MAS 2008: Thesis time
Life after the MAS
Four Million for the HCA
Spring Academy 2008
Welcome to the Heidelberg Center for American
Studies’ MAS newsletter! This edition covers some exciting summertime highlights like the
MAS Thesis Presentation Workshop, the HCA Ph.D. Colloquium and last but not
least Curt Engelhorn’s generous announcement to support the HCA with an annual grant of 400.000 EUR over the next ten years.
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
These days the summer weather invites Heidelberg’s students to spend
their time on the Neckarwiese instead of studying, while at night the matches of the UEFA EURO 2008 lure soccer
fans to pubs or public viewing places in the Marstallhof or University Square.
Despite these distractions, the MAS students stay on track and continue working on their
theses, which encompass promising projects reflecting the interdisciplinary
approach of the program.
As every year, there is a wide range
of topics. Recent U.S.
foreign policy is, of course, always of great interest. Indeed, no less than two
projects will analyze America’s
Taiwan policy; other projects
deal with U.S. policy regarding
Chinese human rights issues or the challenges America faces in dealing with Islam.
More historically oriented projects concentrate, for example, on the Warren Court from
1953 to 1969 or the African American Muslim experience from 1625 to 2007. Other
students are interested in mapping certain strands of American social and
political thought, analyzing Chinese political support in the USA, Black feminism in Internet blogs or the twentieth-century
homosexual rights movement in the United States. The latter is the
first MAS thesis examining a gay/lesbian studies subject. Naturally there are also
works located mainly in the areas of literary and cultural studies. There will be
a study exploring Romance Novels, while another deals with Kansas in the African American popular
imagination. Two further theses will be about Americanization and
Europeanization as two forms of cultural globalization and the contribution of
the Gülen Civil Society Movement to intercultural dialog. Other projects
investigate the transformation of the public image of the First Lady throughout
the second half of the twentieth century and the translation of popular views
into a brand of leisure tourism. Finally, religion is the source of interest in
a project that investigates the contribution of Evangelicals to the
environmental movement. This year’s theses once again reflect the vitality of
the field and the wide range of possibilities for academic inquiry that American
Studies have to offer.
Elizabeth Borgwardt, associate professor of History and Law at
Washington University in St. Louis, joins the HCA as Fulbright Visiting
Professor for the Summer Semester 2008. Prof. Borgwardt is teaching an
Interdisciplinary Seminar on "Historical Perspectives on Human Rights and
Globalization" and is supervising three theses of MAS students.
An honors graduate of Harvard Law School, Professor Borgwardt also holds a doctorate in
History from Stanford University and a Masters in International Relations
from Cambridge University, UK.
Her BA is in History, also from Cambridge.
A former practicing lawyer and law professor, Professor Borgwardt is now a
historian specializing in the study of human rights and international
institutions, as well as the history of public international and humanitarian
law. Her most recent book, "A New Deal for the World: America's
Vision for Human Rights," has received several prestigious book awards and
was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.
Liz Borgwardt comments on her
experience at Heidelberg
so far, "It was really an honor to be selected by the HCA and to be part
of such an exciting interdisciplinary team of young and experienced scholars
working together. It is also personally
quite touching to me to be a part of such a dynamic, forward-looking, and
"globalized" piece of an old and established university, which is
actively struggling to overcome a most unfortunate wartime history in a
refreshingly progressive and open spirit." She adds that "offering
one of the workshops at the annual Spring
Academy and participating
as a chair of one of the panels at the Oberflockenbach Retreat has really given
me a feeling for the exciting work young people from all over the world are
undertaking in the field of American Studies, broadly construed. I hope my own
background and research interests may help me to link social and cultural
approaches to American Studies with political and legal ones, in a manner that
might benefit these new projects in some small way."
Former and current MAS students Anja Milde, Cristina Mustea and Jiawei
Mao presented their theses during the Ph.D. colloquium in Oberflockenbach, June
6 and 7.
Blessed with sunshine and a mild
summer breeze, participants of the HCA Ph.D. program in American Studies,
together with teachers and students, convened on June 6 and 7 for the fifth annual
Ph.D. colloquium at the Curt-Engelhorn-Seminarzentrum in Oberflockenbach. The
Seminarzentrum, formerly the home of the Italian-born chansonnier Caterina
Valente and acquired by our benefactor Curt Engelhorn, continues to serve as a
favorite retreat for numerous study groups affiliated with the University of
Heidelberg, among them the HCA Ph.D. program. As in previous years, the
colloquium listened to exciting talks, witnessed stimulating discussions and
brought together a wide range of speakers and topics, thereby living up to the
intercultural and interdisciplinary mission of our institute.
The first panel Literary & Intellectual Interventions featured two Ph.D.
candidates from the English Department, Tamara Treichel and Tobias Endler. They
were followed by two HCA Ph.D. students, Cristina Mustea and Karsten Senkbeil,
who presented their ongoing research in the field of Popular Culture & the Media. For the next panel which focused
on Civil Rights at Home and Abroad,
the floor was yielded to two young historians associated with the HCA, Anja
Milde and Alexander Vazansky. Florian Pressler and Jiawei Mao, historians also,
concluded the event with talks exploring different aspects of U.S. Foreign Economic Policy.
After the final panel, the
participants left Oberflockenbach thoroughly satisfied. Apart from giving
informed advice to panelists of diverse disciplinary backgrounds, the
colloquium members managed to create a supportive and intellectually engaging
atmosphere worthy of a true community of scholars.
Curt Engelhorn supports American Studies in Heidelberg with 400,000 EUR annually for the next ten years.
generous sponsors of American Studies at the University
of Heidelberg, honorary senator Curt
Engelhorn, and his wife Heidemarie, have decided to put their support for the Heidelberg Center for American Studies (HCA) on a
solid, long-term financial footing. They
will provide the HCA with 400,000 EUR annually for the next ten years with a
prospect of extending that period even further. This guarantees the future of
the HCA as a unique public-private partnership in the humanities and social
sciences in Germany.
many years, Curt Engelhorn has rendered outstanding services as a patron of the
Rhein-Neckar metropolitan region, especially through his support of the Reiss-Engelhorn Museum
in Mannheim and the expansion of American
Studies in Heidelberg. Thanks to his consistent backing of the
Schurman Library for American History, the endowment of the Curt-Engelhorn
Chair for American History, and the sustained support of the HCA, Heidelberg has emerged as
the leading center for American Studies in Baden-Württemberg.
for further information.
The fifth HCA
was held April 21–25. This time it welcomed twenty young scholars from Europe
and the United States who
came to Heidelberg
to present their Ph.D. projects and swap ideas with their peers.
Torsten Kathke arrived in Heidelberg from Munich,
where he is working on his Ph.D. thesis “Wires That Bind: Democracy and
Nationhood on the American Periphery, 1877-1914.” Here are some impressions he
took back with him to the Bavarian capital: “The HCA Spring Academy is that rare find. It's a
meticulously planned and run event, but never impersonal. The schedule is set
up with people in mind, not checkboxes or to-do lists. Still, it's a challenge
– it might find you lost or confused at any given moment, but then you won't be
the only one. If all you wanted was a different take you'll instead get a
dozen. The very international, very diverse crowd you'll meet will lead you to
question your obvious truths and tried-and-true thoughts, and you'll be glad
you had that opportunity. How anyone could complete a Ph.D. project without
such feedback I will never know. That particular kind of blissful ignorance
deserves the loudest of cheers and a giant, all-caps THANK YOU!”
It might also warrant mentioning
that 11 alumni from previous Spring Academy conferences returned to Heidelberg as participants in the Annual
Convention of the German Association for American Studies, held here May 15–18,
on which we reported in the last MAS Newsletter.
Heidelberg Center for American Studies (HCA)
Curt und Heidemarie Engelhorn Palais
Tel.: + 49 6221 543710
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