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MASNEWS 1/2018: A Heartfelt Farewell and a Wholehearted Welcome

Welf Werner

Dear Friends of the HCA,
Welcome to the Heidelberg Center for American Studies’ MAS newsletter!

This edition of the newsletter is remarkable as it reports a considerable change at the HCA. Founding Director Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Detlef Junker has retired after 15 years as the head of the HCA, and I am honored to follow in his footsteps. It is my pleasure as his successor to present this first newsletter of the year. In the following pages you will find Prof. Junker’s farewell speech and a short interview with him in which he looks back on his successful tenure at the HCA.

We report about the excursion of our MAS class of 2019 to the Staatsgalerie in Stuttgart and give the floor to two of our alumnae: Cen Jiang and Fei Ye tell us where their professional lives have led them after graduating from the MAS.

Please feel free to forward this newsletter to anyone interested in American Studies. Of course, we appreciate any feedback that you might have. If you would like to learn more about the HCA’s recent developments, please have a look at the Annual Report 2016/2017, which is now online.

Many thanks,


Prof. Dr. Welf Werner

Farewell Speech of our Founding Director Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Detlef Junker

On February 8, the HCA celebrated the retirement of its founder Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Detlef Junker. His farewell speech at the Aula of the New University was attended by 500 people in the audience and was followed by a splendid reception at the HCA.

The farewell of the HCA’s founding director did not come as a surprise. However, as hundreds of guests gathered in the Neue Aula of Heidelberg University on February 8 to celebrate Professor Junker’s long and distinguished career, everybody was enchanted by the warm-hearted tribute the audience and speakers paid to the historian, scholarly expert, and “academic entrepreneur.”

Rector Bernhard Eitel welcomed the audience, which included the chancellor of the Ruperto Carola, three former rectors, a Heidelberg mayor, colleagues old and new, members of the Schurman Society, benefactors of the HCA, the Friends of the Heidelberg Center for American Studies, political and cultural representatives as well as family and friends. The rector struggled to believe that Detlef Junker was retiring – for real this time. Had he not already taken residence in an attic office at the HCA? From there he would support his successor Professor Welf Werner during the initial months. Professor Eitel looked back at the beginnings of the HCA and emphasized the persistence its founding director had shown throughout the years.

The dean of the Faculty of Philosophy, Professor Gerrit Kloss, then took the audience through Detlef Junker’s time and work in Heidelberg. Having arrived as a professor of modern history in 1975, Detlef Junker supervised several hundred graduate theses and state exams, over thirty doctoral theses and one Habilitation during his tenure at the Department of History. Next to his teaching, he soon began to also act as an institution builder, initiating the Schurman Library for American History at the Department of History in 1986. In 1994, he moved to the U.S. capital to become the second director of the German Historical Institute in Washington, D.C. In 1999, he returned to Heidelberg, assuming the newly endowed Curt Engelhorn Chair for American History. Instead of retiring in 2004, he moved on to found the Heidelberg Center of American Studies, adding another dimension to American Studies at Germany’s oldest university.

Photo Gallery: Detlef Junker, Farewell Lecture (February 8, 2018)

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His successor as the Curt Engelhorn Chair, Professor Manfred Berg, thanked Detlef Junker in warm words for the support he and many scholars had received, first as students, then as colleagues. He also pointed out Professor Junker’s vast and wide-ranging academic work, especially the seminal handbook The United States and Germany in the Era of the Cold War that he edited during his time in Washington, D.C.

Visibly moved, Professor Junker then personally welcomed the audience and expressed his gratitude towards the benefactors of the HCA, who had given him their most precious asset: trust. At the beginning of his farewell lecture entitled “The Crisis of the American Empire”, Professor Junker described some events of his childhood, which had sparked his interest in the United States and its history and politics. In 1943, a bomb detonated near his family home, and his mother told him this was the deed of the Americans or the British. Shortly after the war had ended, on the market place of his hometown Quickborn, an American GI handed the hungry little boy an unknown but true delicacy: white bread with butter and cheese. During 1947, chocolate soup was served daily to every child in his school, a necessary addition to their scarce diet, by order of the American president, they were told. And he never forgot the words of Konrad Adenauer: “Only our American friends can save our security and freedom from the Soviet danger.“ Professor Junker’s interest in politics was triggered by two questions. Why National Socialism? And what goals do Americans pursue in Europe and Germany? Now, seventy years later, Americans were everywhere, on all continents, the seas, in the air, and in space. However, their empire faced a severe crisis. In the United States itself, the term “empire“ was rather unpopular, except as an “Empire of Liberty.“ Nevertheless, the USA had established and dominated the international order for a long time. In his mind, Professor Junker said, Franklin D. Roosevelt was the creator of the Pax Americana and the imperial presidency. Roosevelt had “globalized the national interests of the USA.“ From 1941 until the election of George W. Bush, globalism had been at the center of all strategies and security memoranda. Three goals were prevalent: indivisible security and the preservation of a world balance that favored America; an indivisible world market with the U.S. as an expansive power; and indivisible liberty, the core of civil religion. Yet, Professor Junker felt that the U.S. was less and less capable to uphold the global order. Indivisible security and indivisible liberty seemed to be faltering, possibly even the indivisible world market. Professor Junker observed that the United States was struggling with racism, violence, drug abuse, social injustice, and a dysfunctional Congress, but confessed to be most concerned about the crisis of globalism. He did not mince words, then, when it came to the current president, Donald Trump, who—he argued—had significantly curtailed the State Department as an influence in American politics and seemed to be equally irresponsible with regard to other institutions. President Trump’s constant inconsistencies and false statements threatened the American empire. In fact, the president’s only persistent conviction seemed to be that the very international order America had created was instead exploiting the United States. Still, Professor Junker ended his lecture on a positive note: Precarious times call for assured facts, solid scholarly results, and their clear elucidation to the public. He was certain that his successor, Professor Welf Werner, would rise to this challenge and that the HCA would continue to closely scrutinize, analyze, and explain both the United States and the transatlantic relationship.

The audience expressed its respect and admiration for Detlef Junker’s work with a long round of applause. After this formal part of the evening, the guests crossed the Universitätsplatz over to the HCA, where many toasts and another surprise awaited the HCA’s founding director: His portrait by the Heidelberg artist Herbert A. Jung, which now adorns the HCA’s Atrium.

Interview with our Founding Director Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Detlef Junker about the HCA’s First Degree Program

As our “founding father” leaves his directorial position at the HCA, he gave a reminiscent interview reflecting on his experiences with the M.A. program.

What gave you the original idea to create a degree program in “American Studies” with such an international emphasis?

My time as the director of the German Historical Institute in Washington, D.C. from 1994-99 gave me the initial idea to create the M.A. program. During my time at the GHI, I saw that an interdisciplinary institution could function very well and I wanted to create something similar.

I was further inspired by the incredible work of the U.S. ambassador to Germany Jacob Gould Schurman (1854-1942), who initiated a fundraiser in 1927 to help build the University of Heidelberg. Schurman was my role model in creating the interdisciplinary American Studies program through fundraising and the help of private funders. My motto in achieving my goal started to be: “Think Big” and “If you don’t ask, the answer is no”.

What is the most important message you would like to give to students at the HCA?

I have two messages for students at the HCA. Most importantly, I want them to globalize and expand their minds and constantly broaden their horizon. I believe that it is essential to look at the United States, because of its crucial role in today’s globalization. Secondly, I urge students to further the discussion about American Studies as a regional study that includes all aspects of American culture, not only literature.

What is your fondest memory of the MAS at the HCA?

One of my fondest memories was at the beginning of the MA program when I invited a group of M.A. students to my home for a Christmas celebration. I always enjoyed the multiple perspectives the students had on the United States and I believe that the old sentence “where you stand depends on where you sit” has proven itself to be very true. During my China-Tour, I also remember visiting four former M.A. students, who welcomed me warmly and showed me enormous hospitality.

What are your wishes for the new M.A. program?

My biggest wish for the new M.A. program is to keep the program as international as possible.

"Art in Context" – MAS Excursion to the "Stuttgarter Staatsgalerie"

October 27, the MAS Class of 2019 visited the “Stuttgarter Staatsgalerie” to view its remarkable collection of American graphic prints and “pop art” from the 1960s to the 1990s. The exhibition “The Great Graphic Boom” presented renowned artwork from artists like Roy Lichtenstein, Donald Judd and Andy Warhol. MAS student Holly Clayman relates her experience at the gallery:

The poster which hung from the entrance to the Staatsgalerie in Stuttgart introduced familiar visuals and hinted at what was about to be explored on our tour through the exhibition entitled “The Great Graphic Boom Art in America 1960-1990”. Excited by the title, I assumed the exhibit would present the graphic arts movement in the United States in terms of the most famous graphic artists such as Lichtenstein and Warhol. However, as our tour began, it was clear that it was to include the works of artists who were part of the early experimentation and development of printmaking in the United States.

What I found interesting about the exhibition was the journey from abstract expressionism to pop art, and the ability of the tour guide to give us access into the history and context of the work. Even as someone who enjoys going to art galleries, it is not always a simple task to understand the meaning behind the art that hangs on the wall. This exhibition, and the tour itself, gave us the chance to look deeper into the motives of the artists, something that may have otherwise been missed. This felt to be a useful approach, as we were a group coming from different academic backgrounds.

While I found myself impressed by a number of pieces from artists such as Helen Frankenthaler and Ed Ruscha, my favorite was Warhol’s ‘Electric Chair’. One of the main points shared with us on the tour was Warhol’s purposeful use of repetition to take away meaning we give to images. The electric chair as an image captures the United States’ use of the death penalty as a means of punishment. However, Warhol was able to take that image and reproduce it into an image of pop culture. The decision of the curator to include this alongside images of Marilyn Monroe and Jackie Kennedy suddenly became clear and intentional. Independent from the rest of the exhibition, ‘Electric Chair’ had a morbid feeling to it, but when placed next to images that seemed to lack depth, such as flowers or soup cans, it blurred the lines between pop culture and social commentary.

At the end of the tour, our guide welcomed us to take pictures of the exhibition. While I was taken aback by the offer to document the gallery, I felt receptive of this opportunity to interact with art. Warhol’s work in particular highlighted consumption and the role of American pop imagery. At the conclusion of the tour it felt appropriate to take pictures or selfies with the pieces and post them online, assuming our role as consumers of Warhol’s work.

Overall I found the tour insightful and relevant to my own area of academic interest, and would enjoy returning for future exhibitions at the Staatsgalerie. I appreciated having the opportunity to look at art in context, further developing my own knowledge of American artistic movements, and learning more about the role graphic art has played in shaping American culture.

Life After the MAS

Cen Jiang, who graduated from the MAS program in 2011, now holds a position at the Shanghai Academy of Fine Arts. She reports on her time at the HCA and her current professional and academic activities.

For Goethe, Heidelberg was the place where he lost his heart; for me, Heidelberg is the place you can fall in love with at the very first sight. Indeed, I am very grateful for this beautiful small city, but especially for the HCA that introduced me to Heidelberg and granted me an unforgettable experience. I still clearly remember the day I received the “Zulassung” from the HCA plus a full scholarship from Heidemarie Engelhorn. At the first day at the HCA, the friendly smiles and the cozy family-like atmosphere reassured me that having come to this Institute had been the right decision. The MAS Program provided me with a fruitful academic expertise and cross-cultural experiences that are quite valuable to my career, and I gained many dear friends amongst the faculty and in the class.

During my studies at the HCA, I took an interdisciplinary approach to study American art. After my graduation, I started to work as a journalist for art criticism in Shanghai for the Oriental Morning Post/ Art Criticism and later simultaneously for its online media ThePaper.cn/ Outlook on Arts. I wrote critical articles, made reports, did translations and interviews on a wide range of topics related to art such as contemporary art reviews, public art, art education, art foundations, art and international relations, reviews on important artists, artistic schools and events in history, art collection as well as archeology, architecture, animation etc. and accomplished a large number of publications both in the newspaper and online. I feel honored to have had the opportunities to interview renowned professors, researchers, artists, directors of art museums, foundations and academies etc. both from China and abroad. In this respect, I am also grateful to the HCA because my cross-cultural experience there helps me to embrace the world as home.

In 2016, I became a faculty member at the Art History Department of Shanghai Academy of Fine Arts. Commissioned by our executive dean Prof. Dawei Wang and vice dean Prof. Jiangbo Jin, I led a project last year called the “International Public Art Study Workshop” in Shanghai and Beijing and welcomed a lot of honorable professors, researchers, artists, curators and students from China, Germany , Austria, the USA and Nigeria. Our workshop not only achieved a substantial academic accomplishment, but also built friendships around the globe. The warm atmosphere of our team again reminded me of the HCA.

Overall, I am very grateful to the HCA for providing me with such a wonderful program and research environment plus a renowned scholarship! I felt honored to be able to participate in the celebration of the 625th anniversary of Ruperto Carola of Heidelberg University in 2011. The beautiful city itself, loaded with rich history and culture, is definitely a perfect place to study and enjoy life. I wish all the best for all my dear professors and friends at the HCA!

Fei Ye
, who graduated from the MAS program in 2009, is now a part of the Beijing representative’s office of the World Resources Institute in China. She reports on the impact the HCA had on her professional career after the MAS.

After graduation, I returned to my home country, China, and started my career in Beijing as a public relations professional, first at a public relations agency and then moving to the non-profit sector. Currently I am working for the Beijing representative’s office of the World Resources Institute, a US-based international think tank on environmental protection and sustainable development, leading its communications effort in China, providing consultancy for some government sectors on their public communications strategies.

The MAS program helped me in my career in many ways. The HCA was, and always has been such an internationalized program that gathers students from a variety of countries with different cultural backgrounds. I learned not only to study/work with diversified groups, but also to respect and understand different ideas. This experience is quite valuable for me, as I need to work with colleagues from eight offices across five continents on a daily basis. I believe it was my studies at the HCA that prepared me for this kind of global working environment. As a think tank, the institute I am working for aims at solving environmental problems through science-based policy recommendations. Such recommendations are based on understanding political structure, policy research, economic cost-benefit, societal conditions, cultural perceptions, etc. The research methodology and fundamental understandings about those disciplines can easily be found in the MAS program. The HCA did not provide us with every single piece of information we needed in our careers, but it did something even more important and lasting. It helped us build an adaptable solid academic foundation to explore more possibilities in the future.

Besides studying, many good memories were made by spending our time together in Heidelberg. I still remember the days we visited Berlin for an excursion, the evenings the professors invited us to their houses, and the nights we wandered around the Altstadt, the old city, dining and celebrating.

To the current students of the center, I would say: Treasure every moment you have at the HCA, because you will definitely miss it after you leave.

Upcoming Events


Workshop, “The Shifting Patterns of Global Authority: Driving Foreign Policy Change?”

Conveners: Florian Böller (Graduiertenkolleg “Authority and Trust”/HCA) and Sebastian Harnisch (Graduiertenkolleg “Authority and Trust”/Institute for Political Science)

LOCATION: HCA, Curt and Heidemarie Engelhorn Palais, Hauptstr. 120, Heidelberg


A Reading from Calypso

David Sedaris, Author, Horsham, West Sussex, England

LOCATION: Paulussaal, Dreisamstraße 3, Freiburg


"Political and Economic Consequences of Economic Crises"

Alasdair Roberts, Professor of Political Science and Director, School of Public Policy, University of Massachusetts, Amherst

In cooperation with the Graduiertenkolleg “Authority and Trust” (GKAT)


Inaugural Lecture of the new HCA Director, Welf Werner

LOCATION: Old Lecture Hall, Heidelberg University


"Google Buses and Uber Cars: The Politics of Tech Mobility, Driverless Cars, and Claims on the Future"

Jason Henderson, Professor of Geography & the Environment, San Francisco State University

In cooperation with the Geographisches Institut

LOCATION: HCA, Curt and Heidemarie Engelhorn Palais, Hauptstr. 120, Heidelberg


A reading from Heating and Cooling: 52 Micro-Memoirs

Beth Ann Fennelly, Poet Laureate of Mississippi

For all events, check our website for details. Most HCA events are chronicled on our retrospect page.

HCA-MAS: Email
Latest Revision: 2018-09-11
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