MASNEWS 02/2009: Of Celebrations & Celebrities
Welcome to the HCA: MAS Class of 2011
Inside MAS: Welcome Rashida Braggs
Life After the MAS: Alexander Vazansky
Fifth Anniversary of the HCA
Jeannette Jones named Academic Star
Upcoming Events at the HCA
Welcome to the Heidelberg Center for American Studies’ MAS newsletter!
This edition covers some of the highlights of the incipient new academic year at the HCA. We welcome our new students as well as the new Ghaemian scholar-in-residence, Dr. Rashida Braggs, who joined us this September. In addition, we take a look back at the festivities celebrating the fifth anniversary of the HCA last June.
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
With the Class of 2011 the MAS program goes into its sixth year, with an all new three semester curriculum and 20 students from Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Chile, China, India, Mexico, Palestine, Romania, Taiwan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, the United States of America, and Vietnam. The group convened for the first time during the official welcome reception at the HCA’s Bel Etage on Oct. 5, which also marked the beginning of the Orientation week. One of the new students arriving in Heidelberg is Scott Werner. He gives us a peek into his motivations, hopes and goals for his time in Heidelberg.
When I imagine Mark Twain’s famous visit to Heidelberg, satire aside, I like to think that he deeply enjoyed it. The beauty and history inherent in Heidelberg made an impression on him, much as it did on me the first time I visited. Having the opportunity to study in Heidelberg is, for me, a chance of a lifetime. It means a great deal, not only because of the location, but also to further my education at such a prestigious institution. Learning is a lifelong process and being here truly excites me.
I came to Germany under the auspices of the Transatlantic Program, and was given an opportunity to do an internship by the German American Chamber of Commerce of Chicago. Through this program, I was first introduced to the field of transatlantic relations. I began to really see how involved world affairs are in relation to America. After my program, I began interning at the Goethe Institute Mannheim-Heidelberg. I thought the level of multi-nationalism at the institute was great. At one point I think we had students from over fifty countries represented. One of my best memories was when I was the referee for a soccer match between South America and the Arabic speaking countries. The match was better played than refereed! We also took a group of approximately fifty students to Heidelberg to take a tour of the city. All of the students were in the city for the first time and it was nice to see their reactions after climbing to the top and seeing the city. By this time, I had been here many times, and the sight of the city from the castle gardens always makes me happy.
Shortly after finishing my internship, I began teaching English as a foreign language and I learned about the HCA and the field of American studies from a colleague. I did some research into different universities and found the HCA to be the top institution for American studies. I wanted to better myself and my teaching, and I thought it would be great to do that by going to the HCA. Throughout my teaching, American culture, politics and economics have been hot topics in my classes. The last years have really been politically active and since I moved here, I have realized just how involved Germans are in politics. In America, talking politics amongst friends is sometimes seen as taboo, but not in Germany! The level of curiosity I have seen about American politics is really strong here, especially from my students. Frankly, it is quite amazing. It took a little getting used to, but I almost expect it now and definitely welcome it.
Simply put, I expect to learn a lot while at the HCA, to have fun and meet new people. Looking critically at one’s own country is going to be interesting and definitely challenging. I look forward to hearing what other students have to say about America, especially their own experiences and even their criticisms. With that being said, October is coming quickly, and I am ready to begin what is sure to be a great program with equally great people.
Dr. Rashida K. Braggs, recently a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford University, joins the HCA as the Ghaemian Junior Scholar-in-Residence for 2009-2010. Dr. Braggs is teaching a lecture in the winter semester entitled, “From Blues to Rock: Representing Music in African American Literature.” Here, Dr. Braggs offers a brief look into her academic background and her plans at the HCA.
“So, where are you from?” This question inevitably pops up when meeting someone new. It makes sense that in introducing myself to the MAS students I should answer it. While this is a simple question, the answer is complex. I am from the United States, but I cannot pinpoint one home. I was raised in the South and Midwest, specifically North Carolina and Colorado. I attended school in the Northeast; Yale University, Boston University and Northwestern University nurtured my interest in Communications—from a B.A. in English and Theater Studies to an M.S. in Mass Communications and finally to a Ph.D. in Performance Studies. And yet I do not inhabit any of these places now; rather, I hail from the West Coast, where I held a postdoctoral fellowship at Stanford University in the Introduction to Humanities program. To make things even more complicated, these locales don’t include my travels abroad; most significantly, I’ve lived in Paris where I conducted research on African American jazz musicians who migrated there. I’ve also lived briefly in London and am excited about this new opportunity to live in lovely, historic Heidelberg. “So, where am I from?” This is an important question that not only addresses my wandering geographical base but also hints to my research and methodology. In my research, I strive to shed light on the travels of jazz outside of its American home—contending that the influence of the French on jazz is significant and has shaped the vitality of the music and musicians. Given this interest in the transnationalization of American Studies, what more perfect home could I find than the HCA? Fittingly, the HCA is a program outside the U.S. that is centered on the issues, methodologies and history of American Studies; it is a program strengthened by an assemblage of international students and scholars and the commingling of their differing perspectives. HCA’s interdisciplinary focus also makes a good fit for me; for while I have travelled to and fro, the one constant has been my desire to interweave disciplines and methodologies in my work. My background in Performance Studies exemplifies this, as the discipline melds scholarship and methodology from Theater, English, and Anthropology primarily. I also bring this interest in interdisciplinarity to my HCA course, which investigates how the integration of music and literature can articulate African American culture. In this way, HCA and I are from the same place, a creative space that culls multiple social contexts and frameworks in the study of what is/represents America. But perhaps where I’m from is not the most effective way to introduce myself; perhaps where I am going is the more pertinent question. I am going to forge a path at HCA that privileges cultural artifacts such as music as useful tools that illuminate major issues in American society. I am going to continue following music across disciplines and countries, which brings me currently to Germany. Germany offers a jazz library in Darmstadt, a jazz in Eastern Europe research project in Berlin as well as quick transport to Paris for my research—and that’s only the beginning. I look forward to expanding my research here as well as absorbing and contributing to interdisciplinary perspectives from HCA colleagues, guest speakers, and MAS students. So, onward I go. . . .
In May 2009, Alex Vazansky, the longtime MAS course coordinator, left the HCA to follow his fiancée to Lincoln, Nebraska, where he is now working as a lecturer at the University of Nebraska.
Alexander Vazansky has been part of the HCA since October 2004. He got to know all MAS students, from the very first class that graduated in 2005 to this year’s graduating class, first as lecturer of the Methodology class and later, since October 2006, also as the MAS Coordinator. In this position, Alex took care of the MAS students from the application process and their first days in Heidelberg to the completion of the program and the final stages of the commencement. During his time at the HCA, Alex was also writing his dissertation in history, entitled “An Army in Crisis: Social Conflicts in the United States Army, Europe and 7th Army, 1968-1975.” He successfully defended his dissertation in April 2009. Not only was his time at the HCA professionally successful, but it brought about a great change in his private life. In September 2007, he met Dr. Jeannette Jones, who came to the HCA as a guest professor. In August 2009, they were married in a beautiful ceremony on Long Island. Now Alex is leading a new life as a husband and lecturer at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
Click here to send Alex your best wishes!
Further News from the HCA
Celebration of the HCA's 5th Anniversary and the 70th Birthday of its Founding Director, Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Detlef Junker
On June 20, 2009, the Heidelberg Center for American Studies (HCA) celebrated the 5th anniversary of its official inauguration and the 70th birthday of its founding director, Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Detlef Junker. The Heidelberg City Hall was chosen as a place for the official celebration. Among the guests who gathered in this historical and beautiful assembly hall were benefactors and friends of the HCA, academic colleagues of Prof. Junker, HCA MAS and Ph.D. students as well as staff members, and Prof. Junker’s family and friends.
Former Rector Prof. Dr. iur. Dr. h.c. Peter Hommelhoff opened the celebration with a greeting speech in which he highly praised Prof. Junker’s work as founding director of the HCA. Prof. Hommelhoff emphasized that the HCA with its MAS, Ph.D. and research programs is a unique institution of the University of Heidelberg, uniting under its roof six faculties and ten disciplines. He also underlined that over the last five years the HCA has established itself as one of the leading European centers for American Studies and that each year more students from all over the world apply to and take part in its programs.
Prof. Dr. Inken Prohl, one of the Deans of the Faculty of Philosophy, congratulated the HCA and Prof. Junker on behalf of the faculty and its members. Prof. Dr. Stefan Weinfurter, a longtime colleague of Prof. Junker, took the floor after Prof. Prohl, delivering a very personal laudation sparkling with wit. He was followed by Prof. Dr. Philipp Gassert and Dr. Christine Weiss, who shared with the audience their memories about the time during which they earned their postgraduate degrees under the direction of Prof. Junker.
After Prof. Junker had thanked all the speakers for their warm words and cordial wishes, Prof. Dr. Manfred Berg from the Department of History introduced Dr. Josef Joffe. Dr. Joffe is a well-known public intellectual and publisher of Die Zeit, one of Germany's most recognized weeklies. In his talk titled “America and Europe in the Obama Era,” Dr. Joffe gave a deeply analytical overview of the changing mutual perceptions between Europe and America. First, Dr. Joffe presented several stereotypes which had come to the minds of Europeans when they talked about America and of Americans when they talked about Europe. After the inauguration of Barack Obama in January 2009, these views have started to slightly change, and in his talk the publisher underlined that German-American relations have recently become more open. Still, one should keep in mind that there were several points, such as the war in Afghanistan, where European and American politicians need to arrive at common solutions based on international instead of only national interests.
The evening ended with a formal dinner in the famous Heidelberg Castle.
Prof. Jeannette Eileen Jones, the HCA's Deutsche Bank Junior Scholar-in-Residence during the 2007-08 academic year and cherished adviser to many students of the MAS Class of 2008, has been designated as the newest "Academic Star" at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL).This initiative, kicked off by UNL's College of Arts and Sciences a year ago aims at shining a light on remarkable scholarship, teaching and research in the college. This month, Jeannette Eileen Jones was announced as an outstanding example of a young faculty member who is accomplishing big things. Click on the link to read the article about her in the newest issue of Academic Stars.
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 31, 11:00 A.M. - 10:00 P.M.
Hot Off the Press: Ein Informationstag zur Literatur und Kultur in Obamas Amerika
Maria Andrei, Ute Grosskopff, Mischa Honeck, Heiko Jakubzik, Diana Kupfer, Katia Rostetter, Christian Schneider, Karsten Senkbeil und Wiebke Wötje
In cooperation with the English Department, Heidelberg University
WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 4, 6:15 P.M.
The Constitutional Challenge: Authority and Conflict in Europe and America
Daniel Halberstam, Eric Stein Collegiate Professor of Law and Director, European Legal Studies Program, University of Michigan Law School
In cooperation with the German-American Lawyers Association
THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 12, 6:15 P.M.
None of Your Business: Information Policy in the Cold War Years
Kathleen G. Donohue, Professor of History, Central Michigan University
THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 19, 6:15 P.M.
Prestige and Contemporary American Realism
Gordon Hutner, Professor of English, University of Illinois
THURSDAY, DECEMBER 3, 6:15 P.M.
Why Muslims Matter to U.S. History, 1730-1945
Edward E. Curtis IV, Millenium Chair of the Liberal Arts & Professor of Religious Studies and American Studies Indiana University- Purdue University Indianapolis
TUESDAY, DECEMBER 8, 6:15 P.M.
The Eighteenth-Century American Frontier in Retrospect and Prospect
Warren R. Hofstra, Professor of History, Shenandoah University
MONDAY, DECEMBER 14, 6:15 P.M.
Crude World: A Journey into the Violent Twilight of Oil
Peter Maass, Journalist, The New York Times Magazine, and Author
Heidelberg Center for American Studies (HCA)
Curt und Heidemarie Engelhorn Palais
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