GKAT Events – Winter Term 2017/18
October 11, 2017
"Brexit Stage Right:
Sovereignty, Role Contestation, and Socialisation in UK Foreign Policy"
Professor of Foreign Policy and Co-Director of the Centre for Security Research, The University of Edinburgh
On October 11th, the HCA was delighted to welcome Juliet Kaarbo, co-director of the Center for Security Research and Professor for Foreign Policy at the University of Edinburgh, to its Baden-Württemberg Seminar. Professor Kaarbo presented her current research project, which applies role theory to the Brexit, in the first joined event hosted by the HCA and the Graduiertenkolleg “Authority and Trust” (GKAT). After a brief introduction by Professor Sebastian Harnisch of the Institute for Political Science at Heidelberg University, Professor Kaarbo began to elaborate on the insights her project had to offer.
Professor Kaarbo explained to the audience that role theory treats international and domestic politics as a series of actions on a global stage and that it attributes corresponding roles to regional, national, and international actors. Role theory further assumes that the roles states played are a product of both their position on stage and their socialization through other actors. Professor Kaarbo is therefore eager to find out how, why, and when states’ roles changed.
Here, Kaarbo and her colleagues Kai Oppermann and Ryan Beasely researched role transformation as an event triggered by internal contestation and external socialization. While internal contestation seems to be more influential regarding Brexit, Kaarbo argued that external socialization, a process during which a state crafts its role according to its interaction with other states, has had a similarly significant impact on the transformation of the U.K.’s global role. Especially the issue of U.K. sovereignty lies at the center of both the internal and the external discourse, so Kaarbo. This nexus between sovereignty and the U.K.’s role transformation has raised the question of whether including such a characteristic into role theory could improve the theories on organizational capacity regarding the Brexit, an argument Professor Kaarbo then elaborated.
Transforming a state’s role through the medium of sovereignty exposes not only the actual and idealistic value of sovereignty but more importantly highlights the distribution of power and provides opportunity to transfer it to other institutions. It is also helpful, so Kaarbo, to include it in order to observe implications on other states regarding a changed sovereignty role of one actor. While it might lead to new allies, it could also estrange old ones. Brexit is therefore not simply the U.K.’s attempt to transform its sovereignty; it eventually forces the EU to position itself accordingly, demonstrating the interconnectedness of all roles on stage. Moreover, it could lead to a broad reevaluation of the concept of sovereignty affecting every sovereign role on the global stage.
Professor Kaarbo also demonstrated how these theoretical aspects manifested themselves and lead to a role contestation on many sites in the case of Brexit. While the original attempt had been to regain national sovereignty, which had been lost in the process of pooling sovereignty in the E.U., the contestation had rapidly spread to the courts, the parliament, and the parts of the United Kingdom. Consequently, Brexit is now intertwined in a multitude of complex regional and national issues. International pressure on the U.K. to remain part of the E.U. has quickly given way to “sovereignty skirmishes” after the referendum, said Kaarbo. Among others, Scotland, Gibraltar, and the Chagos Islands are prominent examples of those skirmishes demonstrating the U.K.’s struggle to redefine its new role. Kaarbo closed on the note that a distinct understanding of sovereignty norms had prevailed the Brexit and that it could thus have lasting impacts on those norms and how other actors understood them. Intrigued by Professor Kaarbo’s theoretical and empirical work, the audience embraced the chance to discuss aspects of the project with Juliet Kaarbo, who elaborated on her talk and offered speculations in the lively debate that followed.
November 30, 2017 – GKAT Grand Opening
"Trust – Comparative Reflections"
President and Dean, Hertie School of Governance, Berlin, and Professor of Sociology, Heidelberg University
On November 30, 2017, the HCA welcomed the members of the new Graduiertenkolleg “Authority and Trust in American Culture, Society, History, and Politics” (GKAT). After a welcome by HCA Founding Director Professor Detlef Junker, and greetings from the university’s rectorate, represented by Vice-President for Student Affairs and Teaching, Professor Beatrix Busse, GKAT speaker Professor Manfred Berg introduced the new collegiates and their projects. Then Professor Helmut Anheier, president of the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin and professor of sociology at Heidelberg University, presented his keynote address in which he reflected upon the term “trust” from different academic perspectives. He emphasized that this interdisciplinary approach did not only align with the premises of GKAT but worked especially well with abstract concepts such as trust. Scholars of sociology and political science have produced numerous works regarding different aspects of trust, applying categories like institutions, professions, or persons and looking at the different ways people put their trust in them.
Studies based on the work of Pierre Bourdieu and Robert Putnam, among others, had collected data about how much trust societies invest into different sectors of their respective countries and had found that there were significant differences between liberal market economies with a democratic system and autocracies with a regulated economy. Surprisingly, this data is relatively stable over time. Even though current social phenomena such as increasing anti-elitism or populist movements have created a widespread feeling of an overall erosion of trust, empirical studies do not reflect this erosion. While U.S. society appears to trust government and other institutions least, its overall level of trust is as consistent as that of other nations. Professor Anheier closed on the notion that trust might not be such a fragile commodity after all and that it was necessary to further evolve the conceptualization of this term in order to enable a clearer understanding of trust and its socio-political implications. The evening was capped with a reception in the HCA’s beautiful Bel Etage that gave everybody a chance to mingle over a glass of champagne and other refreshments.
Watch Helmut K. Anheier's talk on "Trust – Comparative Reflections":
December 4, 2017
"This President That Is Not One"
The Ted and Helen Geisel Third Century Professor in the Humanities, Dartmouth College, USA
Listen to an audio recording of Donald Pease's talk:
January 16, 2018
"Theory of the (Art) Novel"
John L. Loeb Associate Professor of the Humanities, Harvard University
On January 16, the Baden-Württemberg Seminar was delighted to welcome David J. Alworth, John L. Loeb Associate Professor of the Humanities at Harvard University. Professor Alworth presented his recent work on contemporary American novels and how they adapt to an increasingly digitalized age. After a brief introduction by Professor Günter Leypoldt of the English Department of Heidelberg University, Professor Alworth began to outline his analytical work.
Even though digitalization has transformed modern day society and its means of cultural production in recent years, the printed novel and the art novel in particular continue to flourish, so Alworth. Where theorists had predicted the redundancy of fictional stories in a digital age in which yesterday’s fiction would become tomorrow’s reality, the novel’s incessant relevance and prominence not only contradicted such predications but also posed a theoretical problem. In order to find a theoretical explanation for this phenomenon, Alworth began combining genre analysis and media theory guided by the premise to analyze the influence of digital culture on the novel. After the social turn had changed the dynamic between art and society, literary analysis has put a greater focus on the relations works of art such as a novel establish between the public and the individual. Claire Bishop first used the term “social turn” to identify the shift towards participatory art and the idea that the spectator becomes a part of the artwork itself. Literary scholars now increasingly use the concept behind the social turn to highlight the relational aesthetics of novels and other texts.
While the art novel had mostly rejected the premise of realism, that is depicting reality as truthfully and detailed as possible, Alworth claimed that realism still functions as a gateway to the study of sociality and contemporary society. Art novels provide extensive information about social relations and thus an insight into the deep texture of society, so Alworth. As a medium capable of telling the history of the future through genres like science fiction, the novel could link the individual to broader social ideas and establish a relation between consumers, producers, and their shared environment. This bridge between what Alworth called the mediality of the social and the sociality of media was present in many recent works, such as Don DeLillo’s Zero K. Addressing the question of both the embodiment of art and the individual, DeLillo’s novel was firmly rooted in the digital age. However, it also demonstrated just how difficult it had become for contemporary art to outdo reality. Alworth closed on the note that this difficulty necessarily demanded that the art novel reinvented itself to find new ways to establish coherence in a fundamentally incoherent present. Intrigued by Alworth’s ideas the audience then used the opportunity to ponder theoretical and practical aspects of his work in the ensuing discussion.
January 25, 2018
"Accumulation and Dispossession:
History as Property in Early America"
Professor of American Literature & Culture, University of Osnabrück
February 1, 2018
A Religious History of Oil in Modern America"
Professor of History, University of Notre Dame
For the last talk of the Baden-Württemberg Seminar, Darren Dochuk, Professor of History at the University of Notre Dame, visited the HCA to give a talk on the interconnection between oil and religion. He started by reminding his audience that scholars often base their research on unconventional backgrounds. Similar to Laura Shapiro, who connected food and biography in January, Professor Dochuk depicted individual biographies and that of a whole country pertaining to crude oil. Jan Stievermann, Professor of the History of Christianity in the U.S., was happy to welcome yet another distinguished scholar at the HCA. He introduced Professor Dorchuk and emphasized the many accomplishments of his career, most significantly his recent publications: American Evangelicalism: George Marsden and the State of American Religious History (2014) and Faith in the New Millennium: The Future of Religion and American Politics (2016). Professor Dochuk’s research has been supported by many institutions, including the American Council of Learned Societies, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Philosophical Society, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the Canadian government. In his talk, he discussed parts of his current project, Anointed With Oil: God and Black Gold in America’s Century, which will be published later this year.
Professor Dochuk’s personal biography is tied to an oil patch as well: Alberta, Canada. The oil patches of North America constituted the first, the local level of his research. He discerns in particular the Texan landscape with its oil derricks and steeples as a symbol for the strong connection between oil and God. Where oil is a dominant economic force, religion is strong, Darren Dorchuk stated. An oil patch has its own religious culture and its own political culture which tends to be conservative, a development that supports the marriage of oil and religion. Individuals who gained wealth through oil used their power to influence the shape of communities and religious institutions. On a national level, Professor Dochuk makes the case that this marriage produced pivotal historical events such as the election of Dwight D. Eisenhower in the early 1950s, who was supported and funded by religious and oil organizations. This election marked the rise of the Republican Party in the South. President Eisenhower promised to leave offshore oil to the states and thus, Professor Dochuk added, set a political course for the future. Religion and oil form the pillars of U.S. hegemony, the speaker argued. And this hegemony had to be secured before the oil ran out. It was an unreliable source of energy, but in the 1890s. America received a blessing in oil and relished it. However, oil did not only organize American life. It was also perceived as a super-human life form and fuel to christianize the barbarous world, said Professor Dochuk. It shaped the culture and politics of the U.S. and the country’s relations on a global level. The speaker introduced two men, Henry Luce, the magazine tycoon, and William Eddy, U.S. minister to Saudi Arabia and consultant for the Arabian American Oil Company in the 1940s. The twentieth century was the American century, Luce claimed; oil and Christianity would lead the way. Eddy, dubbed the Arabian Knight by his biographer, actively shaped the relationship between Saudi Arabia and the United States. On February 14, 1945, President Roosevelt and King Abdul-Aziz met on board the U.S. Naval ship USS Quincy with Eddy as the translator upon the King’s request. Eddy helped foster a relationship that is still relevant today.
After Darren Dochuk had concluded his talk, the audience, as always, had the opportunity to ask questions. Donald Trump, in his State of the Union address, had praised the advantages of “beautiful, clean coal,” said Annika Elstermann, a doctoral student from the English Department. Did coal have the same culture-defining qualities as oil? Both were harvested in the shadow lands, Professor Dochuk responded, and were part of the same cosmology, but oil was much less reliant than coal and did not depend on a community as coal did. Here, single individuals – land owners and power brokers – were benefitting and had the funds and power to shape religious institutions. After several more questions, the evening ended and the professors Stievermann and Dochuk bid good-bye to a fascinated audience.