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MASNEWS 1/2011: A Farewell in Heidelberg's Spring

MAS 2013 – Application Process has ended
MAS Commencement 2011
Life after the MAS – Anthony Santoro
Berlin Seminar 2011: MAS Student Trip to the German Capital
Spring Academy 2011
First donation of an MAS alumni to the HCA

 Dear All,

Welcome to the Heidelberg Center for American StudiesMAS newsletter!
This edition covers some of the highlights of the first half of 2011 at the HCA. In April, we bid the students of the MAS Class of 2011 farewell. While they depart our MAS program, the application process for the new MAS Class of 2013 ended in March. We also take a look back on the MAS Class’ Berlin Seminar, the 2011 Spring Academy and would like to thank Kishore Pinpati, a graduate of the MAS Class of 2011, for a delightful donation—the first of an MAS alumnus.

Please feel free to forward our newsletter to anyone interested in American Studies. Of course, we appreciate any feedback you would like to share with us.

Many thanks and best wishes,

Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Detlef Junker
HCA Founding Director

MAS 2013 – Application Process has ended

On March 31, the deadline for the application period for the MAS Class of 2013 expired. As in previous years, aspiring postgraduate students from all over the world applied for the three semester program at the HCA. Students from fourteen nations, such as Albania, Azerbaijan, China, Palestine, Russia, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine, Vietnam, the United States, Germany and other European countries sought to take part in the MAS experience.

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Online applications for the new MAS Class of 2014 will be accepted starting October 2011, with March 31, 2012, being the closing date for applications.

This fall, the HCA’s MAS program enters its eighth year. Since its establishment in 2004, the program gave 125 students from 35 nations the opportunity to gain inside knowledge about the United States from an outside perspective.

MAS Commencement 2011

On April 8, the HCA welcomed families and friends of the MAS class of 2011 to celebrate their commencement in Heidelberg University’s beautiful Alte Aula. The MAS Class of 2011 was the sixth class to graduate from the Master of Arts in American Studies. Beautiful musical interludes by the Woodwind Quintet of the United States Army Europe Band contributed to the festive atmosphere.

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Prof. Bernhard Eitel, Rector of Heidelberg University, gave a warm welcome to all guests and especially to the graduates. For him, this class was very special as it graduated during the 625th anniversary year of the Ruperto Carola. While in 1386 the new world was only a distant fantasy for Europeans, Heidelberg University now holds strong ties to the United States and has become a center of learning for a diverse and international student body. At the same time, many German students study in the United States. Therefore, the academic exchange between Heidelberg and the USA continues to grow stronger, while Heidelberg University becomes increasingly global. Prof. Eitel emphasized the HCA’s immense impact as a bridge builder of this excellent transatlantic relationship. He closed by inviting the graduates to stay in touch with their alma mater as alumni.

Then, Prof. Manfred Berg, Dean of the Faculty of Philosophy, and Prof. Detlef Junker, Founding Director of the Heidelberg Center for American Studies, had the pleasure and privilege to welcome both the graduates and their relatives, as well as this year’s keynote speaker, his Excellency Philip D. Murphy, the United States Ambassador to Germany.

In his key note speech “Winning the Future: Global Prosperity in the Twenty-First Century,” his Excellency impressed the audience right away with his German which he had acquired during a language course in Heidelberg in the 1970s. He then analyzed the challenges the United States, Germany and the world have to face in the present and future, emphasizing development and innovation as key tools of diplomacy and effective partnerships. In economically challenging times, governments should focus on innovation and not neglect long term investments in education and infrastructure to keep pace with the rapidly changing world. According to Ambassador Murphy, Germany and the United States lead the world when it comes to innovation. They can set an example of how to enhance technological knowhow and create special environments that enable different minds to work together. Research centers, urban environments and the Internet can generate new networks of ideas. His Excellency encouraged the Class of 2011 to share their ideas for the future with him, for example on Facebook. Then he gave the graduates a very personal piece of advice: Always be honest with yourself and, moreover, be honest about what you like and do not like, what you are good at and what you are not good at. To the surprise of the whole audience, the ambassador then left the podium and showed the students his personal example of what a table of these talents might look like. He also advised the graduates to balance their short and long term goals, systematic work and creativity, work and play. The ambassador said he hoped that the graduates would not forget about the older generation and find a way to combine their passions with their day job. He concluded reminding the graduates to have fun wherever their professional lives might lead them.

Following the keynote speech, Prof. Junker presented the MAS Class of 2011 and Rector Eitel bestowed the degree of the Master of Arts in American Studies.

Axel Phillip Kaiser Barents von Hohenhagen from Chile graduated as the class valedictorian. He concluded the evening with a speech about the mysteries and unpredictability of life. According to him, many people have the arrogance to believe that they can predict the future. However, drawing on his own experiences at the HCA and quotes from Shakespeare and Sherlock Holmes, he showed that we can never fully comprehend the complexity of life and should therefore be amazed by what we have experienced. Consequently he thanked everyone who made the experience at the HCA possible: his classmates, everyone at the HCA, the HCA’s founding father Prof. Detlef Junker, the HCA benefactors and his own father.

Following the commencement ceremony the Class of 2011, their teachers, family and friends continued to celebrate the joyous occasion at a reception in the HCA’s Atrium.

Life after the MAS – Anthony Santoro

Anthony Santoro, a graduate of both the HCA’s MAS and Ph.D. programs, as well as a lecturer and tutor in history, left the HCA for Michigan in 2010. He reports on his current professional and academic activities.

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Following my graduation from the HCA’s MAS program, I remained in Heidelberg and began working on my doctoral dissertation. After gradually shifting away from my initial topic, I settled in on the theme—an analysis of the religious discourse on the death penalty in contemporary America. I undertook extensive field research in the United States in 2008-09 and was fortunate to receive considerable support from the HCA’s Ghaemian Travel Fund, Heidelberg University’s Graduiertenakademie and from the German Historical Institute in Washington, DC. I submitted and defended the dissertation in 2010, earning my Ph.D.

Over the last several years, while working toward my Ph.D. and since obtaining it, I have taken advantage of numerous opportunities to teach courses on American history and American religion. Through these courses, I have been able to interact with students from all over the world. Classroom discussions are interesting and instructive, for me as well as for the students, and I value these interactions.

Recently, I have also been working to help plan a major international, interdisciplinary conference on “Religion and the Marketplace in the U.S.” The conference, which promises to be very exciting and mark a major contribution to scholarship on religion in the United States, will be convened at the HCA in October of 2011.

Currently, I am in the United States with my family, conducting the first of two sets of field research for my new research project, an investigation of the sports fan base as an extended congregation. Supported by a fellowship from the German Research Foundation (DFG), the work has been fruitful and profitable, and I have benefitted from exchanges over here with colleagues and with students working on sports, religion or related issues. As well as the research is going, and as excited as I am about working through the most eventful NFL offseason I’ve ever known, I am very much looking forward to returning to Heidelberg this June.

The most important and biggest change in my life in the years since the MAS, actually two changes, were the arrivals of my two beautiful daughters—both of whom are also looking forward to being back home in Heidelberg.

Berlin Seminar 2011: MAS Student Trip to the German Capital

From June 6 to 10 the students of the MAS Class of 2012 went to Berlin to learn more about their host country, to attend events, and visit institutions devoted to transatlantic relations. Current student Tami Newton writes about her experiences and impressions of the trip.

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Except for a bit of last-minute packing, all those forget-me-nots necessary for any overnight stay, and a mad dash to the main train station, June 6 started out like any other Monday after a weekend too short to remember. Although the weather that day showed no signs of the coming summer, the heavens did open up and smile long enough to kiss our morning start with a bit of sunshine. The MAS 2012 Berlin excursion officially kicked off with an 8:21 a.m. departure from Heidelberg’s main train station and a brief stopover in Frankfurt am Main, where fourteen brave Indians and two great Chieftains boarded a speedy choo-choo to the East. And then, off we went. At 10:13am…. BERLIN, BERLIN! The HCA MAS 2012 Class accompanied by two HCA coordinators all went to Berlin!

Our MAS Moments in Berlin got off to a great start. We arrived at the main station around 2:20pm and headed straight to our quarters. Our curious tribe of multicultural, multilingual ambassadors from the HCA American Studies program did not lodge in mere teepees, however. The Hotel Transit Loft, a cozy hostel in Prenzlauer Berg where we stayed, is in the northeast of Berlin. The place was clean, comfortable and conveniently located. The staff spoke several languages, provided good and friendly service and went the extra mile to accommodate our needs. The lodgings’ proximity to Alexanderplatz was an added bonus.

After freshening up and shaking off the travel-weariness, we visited the American Academy, which is situated directly on the Wannsee, played a little soccer on the lawn overlooking the lake, and later enjoyed an intimate evening of chamber music performed by visiting students and faculty from the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia and members of the Berliner Philharmoniker.

The following morning, which would soon become a welcomed routine, we feasted on a breakfast of hot coffee, cold cuts, various cheeses, good old-fashioned German breads and an assortment of jams and marmalades before departing for our next great adventure. A guided bus tour around the city whetted our appetites for historical and political content to the point where we couldn’t wait to pay Madame Chancellor a visit. We would have loved to discuss the future of German-American relations with her to find out how we could contribute.

But unfortunately, Angie wasn’t in the office to personally receive us – probably went off to do some politicking or perhaps somebody simply forgot to inform her we intended to drop by for cake and coffee while in town. At any rate, our disappointment waned after an illustrative narrative of the Berlin-Bonn connection and a couple of hours touring the halls while gaining insight into the goings-on of a typical day in the chancellor’s office, parliament sessions, and government officials hard at work discussing, debating and negotiating legislation.

It was then time for a little change of pace, so we made our way over to the dome and roof terrace of the Bundestag building, where each of us grabbed one of the handy listening devices with pre-recorded messages to serve as a personal guide. From there, we each went our merry little way up the spiral incline to the top. The heat coming through the glass windows was stifling, but the information-packed recordings made it all worthwhile.

By the third day of our MAS-sive adventure in Berlin…. Rain, Rain! Go away! Here and there, the sun played hide and seek, peeking out from behind the clouds and then disappearing quickly. Yet, not even a torrential downpour could stop the mighty MAS Class of 2012. We were on a mission. We too, after all, were Berliners, even if only for one week! And so with this mentality, we trudged off through inclement weather to visit the Kennedy Museum, a true highlight with its treasure trove of original photographs, documents and film footage. Then, there was the Checkpoint Charlie Museum, a stark contrast to the Kennedy but equally revealing. After a rigorous day, it was soon time to recharge our batteries. Half starved, we stuffed our faces with burgers and steaks at The Bird. The place deserves its reputation for being the best of its kind in town. The food was so delicious, we ate until we were about to explode, and I need not speak of table manners here. Modesty and politesse were not exactly at the forefront of our minds.

On Thursday, we had a rather light schedule considering the previous days. We were introduced to the JFK Institute and Graduate Program at the Freie Universität Berlin, where we also got the opportunity to browse through the center’s library resources. And since it was our last night in town, a bit of partying was on the agenda for later that evening. Yes, that’s right. PAR-TIE! So, what did we animals do to celebrate the end of a madly exciting week? You guessed it. While some of us actually did try to paint the town, others were so kaput they settled for the sofa in front of the lobby television. Then, there were those poor souls who turned in early after catching up on e-mails, telephone calls and current news. People were just beat.

On the last day, the sun was out in full force. Class members gathered into different interest groups and squeezed in everything from last-minute souvenir shopping to a Mocha Latte at the Brandenburger Tor. Many took the opportunity to check out the Jewish Museum and synagogues, others Museum Island. The few remaining enjoyed a waterside view of the sights on a sunny boat trip through the city while sipping on Berliner Weiße and ice coffee.

Suffice it to say that our MAS Moments in Berlin have left us with unique memories. Doina Dumbravescu from Romania summed it up nicely. “Berlin started out as fun and excitingly new,” she said, “then doubled with the Berlin Wall and Checkpoint Charlie, the Holocaust Memorial, twisted graffiti-filled streets, burgers, and the classical concerts, all ending up in the hostel lobby. Most definitely a memorable fun class trip!”

The MAS Class of 2012 wishes all of those who follow much success, and we hope you benefit from the program just as much!

If you’d like to find out more about MAS and other HCA programs and events, visit the website, check out our newsletter or simply get in touch with the administration.

Spring Academy 2011

From March 21 to March 25, 2011, the Heidelberg Center for American Studies hosted the Spring Academy for the eighth time. Out of 107 applications 20 participants from Europe, the United States  and South Asia were invited to present and discuss their dissertation projects at this international conference on American history, culture and politics.

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In the end, 19 doctoral students from eight different countries attended this year’s Spring Academy: Germany, Great Britain, India, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Switzerland and the United States. Several different research areas such as literary studies, cultural studies, media studies, history, law, political science and urban geography were represented. The conference aimed to give Ph.D. candidates the opportunity to introduce their research projects in ten themed panels: (Trans)National Traces of Trauma and War Migration and Politics; Voices of Southern Identity in Literature and Broadcasting; At the Intersection of Religion, Politics, and Race; Performing and Perceiving the Body: Womanhood and Community in Literature and Culture; Gender, Race and Ethnicity in Sports and Leisure; Conditions and Scandals of Circulation and Publication in the 19th and 20th Century; Disaster: Memory and Memorials; Cultural and Symbolic Knowledge Acquisition Through Architecture and Archeology; and Jaguars and Travelers: Space and Mobility in the American West.

Chaired by experts from various fields within American Studies, these interdisciplinary discourses provided inspiring new perspectives on the respective research of each participant.

Additionally, three guest speakers from Germany and the United States were invited to facilitate several workshops and a panel discussion. Thus, participants were able to debate different themes connected to American Studies in a historical, as well as a contemporary, context. Several social events gave participants the opportunity to continue their discussions informally and to establish future contacts.

As in previous years, the conference was graciously supported by the John Deere Corporation, the world’s largest producers of agricultural and consumer equipment. Thanks to the sponsorship of HCA longtime supporter Herbert A. Jung, two participants from developing and soft-currency countries were able to attend the conference.

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We would like to thank Mr. Kishore Pinpati for his donation of pictures of the 2011 Commencement, taken by a professional photographer. It is exciting to get the first donation from a graduate of the 2011 Class.



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