Ford Motor Union Company Center for Global Citizenship at the Kellogg School of Management. Her core interests lie in International Business Law, Corporate Compliance, and Law and Social Norms.
Opening the talk, Professor Scheffer explained that corporate behavior is tightly linked to human rights and environment issues. The concept of Corporate Social Responsibility is twenty years old and includes a Social Mandate signed by 7,000 corporations worldwide. The Social Mandate aims to establish anti-corruption laws and to guarantee human rights and security to employees. In total, 145 countries have signed up for voluntary Corporate Social Responsibility. In the 1990s, the UN started to come up with a set of binding norms on business and human rights. However, these norms have neither been ratified nor rejected and cannot officially be imposed on corporations. Since there are no binding laws, the power of shaming culprits remains the single most important punishment.
Professor Scheffer and Dr. Kaeb also outlined the differences between litigating cases of violation of human rights by companies in the USA and in Europe. While the United States Supreme Court ruled in 2013 that crimes committed outside the United States cannot be brought forward in US courts, there are exceptions: If a US citizen is the victim or defendant, if the crime took place on US territory, or if US national interests are at stake, cases can be tried in American courts. While the United States have been restricting extraterritoriality, the EU and its member states are developing in the opposite direction. A regulation from Brussels opens the courts of all European member states to non-nationals, as long as the origin of the harmful event occurs in Europe. This would, for instance, include decisions in Europe leading to crimes on a different continent. After breaking down the theoretical differences between the USA and the EU regarding Corporate Social Responsibility, Dr. Kaeb and Professor Scheffer engaged their audience in a lively debate on real-life and hypothetical examples of corporate crimes and their resolutions.
Warren Breckman: "Radical Democracy, Postmarxism and the Machiavellian Moment"
November 16, 2013
On November 16, the HCA welcomed Warren Breckman, the Siemens Fellow at the American Academy in Berlin, who gave a lecture on radical democracy, Postmarxism and the “Machiavellian Moment.” Warren Breckman is professor of modern European intellectual and cultural history at the University of Pennsylvania. His books include Karl Marx, the Young Hegelians, and the Origins of Radical Social Theory: Dethroning the Self and European Romanticism: A Brief History with Documents. His most recent work, Adventures of the Symbolic: Postmarxism and Radical Democracy came out with Columbia University Press in 2013. In addition, he has published numerous articles on the history of philosophy and political thought, the development of consumer culture, modernism and urban culture, historical theory, contemporary theory, and nationalism.
In his lecture, Dr. Breckman focused on the influence of Niccolò Machiavelli (1469-1527) on Marxist thinkers, specifically the French philosophers Claude Lefort and Louis Althusser. He started his explanation by describing Machiavelli’s dire personal situation after the Medici had regained power. Machiavelli was imprisoned and tortured by the Medici and then went into exile where he devoted himself to writing political treatises. His most famous work, Il Principe (The Prince) was published five years after his death. The Prince, in which Machiavelli gives advice to princes on how to retain and assert their power and organize their state, sparked outrage among the clergy. This was partly because Machiavelli describes religion as means to the end of controlling the populace and maintains that a true prince should not be very religious but should see to it that his subjects are. However, the work also fascinated many and still does today. Professor Breckman referred to relatively recent newspaper articles asking what Angela Merkel might have learned from Machiavelli and comparing the British Prime Minister to a Machiavellian “prince.”
Professor Breckman then shifted the focus to Machiavelli and Marxism. Marx himself read Machiavelli, as did the French philosophers Louis Althusser and Claude Lefort. Their reading of Machiavelli enabled both philosophers to see certain kinds of voids as starting points for a revolution of political thought. However, as Professor Breckman pointed out, they saw very different kinds of voids. Louis Althusser (1918-1990) was a professor of philosophy and a longtime member of the French Communist Party. He became one of the most influential Marxist thinkers in France. Founding a new state and a new theory are similar problems, and Althusser could relate to Machiavelli’s thoughts as he himself was dealing with the question how to begin from nothing. In the course of his theorizing, Althusser came to see Machiavelli as a supplement to Marxism. Claude Lefort (1924-2010), also a French professor and philosopher, was a Marxist in his youth but rejected Stalinism. He later turned towards theories of democracy. The void he saw after reading Machiavelli lead him to develop a new theory of power in democracies. Boiling down Lefort’s reasoning, Professor Breckman explained that the center of democratic power can be seen as an empty space – a void.
After his lecture, Professor Breckman invited his audience to discuss modern political movements such as “Occupy Wall Street” and the Arab Spring and their possible links to the desire to fill political voids.
Andrew Nathan: "China’s Search for Security"
October 31, 2013
The Baden-Württemberg Seminar of the HCA continued on October 31, 2013, when Professor Andrew Nathan gave a talk on “China’s Search for Security.” Professor Nathan is a professor of political science at Columbia University and currently the Axel Springer Fellow at the American Academy in Berlin. His areas of expertise are Chinese politics and foreign policy, the comparative study of political participation and political culture, and human rights. Professor Nathan has authored and edited dozens of books and is an advisor to Human Rights Watch China.
After an introduction by Professor Joachim Kurtz of the Excellency Cluster Asia and Europe, Professor Nathan began his lecture by stating that the views of Germany and the USA on China differ in one important aspect: The rise of China seems to pose a potential threat to the United States but not to Germany. This potential threat to the USA manifests itself in three dimensions. The first dimension is economic. The theft of technology is becoming increasingly problematic for the USA, and there are fears that the Chinese currency may one day replace the American dollar as the leading currency for world markets.
The second manifestation of the Chinese threat to the United States is the military dimension: China is building up its military forces, which might spark an armed conflict between China and Taiwan or China and Japan, in which case the United States would be forced to side with Taiwan and Japan due to bilateral agreements. Another fear is a clash with US allies in Africa or a direct threat to the US Navy stationed near China’s territory. The third possible threat posed by China to US foreign policy concerns “soft power.” According to Professor Nathan, the prestige of democracy has suffered blows from the American “war on terror.” Now the United States fears that this damage to the image of democracy might tempt some leaders to become increasingly authoritarian. The general fear of US politicians is that China could replace the United States as the number one superpower.
However, China also has security concerns. The country is tied into the global economy by its interdependence with the USA and other economic partners and therefore puts much stock in economic development. In addition to simmering conflicts with Japan or South Korea, China has 20 neighboring countries, including states that are falling apart, such as Pakistan, North Korea, and Afghanistan. These neighbors threaten China’s security and cause the Chinese leadership to invest in its navy and cyber warfare. China feels that the USA do not support Chinese policy goals and core interests: The US recognize the Dalai Lama and would support Taiwan in case of an open conflict. Therefore China would like to see the United States refrain from interfering with Chinese domestic policy. Professor Nathan concluded his lecture with an assessment of the security situation of China and the USA. In his eyes, the US fear of China as a threat is exaggerated.
However, Professor Nathan pointed out that each side has different interests, causing friction, rather than actual threats. He also answered the question of whether the status quo between China and the USA was going to change, arguing that China’s economy was slowing down and will probably slow down further. He cautioned that the political system in China might not remain stable. Yet, Professor Nathan ended his talk on an optimistic note, stating that the rise of China may be a good thing if it is not mismanaged. After the lecture, there was a lively debate about China’s foreign policy, including its relationship with Germany.
Cristanne Miller: "'All the Slain Soldiers': Poetry and the Civil War"
October 24, 2013
The thirteenth semester of the Baden-Württemberg Seminar commenced at the HCA on October 24 with a talk by Cristanne Miller on poetry and the American Civil War. Cristanne Miller is SUNY Distinguished Professor of English in Buffalo and was spending the fall as the Fulbright-Tocqueville Distinguished Chair at the Université de Paris Diderot.
Professor Miller’s talk first pointed out the immense popularity of poems in the nineteenth century: Almost comparable to today’s Internet blogs, they appeared on title pages of newspapers, were by no means a literary form for the elites, and were not relegated to private matters. They often were part of the political discourse and the historical record and were thus a prolific and meaningful response to the war. Professor Miller then introduced major trends in Civil War poetry.
The “great poems” showed how much poetry could matter. They dealt with the trauma of the war, especially death. Their circulation was considerable, since poetry was generally not censored and the war coincided with the invention of the telegraph that spread news fast and photography that could illustrate the poems. Works like Richard Henry Stoddard’s “To the Men of the North and West” or James Gibbons’ “300.000 More” facilitated the recruitment of soldiers for the Union Army. But Northern poets also criticized the war and President Lincoln.
In the South, poetry turned to different topics. Northern soldiers were depicted as brutal invaders, as in Anderson’s “Song of the South,” or the South turned into a feminized victim, as in James Randall’s “Maryland, My Maryland.” In the last year of the Civil War, poems of mourning and heroization, often written by women, became prevalent. After 1865, Northern poetry avoided themes of revenge and stressed redemption. Poems by African Americans, while little published, focused on emancipation. Walt Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass” was widely perceived as a text that would reunite the nation. Whitman, who worked as a nurse in the District of Columbia during the war, also used this theme in “The Wound Dresser” and “Reconciliation.”
Finally, Professor Miller turned to Emily Dickenson, who wrote half of her poems during the Civil War. She, too, shunned topics like battles or heroic events but rather focused on issues like liberty, death as suffering of individuals, or the family reunions of the surviving. In the ensuing discussion, Professor Miller emphasized that anti-war poetry is still being written, but its audience has become much smaller. No doubt, poetry was a much more important vehicle in the nineteenth century than it is today.
Anthony Santoro: "Exile and Embrace" (HCA Book Launch)
October 22, 2013
On October 22, 2013, Dr. Anthony Santoro introduced his book, Exile and Embrace: Contemporary Religious Discourse on the Death Penalty. The book, which followed from the doctoral dissertation that he successfully defended as part of the HCA’s structured Ph.D. program, was published by Northeastern University Press in July 2013.
Dr. Santoro opened by describing how his professional and educational backgrounds jointly led him down the path toward writing this book. He discussed his work with a non-profit organization in his home state of Virginia and the role the organization’s work played at the juridical level, specifically at the sentencing stages of capital murder trials. The perspective gained from that experience, coupled with the experience gained from working with religiously oriented and motivated organizations in the broader cultural debates over the death penalty, ultimately led to engaging with the basic question at the heart of the book: What is the death penalty? The book’s main thesis is that the death penalty has comparatively little to do with either the offenders or their offenses. Rather, capital punishment has much more to do with the society that chooses to avail itself of the ultimate punishment or that decides against the use of such punishments.
Rather than present a single chapter or discuss an aspect of the book’s argument in detail, Dr. Santoro took advantage of the opportunity to survey the book’s seven chapters and discuss his aims and goals in writing on this difficult and controversial topic. He discussed what it means to use death to witness to life, as supporters and opponents of capital punishment both do, and how contemporary people of faith are engaged on both sides of this divisive issue at the state and national levels. He surveyed the progressive narrowing and concretizing of the book’s immediate focal points, as the chapters move sequentially through doctrinal and social statements on the death penalty, the results of a series of Bible studies hosted by Virginia churches discussing the issue, religiously motivated public activism on both sides of the debate, the links between religion and capital punishment in the political discourse, the role religious organizations play in the post-conviction legal process, and, at the end of the process, the work done by and perspectives of death row chaplains.
As each chapter narrowed, the implications of the broader debates on the death penalty cast progressively greater light on the way morality, the interplay between faith and politics, the interplay between faith and the state, and the public’s understanding of capital punishment help define the ways Americans understand themselves and their country. At the conclusion of the talk, several members of the audience asked thoughtful and insightful questions about the legal, philosophical, moral, and religious elements that Dr. Santoro discussed, leading to a fruitful and engaged discussion.
Awarding of the Rolf Kentner Dissertation Prize 2013
October 17, 2013
On October 17, the Rolf Kentner Prize was awarded for the fourth time. Sponsored by one of the HCA’s most active benefactors, Rolf Kentner, chairman of the Schurman Foundation, the award recognizes an outstanding and yet unpublished dissertation in the field of American Studies completed at a German university.
This year’s recipient was Dr. Jasper Trautsch, a post-doctoral research fellow at the German Historical Institute in Rome. Trautsch, who studied communication science, North American Studies, and history at the Free University of Berlin, the Sorbonne in Paris, and Tulane University in New Orleans, holds a Ph.D. from the Free University (2011). His current research project examines how cultural spaces such as the “West” were constructed in the publics of Europe and North America after 1945.
For his keynote address, however, Dr. Trautsch – after a short introduction by Professor Junker – went back to his prize-winning dissertation. In his talk, titled “Declaring War as an Act of Peace in 1812: The Paradoxes of American Foreign Policy,” Trautsch thus summed up the insights he gained from his doctoral research. While one could argue that the foreign policy of the Early Republic has been dealt with by many scholars before and that the interrelatedness of foreign and domestic policy – a crucial aspect of Trautsch’s work – is something historians are well aware of, the laureate can justly claim to add something to the status quo: His approach focuses on the functions foreign policy had for domestic policy during the Early Republic and vice versa.
Secondly, and perhaps more significantly, Trautsch looks at processes of identity formation the young nation was going through. According to him, we are not dealing with an automatic process here. Instead, early American foreign policy always meant actively demarcating the United States from others, especially its “significant others” Great Britain and France. Thus Trautsch uses the concept of identity engineering for an analysis as to how the domestic and foreign policy dimensions of the United States are related and how they influence each other. The result is an important contribution to the field of diplomatic history enhanced by vital aspects of cultural history. Instructive, clearly structured, and provocative, Trautsch’s talk garnered much applause and sparked a lively discussion. The evening ended with a reception in the HCA’s Bel Etage, where the prize-winner, the benefactor, and many members of the audience continued their discussion.
HCA trifft... Stefan Kornelius
August 30, 2013
On August 30, 2013, the HCA introduced a new format as part of its forum events: “HCA trifft …” plans to bring renowned German experts on the United States to Heidelberg and is geared chiefly towards a German audience. The new format got off to a great start with Stefan Kornelius, who came to Heidelberg just three weeks before the German elections to present his biography of the current German chancellor: Angela Merkel. Die Kanzlerin und ihre Welt.
Stefan Kornelius is the foreign editor at Süddeutsche Zeitung since 2000. After studies in political science, history, and public law in Bonn and London, he enrolled at Henri-Nannen Schule, Germany’s most famous school of journalism. Initially a freelancer at Stern, the BBC and Süddeutsche Zeitung, he became SZ’s correspondent in Bonn, Washington, D.C., and Berlin.
Stefan Kornelius has personally known and worked with Angela Merkel since the start of her political career in the 1990s. As a first-hand witness to her rise to power, his biography sheds light on Merkel’s phenomenal political career, made all the more remarkable by the fact that she spent the first thirty-five years of her life in the former East Germany. The book is a thought-provoking and extensively-researched analysis of Merkel’s life, both in the GDR and in reunited Germany.
The audience at the HCA learned how she dealt with reunification, how fast she learned to adapt in the West, and what she has carried over from her former life. Stefan Kornelius described Merkel’s fascinating transition from citizen of an autocratic regime to leader of a major democratic power, who preserved the humanistic values from her upbringing as the daughter of a Lutheran pastor. The talk illuminated Merkel’s strengths and weaknesses, her remarkable analytical acumen and systematic way of working, her straightforwardness, openness and honesty, her pragmatism in dealing with fundamental policies, guided by the core values of freedom and tolerance.
Stefan Kornelius then turned to his chapter on German-U.S. relations and gave a detailed account of Merkel’s relationship with Presidents Bush and Obama. After the presentation of his book, Mr. Kornelius engaged in a lively debate with his audience.
David Wilson: “Deepening the Creative City: America’s New Development Machine”
July 18, 2013
The thirteenth semester of the Baden-Württemberg Seminar concluded on July 18, 2013 with a lecture by David Wilson from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign entitled “Deepening the Creative City: America’s New Development Machine.” David Wilson is a professor of Geography and Geographic Information Science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, who specializes in the political economy and the spatial issue of U.S. cities.
Professor Wilson began his lecture by describing the transformation of cities in the American Rust Belt: Uneven development has become more pronounced, and the issue of race is very much in the urban consciousness and has become quite a sensitive issue, as the Trayvon Martin case has demonstrated. Professor Wilson called class a “rather touchy issue.” In today’s increasingly globalized world, cities are expected to be economic engines. If a city does not become economized enough, it will fail.
Professor Wilson then explained the elaborate creation of creative cities as a mix of presences and absences, both of equal importance. A creative city requires the presence of glittering downtowns, gentrified neighborhoods, and arts districts. It also requires the absence of isolated black or Latino neighborhoods and residual land use. The controversial notion of a creative city, according to Professor Wilson, is that it cannot have any visible “blights” such as homelessness or rotting houses. This raises the question how such explosive, race-class-problem-raising cities can continue to exist and even grow.
Professor Wilson sees the answer in two pillars on which the creative cities are built: An evolving fear-machine and fear-speak. The cities are haunted by fear of globalization-induced austerity and race-class phobia. The post-9/11 fear promoted by the media opened the floodgates for the reorganization of cities. Concluding his talk, Professor Wilson also argued that U.S. politics use fear to power the process of city change.
James W.C. Pennington Award of the Heidelberg Center for American Studies and the Faculty of Theology, Heidelberg University
July 9, 2013
On July 9, 2013, the HCA celebrated the second awarding of the James W.C. Pennington Award to Professor Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, the Victor S. Thomas Professor of History and of African and African American Studies at Harvard University. Her lecture was entitled “Didn’t My Lord Deliver Daniel: Biblical Witness and the African American Freedom Struggle.” After the official welcome by Heidelberg University Rector Professor Bernhard Eitel, the capacity crowd listened to the laudatory speech of Dr. h.c. Manfred Lautenschläger; the Lautenschläger Foundation has generously endowed this award for the first five years. Professor Jan Stievermann then introduced the recipient of the award. He pointed out that Professor Higginbotham’s family history is in many ways intertwined not only with the larger history of the African American community and the black church but also with the professional study of this history. Her grandfather Walter Henderson Brooks (1851-1948) was the pastor of Washington’s historic Ninth Street Baptist Church for more than 60 years; her father Alfred N.D. Brooks served as history teacher and principal at one of the District of Columbia’s secondary schools, became a leader in the African American history movement, and a principal figure in the Association for the Study of African American Life and History. Professor Higginbotham’s husband, the late A. Leon Higginbotham, was a prominent African American civil rights advocate, author, and federal appeals court judge.
In her talk, Professor Higginbotham revisited the violence and segregation that African Americans had to face throughout much of the twentieth century. Black churches, especially the large Baptist and Methodist denominations, served as the most important social spaces in which African Americans found shelter from and developed ways to fight racism and poverty. Professor Higginbotham called attention to the underappreciated role churches played in the racial self-help efforts of the African American community and to the specific theological interpretations and practical strategies they developed. Churches were a powerful vehicle to promote a progressive agenda of racial uplift and social mobility. This was true in the early decades of the century, but also in the post-World War II United States: Professor Higginbotham closed with a personal account of a defining moment of the American civil rights movement, Martin Luther King’s speech “I have a dream” during the March on Washington in 1963. After Professor Higginbotham’s engaging talk, the audience enjoyed a reception and the balmy evening in the HCA’s backyard.
Mark McGurl: "The Institution of Nothing: David Foster Wallace in the Program"
June 20, 2013
The HCA’s Baden-Württemberg Seminar continued on June 20, when Professor Mark McGurl from Stanford University gave the keynote lecture of the conference “Acquired Taste: Reading and the Uses of Literature in the Age of Academic Literary Studies” at the lecture hall of Heidelberg’s Old University. His talk “The Institution of Nothing: David Foster Wallace in the Program” presented an in-depth analysis of the novels and short stories of contemporary writer David Foster Wallace.
Centering on a meticulous close-reading of Wallace’s unfinished novel The Pale King, McGurl demonstrated both Wallace’s commitment to a modernist aesthetics of place/space and its appropriation within the American postwar creative writing system. McGurl’s reading focused attention on the co-evolution of Wallace as a fiction writer and creative writing teacher, arguing that the development of Wallace’s literary œuvre cannot be separated from his role within university-based fields of literary production. Wallace’s self-reflexivity as a writer, McGurl argued, stems from his acknowledgement that he was a part of the writing system he helped to sustain and his continued effort to break free from it.
The lecture concluded with a provocatively biographic interpretation of Wallace’s suicide, in which McGurl related the open ended writing process of The Pale King to Wallace’s premature death.
Donna Leon: "A Guide to Writing/Reading a Crime Novel"
June 4, 2013
On the afternoon of June 4, the HCA welcomed a very special guest: the American star author Donna Leon. In the packed atrium, she treated her audience to extensive insights into the making of her best-selling crime novels and to a guide to reading them. A native of New Jersey, Donna Leon has been an expatriate for almost fifty years, working as a travelling companion, in advertising and teaching. When she taught school in Iran in the seventies, she started a doctoral thesis on Jane Austen. During the revolution, she shipped her books, notesm, and drafts back to the United States, but they were confiscated by the Iranian government. She asked herself: “Can I bear the thought of rewriting the dissertation?”, realized she couldn’t, and felt a tremendous relief.
Since 1981, Donna Leon has been living in Venezia. The Brunetti crime novels made her world-famous, but baroque music is just as important to her. She has supported a number of recordings, among others with the “Il Pomo d’Oro” orchestra. The origins of her first novel can be traced back to her passion for opera. While she was attending a rehearsal at the Venetian opera house La Fenice, her companion complained that he could “kill the conductor!” “I’ll do it for you,” she replied, “but in a novel” and invented Commissario Guido Brunetti, who has been chasing criminals in twenty-two novels since the “Venetian Finale.” Every Brunetti novel has made the German bestseller lists, but Donna Leon refuses to have her books translated into Italian, because she is not a native and does not want to cause strife, since her plots are often critical of Italian society. She is not too fond of her American peers. “I abhor violence and I cannot read these gory American plots. I get mad when I realize how many people are interested in this stuff.”
Since her initial crime novel, Donna Leon has churned out one book a year. Writer’s block is not an issue. “Writing is a craft like any other,” she replied to a question from the audience. “You can do it for eight hours every day and if you are not happy with the result, you don’t have to keep it.” After an hour and a half rich with anecdotes, many of her readers joined Donna Leon for a glass of white wine and a tramezzino in the HCA’s Bel Etage for some small talk and to have plenty of books signed.
Film: Michael Verhoeven – "The Second Execution of Romell Broom"
May 14, 2013
On May 14, the HCA was honored to host an evening with the renowned German filmmaker Michael Verhoeven. The capacity audience in the atrium was captured by the showing of “The Second Execution of Romell Broom,” nominated for the Prix d’Europe in 2012.
Romell Broom was sentenced to death in 1985 for the kidnapping, rape, and murder of 14-year old Tryna Middleton from Cleveland and scheduled to die by lethal injection 14 years later. The efforts to inject Mr. Broom remained unsuccessful and Ohio Governor, Ted Strickland, finally granted a reprieve of one week. Since then Mr. Broom’s lawyers have been litigating in the Ohio courts to prevent the state from attempting to execute Romell Broom a second time. The film reexamines and reconstructs the 1984 murder case and subsequent trial of Romell Broom. Many questions remain unanswered.
It also discusses the ramifications and repercussions of the death penalty with legal experts and reveals the flaws and frailty of a system in which the chances of being sentenced to death increase with diminishing financial resources or the darkness of one’s complexion. On the other hand, the careers of prosecutors and judges are bolstered by the number of death sentences they achieve. The family of Romell Broom and his fiancée also provide insight into the destructive impact of the death penalty on the people close to the perpetrator. In stark contrast, the prospect of a second execution brings joy to a victim of Romell Broom, whom he brutally tried to abduct when she was 11. Having never overcome the trauma of this experience, she anxiously awaits his death, hoping that it will finally put her mind at rest. It also gives a voice to Yvonne Pointer, whose child was supposedly murdered by Broom, and who has found an answer that works for her. She helps others to cope with their pain by going into prisons and speaking with perpetrators, helping break the cycle of hatred and violence.
After the movie, Michael Verhoeven discussed its making and its implications with the HCA’s expert on the death penalty, Professor Manfred Berg, and answered questions from a deeply moved audience.
Walter Benn Michaels: "Formal Feelings: Political Economy and Aesthetic Autonomy"
April 15, 2013
On April 15, the Baden-Württemberg Seminar continued with a lecture by Professor Walter Benn Michaels from the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Professor Michaels has previously taught at Johns Hopkins University and the University of California, Berkeley. Among his books are The Trouble with Diversity: How We Learned to Love Identity and Ignore Inequality and The Shape of the Signifier: 1967 to the End of History.
In his talk at the HCA, Professor Michaels briefly introduced Maggie Nelson’s work Jane: A Murder. The book tells the story of the life and death of Maggie Nelson’s aunt, Jane, who was murdered in 1969. Though officially unsolved, Jane’s murder was apparently one in a series of brutal rape- murders in the area. Professor Michaels criticized the politics of indifference and raised the question of “grieveability”: Are some persons more grieveable than others? He argued that liberation movements, such as the Civil Rights Movement, and feminist and gay and lesbian movements are a manifest of a critique of the idea that some lives are more valuable than others. Theirs is what Professor Michaels called a politics of recognition.
While the problem of recognition has become closer to being solved thanks to liberation movements such as the Civil Rights Movement, the problem of redistribution, meaning the problem of income inequality, has not. Professor Michaels explained that discrimination based on race, gender, and sexual orientation is considered “wrong” and unproductive, yet discrimination based on class is not considered equally problematic. After the lecture, the audience and Professor Michaels engaged in a lively discussion.
David Frum: "The Crisis of American Conservatism" (HCA Commencement)
April 12, 2013
In many years, the HCA commencement address in the lecture hall of the Old University also opens the spring semester of the Baden-Württemberg Seminar. In 2013, the HCA welcomed David Frum, an American public intellectual and Republican activist. He served President George W. Bush as a speech-writer and wrote about his experience in The Right Man: The Surprise Presidency of George W. Bush. Mr. Frum is also a prolific journalist whose editorial columns have appeared in The Daily Beast, the National Post, Newsweek and The Week. In his writings for magazines and online-blogs, he has expressed an increasing dissatisfaction with Republican conservatism. In his commencement address, David Frum acknowledged the graduates. He said he found the custom of giving advice at the occasion of commencements difficult, as middle-aged people were often no longer so sure which advice to give to young students. Mr. Frum also mused about the strangeness of the term “commencement” after having completed a task. Yet, he said, the graduates were at a new beginning: the start of their careers. The idea of new beginnings is a central one in the USA, according to Mr. Frum. The idea of always being able to change everything and start afresh manifested itself, for instance, in the frontier or the New Deal. Still, David Frum finds that there is much continuity and tradition for a country so consciously “new.” After a brief excursion into the history of the rise of conservatism, Mr. Frum concluded that the crisis of conservatism meant the end of an era and the beginning of a new one. He lamented that politics are often dominated by older people with increasingly out-of-date ideas that are made even more bitter by the political media. He called upon the class of 2013 to play an active part in shaping the world.
Exhibition: "The Early Days – HipHop in East Germany"
March 14 to April 25, 2013
From March 14 to April 25, the HCA showed the exhibition „The Early Days – HipHop in East Germany.“ Photographs, t-shirts, radio cassette recorders and other everyday objects served as illustrations of an unusual piece of East German history and showed that in the 1980s, HipHop constituted a truly global youth culture that transcended the Iron Curtain.
The four elements of HipHop culture – breakdance, DJ-ing, rap and graffiti – originated in the New York Bronx. A distinct scene developed quickly in East Germany, challenging the SED state. The movie Beat Street made it to East German movie theaters in 1985 and facilitated HipHop culture in almost all regions of East Germany as well as its networks. HipHop was not prohibited in East Germany but the party wanted to control and contain it where necessary.
The exhibition took a look at the main actors of the HipHop movement and their relationship to the authorities as well as at the spaces breakdancers, rappers, and graffiti artists claimed on the other side of the wall. The exhibition focused on the biographies of the protagonists, based on interviews with contemporaries. Archival material and everyday objects from private collections. Visitors could admire the youngsters‘ gifts for improvisation: “Fat Laces“ were made from old shirts. Graffiti was painted on the wall after spray cans had been prohibited.
For the exhibition the HCA welcomed Reno Rössel from the Steinhaus Bautzen e.V., who had conceptualized the exhibition together with the University of Leipzig. The large audience also enjoyed a screening of Nico Raschik‘s movie Here We Come (2006), a portrayal of the HipHop protagonists in East Germany, and had an opportunity to talk to the director.
Tobias Endler: "How to Be a Superpower" (HCA Book Launch)
February 5, 2013
On February 5, 2013, Dr. Tobias Endler introduced his book How to be a Superpower – The Public Intellectual Debate on the Global Role of the United States after September 11 at the HCA. Dr. Endler runs the Ph.D. and other research programs at the HCA as well as the desk for visiting scholars.
He opened by referring to President Obama’s recent State of the Union Address, in which he said the USA were not in decline, but leadership was being renewed all over the world. Dr. Endler’s book challenges the idea that intellectuals are in decline as well in the USA. The main thesis of his book is that intellectuals play a crucial role in contributing to the intrinsic value of the public opinion by mediating it. Dr. Endler read the audience the first part of the introduction to his book. In it, he defined “public intellectuals”: He argues that policy makers often do not have enough knowledge of many crucial issues and public intellectuals are important because they generate ideas.
In public debates, intellectuals from many fields discuss an issue, even when it is not their expertise. Intellectuals have always been involved in opinion-shaping and opinion-making in the USA. But there has also always been skepticism towards intellectuals who engaged in public discourse. Many intellectuals serve as advisors to the government, think tanks or universities. This means that it is no longer possible for these intellectuals to be impartial, as their employers have intrinsic motivations. Yet, public intellectuals mediate the public discourse, for instance on the question of American identity and morals.
There are problems impeding the discussion, though. The challenges are that communication needs to be upheld in a very polarized society. There need to be broad debates on what American values are and all sides have to participate. This includes the media, which needs to make an effort to provide a platform of communication. The discussion is open to anyone who wants to participate; however, many citizens do not believe that their contribution could make a difference. Thus, the lion’s share of participation lies with the public intellectuals.
After the introduction of his book, Dr. Endler answered the questions of his audience and engaged in a discussion on American values and the communication about them.
John David Smith: "Abraham Lincoln, Emancipation, and the U.S. Colored Troops"
January 17, 2013
On January 17, 2013, the HCA commemorated the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation. In honor of this anniversary, Professor John David Smith of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte gave a talk on Abraham Lincoln, Emancipation and the U.S. Colored Troops. Professor Berg introduced the guest speaker as one of the foremost authorities on African American history. Professor Smith received his Ph.D. from the University of Kentucky in 1977. In his distinguished career, Professor Smith has been a prolific author of more than twenty books and has also edited several important academic series.
Professor Smith then introduced his book entitled Lincoln and the Colored Troops. In his talk, he argued that Lincoln was one of the most misinterpreted presidents. He was not an abolitionist, as many believe. He was convinced of black inferiority and frequently made racist remarks. He was a child of his time. However, he did judge slavery as morally wrong and a “pre-modern,” uneconomic labor system. He sought to reunite the nation, with or without slavery, but prioritized preserving the union over abolishing slavery. In his preliminary draft of what was later to become the Emancipation Proclamation, Lincoln declared that all slaves who made it into the Union should be free. He also threatened the Confederacy that he would emancipate all slaves by January 1, 1863, if the “rebellion” should continue.
Almost as an afterthought, he slipped the Black Recruitment Clause into the final Emancipation Proclamation. This meant that blacks could legally serve in the Union Army, that there would be no compensation for the slaveholders, and that the slaves held in the Confederacy were free and would not be colonized by the government. This way, Lincoln could tap into the enticing manpower of black slaves who were highly motivated to fight their former owners. Nine to twelve percent of all Union troops were black. Even before the official proclamation, 4.000 black soldiers were fighting in the Union’s ranks while Lincoln pretended not to know, still hoping he could win some big slave-holding states back by diplomacy alone. The presence of colored troops in regions where slaves were still kept on plantations caused uprising among many slaves who fled and joined the Union. Professor Smith explained that the Emancipation Proclamation had the effect of a “slow motion slave insurrection” and wreaked economic havoc for plantation holders in the South.
While it dampened the spirits of the Confederates, it boosted black morale in the North and significantly supported the Union troops. Professor Smith concluded his talk by pointing out that Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation raised the issue of what to do with the free blacks. If they were allowed to fight in the army, were they citizens? If they were citizens, shouldn’t they be allowed to vote? Before Lincoln could properly address this issue, he was assassinated. After the lecture, Professor Smith engaged his audience in a lively debate on the topic.
Roundtable: "Toward a New Global Financial Architecture"
December 14, 2012
On December 14, the Baden-Württemberg Seminar once more took place in an unusual format. As part of the international conference “Lessons from the North Atlantic Financial and Economic Crisis,” a roundtable discussed the possibilities of a new global financial architecture in the HCA Atrium. The roundtable was moderated by the London-based journalist and financial expert Susanne Schmidt; the discussants were Anat Admati (Stanford University), Mathias Drehmann (Bank für internationalen Zahlungsausgleich, Basel) and the former chief economist of Deutsche Bank, Thomas Mayer.
Admati and Mayer in particular held different views on the question of bank equity ratios. While Mayer emphasized that there were limits to regulation and that nobody knew how much equity was enough, Admati argued that especially in this case 30 percent would be better than 3 percent. When Schmidt asked whether the power of the regulatory agencies was sufficient, Mayer pointed out that due to the general insecurity of the situation the agencies were always assuming a worst case scenario and were thus repeating the mistakes of the banks, believing that the system can be fully controlled.
According to Mayer, it is impossible to do that just, which in fact constitutes one of the differences between a planned and a market economy. Admati emphasized that this was not a question of differences between a planned or a market economy but rather a question of creating effective security structures. While Mayer considered it sufficient to hold individual financial actors responsible, Admati compared this to sending an ambulance after the accident had happened. She demanded reforms that prevent the accident from happening. Drehmann, who generally assumed a mediating position, pointed out that regulators do not act independently from politics.
The lively discussion with the sizeable audience also revolved around the question of how accountability can be achieved most effectively. Martin Hellwig remarked that the discrepancy between private and public interests deserved greater attention; Mayer countered that banks just followed legal incentives. His warning that global regulation might impede that chances for growth in the developing countries was discussed vehemently and eventually brought up the question about the roles of China and India in the new global financial architecture.
Dieter Schulz: "Emerson and Thoreau or Steps Beyond Ourselves"
(HCA Book Launch)
December 4, 2012
The first book launch of the academic year took place on December 4, when Professor Dieter Schulz presented his book Emerson and Thoreau or Steps Beyond Ourselves: Studies in Transcendentalism.
Professor Schulz is professor emeritus of English and American Literature, and he represented the Faculty of Modern Languages on the HCA’s Board of Directors until his retirement in 2008. He has published on a wide variety of topics, such as American transcendentalism and metaphysics. His new book is a collection of essays written over a period of fifteen years.
Professor Schulz admitted to his audience that he was quite baffled by Emerson and Thoreau when he read them for the first time. Over the years, however, he has come to identify with Emerson to a great extent, and thanks to urgings of American friends, Professor Schulz gave Emerson and Thoreau another try. Professor Schulz also pointed out that the chapters in his work are connected by recurring metaphors, mainly the metaphor of walking. He explained that even the most complex and abstract thoughts rely on metaphors.
The essays collected in this volume can be read as chapters in a book, as they circle around the notion and the imagery of transcendence. This concept is crucial not only to the Transcendentalist movement with Emerson and Thoreau as its key figures but also to their antecedents in New England Puritanism, which is represented in Professor Schulz’ book by Roger Williams and John Cotton; it is also crucial to Emerson’s and Thoreau’s followers in twentieth-century Modernism and in our own time. The transcendentalists were highly critical of contemporary politics, society, and culture, and also challenged the objectivist claims of the “methods” or “ways” advocated by the sciences.
After the introduction of his book, Professor Schulz invited his audience to pose questions and debate the issues presented over a glass of wine.
Daniel Albright: "Setting James Joyce to Music: John Cage and Harry Partch"
November 27, 2012
On November 27., Daniel Albright came to Heidelberg from the American Academy in Berlin to give a lecture entitled “Setting James Joyce to Music: John Cage and Harry Partch.” Daniel Albright is the Ernest Bernbaum Professor for Literature at Harvard University and teaches in both the English and Music Departments. He is mainly interested in the way in which artistic media, such as poetry, music, and painting, interact with each other. In 2000 his book Untwisting the Serpent: Music, Literature, and the Visual Arts won the Susanne M. Glasscock Humanities Book Prize for Interdisciplinary Scholarship. In his lecture at the HCA, Professor Albright focused on the interaction of music and literature. He introduced the concept of “belletristic music,” music that intends to become literature. In order to show his audience how music and literature can interact, Professor Albright introduced two artists and their works. The first, Harry Partch, an American composer, worked on pseudomorphesis, the interaction between music and literature, focusing on novels. He made “speechmusic” out of novels such as James Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake. Professor Albright explained that this was possible as Joyce’s novels were very vocal – the author played with language. Harry Partch, for example, set a sentence from Joyce’s work to music. Another novel by Joyce, Ulysses, was set to music by the artist Berio Omaggio. Professor Albright demonstrated this to his audience by playing a sound sample in which a passage of the text is read and then sound-manipulated. This work is not composed music but rather consists of experiments with tape-recording. The last example of the interaction between literature and music Professor Albright demonstrated was the radio play Laughtears by John Cage. According to Professor Albright, Laughtears represented the most impressive work he introduced, turning Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake into sound. The artist recorded sounds of all places in Ireland mentioned in the book and blended it with words from the novel spelling out JAMES JOYCE by finding the first word in the novel starting with a “J” not followed by an “A,” the first word with “A” not followed by an “M,” and so forth. To round the work off, John Cage collected sounds of thunder and provided an acoustic frame for Joyce’s words. After the demonstration of these very different examples of how the words of James Joyce interact with sound, Professor Albright invited his audience to discuss the works.
Alice Eagly: "Women as Leaders: Negotiating the Labyrinth"
November 21, 2012
The Baden-Württemberg Seminar continued on November 21, when the HCA welcomed Alice Eagly from Northwestern University. A noted social psychologist, her focus of interest is gender studies. Professor Eagly’s lecture was entitled “Women as Leaders: Navigating the Labyrinth.” In her talk, Professor Eagly dealt with the question why women are still underrepresented in high leadership positions. She criticized the metaphor of the “glass ceiling,” arguing that it suggested the problem women encountered was at the “top,” when really women often did not make it to the “top” but rather encountered their problems at the “bottom.” Professor Eagly prefers the term “labyrinth” for women’s career dilemmas because it expresses that women face many complex decisions throughout their careers. Professor Eagly explained the connection of prejudicial stereotypes of men, women, and leadership with the phenomenon that men are seen as the better leaders. Common gender stereotypes are that men are competitive, aggressive, outgoing, and courageous. Women are generally seen as kind, sensitive, gentle, supportive, and nurturing. The common cultural stereotype says a leader has to be self-confident, action-oriented, assertive, and risk-taking. These “ideal” qualities of a leader are in line with the gender stereotypes of men. This means that men are generally preferred as leaders in all male-type jobs, yet not in female-type jobs, such as nurse or kindergarten teacher, where men are discriminated against. Professor Eagly analyzed the double bind that women who strive to be leaders are in. While they have to be tough and accomplished in order to be perceived as leaders, they should not be too tough. In her lecture, Professor Eagly also discussed the question whether female leadership style differed from male leadership. She explained that women are generally more democratic and participative than men in their leadership and employ positive, rewarding strategies rather than negative, threatening ones. In her concluding remarks, Professor Eagly explained that a cultural shift was occurring, which would eventually make it possible for more women to occupy leadership positions.
Awarding of the Rolf Kentner Dissertation Prize 2012
November 15, 2012
On November 15, the Rolf Kentner Prize was awarded for the third time. Sponsored by one of the HCA’s most active benefactors, Rolf Kentner, chairman of the Schurman Foundation, the award recognizes an outstanding and yet unpublished dissertation in the field of American Studies completed at a German university. This year’s recipient was Dr. Leonard Schmieding from the Department of History at Leipzig University, currently a Fulbright Fellow at Stanford University.
After a short introduction by Prof. Dr. Manfred Berg, Leonard Schmieding came to the lectern to deliver his keynote address “Hip-Hop Under Honecker: This Is Our Party!” The audience had already been brought into the mood with an impressive Hip-Hop dance performance by the AlphaBeats, a young all-ladies group from the Haus der Jugend in Heidelberg. Excerpting from his prize-winning dissertation, Schmieding then presented some of the key arguments of his work which looks at the enthusiasm that developed for Hip-Hop music and dancing in the former GDR.
Schmieding started his talk with a short excerpt from the 1984 movie Beat Street, which introduced hip-hop culture to audiences in the GDR, turning Leipzig, Berlin, and Dessau, among other cities, into strongholds of East-German Hip-Hop. In his analysis of this teenage fascination with American popular culture in East German socialism, Schmieding argued that many hip-hop practitioners in fact “became Black”: They appropriated cultural forms encoded as “Black” since for them they had become powerful symbols of rebellion and “being different.” Instructive, entertaining, and provocative, Schmieding’s talk garnered much applause and sparked a lively discussion. The evening ended with a reception in the HCA’s Bel Etage, where the prize-winner, the benefactor, and a large audience continued their discussion.
Yusuf Lateef: "Reflections on the Social Relevance of Black Improvised Music" & Archie Shepp: "Reflections on the Political Power of Black Improvised Music"
November 8, 2012
The second event of the Baden-Württemberg Seminar introduced a different format. Jazz greats Yusuf Lateef and Archie Shepp came to Heidelberg as part of the international symposium “Lost in Diversity: A Transatlantic Dialogue on the Social Relevance of Jazz.” At the Old Lecture Hall of Heidelberg University they reflected on the social relevance and the political power of black improvised music. Yusuf Lateef’s “Reflections on the Social Relevance of Black Improvised Music” started out with an explanation of why he rejects the terms “jazz” and considers it a misnomer – it simply connotes too many negative terms. Lateef prefers to call his music autophysiopsychic, denoting music from one’s physical, spiritual, and mental self, or “music from the heart.” He sees African American music in particular as an important contribution to the restoration of American society, especially in the 1950s and 1960s. To Lateef, these decades represented an upsurge of self-determination, self-expression, and self-identity for African Americans after centuries of unmatched maltreatment, prejudice, and brutality. In the African American community, work, leisure, joy, sorrow, celebration, or loss has always been accompanied by music, which held its ground despite ridicule, contempt, and reproach. As African American music gravitated to the mainstream of American arts, Lateef argued, American society as a whole was elevated and that elevation spread throughout the world.
Archie Shepp’s “Reflections on the Political Power of Black Improvised Music” tried to ascertain, among other things, that “yes, music can stop wars.” He recounted an episode from World War II when a temporary truce was declared in the trenches so German troops could play a jam session with the legendary Bebop drummer Kenny Clarke. Shepp’s belief that jazz “belonged” to African Americans and all white jazz musicians merely copied it eventually led to a quite controversial discussion with the audience.
US Elections 2012: "Election Analysis"
November 7, 2012
On the day after the U.S. presidential elections, November 7, the HCA hosted a panel discussion analyzing the outcome of the debate. The HCA’s own specialists, Dr. Mausbach, Dr. Thunert, and Dr. Endler were joined by Dr. Robert Gerald Livingston, founding director of the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies in Washington, D.C. The panel explained why this particular election was unique and assessed the constituency and the challenges the Obama administration will face.
This year’s election was special for several reasons. The amount of money spent in the campaign was astronomical on both sides. Another new feature was the professional use of personal data in voter targeting, for instance via social media such as Facebook and Twitter. The candidates’ wives were both very active in campaigning and are both popular. Never before have the media checked facts so meticulously. In the analysis of the constituency of both parties it was evident that Democrats and Republicans targeted very different groups: Mitt Romney was mainly the candidate of choice for whites, elderly people, and men. Mostly his voters came from the suburbs. He also did very well with members of the U.S. military. Barack Obama was elected by 18 to 40 year-olds, women, Hispanics, African Americans, Asian Americans, and Jews. The panel agreed that the most important factor for Obama’s victory was demographics. The Democrats have adjusted to the growth of minorities in the American population, while the Republicans are now predominantly a party for white men.
Of course, many factors contributed to Obama’s winning the election: Obama’s fight against terrorism and the death of Bin Laden were popular, and his winding-down of both wars the U.S. is currently involved in also contributed to this popularity. While voters were generally not content with the economic situation, there appears to be a general acceptance that the current economic crisis was caused by George W. Bush. The experts outlined the future challenges President Obama is facing after his election victory: The financial cliff is one of the most pressing issues which needs to be addressed by the reelected president. As the Republican majority in Congress will make negotiation and cooperation a necessity, some of the experts see potential for political gridlock. The economy, tax reform and immigration are further pressing matters. Concerning foreign policy, Obama will have to address the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, find the best way to constructively deal with the rise of China, handle Iran’s nuclear power aspirations, and push for more progress in Russia’s nuclear arms reductions. After the panel discussion, the experts were open to questions from their audience.
US Elections 2012: "Countdown für Obama – Die USA vor den Präsidentschaftswahlen"
October 30, 2012
With the presidential elections just around the corner, the HCA held another panel discussion on October 30, this time on the topic: “Countdown für Obama – Die USA vor den Präsidentschaftswahlen.” Professor Berg, Dr. Thunert, and Dr. Endler were the HCA specialists this time. This event’s special feature was a Skype connection to three other specialists, one in Washington, D.C., one in Iowa, and one in California, who were interviewed about the current events of the presidential campaign.
Dr. Thunert gave a short introduction explaining the electoral system of the U.S. and the importance of the so-called swing states. All states, except for Nebraska and Maine, have the winner-takes-all system, meaning that the entire state goes to the candidate with the majority of the votes. Each state has electors, the number of which depends on the population size of the state. These electors form the Electoral College. As soon as one candidate has won 270 votes of the Electoral College, he is president-elect. In the improbable but technically possible case that both candidates gain exactly 269 votes, the House of Representatives elects the president but the Senate elects the vice president. In this hypothetical scenario, it would have been possible for Mitt Romney to become president while Joe Biden had stayed on as vice president, since Republicans were bound to keep control of the House whereas Democrats were likely to continue dominating the Senate.
After this introduction Professor Berg posted a few questions to the first Skype participant, Dr. Markus Pindur, correspondent of “Deutschlandfunk” in Washington D.C. Professor Berg asked Dr. Pindur for his opinion on the fairness of the upcoming election in the light of “election reforms” in some Republican states designed to keep young voters, Hispanics, and blacks from casting their ballots. Dr. Pindur confirmed that there have been debates on constraining early voting in Florida, for instance. A “compromise” has been struck: The last Sunday before the election on November 6, early voting will not be possible. This would affect “Souls to the Polls,” black church groups who vote together on Sunday after worshipping. African Americans traditionally vote Democratic.
Dr. Endler interviewed the second guest via Skype, HCA Ph.D. candidate Styles Sass, who was located in the swing state of Iowa. Mr. Sass explained that the impact of the ongoing hurricane Sandy would be hard to predict. However, Mitt Romney’s campaign might lose momentum while Obama has had the opportunity to exhibit leadership qualities in trying times. President Obama has already been praised for his reaction to the critical situation. After President Bush’s poor handling of hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, expectations are high that Obama will rise to the occasion.
In the third interview, Dr. Thunert spoke to Professor Andrea Römmele, who is currently based in California. She explained that, as California is not a swing state, presidential political campaigning has all but seized. Professor Römmele commented on the role of the media in the election. She criticized the TV debates’ focus on who said what instead of discussing actual content. Also, she pointed out the lack of fact-checking on the side of the media, especially for the TV debates, claiming that the impressions the audience had after the debate stuck, regardless whether the politicians had told the truth or not. In their concluding remarks, the HCA specialists agreed that foreign policy will play a minor role in the election, that the economy will be the key topic and that the race was too close to call.
US Elections 2012: "Debate"
October 23, 2012
In the spirit of election campaigning and presidential debates in the USA, the HCA hosted a political debate with representatives of the Republicans Abroad and the Democrats Abroad, Phil Zeni and Dennis O’Donohue, respectively, on October 23. Each participant gave an opening statement and then answered the questions posed by the moderators of the debate, Dr. Anja Schüler and Dr. Martin Thunert from the HCA. In his opening statement, the Republican participant, Phil Zeni, explained why, in his eyes, President Obama did not deserve a second term in office: A still rather anemic economy and high unemployment rate were his main concerns. He further made the case that the Republican candidate Mitt Romney wanted to give Americans government support without making them dependent.
In contrast, Dennis O’Donohue stressed that today’s Republican Party was comprised of extremists, who “wage war on women” as they categorically oppose abortion and restrict other reproductive rights, which especially young women claim for themselves. Mr. O’Donohue went on to say that cooperation between the parties was necessary and Mr. Obama was willing to collaborate but his attempts were being blocked by the Republicans. The first question by the moderators was “How will your candidate reduce national debt?” Mr. Zeni answered that Mitt Romney would check all programs and diminish federal spending wherever possible. He would also reduce the unemployment rate as employees are able to pay taxes, which would help the economy. Mr. Zeni accused President Obama of inflating the size of the government and driving its costs up. Mr. O’Donohue, on the other hand, argued that Obama was ending both extremely costly wars and had already reduced the deficit. Asked for their view on the Affordable Care Act, Mr. Zeni responded that, while healthcare was an important issue, people generally felt that government control as exercised in “Obamacare” was undesirable. He noted that Romney would make healthcare a state issue so that states could ensure individually that their chronically ill and poor were insured.
Mr. O’Donohue contradicted his opponent and explained that the Affordable Care Act put restrictions on insurance companies, not on citizens. He elucidated that before Obamacare, it was possible for insurers to cancel coverage because of an illness. Obamacare made this illegal and thus protected American citizens. Mr. Zeni and Mr. O’Donohue answered further questions on energy independence and foreign policy in the spirit of their respective parties before the floor was opened for debate and questions from the audience. Predictably, a fairly heated discussion ensued among guests and participants alike.
October 18, 2012
For the opening event of the 12th Baden-Württemberg Seminar lecture series the HCA welcomed Matthew A. Sutton from Washington State University and University College Dublin. Professor Sutton is a historian focusing on religious history, particularly on 20th century conservative Protestantism and its links to politics.
Professor Sutton’s at the HCA was entitled “Is Obama the Antichrist? The Rise of American Fundamentalist Anti-Liberalism”. In the light of the approaching elections in November, he explained the apocalyptic world view held by no small number of American evangelists and its link to American politics. Many evangelists believe that the end of the world is approaching and that a new Millennium is near. However, before this new age can begin, the Antichrist will rise and reign. Evangelists also believe that the coming of the Antichrist will be announced by a series of signs such as moral decline, people turning away from faith, the emergence of powerful empires in Rome, Russia and the Far East, war or rumors of war, and the “Rapture,” in which Christians will be taken from earth and sent to Heaven. A further and very important sign is that God will bestow the Jews to Palestine. Throughout the ages, evangelicals have been searching for signs, believing that the end of the earth is imminent. World War I was seen as a sign due to the British capture of Jerusalem in 1917 and the promise to return it to the Jews. Evangelicals even saw Hitler as a tool of God driving the Jews back into Palestine. This does not mean that evangelicals condoned Hitler’s actions; they interpreted them as another sign. The restoration of Rome, and the rise of the Soviet Union and Japan in the 1930s appeared to be signs as well.
Today, fundamentalist evangelicals are also searching for signs of the rise of the Antichrist. 2012 brought no shortage of international turmoil and distrust of government. For example, in the eyes of evangelicals, the Obama administration is not supporting Israel sufficiently. While Professor Sutton made clear that most evangelicals do not believe that Barack Obama is actually the Antichrist, there is a sentiment that he might be setting the scene for the Devil. The belief that a violent end of the world is imminent has shaped evangelical voting behavior and will impact the election in 2012. After his lecture Dr. Sutton opened the floor for questions from his large and eager audience.
"The American Presidency" (HCA Book Launch)
October 16, 2012
On October 16, the HCA celebrated the publication of the book The American Presidency: Multidisciplinary Perspectives edited by Wilfried Mausbach, Dietmar Schloss and Martin Thunert. As a special guest the HCA welcomed Britta Waldschmidt-Nelson, Deputy Director of the German Historical Institute in Washington, D.C., one of the contributors to the volume.
The book is a collection of essays stemming from the Annual Meeting of the German Association for American Studies in Heidelberg in 2008. The essays characterize the American presidency from the different perspectives of varying academic fields such as political science, history, or cultural studies. While some contributions focus on events or individual presidents, others deal with the importance of fictional presidential literature or movies such as Air Force One, or with presidential rhetoric.The editors of the book each introduced parts of the work and explained how the volume came together. Britta Waldschmidt-Nelson gave a short presentation on “How White is the White House? American Presidents and the Politics of Race.” Taking presidents Jefferson, Lincoln, Wilson and Johnson as case studies, she clarified that Abraham Lincoln, for example, indeed ended slavery but was in fact aiming at its containment rather than abolition.
After introducing the book and giving examples of its variety of topics, the panel fielded questions from the audience.
July 24, 2012
On Tuesday, July 24, the HCA hosted a panel discussion on the topic “US Elections 2012 – What Role Will Religion Play?” The participants of the discussion were two visiting lecturers at the HCA, Professor Kirsten Fischer from the University of Minnesota, and Professor Charles Postel, from San Francisco State University, as well as Daniel Silliman, assistant professor at the HCA, and Bryce Taylor, a Mormon MA student at the HCA. The event was moderated by Professor Jan Stievermann, who holds the chair for History of Christianity in the USA at the HCA and at the Faculty for Theology at the University of Heidelberg.
The participants discussed the vexed issue of the role of religion in November’s presidential elections. They explained to the highly engaged audience that the rhetoric of American elections seems very much shaped by religious issues. However, how significant will religion really be? A good deal of the panel discussion dealt with the religious affiliation of the presidential candidates and the historical significance of religion for the American political landscape.
By origin, the Republicans are a protestant party. Currently they are endeavoring to give their party an ecumenical appearance. Republican leaders repeatedly stress the Judeo-Christian world view of their party, which encompasses all groups of both monotheistic religions. Mitt Romney, who is a Mormon, represents this image of the conservative party. The Democrats, on the other hand, stand for religious tolerance and open-mindedness. After all, President Obama publically endorsed equality for homosexual couples – which cost him and his party the support of many religiously active conservative voters.
Professor Postel, an expert on American populist movements, emphasized that Republican “Christian Nationalism” is not to be underestimated, as it defines itself in contrast to Islamic groups. The participants of the panel agreed that the goal of the Republicans was not so much to convince voters of Romney’s qualities, but rather to ensure that Obama does not win a second term. Professor Postel explained that this was attempted by creating fear of a president called Barack Hussein Obama: A president who is a “secret Muslim,” a “black immigrant,” who did not grow up in America, who has Muslim ancestors and who is allegedly secretly appeasing the radical Islamic archenemy.
Despite the discussion’s focus on the relation between religion and the presidential campaign, the participants made it clear that other factors such as ethnic background, race and gender had a big impact on voters’ decision on Election Day. The panelists also explained the direct link between religion and age. The younger the voters, the less religiously active they are. Additionally, increasingly liberal young people are starting to leave their church communities. The debate also showed that ethnic minorities tend to vote for the Democrats.
It cannot be denied that the religious affiliation of the candidates is of great public interest. The presidential candidates are downright “tested” by the media. John Kerry failed to convince the press and the voters in 2008 that he was still a good Catholic despite being pro-choice. Bryce Taylor is positive that an atheist candidate would not stand a chance in American presidential elections due to the immense importance of religion in the public’s eye.
Despite the fact that the of the campaigns are religiously charged, the experts agreed that the coming election will be decided mainly on economic issues – and the candidates will have to lay open their tax returns at least as much as their church affiliation.
After the panel discussion the participants answered the numerous questions of the audience, which led to a lively debate on values and morals and their connection to religion in the United States.
Karsten Senkbeil: "Ideology in American Sports: A Corpus-Assisted Discourse Study" (HCA Book Launch)
July 3, 2012
The summer term’s book launches concluded on July 3, when Karsten Senkbeil introduced his book Ideology in American Sports: A Corpus-Assisted Discourse Study in the HCA Atrium. Karsten Senkbeil was one of the first doctoral students to complete his Ph.D. studies at the Heidelberg Center for American Studies. His book analyses the cultural impact of sports on the American identity. The talk commenced with the statement that “sports and academia are brothers – they both teach us something.”
Karsten Senkbeil emphasized that American football and basketball were both invented at American colleges, which explains the strong tie between sports and academia still persisting today. He also explained the role of sports in Western post-industrial societies by their “secure boredom”; sports act as a stage for spectacles of dense emotions, epic stories of success and failure, and “good” and “evil.” He illustrated this role using the example of American football, highlighting a specific train of thought covered in one chapter of his book: violence and physical roughness in American football. Scholars often assume that American Football is a highly rationalized game of war where the goal is territorial gain. It has been highly technologized and is thus an industrial and rather violent game.
Karsten Senkbeil, however, disagrees with this claim. He explained that sport anthropologists recognize a continuum of different kinds of violence: On one end of the spectrum there is cool, rationally used violence, which is the pure form of state controlled violence. This kind of violence is usually understood as necessary evil for a higher good and associated with “humane warfare.” On the other end, there is affective, highly charged violence, which is exercised for fun and play, such as in football. This “fun” kind of violence is also associated with “violence voyeurism,” for instance in movies. As the violence displayed in football is affective and of the “fun” kind, the sport can hardly be considered as rationalized modern warfare.
But then, what is it? To answer this question, Karsten Senkbeil went back in American history to the frontier and to the development of “civilized behavior” as explained by Norbert Elias, which forbids violence or expressions of strong emotions in public. In the twenty first century, there is no frontier. Hence, sports have taken its place. In sports some rules of civilization do not apply and violence is condoned. The players style themselves into modern wanderers who venture beyond the frontier into the wild. In this sense, sports represent a pocket of de-civilization. After the presentation of this chapter from his book, Dr. Senkbeil answered the questions of his keen audience and engaged in a lively discussion on violence and the phenomenon of hooliganism.
Hans Vaget: "Der Gesegnete: Thomas Manns FDR" (HCA Book Launch)
June 12, 2012
On June 12, the HCA welcomed Hans Vaget, the Helen & Laura Shedd Professor Emeritus of German Studies at Smith College. Professor Dieter Borchmeyer from the German Department of Heidelberg University introduced his American colleague, whose book he called a “great epic,” which combined all the hallmarks of a great academic work with a dramatic narrative. Professor Vaget then shared some of the insights from his acclaimed Thomas Mann, der Amerikaner with the audience in the HCA Atrium.
His talk “Der Gesegnete: Thomas Manns FDR” dealt with Thomas Mann’s perception of Franklin D. Roosevelt, whom Mann met in person several times. Thomas Mann idolized FDR and considered him “blessed.” Although Mann was also at times critical of FDR he always avoided public derision in order not to diminish FDR’s appeal. Mann deemed Roosevelt an exceptional politician and he worshipped him as he worshipped Napoleon or Bismarck. Thomas Mann had the opportunity to meet FDR three times. On the second occasion, Mann was shocked by the state of Roosevelt’s health. Yet Thomas Mann greatly admired FDR’s political genius and noted that his strength did not seem to be hampered by his impairments.
Mann gave three reasons for his admiration of Roosevelt. Firstly, he was fascinated by FDR’s sense of duty to engage in politics. Also, for Mann FDR symbolized freedom and progress. Thomas Mann simply admired FDR’s charisma. When Roosevelt died unexpectedly in 1945, shortly before the allied victory over Nazi Germany, Mann was so shaken that he interrupted his literary work on Dr. Faustus. Mann regarded FDR as a “shining light in the battle against Fascism” and as an artist among mere politicians. To Thomas Mann Hitler was the enemy of mankind and Roosevelt was his natural and conscious opponent. After the presentation of the book, Professor Vaget engaged in a lively debate with his audience.
Manfred Berg and Simon Wendt: "Globalizing Lynching History: Vigilantism and Extralegal Punishment from an International Perspective" (HCA Book Launch)
May 31, 2012
In the summer semester 2012, the HCA continued a format introduced a year earlier. Students, faculty and the Heidelberg public were invited to celebrate the publications of HCA associates. The series HCA book launches started on May 31, when Professor Dr. Manfred Berg, the Curt Engelhorn Professor of American History at Heidelberg University and Jun.-Prof. Dr. Simon Wendt of Goethe University Frankfurt presented their book Globalizing Lynching History: Vigilantism and Extralegal Punishment from an International Perspective. This book came out of a conference held at the Heidelberg Center for American Studies two years earlier, where twenty-five scholars from ten countries had gathered to discuss extralegal violence in its different forms from an international perspective. The conference volume compiles thirteen essays on lynching and vigilantism around the world. Both Professors Berg and Wendt are experts on the phenomenon of lynching in America.
Introducing the book, Professor Berg explained that the aim of the conference was to place the American lynching experience in a different perspective. In order to do so, a comparative method was applied: The authors looked for cautious generalizations that could be drawn from the individual case studies. Also, the question of the travel of the phenomenon as well as the terminology of lynching was addressed. The origin of the term “lynching” is originally American, but it was adopted by many other languages such as German, Spanish, French, and Italian mainly because nationals from these countries were lynched. The U.S. in particular has a history of mob violence towards foreign nationals. Chinese, Mexicans, and Italians were among the victims. Often lynching was considered “necessary” in order to control black “crime,” particularly the alleged rape of white women by black men. Lynching is often regarded to be a solely American phenomenon that is tied to racism. However, the point of the book is to show that this idea of negative American exceptionalism is too narrow and does not do the phenomenon as a whole justice. Ethnologists have, for example, researched vigilantism in Latin America and Africa. Professors Berg and Wendt made clear that it was not their aim to diminish the importance of racism or to belittle the suffering of blacks in America. Their goal was to show that collective violence is very common world-wide and always has been. Professor Berg defined lynching as a form of extralegal punishment perpetrated by a mob claiming to represent the will of the larger community. People feel they have a right to act if the justice system does not work properly. Hence they take the law into their own hands and exercise popular justice.
There are different theories as to why people commit lynching. The frontier theory states that if the state monopoly of justice does not yet exist, like in the “Wild West,” communal justice is seen as the first step towards law and order. In the weak state or failed state hypothesis, lynching is used as a form of self-defense of the unprotected. The conference and the book show that there is no negative American exceptionalism concerning lynching. However, there are specific components of U.S. lynching that do not apply elsewhere: Lynching as an instrument of racism did and does not exist outside the United States, not even in other white settler communities such as Australia and South Africa. Only in the U.S. is there a positive connotation of collective justice and a strong tradition of popular sovereignty and grassroots democracy as well as a weak concept of state monopoly of legitimate violence. Also, there is a high toleration of private violence such as legitimate self-defense. After the presentation a lively debate with the audience developed on lynching and its connection to the death penalty.
May 29, 2012
The HCA’s Baden-Württemberg Seminar continued on Thursday, May 29, when Bonnie Anderson shared her research on freethinker Ernestine Louise Rose with a sizeable audience. Bonnie Anderson is Professor Emerita at Brooklyn College and the Graduate Center, City University of New York. She co-authored two books with Judith Zissner: A History of Their Own: Women in Europe from Prehistory to Present, published in 1988, and Women in Early Modern and Modern Europe. In 2000, Professor Anderson also published Joyous Greetings: The First International Women’s Movement, 1830-1860. Currently, she is working on a biography of Ernestine Rose.
In her lecture at the HCA, Professor Anderson introduced Ernestine Rose as a freethinker, a feminist and a key figure in the women’s rights movement in nineteenth-century America. Born in Poland to a Rabbi and his wife in 1810, Ernestine Rose was a rebel from childhood. She rejected her religious upbringing and broke with Judaism at the age of twelve. Her mother died three years later, leaving her some money; her father engaged her with a man she did not wish to marry. The marriage contract designed by her father stated that, in case of her refusal, all her inheritance would be disbursed to her fiancé. Ernestine Rose went to court, pleaded her own case – and won. She left her father and went to Berlin.
Professor Anderson described Rose as a true international: She travelled Europe extensively, lived in Berlin and moved to England, where she got married. Later, she and her husband moved to America, where she worked for women’s rights. Ernestine Rose did not approve of her contemporaries’ attempts to classify her by country of origin or by religion. In Rose’s eyes, humanity connected people more than anything – certainly more than nationality. During her time in England, Ernestine Rose joined the Owenite Socialism movement. The Owenites welcomed women, allowed them to speak publically – a rarity at this time –, and embraced inclusion and internationality, both of which Ernestine Rose stood for. According to Professor Anderson, several instances in Ernestine Rose’s life suggest that part of her enjoyed being an outsider and a ‘misfit.’
While Ernestine Rose is most famous for her engagement in the women’s movement and her captivating public speeches, the trait that set her apart most from her contemporary society was her work as a freethinker. In the nineteenth century, being a freethinker meant a public commitment to atheism, which was considered blasphemy and was thus illegal. For a woman to come out as an atheist was even more shocking. Ernestine Rose spoke publically for the freethinker movement and formed many international bonds and friendships. Unfortunately, she also inadvertently alienated some of her feminist connections.
Professor Anderson theorized about the reasons that Ernestine Rose was forgotten, despite her sizeable influence on the feminist movement in the United States: She left the country and thus the focus of feminist historians, and she was a freethinker, which was deemed absolutely unacceptable at the time.
After the lecture, Professor Anderson answered the questions of her audience, which sparked a lively debate on the women’s movement in general and Rose’s role in particular.
Karen Offen: "The French Connection: Building a Transatlantic Women’s Network, 1888-1893"
May 15, 2012
On May 15, 2012, the HCA continued the Baden-Württemberg Seminar with a lecture by Dr. Karen Offen, a historian at Stanford University, who focuses on the history of Europe, especially France, and the history of feminism. Dr. Offen’s lecture looked at two women and their international fight for women’s rights: May Wright Sewall and Bertha Honoré Palmer. Both were active members of the International Council of Women (ICW), the first women’s organization to operate internationally. Its intention was to create an international forum for women to discuss women’s rights issues but also greater issues of humanity.
In 1888, woman leaders representing over 50 women’s organizations from 9 countries met in Washington, D.C. Both May Wright Sewall and Bertha Honoré Palmer had strong ties to French women, as they both lived in France for a period of time. They aimed at utilizing the World Exhibition in Chicago in 1893 to promote women’s rights. Sewell and Palmer were anxious to also include French women, as they had the notion of a sister-nationhood with France. May Wright Sewall, who had always supported women’s suffrage, became president of the ICW in 1899. She was a visionary who promoted the idea that there should be national councils of women, each sending spokeswomen to the international level. She wanted to promote internationality among women.
The ICW turned out thousands of publications in English and French. Today, the International Council of women holds consultative status with the United Nations, which is the highest possible accreditation for an NGO.
Neil Sheehan: "A Unique Gift to Truth and Freedom: The First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States"
May 10, 2012
On May 10 Neil Sheehan gave a lecture on the importance of the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States and its importance for the freedom of journalism. Neil Sheehan is a Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist and author. During the Vietnam War Sheehan reported from the war zone. His war correspondence attracted the interest of the New York Times, where Sheehan started working. In 1971, a source leaked confidential papers to Sheehan. The documents, later known as the Pentagon Papers, concerned the US involvement in South Asia from 1945. The Times published Sheehan’s coverage of the report, including parts of the classified documents, and the Nixon administration tried and failed to acquire an injunction. The Supreme Court ruled that the publishing of said classified papers was in the interest of the public. Sheehan’s publications, which were protected by the First Amendment, won the Pulitzer Prize.
In his lecture Neil Sheehan pointed out that the First Amendment to the American Constitution, which protects freedom of speech and freedom of the press, made US reporters the “freest journalists in the freest country” and thus gave them the duty to look for important truths. Neil Sheehan recounted the events that lead to the publishing of the Pentagon Papers and gave an emotional account of how his editor at the New York Times, A.M. Rosenthal had been willing to risk his entire career to publish the Pentagon Papers because he felt the people had the right to know. Neil Sheehan quoted him: “These papers belong to the American people. They have paid for them in the blood of their sons.”
Neil Sheehan was very critical of the media landscape during the Bush administration, blaming the media for forgetting their true duty. He appealed to today’s journalists to remember that their duty was not to aid the government in its self-promotion but that their duty was to the public. “Take nothing for granted! Question, question, question! Dig deeper!” Neil Sheehan demanded.
In the predictably engaging discussion with his very impressed audience, Neil Sheehan explained that he believed in publishing classified information if it was in the public’s interest – under the condition that the sources remained protected and the publication of the material would not endanger people’s lives. Therefore he criticized WikiLeaks as “terribly irresponsible” for publishing their sources. After a lively discussion, the audience was invited to the HCA’s garden for a reception.
May 3, 2012
On May 3 the HCA’s Baden-Württemberg Seminar continued with a contribution by Professor William Chafe, the Alice Mary Baldwin Professor of History at Duke University. Professor Chafe is a distinguished scholar in the field of gender history. Professor William Chafe is the former president of the Organization of American Historians, the recipient of numerous fellowships and the founder and former Academic Director of the Duke UNC Center for Research on Women. He has published twelve books, and his latest volume entitled Bill and Hillary, the Politics of the Personal is going to be appear this September.
In the lecture Professor Chafe posed the question whether the personality of political leaders had an impact on their policies. Introducing three case studies, namely John F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon, and Bill and Hillary Clinton, he came to a very clear conclusion: Yes, the personal circumstances and the character of leaders do play an important role in their politics.
Describing the example of John F. Kennedy, Professor Chafe argued that Kennedy’s military experience in World War II shaped him as a person but also had an impact on the way Kennedy handled the Cuban Missile Crisis: According to Professor Chafe, Kennedy’s personal dislike for the unnecessary shedding of blood and his mistrust of military judgment since his own deployment caused the president to resist the military’s advice to bomb the missiles in Cuba. Thus Kennedy’s personal convictions drastically shaped the outcome of the crisis, Professor Chafe stated. Concerning Richard Nixon, Professor Chafe elucidated how Nixon’s distrustful nature and his profound ambition combined with his insecurities shaped his presidency and were therefore relevant for his politics.
Yet Professor Chafe made his most compelling case about Bill and Hillary Clinton. Describing both their professional careers and their love lives, Professor Chafe pointed out to his eager audience the intersection of politics and the personal. Professor Chafe described the instances in which Hillary Clinton saved her husband’s political career – which also perpetuated her own – by standing by him in the face of his many alleged affairs and openly demonstrating a strong marriage. Hillary was an equal partner in the politics of her husband and always occupied crucial political positions during his presidency. Professor Chafe maintained that the personal chemistry between Hillary and Bill Clinton shaped every single decision made in the White House during his presidency. Thus, the professor concluded, in the case of these two, the personal is the political.
After the lecture Professor Chafe answered the many questions posed by his fascinated audience.
Philip Kitcher: "Rethinking Social Values: The Enduring Significance of John Dewey"
April 19, 2012
The Baden-Württemberg Seminar continued on April 19, 2012, with a lecture by Professor Philip Kitcher, entitled “Rethinking Social Values: The Enduring Significance of Dewey’s Project.” Philip Kitcher is John Dewey Professor of Philosophy at Columbia University, specializing in the philosophy of science, bioethics, and pragmatism. In his lecture, Professor Kitcher focused on the ideas of John Dewey and William James, both American philosophers and psychologists who are deemed crucial for the philosophy of pragmatism. Professor Kitcher defined pragmatism as the desire to investigate the world and wanting to find out as much information as possible to help the greater good in the time that we have. This must be a cooperative endeavor of sciences so the outcome is actually significant for the greater good. Hence, a social division of labor of scientists is necessary.
According to Professor Kitcher, William James was interested in the significance of questions but not in their meaning. However, John Dewey connected philosophical questions to social issues. He wanted philosophy to have an impact on reality. For Dewey, the role of philosophy was to facilitate social conversation. It was the goal of philosophy to make proposals that advance the common good through solving the problems of the time. Professor Kitcher remarked that today’s debate on climate change showed that there was an enormous failure of embedding science in democratic systems. There was no strong connection between scientific findings and actual policies and science was not being used for the greater good. Professor Kitcher argued that the system for inquiry was distorted by economic institutions. He also argued that not only was science more or less ignored in the political process, it was also under pressure itself because education was pressured by economic institutions.
After his lecture Professor Kitcher opened the floor for debate. He asserted that today, philosophy was irrelevant for the society of the USA. However, he added, there was a small modern movement bringing up Dewey’s core ideas again. But for Professor Kitcher’s taste, this movement was not taking Dewey’s ideas far enough.
April 17, 2012
On April 17 HCA’s Baden-Württemberg Seminar commenced with a lecture entitled “Evangelicals and U.S. Politics in the Twentieth-Century” by Professor Lisa McGirr. Lisa McGirr is a professor of history at Harvard University and specializes in American History of the twentieth century.
Professor McGirr is the author of the book Suburban Warriors: The Origins of the New American Right, winner of the New England Historical Book Award. To her eager audience, she introduced a topic that is historical and yet of great current interest, particularly in regard to the upcoming presidential election this November: The linkage of the Evangelicals with American politics. Professor McGirr defined Evangelicals as a very heterogeneous group of Protestants who take the Bible literally.
The historian elucidated that today’s connection between this particular religious group and US politics did not exist before the nineteenth century and that it was ultimately a result of the national prohibition in the twentieth century. Prohibition as specified in the 18th amendment to the US Constitution, meant a strict ban on alcohol. This political decision was due to the political engagement of the temperance movement of the Evangelicals. They attempted to enforce their goal of the salvation of the people’s souls by the means of temperance as a ‘grassroots organization.’ However, this constitutional amendment brought violence and lawlessness in its wake and hence more moderate Protestants distanced themselves from it.
Ever since prohibition, Evangelicals have had some influence on American politics, acting as a ‘moral authority.’ Today the morals and evangelical world view manifest themselves in the Republican Party in particular. Although Professor McGirr does not attribute phenomena such as the Tea Party Movement solely to the impact of Evangelicals, it is a contributing factor, as the movement would not have been possible without a base of fundamentalist Christians.
Professor McGirr called upon her audience and the general public to be aware of the importance of religion and moral views in politics. After her lecture the guests got involved in a heated debate about the implications of a connection between Evangelicals and US politics.
March 22 to April 26, 2012
Once more, the entrance way of the HCA and the atrium served as an exhibition space. From March 22 to April 26, an exhibition told the life story of Melvin Lasky, one of the preeminent personas of the cultural Cold War. Few American journalists were as well known in Western Europe as the extremely well-read and well-connected Lasky. And few were as controversial. Born in New York in 1920 and raised in the Bronx, the son of Polish Jews was an ardent Trotskyist who turned into a fervent anti-communist and “culture warrior” after 1945. Lasky’s biography impressively reflects the big ideological disputes of the twentieth century.
Curated by Maren Roth and Charlotte Lerg, both of the Lasky Center for Transatlantic Studies at the University of Munich, the exhibit recounted Lasky’s life, a “tale of three cities”: New York – Berlin – London.
Its first part documented Lasky’s early years in New York, his education at City College, the University of Michigan, and Columbia University and his work for the New Leader in New York, where he was editor from 1942–1943. After serving in World War II as a combat historian for the 7th Army, Lasky remained in Berlin, where he worked for American military governor Lucius D. Clay. Soon after, Lasky received Marshall Plan funding to create the German-language journal Der Monat, one of the most influential monthlies of the young Federal Republic, appealing to socially progressive but anti-communist intellectuals. Contributors included, among others, George Orwell, Hannah Arendt, Thomas Mann, Heinrich Böll, Max Frisch, T. S. Eliot, Saul Bellow, and Richard Löwenthal.
The exhibition impressively detailed Lasky’s extensive networks, which he built and maintained as the editor of Der Monat and as the founder of the Congress for Cultural Freedom (CCF) at a 1950 conference in West Berlin, both partially financed by the CIA. In 1953, Lasky also became editor of the Encounter, in many respects a British version of the Monat. He moved to London in the late 1950s and remained a sharp intellectual and a busy networker until the end of the Cold War, when he returned to Berlin for good. The numerous visitors of this exhibition on “cold war politics” certainly left with new insights on the cultural aspects of the Cold War.
Michael Herron: "Blacks, Whites, and Hispanics: A Study of Race-based Residual Vote rates in Chicago"
December 8, 2011
Why do some voting districts in U.S. electoral history have a higher percentage of voters who go to the polls but do not deliver a valid vote? In the last Heidelberg lecture of the fall 2011 Baden-Württemberg Seminar, Prof. Michael Herron, professor of political science at Dartmouth College and at the Hertie School of Governance, presented the audience at the HCA with some possible answers. He pointed out that voter race figures prominently in residual vote rates, and it is well understood that white voters have historically cast fewer residual votes than minority voters. Yet, much of the literature on race and residual votes is based on electoral environments that predate the passage of the Help America Vote Act, and it is natural to inquire as to whether the racial regularities observed under pre-Act conditions, often with voting technology that has since been superseded, still obtain.
With this imperative in mind, Prof. Herron’s studies show that, even with modern, optical scan voting equipment, there were significant differences among black, Hispanic, and white residual vote rates in the city of Chicago during the Municipal Election of 2011 and the Illinois General Election of 2010. Moreover, these three race-based residual vote rates varied with the availability of, respectively, black, Hispanic, and white candidates for office. Hispanics often had the highest residual vote rates among the three major race groups in Chicago, and Prof. Herron’s studies identify a number of cases in which a group of voters chose not to vote for anyone in the face of a dominant candidate running for office who happened to be of a different race than the voters themselves. He concluded that voter engagement as measured by residual vote rates continues to reflect racial features of elections and that, holding constant electoral administration and voting technology, the political contexts of elections are highly relevant to the residual vote rates associated with them. After asking numerous questions, the audience certainly gained a new perspective for the 2012 elections.
Robin Einhorn: "Same as It Ever Was? American Tax Politics in Perspective"
The November events of the Baden-Württemberg Seminar concluded on November 22 with a talk by Robin Einhorn, professor of history at the University of California, Berkeley. The renowned author of American Taxation, American Slavery gave a very instructive talk on the history of taxes in the United States: “Same as It Ever Was? American Tax Politics in Perspective.” Professor Einhorn’s lecture showed the deep, broad, and continuous roots of America’s fear and loathing of taxes. From the earliest colonial times right up to the Civil War, slaveholding elites in particular feared a strong and democratic government.
Professor Einhorn revealed how the heated battles over taxation, the power to tax, and the distribution of tax burdens were not necessarily rooted in debates over personal liberty. She also exposed the antidemocratic origins of the enduringly popular Jeffersonian rhetoric about weak government. The talk pointed out the complex and ever-changing systems of taxation, and their relationship to local and national politics to a fascinated audience.
Jennifer Culbert: "Reflections on the Death Penalty"
November 17, 2011
The Baden-Württemberg Seminar continued in November with a lecture by Jennifer Culbert, Professor and Graduate Director of Political Science at Johns Hopkins University, who is currently the Siemens Fellow at the American Academy in Berlin. The author of the acclaimed book Dead Certainty: The Death Penalty and the Problem of Judgment took her sizeable audience on a philosophical tour de force illuminating the different ways in which the United States Supreme Court has justified its life and death decisions in terms of “truth” in a Nietzschean sense.
Starting with the 1972 ruling Furman v. Georgia, which declared the death penalty unconstitutional, Prof. Culbert proceeded to interpret the subsequent history of capital punishment in the U.S. with an emphasis on how the Court tried to place its decisions not in the merely actual world but in the immutable world of essence and being. Her fascinating insights included the Supreme Court’s decision to include victim impact statements in capital cases as well as the discourse of the “new abolitionists” like Governor Ryan of Illinois surrounding DNA evidence and innocence. She also discussed one of the most recent cases, the execution of Troy Davis in Georgia in September of 2011, in the light of her findings, which, she postulates, do not argue for or against the death penalty. Instead, Prof. Culbert offered her audience a philosophically compelling account of the Supreme Court’s ongoing struggle to legitimate capital punishment, a struggle which reveals important things about the nature of judgment itself. Predictably this engaging talk was followed by a very lively discussion.
Lev Raphael: "Haunted By Germany: Memories of a Jewish-American Author"
November 15, 2011
For the second Heidelberg lecture of the Baden-Württemberg Seminar, we welcomed Jewish-American author Lev Raphael at the HCA. He is considered a pioneer in writing fiction about what has come to be called America's Second Generation. Among his many publications is My Germany, which describes his initial travels in the country that haunted him throughout his childhood. After an introduction by Public Affairs Officer Janet Miller from the U.S. Consulate in Frankfurt, the author took the audience back to the postwar years in New York City where he grew up the child of Holocaust survivors. His parents, whose families came from Lithuania and Czechoslovakia, met in the Hillersleben Displaced Persons camp near Magdeburg after his mother escaped from Polte munitions plant in Magdeburg and his father was freed from a train evacuating Bergen Belsen in the spring of 1945. After a few years in Belgium, his parents moved to the United States where Lev Raphael and his brother grew up haunted by the memories of survivors.
He captivated the HCA audience with tales from a household where classical music was revered but no record with a Deutsche Grammophone label ever made an appearance; where shopping for household items became difficult because everything was inspected for its origin; and where even sharing pleasant memories was dangerous, because it could take his parents back to the most terrible years of their lives. Loathing everything German shaped Lev Raphael’s Jewish identity, his life, and his career. Yet his story was also about a reconciliation process that started on his first book tour through Germany and eventually led him to face the past and let it go. After the lecture, the audience kept the author busy with questions and requests to sign copies of My Germany.
Enjoy Jazz at the HCA
October 27, November 3, and November 10, 2011
On three Thursdays during the Enjoy Jazz Festival, the HCA’s Atrium was turned into a movie theatre. In cooperation with Enjoy Jazz, we presented three episodes of Ken Burns’ award-winning documentary Jazz: A History of America’s Music. Each episode was introduced by the sociologist and musicologist Dr. Christan Broecking, who also taught a corresponding class in the MAS.
The first episode, “Our Language,” took the audience back to the “roaring twenties” when jazz, after its initial decades, was everywhere in America. The audience met Bessie Smith, whose songs eased the life for millions of black Americans and helped black entrepreneurs create a new recording industry around the blues; Bix Beiderbecke, the first great white jazz star, who was inspired by Louis Armstrong; and two brilliant sons of Jewish immigrants, Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw, for whom jazz offered an escape from the ghetto and a chance to achieve their dreams. In New York, Duke Ellington performed in Harlem's most celebrated nightspot, the whites-only Cotton Club, and then got the break of a lifetime when radio carried his music into homes across the country. And in Chicago, Louis Armstrong started to chart the future of jazz in a series of small group recordings that culminated in his masterpiece, West End Blues.
The next episode, “Dedicated to Chaos,” started out in Europe, where musicians like the Gypsy guitarist Django Reinhardt continued to play despite a Nazi ban, and “Swingkids” defied the “Third Reich.” In America, jazz became the embodiment of democracy, as bandleaders like Glenn Miller and Artie Shaw enlisted and took their swing to the troops overseas. Black Americans, however, continued to be segregated at home and in uniform and fighting for liberties their own country denied them, as authorities padlocked the Savoy Ballroom to keep servicemen off its integrated dance floor. Yet jazz musicians answered the call. Duke Ellington premiered the tone portrait Black, Brown and Beige as a benefit for war relief. But underground and after-hours, jazz was changing. In a Harlem club called Minton's Playhouse, a small band of young musicians, led by the trumpet virtuoso Dizzy Gillespie and the brilliant saxophonist Charlie Parker, discovered a new way of playing – fast, intricate, exhilarating, and sometimes chaotic. A wartime recording ban kept their music off the airwaves, but soon after the atom bomb forced Japan's surrender, Parker and Gillespie entered the studio to create an explosion of their own. The tune was called Ko Ko, the sound was soon to be called "bebop," and once Americans heard it, jazz never was the same.
The final episode, “The Adventure,” commenced tracing the changes in U.S. postwar society, as families were moving to the suburbs and watching television became the national pastime. In jazz, old stars like Billie Holiday and Lester Young burned out, but two greats remained: In 1956, the first year Elvis topped the charts, Duke Ellington’s performance at the Newport Jazz Festival became his best-selling record ever. The next year, Louis Armstrong made headlines when he condemned the government's failure to stand up to racism in Little Rock, Arkansas. Meanwhile, new virtuosos pushed the limits of bebop: saxophone colossus Sonny Rollins; jazz diva Sarah Vaughan; and the drummer Art Blakey. But the leading light of the era was Miles Davis — a catalyst who constantly formed new groups to showcase different facets of his stark, introspective sound; a popularizer whose lush recordings with arranger Gil Evans expanded the jazz audience; and a cultural icon whose tough-guy charisma came to define what was hip. As the turbulent Sixties arrived, two saxophonists took jazz into uncharted terrain. John Coltrane exploded the pop tune My Favorite Things into a kaleidoscope of freewheeling sound, while Ornette Coleman challenged all conventions with a sound he called "free jazz." Once again, the music seemed headed for new adventures, but now, for the first time, even musicians were starting to ask, Is it still jazz?
After the third week, many in the HCA audience were certainly curious about the answer to this question. We are looking forward to working with Enjoy Jazz in 2012.
HCA Students Enjoy Jazz
Our MAS students write about their perception of jazz
Awarding of the Rolf Kentner Prize 2011
October 13, 2011
Since 2006, when the HCA established its Ph.D. in American Studies program, nearly two dozen aspiring scholars from 11 different countries have decided to pursue their doctorate in this field at Germany’s oldest university. On October 13, in front of a big audience in the HCA's splendidly decorated atrium, another four young scholars, the Ph.D. Class of 2014, officially started their doctoral training: Michael Drescher (Germany), Axel Kaiser (Chile), Styles Sass (USA), and Kathleen Schöberl (USA). In his welcome remarks, Prof. Dr. Detlef Junker introduced all four of them as well as the new MAS Class of 2013, drawing a big round of applause. Prof. Junker also congratulated another successful Ph.D. candidate – Mohamed Metawe – on completing his dissertation; he was offered a position at Cairo University almost immediately. Prof. Junker then provided a brief sketch of how the HCA's Ph.D. program has evolved from a small group of ambitious researchers to one of Germany’s most international and interdisciplinary doctoral programs that attracts students worldwide.
The main part of the evening, however, was reserved for the awarding of the Rolf-Kentner Prize. Sponsored by one of the HCA’s most active benefactors, Rolf Kentner, chairman of the Schurman Society for American History, the award recognizes an outstanding and yet unpublished dissertation in the field of American Studies completed at a German university.
This year's recipient was Dr. Frank Usbeck from Leipzig University. In his laudatio, Prof. Dr. Manfred Berg, dean of the Faculty of Philosophy, introduced the audience to the complex and ambivalent story of German “Indianthusiasm,” which, as Frank Usbeck argues, provided Nazi propaganda with a rich discourse that could be employed in a broad variety of contexts and for very different purposes. Frank Usbeck’s dissertation may thus prompt us to reconsider our understanding of Nazi racial thought and of racism in general. It shows that race, rather than being an iron-clad ideological doctrine, has been an extremely flexible and adaptable concept. Nazi propaganda could exploit racial and cultural stereotypes of American Indians that were deeply rooted in German popular culture and therefore not necessarily recognizable as propaganda. For the same reason these images survived the downfall of the Third Reich. Prof. Berg stressed that we need to understand that Nazi ideology and propaganda did not reflect a monolithic Weltanschauung that can be neatly separated from other ideological world views such as socialism, liberalism, or conservatism. Instead Nazi ideology, as Dr. Usbeck’s dissertation brilliantly demonstrates, took advantage of a panoply of ideas, discourses, and tropes and adapted them to its own uses, including images of American Indians as “Fellow Peoples.”
In his keynote address “Tribe, Nation, Volksgemeinschaft: German Indianthusiasm and the Construction of National (Socialist) Identity,” Frank Usbeck then elucidated these remarks. Excerpting from his prize-winning dissertation, he presented some of the key arguments of his work, arguing that National Socialist ideology drew on Indian imagery in order to help construct and solidify a specific national identity. Accordingly, the Nazis went so far as to claim not only historical parallels but also biological ties and cultural relationships between Germans and Indians. Instructive, entertaining, and provocative, the talk garnered much applause and sparked a lively discussion. The evening ended with a reception in the HCA's Bel Etage, where the prize-winner, the benefactor, and a large audience continued their discussion.
Aldon Morris: "W.E.B. Du Bois and the Founding of American Sociology: The German Connection"
October 11, 2011
The tenth semester of the HCA’s Baden-Württemberg Seminar got off to a great start with a lecture that connected one of the founders of American sociology with a local hero. Aldon Morris, Leon Forrest Professor of Sociology at Northwestern University, spoke about the role W. E. B. Du Bois played in building the first scientific school of sociology in the United States and the important impact German society had in shaping Du Bois’ world view and his approach to the social sciences. These German influences were central in enabling Du Bois to assume a historic role in developing scientific sociology in America. In particular, Prof. Morris argued three points: First, during the late nineteenth century, Germany helped transform Du Bois’ world views on the nature of racial inequality. Second, German scholars and their social science research at the University of Berlin, where Du Bois studied from 1892-94, provided him with the intellectual perspective and tools necessary to establish the first school of American scientific sociology. And third, Max Weber, by that time an renowned sociologist, deeply influenced Du Bois’ intellectual achievements; finally, Du Bois, also shaped Weber’s approach to social inequality and his political views regarding racial inequality.
Prof. Morris’ also elaborated on how Weber, a continent away, embraced Du Bois’ scholarship and reached out to him as a highly capable scholar. In so doing, Weber was able to absorb this scholarship and use it to enrich his own. Because of Du Bois’ political values, Weber was able to discard his provincial race biases and embrace a perspective stressing cultural pluralism and full democracy. Prof. Morris talk showed that there was a strong reciprocal connection between Du Bois’ pioneering school of sociology and the scholarly world of German social science of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. They were both enhanced by the Du Bois’ German connection. The lecture was followed by a memorable discussion with some dedicated Weber scholars in the audience.
Susan Strasser: "Woolworth to Wal-Mart: Mass Merchandise and the Changing American Culture of Consumption"
July 7, 2011
The ninth semester of the HCA ‘s Baden-Württemberg Seminar concluded on July 7 with a talk by Susan Strasser, the Richards Professor of American History at the University of Delaware. An eminent scholar of American consumption history, Prof. Strasser traced the development of American marketing techniques and shopping customs from 19th century Main Street to the discount stores of today. Her talk commenced with a look at the origins of mass marketing. As the United States changed from an agricultural to an industrial society, countless new products emerged, and around the turn of the century, Americans of all classes had begun to eat, drink and wear products made in factories that processed massive amounts of raw. Along with new production methods, new techniques for national marketing emerged to convert a population used to homemade products to standardized, advertised and brand-named goods. While most goods had been sold as unbranded commodities and wholesalers had controlled the market throughout the nineteenth century, some mass producers now established sales and delivery forces and started to promote their own products. As Americans increasingly switched from the cracker barrel to Uneeda Biscuits, from bulk oats to Quaker Oats and from soda to Coca-Cola, contemporary consumer culture began to emerge.
Prof. Strasser then turned to analyze changes in retailing. New marketing methods demanded new types of stores. Mass merchandising brought forth three genuinely new retail forms: the department store, the mail-order store and the chain store. They all applied fundamental principles of modern selling: Prices were fixed before the sale, workers low-paid, goods departmentalized and priced to move fast. A.T. Stewart’s “Marble Palace” in New York opened in 1846 as the first “department store,” Macy’s and Marshall Field’s followed soon, and many department stores opened mail-order divisions to cater to rural customers. By 1906, Sears, Roebuck sent out a 1000 page catalogue to prospective customers, processed more than nine hundred sacks of mail a day, and operated its own printing plant and the second largest power plant in Chicago. At the same time, chain stores started to replace the general store all over the country, most prominently the Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company, which had started trading groceries in the 1890s; A&P operated almost two hundred stores in 28 states by the turn of the century and almost 16,000 by 1930. Well before that, in 1916, the first Piggly Wiggly Store in Memphis, Tennessee, introduced self-service; the chain ultimately had 2,660 stores and franchised its design. By the 1930s, many characteristics of the American shopping landscape were in place: To serve a population accustomed to brand names, increasingly equipped with automobiles and looking for bargain prices, enormous supermarkets were erected on cheap land outside urban areas. Like today’s Wal-Mart shoppers, customers were no longer restrained by what they could carry but bought in great quantities, ensuring high volume and fast turnover. Not surprisingly, Prof. Strasser’s talk triggered an animated discussion – after all, everybody in the audience was a consumer.
Kristin Hoganson: "Buying into Empire: U.S. Consumption and the World of Goods, 1865-1920"
June 30, 2011
The spring semester of the HCA’s Baden-Württemberg Seminar continued on the last day of June with a talk by Kristin Hoganson, a well known expert on transnational history and the cultures of U.S. imperialism. In her talk, Prof. Hoganson argued that the world of domestic consumption linked the formal U.S. empire of state power to a more informal but not less powerful informal empire of U.S. commercial power. Economic expansion fueled the globalization of consumption, while the appetite of U.S. consumers in turn drove economic expansion, quadrupling, for example, the import rates of food between the end of the Civil War and the turn of the century. Consumers, producers, importers, retailers, advertisers, advice purveyors, and conspicuous style setters all played their part in this development. “Appropriate consumption” started to characterize the relatively cosmopolitan lifestyle of white, well-to-do, native-born Americans.
To analyze how Gilded Age Americans “bought into” their empire, Prof. Hoganson employed “geographies of consumption,” looking at the public circulation of ideas that explained and contextualized foreign goods for the domestic market. Fashion retailers, for example, not only advertised lingerie, but pointed to their Asian origins; cookbooks taught lessons about U.S. imperialism in the Caribbean and the Philippines; decorating columns referred to “Chinese rattan” and “Oriental rugs.” These consumer geographies often drew on a militaristic language and depicted imperial expansion as beneficial to both American consumers and foreign producers.
Another way to understand the correlation between domestic consumption and empire is to look at cultural practice: How consumers made ostensibly foreign goods part of their daily lives. Imports often became a sign of social distinction and a marker of civilizational attainment that associated their users with a global elite. Prof. Hoganson pointed to the “cosey corners” – orientalist niches – that became a rage in middle-class households before the turn of the century and to the popularity of “foreign entertainments” like tea à la Russ or “Chinese frolics.” At fundraising fairs with themed booths, Midwest matrons could shop for perfumes from Paris, coffee from Constantinople, or china cups from Shanghai. In the end, the American consumption of foreign goods was not only cause or result of U.S. imperialism but an integral part of it.
"Hot Off the Press, Hot Off the Reel, Hot Off the Grill" – UniMeile at the HCA
June 25, 2011
The HCA was “hot” during UniMeile, another part of the jubilee activities at the Ruperto Carola. Once again, Dietmar Schloss and Heiko Jakubzik put together an attractive program that presented new American novels, movies, music, and TV series. The event originated from the graduate seminar “Hot Off the Press” that has followed new trends in American Literature, film, pop music and the Internet for seven years now.
The large and keenly interested audience heard about the news coverage of the killing of Osama Bin Laden, novels by Paul Auster, Jennifer Egan, and David Foster Wallace, TV series like “Mad Men” and movies like Black Swan and The Social Network. Spirited discussions always followed the short lectures and “Hot Off the Press” once more proved to be a very successful format. In addition, visitors to the HCA could this time enjoy American Barbecue in the back yard. Our thanks go to “Tischlein Deck Dich” Catering for providing delicious spare ribs, corn on the cob and much more.
America Day of the Ruperto Carola
June 24, 2011
As part of the university jubilee, the Ruperto Carola celebrated “America Day” on June 24, underscoring the strong ties between the university and the United States. America Day started in the afternoon with a panel discussion about president Obama’s political future: “The Obama Presidency: Will there be a Second Term?” Among the participants evaluating the chances of the U.S. president and his opponents were political scientist and HCA scholar in residence Patrick Roberts, HCA graduate student and author Styles Sass, American Studies scholar Dorothea Fischer-Hornung from Heidelberg University, and history professor Mansiha Sinha from the University of Massachussetts at Amherst. The discussion was moderated by Martin Thunert (HCA) in German and English. After a musical intermezzo with Eva Mayerhofer and Christian Eckert, America Day continued with the festive inauguration of the James W.C. Pennington Distinguished Fellowship, initiated by the Heidelberg Center for American Studies (HCA) and the Faculty of Theology to honor the American pastor and former slave James W.C. Pennington. In 1849, Pennington was the first African American to receive an honorary doctorate from a European University – the Ruperto Carola.
After introductory remarks by the HCA’s Founding Director, Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Detlef Junker, and Honorary Senator Dr. h.c. Manfred Lautenschläger, Consul Jeanine Collins had a special surprise for the sizeable audience: A message of greetings from the president of the United States! President Obama thanked the HCA for this initiative, which, he said, reflected the strong alliance and enduring friendship between the United States and Germany. The president expressed his conviction that in honoring James W.C. Pennington’s achievements, Heidelberg University will inspire future generations of Americans and Germans. The HCA’s longtime benefactor Dr. h.c. Manfred Lautenschläger has generously agreed to fund the first fellowships. The formal part of the evening concluded with an intriguing keynote speech on “James W.C. Pennington and Transatlantic Abolitionism,” given by Prof. Sinha. Afterwards, the audience enjoyed drinks and scrumptious fingerfood in the yard and the atrium of the Curt and Heidemarie Engelhorn Palais.
Manfred Berg: "Popular Justice – A History of Lynching in America" (HCA Book Launch)
May 26, 2011
For this season’s third HCA book launch, Professor Detlef Junker warmly welcomed his long term friend and colleague Professor Manfred Berg, who is the Curt Engelhorn Professor of American History at the University of Heidelberg. Professor Berg introduced his new book Popular Justice – A History of Lynching in America to his students, colleagues and the interested public.
Professor Berg reading looked at lynchings in different periods of American History, starting with the origin of the term. During the American Revolution, Charles Lynch headed an extra-legal county court in Virginia, which punished criminals, traitors and supporters of the British. Though Lynch and his companions gave themselves the power to punish, Professor Berg pointed out that their actions cannot be equated with later mob violence. Their violation of law took place during a time of a clear military threat and the chaos of war. Yet, since that time the name “Lynch” is inseparable linked to extra-legal violence. In the chapter “Indescribable Barbarism” Professor Berg described lynching as an instrument of racial oppression in the South during the Jim Crow era. Blacks who were suspected of raping or killing Whites were often “brought to justice” not by legal authorities or a court but by raging mobs armed with ropes, fire and cameras. Most participates of group violence were ordinary people. They committed terrible crimes because they followed orders, believed in a “higher cause” or wanted to keep their communities safe. Lynching was a very visible and therefore very effective instrument to maintain white supremacy even after the abolition of slavery. However, Mexicans, Chinese immigrants, Whites and others also became lynching victims. Prof. Berg introduced the example of the Jewish factory superintendant Leo Frank, who was accused of raping and killing a young girl in 1913. Though he was innocent, he was sentenced to death because of anti-Semitic prejudices, an aggressive yellow press and ambitious southern politicians. Frank was acquitted but then kidnapped and killed by an angry mob after his release. In the last part of his lecture Professor Berg analyzed the transition from lynching to hate crimes in the 1980s. For him, hate crimes are individual acts of violence against minorities which are inspired by the same ideologies as lynching but without the support of the community.
Professor Berg’s lecture was met with great interest in the discussion that followed. Many members of the audience took the chance to continue the conversation with the author over a glass of wine and to purchase Popular Justice – A History of Lynching in America for a special introductory price.
Robert Isaak: "The Great Bluff - America’s Temporary Escape from the Financial Crisis"
May 23, 2011
While financial bailouts of EU states and the devaluation of the Euro dominate the news on this side of the Atlantic and people are scared of the financial consequences, many Americans seem to have a more optimistic view on the economic situation of their country. In his provocative lecture Robert Isaak, Professor of International Management at Pace University in New York and author of Brave New World Economy: Global Finance Threatens Our Future, revealed the weak spots of what he considers a rather fragile financial security.
For Professor Isaak, the American culture is a money culture with a banker’s view of reality. Understanding the special relationship between Americans and their money is essential in order to comprehend their current reaction to the financial crisis. In the United States money serves as a surrogate for freedom. Professor Isaak pointed out that the American bailouts constitute, among other things, a shift from the private to the public sector, which is not only bad news for the tax payers but also a violation of a maxim many Americans believe in: “The government is best which governs least.”
Yet, were those drastic bailouts which go against the American culture and tradition even successful? According to Professor Isaak, the escape from the financial crisis they achieved can only be temporary or in other words a “Great Bluff.” First, the financial crisis caused the decline of small commercial banks, which support small and medium-sized businesses and therefore the American middle class; at the same time, the big banks, which gain profit from new financial instruments like mortgages and assets, were saved with great amounts of taxpayer money. Second, in comparison to states like Russia or China, the United States holds only small reserves of foreign exchange and gold to back up their currency. Third, the United States spend a lot of money on the social sector, for example on education or health, but the “profits,” e.g. the average life expectancy, don’t represent the money spent. As a result of insecurity and uncertainty during the crisis, conservative politics gained popularity.
According to Professor Isaak, the only way out of the worldwide financial crisis is to solve the conflict between the developed and overbanked industrial countries and the undeveloped and underbanked ones. Isaak sees an opportunity for such a solution in the appointment of Dominique Strauss-Kahn as the head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), as this may result in a greater leadership role and more influence of the emerging markets.
After Professor Isaak painted a rather gloomy picture of the current and future financial situation, many members of the sizeable audience participated in a controversial discussion revolving around the role of the IMF and the World Bank, the future of the Euro and the justification of financial bailouts.
Adam Tooze: "Never Again: Memories of the Great Depression and America’s Reaction to Today’s Financial Crisis"
May 19, 2011
The Great Depression and the New Deal remain a remarkable rupture in the history of American economic performance, and Americans seem to revisit it almost compulsively at times. Yet, as Professor Adam Tooze pointed out in his very enlightening presentation, the New Deal was controversial from the outset. Many Americans saw and see the Roosevelt administration as inimical to the American Way of Life in a radicalizing political discourse. The academic discipline of economics in particular is almost dramatically divided, with each side boasting its Nobel Prize winners and influential public intellectuals. To complicate the picture further, historians of the New Deal are fragmented along technical and political lines and the function of history itself has changed. Mapping this confusing field, Professor Tooze offered four positions that combine different politics and economic theories with different notions of the purpose of history.
For a large section of the American liberal public the New Deal, the American victory in World War II and the Marshall Plan continue to represent a nostalgic badge of collective identity, a vital progressive moment in American history, tinged with a sense of regret about the present and a nostalgia for the past. Not surprisingly, the American left, while marginal to popular debate, has attacked New Deal politics from the start, maintaining that the state expanded but that the structures of capitalism were untouched, destroying the populist roots of American grassroots democracy. Far more dominant than this view is the vocal and popular critique from the right, which argues that the state intervention of the New Deal and the uncertainty it created amongst businessmen actually caused the prolonged economic slump. The so called freshwater school even cruelly insists that all changes in economic activity, including unemployment, can be traced back to rational choices by free economic agents.
For Professor Tooze, the most powerful position is the “skeptical optimism” adopted by mainstream policy intellectuals such a Ben Bernanke, Paul Krugman, or Christina Romer, a position true to the legacy of American pragmatism. Skeptical optimists believe that rational human thought and action within existing institutions can make a powerful positive difference. While the era of the Great Depression does not necessarily offer answers to the questions the U.S. is facing today, skeptical optimists can probably best meet the challenge to open a new chapter in the national narrative that ends the saga of American exceptionalism. Naturally, the talk was followed by a lively discussion with the sizeable audience.
Tobias Endler: "After 9/11: Leading Political Thinkers about the World, the U.S. and Themselves" (HCA Book Launch)
April 21, 2011
On April 21, a sizable audience welcomed Tobias Endler, the Ph.D. administrator at the HCA, for the second HCA book launch. He presented his newly published book After 9/11: Leading Political Thinkers about the World, the U.S. and Themselves. With his presentation Tobias Endler also provided a glimpse into the sources for his forthcoming dissertation.
During a research and teaching fellowship at Yale University Tobias Endler interviewed fourteen men and three women, who are some of the most prominent public intellectuals of the United States, for example John Bolton, Francis Fukuyama, James M. Lindsay and Nancy Soderberg. These public intellectuals are not only highly visible in the media, but have each published a book on America’s foreign policy after 9/11.
On the one hand, Tobias Endler asked his interview partners to define their nation's role and position on the global stage: What is America's foreign policy in the post-9/11 world? What should it be? What led to the catastrophe of September 11? How to best to prevent another one, and how to restore America's damaged reputation? What to expect of Obama? And are the United States still a superpower? On the other hand, he asked them to define their own role: What is a public intellectual? Is this still a relevant concept? Did their authority increase since the attacks of 9/11? What role do public intellectuals play in the democratic public debate?
After explaining the concept and method of his work Tobias Endler continued his lecture with excerpts of audio tapings of the interviews. The audience enjoyed this part of the book launch particularly. Not only did the audio recordings give a greater insight into Tobias Endler’s work, they also made the audience feel closer to the intellectuals themselves. It became obvious that although the professional backgrounds of these political thinkers are as diverse as their ideological orientations, most of them agree that America should have a leadership role in the world and only disagree on how to achieve it.
The evening was completed with contributions by Dr. Martin Thunert, senior lecturer in political science at the HCA, and by Prof. Dr. Dietmar Schloss, one of the Ph. D. advisors of Tobias Endler. Thereafter all three of them gladly answered questions and later continued the engaging conversation with the audience over a glass of wine.
Todd Gitlin: "The Press and the Romance of the Financial Bubble"
April 15, 2011
On April 15, the HCA welcomed a very special guest, Todd Gitlin, professor of journalism and sociology and chair of the Ph. D. program in Communications at Columbia University. This “not very private intellectual,” as he describes himself, is also well known as the third president of Students for a Democratic Society (1963-64). During his term of office he helped organize the first national demonstrations against the Vietnam War and against the apartheid regime in South Africa. Moreover, Professor Gitlin is the author of fourteen highly appreciated books and many members of the audience brought one along.
In his lecture “The Press and the Romance of the Financial Bubble” Professor Gitlin highlighted the inglorious role of the American press during the nationwide mortgage speculations which led to the worldwide financial crisis 2008/2009. Instead of pointing out the risks of these insecure mortgages the press cheered for the financial sector and celebrated its CEOs as “masters of the universe.” At the same time, there were no investigative stories confronting the powerful men and institutions whatsoever. Professor Gitlin emphasized that also due to this one-sided press coverage investment bankers became unquestioned moral authorities for the American public. They were admired for creating value for their companies, as well as wealth for the American society and themselves. The press became a “watchdog that didn’t bark” in the face of danger. According to Professor Gitlin the press failed because it was impossible for journalists, whose numbers dwindled constantly, to understand all the connections and patterns of the complex financial system. Since conventional journalism fell through, Gitlin has supported the idea that non-profit journalism and informal agencies like Wikileaks will undertake the task of investigating such complex topics in the future.
The lecture was met with great interest and the evening continued with an extensive and lively debate. In the end everyone had a chance to shake hands with Professor Gitlin and have their books signed by the author.
Mischa Honeck: "We are the Revolutionists: German-Speaking Immigrants and American Abolitionists after 1848" (HCA Book Launch)
April 12, 2011
This spring, the HCA introduced a new format on its event calendar. Students, colleagues and the interested public were invited to the first HCA book launch. Dr. Mischa Honeck, currently a research associate and the Ph.D.-Coordinator at the HCA, introduced his first book: We Are the Revolutionists: German-Speaking Immigrants and American Abolitionists after 1848.
The evening opened with music and pictures that transported the audience back to the mid-nineteenth century. After a warm introduction by Dr. Wilfried Mausbach, Dr. Honeck used the opportunity to thank his colleagues at the HCA and especially his wife for the support during the years of research and writing.
In the following lecture Dr. Honeck retold the story of the so called Forty-Eighters who fought for their ideals in the failed European revolutions of 1848–49. Thousands of them fled from prosecution to North America. However, arriving in a foreign country did not end their pursuit of freedom. After 1848, German-speaking immigrants collaborated and build new friendships with American abolitionists, overcoming ethnic and cultural boundaries for a common goal: the abolition of slavery. Yet, in his lecture Dr. Honeck also analyzed the limits of this transatlantic alliance. Not only did American and German Revolutionists disagree on how to achieve their mutual goals, but they were also trapped in their respective social environments of ethnocentrism and racism. Thus, Dr. Honeck placed the struggle for abolition in a new transnational perspective, 150 years to the day after the battle of Fort Sumter, which started the American Civil War.
The evening continued with Civil War historian Martin Öfele, who gave his appraisal of We are the Revolutionists, questions from the floor and a lively discussion. Members from the audience then had a chance to continue the conversation with the author over a glass of wine. We are certainly looking forward to the next book launch at the HCA.
University Hour: "Bridges to the New World"
March 31, 2011
On Thursdays throughout its anniversary year, the Ruperto Carola invites the Heidelberg public to learn more about its multifaceted teaching and research activities. Each week during the “University Hour,” a different institute opens its doors to present its work. On March 31, the HCA built “Bridges to the New World.” A video conference via skype offered HCA fellows and visitors the opportunity to meet and chat with its partners on the other side of the Atlantic.
It started out with Felix Lutz at the Center for European Studies at Harvard University, who, among other things, reported on the consequences of the global financial crisis on elite American universities. After that, Maria Höhn at Vassar college told the audience about the history of the photo exhibition “Civil Rights, African Americans, and Germany” that was showing at the HCA at the time. We talked to HCA Ph.D. candidate Johannes Steffens in New York City and then moved on to the German Historical Institute in Washington, DC, a longtime partner of the HCA. In DC, we also connected with David Morris, German area specialist at the Library of Congress. The HCA video conference continued at the University of Nebraska with two former associates of the HCA, Jeannette Jones and Alexander Vazansky. We then went to Denver, Colorado, to chat with Kathleen Lance, president of Heidelberg Alumni US, which also gave Irmtraud Jost on this side of the Atlantic the opportunity to report on the activities of the Ruperto Carola’s Alumni Association. Our virtual journey across the North American continent ended in San Francisco, where we talked to Bob Cherny, a former Fulbright Professor at the HCA, and Charles Postel, our future Scholar in Residence. Entertained further with wine and pretzels, our visitors undoubtedly gained interesting insights into the work of the HCA and its partners – for more than an hour.
Hartmut Berghoff: "Can Capitalism Be Tamed? The Beginnings of Credit Rating in the United States and Germany Prior to 1914"
March 17, 2011
Hartmut Berghoff, currently the director of the German Historical Institute in Washington D.C., drew a sizeable crowd for his lecture on the history of credit rating agencies. His audience was undoubtedly also looking for an explanation why U.S. rating agencies failed so blatantly in the current financial crisis. Today’s rating agencies, Professor Berghoff stated, “grossly underestimated the risks involved, … were simply overtaxed by the … complexity of the new investment vehicles” and were subjected to a “conflict of interest.” In addition, Professor Berghoff treated the audience at the HCA to a little explored subject of economic history: the emergence of credit rating agencies in the nineteenth century United States. These agencies were an institutional response to the challenges facing an industrializing nation and later an industrializing globe. In an expanding market that sold most of its wares on credit, nineteenth century businessmen looked for a system that would transform commercial uncertainties into manageable risks. Transforming and ultimately substituting the social capital formerly accumulated through families, churches, and ethnic communities, rating agencies collected, evaluated, and centralized enormous amounts of data and thus enabled their clients to foster trust among strangers in an increasingly anonymous and insecure world.
At the same time, they acted as disciplining institutions, guided by the values of the WASP middle class. Credit rating agencies grew exponentially: The reference book of the Dun agency, founded as the Mercantile Agency by silk merchant Lewis Tappan in 1841, boasted 10,000 entries by 1859 and 1.8 million by 1915. Today, Dun & Bradstreet remains the market leader in the commercial data business. Professor Berghoff also pointed out that the relative strength of credit rating agencies in the U.S. also reflected the weakness of the banking system, whereas businesses in Germany – geographically much smaller – could rely on local Chambers of Commerce for contact, information, and trust. Yet, credit rating did eventually get off the ground in the German Empire, particularly when it became increasingly indispensable for German exporters to tap into global information networks.
Exhibition "The Civil Rights Struggle, African American GIs, and Germany"
March 15, 2011
Since the end of World War II, almost three million African American soldiers have been stationed in Germany. Many of them contributed to the defeat of the Third Reich. Their experience as part of the occupation army in Germany, where – in contrast to the United States – institutionalized racism did not exist after 1945, became an important impulse for the African American civil rights movement. In the 1960s, the German student movement became an important platform for civil rights activists in- and outside the U.S. Army in Germany. These little known aspects of civil rights history are now being documented in a digital archive and a photo exhibition that is on display at the HCA in April and May after showings in Berlin, Munich, Hamburg and San Francisco, to name a few. The objects in the exhibition range from pictures of black soldiers at the end of the war over cartoons from the 1940s and 1950s and flyers of the student movement to a poster expressing solidarity with Angela Davis.
In the digital archive directed by the two curators of the exhibition, Maria Höhn of Vassar College and Martin Klimke of the HCA and the Germans Historical Institute in Washington, DC, researchers of these three institutions explore the question to what extent the creation of American military institutions outside of the United States facilitated the U.S. civil rights movement. The digital archive documents the experiences of Afro American soldiers, activists, and intellectuals in twentieth century Germany and thus adds a transnational dimension to the history of the American civil rights movement. With this photo exhibition, the HCA utilized its atrium as an exhibition space for the first time and could welcome a sizeable crowd for the opening, among them members of the U.S. Army and the Rhein-Neckar Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
Darrell Bock – "The Da Vinci Code and History: Sorting Out the Claims of a Worldwide Best-Seller"
December 9, 2010
For the final lecture of the Baden-Württemberg fall program, the HCA welcomed Professor Darrell Bock from Dallas Theological Seminary, whose book Breaking the Da Vinci Code: Answers to the Questions Everyone's Asking became a New York Times bestseller in its own right. In his lecture “The Da Vinci Code and History: Sorting Out the Claims of a Worldwide Best-Seller,” Professor Bock looked at the basic claims of Dan Brown and alternative christianities, namely that a revision of early Christian origins is needed and that gnostic texts with their human Jesus and view of women can take us there.
He introduced the nature of the so-called missing gospels, the movements that produced them and their similarities and dissimilarities to the gospels we know. Professor Bock concluded that the claim that Gnostic Christians existed alongside orthodox Christians at the start of Christianity was “simply false,” that Gnostic texts are too late and too distinct to be tied to the Jewish Jesus and that “there was no core belief system in the first century that could later be called orthodoxy.” We are certainly looking forward to such excellent speakers and such enthusiastic audiences in the spring 2011 Baden-Württemberg Seminar.
November 23, 2010
The third Baden-Württemberg Seminar lecture in November, provocatively titled “Anti-Intellectualism in American Life: The Case of Richard Rorty,” was held by Richard Wolin of the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. Richard Rorty is considered as one of America’s most significant philosophers, especially since the publication of his 1979 breakthrough work Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature, which addressed the central problems of modern philosophy: the mind-body problem; the nature of the self; the unity of truth. In Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity, a follow-up work that had perhaps an even greater impact, Rorty debated outstanding representatives of twentieth-century European literature: Marcel Proust, Vladimir Nabokov, and George Orwell.
Nevertheless, Wolin contended, at a certain point Rorty became a rather peculiar philosophical presence: a philosopher who, to all intents and purposes, abandoned the philosophical vocation, whose goals and purposes, he boldly announced, were in essence a dead letter. At the center of Professor Wolin’s presentation stood Rorty’s uneasy alliance during the 1970s with the Nietzsche-inspired “anti-philosophical” doctrines of Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida, and Jean-Francois Lyotard – whose epistemological skepticism Rorty shared, but whose antiliberal political views he increasingly found distasteful and incompatible with his own muted social democratic political leanings. Yet despite his manifest erudition and European focus, Rorty was probably more quintessentially American than he realized. Undoubtedly, the sizeable audience enjoyed and critically received the talk.
November 11, 2010
For the third lecture of the fall Baden-Württemberg Seminar, the HCA welcomed Anne Hull to Heidelberg, who inspired the audience with her engaging lecture on “The Essential Need for Journalism.” Currently the Holtzbrinck fellow at the American Academy in Berlin, Anne Hull is a national reporter at the Washington Post whose writing often focuses on the marginalized in American society and explores the dilemmas of race, class and immigration. In 2005, she reported on Hurricane Katrina from New Orleans. Her stories investigating the neglect of wounded soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center were awarded the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service (together with Dana Priest) and the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award.
At the HCA, Anne Hull not only gave an insider’s account of how the Walter Reed Story broke, but also emphasized that the greatest privilege for reporters is to be given the funds, the legal back-up, and the time, weeks and months, to follow stories closely and intensively. She also reported about the dilemmas journalists face in “being there” reporting, the kind of original reporting that allows them to work up curiosity and widen their scopes but also requires them to leave the comforts of home and city to report on the real America. Furthermore, Anne Hull alerted her audience of the current difficulties newspapers face because of diminishing resources that often go to online reporting instead of investigations like the one that blew the whistle on the Walter Reed scandal. Anne Hull’s approach to journalism is, as she emphasized, best characterized by Eudora Welty’s words: “It is not my job to judge, but merely to pull the curtain back to reveal this hidden world behind it.”
Robert J. Norrell – "The Media and the Movement: How Racial Images Thwarted and Enabled Race Reform in the US"
November 2, 2010
The November lectures of the Baden-Württemberg Seminar were initiated with a talk by Robert J. Norrell, Bernadotte Chair of Excellence at the University of Tennessee, who looked at “The Media and the Movement: How Racial Images Thwarted and Enabled Race Reform in the U.S.” Professor Norrell analyzed the representation of African Americans in the American mass media between 1890 and 1958, tracing the history of black protest since emancipation and linking the intensifying protest in the 1950s and 60s to changes in media portrayal. American pop culture – comic strips, advertisement and the minstrel show – had demonized African Americans for a long time and bolstered white supremacy. Zip Coon the Dandy accompanied by Jim Crow became ubiquitous racial stereotypes at the end of the nineteenth century. Wildly popular racist fiction and movies appealed to an enormous audience. Racist humor was also prevalent in weekly magazines like Collier’s and the Saturday Evening Postand radio shows like Amos’n’Andy.
This development took a sharp turn in 1938, just in time to enhance the emerging Civil Rights Movement. Against a backdrop of court decisions that bolstered African American equality and civil rights and a growing desegregation in sports, a defining media moment for black equality came with the fight of Joe Louis against Max Schmeling in June 1938. After 1941, war propaganda constantly reinforced the need to address wrongs. LIFE and LOOK magazines, the Saturday Evening Post and Reader’s Digest significantly reduced racist images and began to treat blacks more sympathetically. At the same time, Norrell contended, Johnson Publication emerged as a powerful black media empire that validated black culture for African Americans. While Southern newspapers remained intensely hostile to the black civil rights struggle, the national media reported on sit-ins and freedom rides, even if it ignored problems in northern cities until they exploded in mid-1960s.
"Studying and Teaching in the United States and Germany – A Transatlantic Dialogue: Experiences of German and American Exchange Participants"
October 28, 2010
On the last Thursday in October, the HCA hosted a panel discussion featuring both students and faculty who had studied and taught in the United States and Germany. This evening was part of a week long seminar for administrators in international education who toured a number of educational institutions in the state of Baden-Württemberg. In addition, a sizeable number of students were curious about how teaching and studying environments differ on both sides of the Atlantic. The event was jointly organized by the HCA, the Akademisches Auslandsamt Universität Heidelberg, and Heidelberg Alumni U.S. (HAUS) and generously supported by the German Academic Exchange Service.
After warm greetings from the HCA’s Founding Direktor, Prof. Detlef Junker, Dr. Martin Thunert (HCA) opened the discussion. On the podium, Prof. Dr. Patrick Roberts (Virginia Tech University/HCA) and Prof. Dr. Kathleen Donahue (Central Michigan University/HCA) shared their views on differences in teaching, emphasizing differences in student discipline, work ethics and grading. Prof. Dr. Michael Gertz (Heidelberg University Institute of Computer Science) commented – among other things – on hierarchies at German and American universities and how his time at the University of California/Davis helped him develop new research skills. The experience of the students – Gordon Friedrichs and Johanna Illgner from Germany and Jennifer Martens from the U.S. – focused on the structure of degree programs, the spread of the workload throughout the semester, the transparency of grading and the availability of their instructors. The audience eventually warmed up to the discussion and contributed substantially. A reception in the Bel Etage following the discussion gave everyone a chance to mingle and continue the conversation.
Ph.D. Graduation Ceremony 2010 & Awarding of the Rolf Kentner Prize
October 21, 2010
Since 2006, when the HCA established it Ph.D. in American Studies Program, nearly two dozen aspiring scholars from 10 different countries have decided to pursue their doctorate in this field at Germany’s oldest university. On October 21, the HCA proudly presented to the academic community its first four successful Ph.D. candidates – Raluca-Lucia Cimpean, Christian Maul, Anthony Santoro, and Karsten Senkbeil – and bestowed upon them their hard-earned certificates. The ceremony in the atrium began with the four graduates, dressed in traditional academic gowns, descending from the top floor by elevator to the sound of classic rock. HCA Founding Director Prof. Dr. Detlef Junker provided a brief sketch of how the Ph.D. in American Studies had evolved from a small group of ambitious young scholars in 2006 to one of Germany’s most international and interdisciplinary doctoral programs that attracted students worldwide. Prof. Junker then proceeded to present the Ph.D. certificates to Raluca-Lucia Cimpean for her dissertation “John F. Kennedy Through the Looking Glass: Docudramatic Representations of the JFK Image”; to Christian Maul for his study “From Self-Culture to Militancy, From Conscience to Intervention: Henry David Thoreau Between Liberalism and Communitarianism”; to Anthony Santoro for his dissertation “Exile or Embrace: The Religious Discourse on the Death Penalty in the Contemporary Era”; and to Karsten Senkbeil for his work on “The Language of American Sports: A Corpus-Assisted Discourse Study.”
Following a musical interlude in which Eva Mayerhofer and Christian Eckert performed songs by Jazz icon Louis Armstrong, Prof. Junker commenced the second part of the ceremony, the awarding of the Rolf Kentner Prize. Sponsored by one of the HCA’s most active benefactors, Rolf Kentner, chairman of the Schurman Society for American History, the award recognizes an outstanding and yet unpublished dissertation in the field of American Studies completed at a German university. Its first recipient was Daniel Stein from the University of Göttingen. After a short introduction by Prof. Dr. Günter Leypoldt, chairman of the Kentner Prize committee, Daniel Stein to delivered his keynote address “My Life Has Always Been an Open Book: Louis Armstrong, American Autobiographer.” Excerpting from his prize-winning dissertation, Daniel Stein presented some of the key arguments of his work which looks at the life and art of Louis Armstrong in the context of American autobiography writing. Both instructive and entertaining, Stein’s talk garnered much applause and set a standard for future prize applicants. The graduation ceremony drew to a close with a second musical interlude which. After that, the prize-winner, the graduates, and their friends and families were invited to a reception in the Bel Etage where they continued to celebrate well into the night.
October 4, 2010
The first event in this fall’s Baden-Württemberg Seminar was attended by a sizeable audience which included the MAS class of 2012. In her most recent book, Irresistable Empire, which came out in a German translation this year, Victoria De Grazia, Moore Collegiate Professor of History at Columbia University, analyzed the triumph of American consumer culture over Europe’s bourgeois civilization. Having looked at this facet of “soft power,” professor DeGrazia is now conceptualizing a history of the term. It was first used by Harvard historian Joseph Nye in 1992 and flourished after September 11, 2001. Initially, “Soft Power” had a very positive connotation and was used interchangeably with the terms “cultural diplomacy,” “foreign public relations” and “McDonaldization.”
Among other things, professor DeGrazia posed the question when the United States to use “Soft Power,” what work it was intended to do and what this concept said about a new moment in American hegemony. She emphasized that exercising “Hard Power” and “Soft Power” was by no means paradoxical but often a rather effective strategy, as the history of the Marshall Plan demonstrates. After the end of the Cold War, “Soft Power” by no means became superfluous. During the presidential election campaign in 2008, for example, both camps advanced the concept of “Smart Power.”
September 24, 2010
Almost one year to the day after the new HCA Annex was opened, the center had another reason to celebrate: On behalf of the President of the Federal Republic of Germany, the Baden-Württemberg Minister of Science and Research, Prof. Dr. Peter Frankenberg, bestowed the Federal Cross of Merit on the HCA’s Founding Director. Prof. Dr. Detlef Junker received this honor for his exceptional support of American Studies as a discipline, his academic teaching and his creative administrative abilities.
fter the president of the Schurman association, Rolf Kentner, had greeted the audience, it was addressed by the rector of the Ruperto Carola, Prof. Dr. Bernhard Eitel. In the succeeding lecture, Prof. Dr. Philipp Gassert (University of Augsburg) sketched the themes and the institutional development of American Studies in the Federal Republic of Germany. In its formative years, from the mid 1940s to the mid 1960s, much of the discipline concentrated on analysing the U.S. as a role model for a democratic German state. The Vietnam War launched a more critical period that lasted until the end of the Cold War, when questions of globalization and the dissolution of borders appeared on the scholarly agenda. Institutes for American Studies were founded in Munich (1949), Berlin (1964), and Frankfurt (1979). The establishment of the HCA in 2004 meant a new departure for the discipline: The HCA was founded as the first public private partnership, offering a unique range of expertise and cross disciplinary cooperation. “The Heidelberg Way,” concluded Philipp Gassert, quickly became a success and the HCA turned into “one of the finest institutions for American Studies in Europe.”
In his laudation, Minister Frankenberg emphasized, that, in addition to his work as an institution builder, Detlef Junker enhanced the German academic reputation abroad, deepened the mutual understanding of the “other,” and thus fostered transatlantic relations in a significant way. The event concluded with a few words of thanks by Detlef Junker, who dwelled on the personal memories of “the first truly transatlantic generation in German history.” Afterwards, the numerous guests took the opportunity to toast the honoree and enjoy the reception.
> Press Release > Article in RNZ
July 15, 2010
The last lecture of this spring’s Baden-Württemberg Seminar fascinated the sizeable audience and engaged historians and literary scholars alike. Betsy Erkkilä’s talk challenged a widely accepted tradition of thought about Jefferson’s original as opposed to his final version of the Declaration of Independence. Through close reading and historical and contextual analysis, she foregrounded a more secular, bodily, “agonizing,” passionate, sentimental, literary, morally utopian, and radical version of the Declaration, the Revolution, and the founding that was repressed in the final version of the Declaration.
Historians and other scholars have almost unanimously defended the changes that the Continental Congress made in Jefferson’s original draft of the Declaration of Independence on the grounds of “literary excellence;” Erkkilä argued that judged by the literary standards of Jefferson’s time, the first version of the Declaration tells a more aesthetically unified, morally coherent, affectively powerful, and revolutionary story that might have changed American history. Based on an examination of Jefferson’s first published work, A Summary View of the Rights of British America (1774), Erkkilä emphasized that the original draft of the Declaration is an American tale of wounded virtue, “agonizing affection,” and an enslaver King; focusing on Jefferson’s theory of the greater moral and affective power of fiction over history, she analyzed the emotionally passionate and morally utopian story of the Revolution that Jefferson sought to write. This becomes particularly evident in Jefferson’s condemnation of slavery and the slave trade as a violation of the “most sacred rights of life and liberty” and his impassioned renunciation of the British people for abandoning their virtuous American “brethren” in their struggle against British tyranny.
Finally, Professor Erkkilä’s talk examined what the cuts made by the Continental Congress reveal about the anxieties and fears of the Revolution and the founding, and she concluded by arguing that the passages that were deleted and repressed would defer the crisis of slavery and continue to haunt the political struggle that erupted in the Civil War.
Juni 28, 2010
As part of the HCA’s Baden-Württemberg Seminar, James Mohr, the Philip H. Knight Professor at the University of Oregon, gave a talk on a Supreme Court case even many US legal scholars do not know much about. Dent v. West Virginia (1889) dealt with the case of Frank Dent, who had been convicted under an 1882 West Virginia law which required physicians to hold a degree from a reputable medical college, pass an examination, or prove practice in West Virginia for the previous ten years.
In this case, the State Board of Health refused to accept Dent's degree from the American Medical Eclectic College of Cincinnati. Eclectic medicine in the late nineteenth century largely accepted and taught the conventional medical science of the time but rejected excesses of drugging and bleeding. The Court upheld the prior conviction and ruled that medicine, because of the careful nature of its training, the large knowledge of the human body required of doctors, and nature of life-and-death circumstances with which doctors dealt, can require a license to practice.
Professor Mohr argued that Dent v. West Virginia had major implications for the development of the medical profession in the United States: It determined what the American approach to medical practice would be in the future, opened a constitutional door for a new era of licensing in the US, created a unique form of license criteria for physicians that led to a subsequent lack of internal regulation and public oversight, elevated the practice of medicine to the status of a state-sanctioned profession (only the second one in US history) and launched a scramble for professional status that eventually created a highly stratified occupational landscape in the US.
June 8, 2010
This spring, the HCA welcomed Professor Jeremi Suri, the E. Gordon Fox Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, as a visiting scholar. On June 8, Professor Suri gave a public lecture which offered an overview of the main concepts underlying his forthcoming book, A Nation-Building People: The Past and Future of American Politics (Free Press, 2011).
His main argument was that American politicians and citizens have pursued a remarkably consistent approach to the formation of political and social order since the eighteenth century. In particular, Americans have assumed that all societies – domestic and international – can and should be formed around self-contained, self-governing state bodies, a “society of states.” Each state has a representative claims on a united “people” within a given territorial space. In return, the existence of a united “people” provides legitimacy for governance. This vision of nation-states reflects the self-conscious development of the United States, its internal expansion, and the growth of American influence overseas, especially in the twentieth century.
The American approach to nation-building is a powerful vision, but it has many problems. Most of all, Americans tend to discount the difficulties involved with nation-building, and they frequently overestimate their own capabilities as model and sponsor for nation-building. The main purpose of this lecture was to remind the audience that although nation-building is an integral part of American politics, it requires careful and discerning leadership. The United States can act as a force for positive social and political transformation, but it cannot do so everywhere at all times. Leaders must practice sound and strategic judgment.
June 4-6, 2010
The conference "Toward an International History of Lynching" was co-sponsored by the Curt Engelhorn Chair in American History, the Transcultural Studies Reasearch Group “Radical Nationalism and Gender in the United States, Germany and Japan”, both at Heidelberg University, and the Hamburg Institute for Social Research. At the Heidelberg Center for American Studies it brought together scholars from nine countries and various academic fields, including history, anthropology, sociology, political science, and criminology. The goal of the conference was to move beyond the notion of lynching as a “negative American exceptionalism” and to place the study of lynching in a comparative and transnational perspective. Two key questions took center stage: (1) What cultural, political, and social factors have influenced the rise and fall of lynching? (2) What has been the historical relationship between lynching and the modern state, especially the emergence of a modern system of criminal justice? > Conference Report
May 20, 2010
For the third event in this year’s spring program of the Baden-Württemberg Seminar, the HCA was fortunate to host a talk by Judith Wechsler, an art historian and documentary film maker from Tufts University. She is the author of a number of standard works in art history and has directed more than twenty documentaries, among them Monet’s Waterlillies, Rachel de la Comédie Francaise and Jasper Johns: Take an Object. In 2007, Wechsler received the French Chevalier dans l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.
Professor Wechsler has spent the spring as the Berthold Leibinger Fellow at the American Academy Berlin, where she is working on a documentary film about her father, the pre-eminent Judaic scholar Nahum N. Glatzer. Glatzer was born in Lemberg in 1903 and came to Frankfurt/Main in 1920, where he first studied at the Jeschiwa Breuer and later at the University of Frankfurt. Starting in 1923, Glatzer taught a wide variety of subjects at the Lehrhaus Frankfurt and later became Martin Buber’s successor at the University of Frankfurt. Glatzer received his PhD in 1932. After his dismissal from the University of Frankfurt by the National Socialists in 1933, Glatzer emigrated to Palestine and later, in 1938, to the United States. He worked as editor-in-chief at Schocken Books and began teaching at Brandeis University in 1950 before taking up a position in 1973 at Boston University.
Judith Wechsler’s lecture was met with great interest. During the lively debate she shared many personal impressions of her father’s biography and left the audience with an encompassing picture of the Glatzer’s significance for the revivification of Judaic studies in a time of exile and for twentieth-century German-Jewish and American intellectual history.
March 4-5, 2010
On the fourth and fifth of March, the Heidelberg Center for American Studies in cooperation with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) hosted the third and final symposium that was dedicated to analyzing UNESCO's role during the Cold War. It has been the first big conference - with simultaneous translation in English and French - in the brand-new Atrium. The new annex effectively turned the baroque town house into a small convention center.
The two-day conference examined the often overlooked role of the organization in mitigating the East-West conflict through cultural, educational and scientific spheres. Furthermore, the conference contributed to the growing discourse on ways in which the history of intergovernmental organizations can enrich the understanding of transnational and transcultural histories.
The introductory speech by Prof. Robert Frank was followed by four sessions "UNESCO and the Member States: In the Turmoil of Cold War Politics," "Engaging the Other Side of the 'Iron Curtain,'" "In the Struggle for Peace and Mutual Understanding" and "UNESCO: A Platform for Promoting Culture, Science and Education" before a final round table discussion took place. The findings of the conference will also be presented at the International Congress of the Historical Sciences in Amsterdam in August 2010. > The full conference report can be found here...
January 19, 2010
One year after the inauguration of the new American president, a panel of experts met in the new atrium of the HCA to take stock of the Obama presidency. In his opening remarks, HCA Founding Director Professor Detlef Junker recalled the promises of Obamas inaugural speech and pointed out that the president’s disapproval ratings were the highest ever recorded. One of the reasons for this could lie in the administration’s attempt to introduce comprehensive health care reform which, as Dr. Mischa Honeck (HCA) pointed out, is dividing the country. Political fervor has switched from Obama to his opponents. Organizations like the so-called “tea party brigades” depict him as socialist, fascist or stalinist while they see themselves as representatives of the “common man” and are suspicious of everything the educated class believes in.
Dr. Martin Thunert (HCA) analysed health care reform in terms of legislative process, financing and its most controversial topics: abortion, Medicaid and access for illegal immigrants. He also pointed out that many Americans perceive high unemployment and the need to create jobs as far more important than the passing of the health care reform. Dr. Karen Smith Stegen (Energy Institute Bremen/Jacobs University) emphasized in her talk that any attempt to mitigate climate change must involve a change in the way U.S. citizens use fossil fuels. Greater conservation efforts and a push in the development of renewable forms of energy would not only reduce emissions but also the U.S. dependency on foreign sources of fuel. Yet, Obama did not have much to offer in Copenhagen because the Senate had not yet passed the respective legislation. The analysis turned to foreign policy with Dr. John Deni’s (HCA) remarks on Afghanistan. Deni pointed out that the war became “Obama’s war” in May of 2009 when he named the new commander and subsequently increased the number of troops. Deni expects a decision on the beginning of the U.S. withdrawal in mid 2011.
Jeff Jowett (Republicans Abroad) presented a rather critical view of the Obama presidency, which he described a “failure.” In particular, he pointed to the areas of foreign policy, where the U.S. position has been weakened, and health care reform, which the majority of Americans reject. Jowett predicted Republican upsets for the midterm elections in November as well as for the successor to Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat in a race that took place that very night. In contrast, Francois Rolland (Democrats Abroad) emphasized that President Obama was right on target concerning his election promises – so far, he has kept about a quarter and it is generally known that the presidency lasts four years. Also, Obama did much to restore America’s reputation in the world. The lively discussion that ensued focused on health care and foreign policy and raised the question whether any American president can live up to the expectations that come with the job.
November 4, 2009
On November 4, Professor Daniel Halberstam gave a talk on “The Constitutional Challenge: Authority and Conflict in Europe and America.” His talk was part of the Baden-Württemberg Seminar of the HCA in cooperation with the German-American Lawyers’ Association. Halberstam is Professor of Law at the University of Michigan Law School and Founding Director of the European Union Center at the University of Michigan; he also served as an attorney-adviser at the U.S. Department of Justice.
In his lecture, Halberstam focused amongst other things on the way the European Union is constituted. He was welcomed by PD Dr. Martin Thunert, senior research fellow in political science at the HCA, who referred to the recent de facto ratification of the Treaty of Lisbon. Czech President Václav Klaus had just signed the Reform Treaty on the previous day, which was the last formal step for the treaty to take effect. Dr. Winfried Brugger, Professor for Public Law at the University of Heidelberg, also referred to current events and pointed to the recent speech of Chancellor Angela Merkel before a joint session of the U.S. Congress.
In his talk, Halberstam compared German and American constitutional structures, looking mainly at the fragmentation of global governance. Thus he contrasted the relations between the European Union and its member states with the relations between the individual branches of state governments in the U.S. and the federal Government. Halberstam argued that clashes of authority within the EU or between the Supreme Court, Congress and the President were eventually disputes over the superior claim to protect individual rights. Halberstam concluded that voice, expertise, and rights were the basic values of constitutionalism. His lecture was well received by a large audience and followed by an extensive and lively debate.
Philip D. Zelikow – "America and the World in a Time of Transition"
October 9, 2009
On October 9, 2009, the Heidelberg Center for American Studies (HCA) hosted a lecture by Philip D. Zelikow as part of the Baden-Württemberg Seminar. Zelikow, the White Burkett Miller Professor of History at the University of Virginia talked about “America and the World in a Time of Transition”.
At the beginning of the decade, Philip Zelikow was a member of the National Security Council and served on George W. Bush’s transition team. After the September 11 attacks, he was involved in drafting a new U.S. national security strategy and was subsequently appointed the executive director of the 9/11 Commission. He is currently a member of the Global Development Program Advisory Panel of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Among other topics, Zelikow explained America’s role in the world from a historian’s point of view. In this regard, he made some claims that may come to a surprise to some, namely that since the Cold War, the United States hasn’t had a “master script” for its foreign policy. According to Zelikow, master scripts are essential in creating mass-cooperation for a common goal. In the past, master scripts survived from administration to administration; everybody understands them and their direction is basically continued. A master script gives guidance and is therefore very important. Zelikow said that American policy tends to be reactive rather than proactive. He claimed that this is the reason why there have been so few master scripts in the past. The U.S. thought they found their new master script with the War against Terrorism after 9/11 but that didn’t turn out to be the case. They tried to make Bin Laden fit the role of Stalin, a role they knew, but they failed. In 2009, Americans still don’t have a script. “They are trying to figure out what to do in the world,” concluded Zelikow.
September 24, 2009
On September 24, 2009 this year’s fall program of the Baden-Württemberg Seminar opened with a lecture by Rick Atkinson. This is the first time the Baden-Württemberg Seminar was organized solely by the Heidelberg Center for American Studies. With Rick Atkinson the HCA was fortunate to win both a successful and distinguished journalist and historian and a multiple winner of the Pulitzer Prize to kick off the fall program.
An expert on military history, Atkinson spoke on “Bringing Back the Dead: History, Memory, and the U.S. Army in World War II.” He looked at the role of the U.S. Army during World War II focusing in particular on the Mediterranean battle fields. In his eyes the crucial meaning of this war theater has often been neglected. Moreover, Atkinson pointed out how important WWII has been for narrative history and that it has become a central myth of modern literature.
In his works, Atkinson crosses the borders between historiographic writing and narrative history. He wants his books to be understood as anti-war literature that expose the calamity of war without any glorification. Currently he is working on the third volume of his Liberation Trilogy for which he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 2003. Atkinson is not only an experienced historian but also a well-known journalist of the Kansas City Times and The Washington Post.
Atkinson’s lecture was met with great response and interest. During the debate he highlighted further details of the Allied war strategy. Moreover, he described his view on current German-American relations. The question what role the United States should play in the international system concluded the discussion.
June 25, 2009
On June 25th 2009 the HCA’s Fulbright Visiting Scholar Professor Robert Cherny gave a public lecture on “The 2008 Election in Historical Context.” Professor Cherny has been on the history faculty of San Francisco State University since 1971. His research focuses on the history of the United States from 1865 to 1945, Politics, California and the “West”. Professor Cherny also was a fellow of the National Endowment for the Humanities, Distinguished Fulbright lecturer at Moscow State University, and visiting scholar at the University of Melbourne. He was president of H-Net and the Society for Historians of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era from 1995 to 1996, member of the executive board of the Organization of American Historians, and member of the editorial boards of the Pacific Historical Review and California History.
In his lecture, Professor Cherny discussed the realignment of voter loyalties of the American electorate over the course of history. Following the commonly used breakdown of the American party landscape into five so called party systems, Professor Cherny analyzed the transitions between these systems. He divided the periods of change into two stages, one characterized by the dealignment of the people’s loyalty towards parties and their programs which is followed by a realignment that might cause major changes in voter demographics, party platforms and the balance of power between the parties. These movements are preceded by certain events that change the long term electoral behavior of the population. These factors can be of demographic, economic or political nature.
With regard to Barack Obama’s victory in the 2008 Presidential Election, Professor Cherny raised the question whether the considerable gains of the Democratic Party on the ballot could indicate a turning point in the history of the American party landscape. To answer this question, Prof. Cherny referred to the 1932 election of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. He argued that Roosevelt’s victory can be seen as the dawn of an era of Democratic domination of the White House, thereby marking the beginning of the fifth party system. This development can by and large be attributed to two things: the Republicans’ inability to deal with the economic problems caused by the Great Depression, and the popularity of the measures introduced by the New Deal, which provided economic relief for a broad range of the population. In the wake of the New Deal, the Democrats were able to overcome the North-South dichotomy of the Fourth-Party System, which can be seen in the massive increase of Democratic votes in the former Republican North in the 1932 election. In the reverse conclusion, Prof. Cherny pointed out that the gains of the Democrats in the 2008 Presidential Election were far smaller than those of Franklin Roosevelt in 1932. From this, it can be concluded that due to weaker party loyalties in present-day America, the long-term effects of a successful Obama-Presidency are going to be much smaller than those in the early 20th century.
June 18, 2009
Harvey C. Mansfield – "How To Understand Politics: Pay Attention To Thumos"
May 14, 2009
On May 14, 2009 the Heidelberg Center for American Studies hosted a lecture by Harvey C. Mansfield as part of the Baden-Württemberg Seminar of the American Academy in Berlin. The well-known professor for government at Harvard University spoke on the notion of “Thumos” and its meaning for the understanding of politics.
Mansfield remarked that the concept of Thumos appeared first in ancient Greek philosophy. It denoted the human desire for importance and the ambition deriving from this longing. Furthermore, Thumos formed a bond between human and divine since it was said to be a part of the soul connected to the “good.” According to Mansfield, it is therefore Thumos which has lead to human greatness. Moreover, Mansfield argued that Thumos determined politics. In his view, political science, however, ignores the meaning of Thumos and ambition for politics. Mansfield ascribed this neglect to a general disparity between science and humanities. Whereas science was indifferent to the big questions of human existence, humanities such as literature address them. Mansfield concluded that science needed to open its eyes on the findings of the humanities. Thus political science must look into craving for importance in a much higher degree.
Harvey C. Mansfield’s lecture was based on his Jefferson Lecture in the Humanities he delivered in 2007. With this lecture Mansfield was given the highest honor the federal government bestowed to honor his achievement in the Humanities. Besides, Mansfield held Guggenheim and NEH Fellowships, and has been a Fellow at the National Humanities Center. Since 1993 he has been William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of Government at Harvard University. Furthermore, Mansfield has translated works of Machiavelli and Tocqueville and published several books, his most recent being the controversial monography Manliness (Yale University Press, 2006).
Visit the homepage of the National Endowment for the Humanities to learn more about Harvey C. Mansfield and read his Jefferson Lecture in the Humanities
April 29, 2009
On April 29, 2009 Barack Obama’s precidency reached the symbolic 100-days-mark. Since Franklin D. Roosevelt, this benchmark has been a traditional occasion to evaluate the president’s decisions. Thus, Heidelberg experts on American politics Prof. Robert Cherny (HCA), Dr. John R. Deni (IPW) and PD Dr. Martin Thunert (HCA) came together at the HCA to make a preliminary assessment of the Obama administration. Moderated by Dr. Jana Freihöfer, the debate focused on Obama’s problems, failures and achievements in domestic issues and foreign affairs.
US Presidential Election 2008 – Debate: Democrats vs. Republicans
October 23, 2008
John McQueen (Democrats Abroad) & Dr. Stefan Prystawik (Republicans Abroad)
US Presidential Election 2008 – Fireside Chat with Election Analysis
November 5, 2008
with Dr. Robert G. Livingston, Prof. Dr. Manfred Berg, Dr. Wilfried Mausbach & Dr. Martin Thunert
"The Current Financial Crisis in the US & the Role of the US Government"
November 27, 2008
Baden-Württemberg Seminar of the American Academy Berlin
David Abraham (Alexander von Humboldt-Foundation)
Dr. Bernd-A. von Maltzan (Deutsche Bank AG)