The CITAS Lecture Series (Ringvorlesung) is open not only to students from across the humanities and social sciences but also to the general public. The series features lectures from scholars from the University of Regensburg and the Leibniz Institute for East and Southeast European Studies (IOS), while also giving a platform to guest speakers.
In 2018/19, the lecture series offered insight into the entanglements of the nation with globalization. The following year, the issue of crisis in its national, regional and transnational dimensions was central. In winter semester 2020/21, the series focused on European-American relations from the nineteenth century to the present.
In summer semester 2021, the lecture series addresses the theme of Rethinking Area Studies and Space from the Global South | Area Studies und Raum vom Globalen Süden her neu denken.
In winter semester 2021/22, the lecture series explores the "The Mediterranean and its Blind Spots". The lectures are organized by members of the University of Regensburg CITAS-Network MS ISLA in cooperation with the Mittelmeer-Plattform at the University of Konstanz.
Details of the previous lectures in the current and past series can be found below.
20.10.21 Andreas Guidi (Konstanz), Jonas Hock, Laura Linzmeier (Regensburg)
Grundbegriffe der Mediterranean und Area Studies
27.10.21 Rainer Liedtke (Regensburg)
Metamorphose durch Hellenisierung: Thessaloniki und der Große Brand von 1917
03.11.21 Rembert Eufe (Tübingen)
Das veneziano de là da mar
10.11.21 Sonja Brentjes & Victor de Castro y León (Berlin)
Mittelmeerbeziehungen aus der Sicht von See- und Landkarten (14. 17. Jh.)
17.11.21 Ulrich van Loyen (Siegen)
Trance und Tradition. Erweckungsbewegungen im Italien des 20. Jahrhunderts
24.11.21 Ralf Junkerjürgen (Regensburg)
Der staatenlose Graf von Monte Christo: Insel als Handlungsraum und Symbol im Werk von Alexandre Dumas
01.12.21 Sarah Nimführ (Linz)
(Im)Mobilität und mediterrane Migration
08.12.21 Jasmin Daam (Bonn)
How to see it: Tourism and Space-Formation in the Arab Eastern Mediterranean in the Early Twentieth Century
15.12.21 M’hamed Oualdi (Paris)
Ottoman Legacies in Colonial North Africa (1860s-1920s)
12.01.22 Martina Seifert (Hamburg)
Kommunikationsraum Adria: Befunde, Interpretationen, Narrative
19.01.22 Robert Blackwood & Stefania Tufi (Liverpool)
The Mediterranean as a transnational space: a sociolinguistic perspective from France and Italy
26.01.22 Karla Mallette (Michigan) & Daniel König (Konstanz)
Cosmopolitan languages in the Mediterranean: book launch and discussion
02.02.22 Steffen Schneider (Graz)
Die Repräsentation mediterraner Hafenstädte in literarischen Texten der romanischen Literaturen
“Vast and diverse and yet fixed”. The Italian poet Eugenio Montale used these words to describe the “hazardous law” of the Mediterranean Sea as a metaphor of the human condition. This quotation can also be taken as a metaphor for the traditions of research on the Mediterranean region, oscillating between ambitions of unity and longue durée on the one hand, and fragmentation and asymmetries on the other hand. How can different disciplines engage in dialogue between an introuvable (unfindable, indiscoverable) Mediterranean universe (Moatti) and the need to address this region’s relevance for today’s world? Another key question addressed here is: can the Mediterranean offer a viable meso-level between the exclusivity of nation-centered approaches and the stress on connectivity adopted by global history?
This lecture series engages with concepts in area studies and beyond in the search for topics, people, cultures, languages, and places that have remained at the margins of research. It proposes a Mediterranean perspective to make these underexplored phenomena visible and retrieve their resonance on a wider scale. The Mediterranean and its Blind Spots thus features specialists from different disciplines including history, language and cultural studies, anthropology, and archaeology. The lectures address various periods from antiquity to the present. This broad frame allows for reflexive discussion on the consequences of adopting a Mediterranean prism in current research (and beyond).
The lecture series is organized by members of the University of Regensburg CITAS-Network MS ISLA in cooperation with the Mittelmeer-Plattform at the University of Konstanz. It is aimed at students, the broader research community, and any other interested audiences. The events will take place in a hybrid format and can be attended virtually (on Zoom) or in situ (Regensburg).
Coordinators: Prof. Dr. Anne Brüske and Joanna Moszczynska
Rethinking Area Studies and Space from the Global South | Area Studies und Raum vom Globalen Süden her neu denken. Students can sign up following this link.
Area Studies is a per se interdisciplinary research field that can contribute fruitfully to understanding societies and cultures in the context of both historical and ongoing globalization processes. Nevertheless, owing to their specific genealogy, area studies have also faced critique in respect of their methods, theories and thematic foci. Even if there has been a turn towards critical self-reflection in area studies, leading to increasing recognition of the field’s imperial and colonial legacies, voices from the different world regions constituting its focus nevertheless remain underrepresented – those from Asia, Africa, the Americas, and East and Southeast Europe in particular. In order to better understand cultures and societies in respect of their glocal power relations, it is necessary to explore how area studies and space can be contextualized through the perspectives of the “Global South” and what role, for example, virtual spaces (could) play in this.
This interdisciplinary lecture series therefore offers a multiperspectival reconceptualization of area studies and relevant concepts of space in dialog with the “Global South”. The series seeks to demonstrate the necessity of revising certain scholarly and cultural paradigms, while pointing towards ways of achieving dialogic reconfigurations of knowledge production.
The interdisciplinary and transcultural lecture series features (inter)national experts with case studies and theoretical contributions from fields including social anthropology, museum studies, history, sociology, linguistics, cultural studies, literary studies and media studies. Alongside specialists from Regensburg, there will also be contributions from Ciraj Rassool (University of the Western Cape, South Africa), Sérgio Costa (Lateinamerika-Institut Berlin), Sinah Kloß (Dependency and Slavery Studies, Universität Bonn), Silke Jansen (FAU Erlangen), Ana Nenadovic (Lateinamerika-Institut Berlin) and Johannes Bohle (Europa-Universität Flensburg).
The online lecture series is aimed at students in the faculties SLK and PKGG in Regensburg, the broader research community, and any other interested audiences.
Details on each lecture, including an abstract are available by clicking the link in the title. The language of the title indicates if the talk will be in German or English.
15.04.21 | Sinah Kloß (Bonn)
Unmapping the 'Global South': Reflections on a Heuristic Concept
22.04.21 | Ciraj Rassool (Cape Town)
Public History as Counter-Museology: Journeys through Museum Transformation in Africa and Europe
29.04.21 | Anna Steigemann (Regensburg)
The City of the 21st Century, Mobile Spatial Practices, and Glocal Spatial Knowledge: A Spatial Sociology for Multi-Scalar Area Studies
06.05.21 | Silke Jansen & Lucía Romero Gibu (Erlangen)
"Wir" und "Ihr": Sprachwissenschaftliche Perspektiven auf den sozialen Raum im Migrationskontext
20.05.21 | Isabella von Treskow (Regensburg)
Oran, Alger, Sétif: Raumsemiotik bei Hélène Cixous, Kateb Yacine und Mohammed Dib
27.05.21 | Mirja Lecke & Oleksandr Zabirko (Regensburg)
Wie Russland seinen Süden entwarf
10.06.21 | Johannes Bohle (Flensburg)
'Follow-the-Hurricane-Geographies': Geographische Impulse für Area Studies am Beispiel der Karibik
17.06.21 | Ulf Brunnbauer (Regensburg)
Balkan und Südosteuropa, und Beyond: Wie eine Region sich selbst sieht
24.06.21 | Sérgio Costa (Berlin)
'Entangled Inequalities': Transregionale Perspektiven auf soziale Ungleichheiten
01.07.21 | Ana Nenadović (Berlin)
Das Internet schlägt zurück: Das Internet als Raum feministischen Widerstands aus dem Globalen Süden
08.07.21 | Andreas Sudmann (Regensburg)
AI Area Studies and the Global South
15.07.21 | Jochen Mecke (Regensburg)
'The Global South goes North': Von "négritude" (Césaire, Senghor) zur "raison nègre" (Mbembe)
The CITAS Lecture Series takes place in collaboration with the Leibniz ScienceCampus Europe and America.
"Special Relations Revisited: Europa und die USA seit dem 19. Jahrhundert" examines European-American entanglements in topics such as foreign affairs and security policy, diplomacy and migration policy, and more. Moving in a mostly chronological order, the lecture series will shed light on two centuries of transatlantic connections and cover a variety of issues and fields such as popular culture, the fight against slavery, and European migration to the US.
An interdisciplinary group of scholars from the University of Regensburg and the Leibniz Institute for East and Southeast European Studies (IOS) will be joined by renowned researchers from German and international institutions.
When? Mondays, 18:15 - 19:45
Where? Online via Zoom, https://uni-regensburg.zoom.us/j/85892790976 Meeting ID: 858 9279 0976 - no prior registration necessary
2. November | Hedwig Richter (Universität der Bundeswehr, München)
Demokratiegeschichte als nationale Erzählung und transnationaler Prozess. Frankreich, die USA und Deutschland im 19. Jahrhundert
9. November | Ulf Brunnbauer
Amerika-Auswanderung und (ost)europäische „Diasporen” vor dem 1. Weltkrieg
16. November | Volker Depkat
Amerikanische Demokratie als politisches Ordnungsmodell von 1789 bis 1848/49
23. November | Pia Wiegmink
The 'Freedom-Loving German' in America: Negotiating Gender, Antislavery and Immigration in 19th Century German American Women’s Literature
30. November | Dagmar Schmelzer
L'Autre Amérique. Die europäische Wahrnehmung Québecs und des quebecer Separatismus als Alternative zu US-Amerika
7. December | Friederike Kind-Kovács (TU Dresden)
Cotton, Cloth and Milk Powder: Transatlantic Child Relief in post-WWI Central Europe
14. December | Mathias Häußler
Elvis Presley: Wie amerikanisch war Elvis? Die Entstehung einer transatlantischen Popkultur im Kalten Krieg
11. January | Klaus Buchenau
Ex occidente lux(us). Religiöse Impulse aus den USA im östlichen Europa des 19. und 20. Jahrhunderts
18. January | Katharina Gerund (FAU Erlangen)
Unofficial Ambassadors? Military Spouses in the Transatlantic World
25. January | Gerlinde Groitl
Vom amerikanischen Frieden zum Rosenkrieg? Die sicherheitspolitische Beziehungskrise zwischen Europa und den USA
1. February | Marlene Laruelle (George Washington University)
Looking at post-Soviet Eurasia from Europe and the US: Divergences of perspectives and shared visions
8. February | Abschlussdiskussion / Concluding Panel Discussion
Europa und Amerika 2021 - wohin?
With contributions by Prof. Dr. Lora Anne Viola (JFK Institute, Berlin) and Dr. Jana Puglierin (European Council on Foreign Relations - ECFR, Berlin)
Chair: Dr. Gerlinde Groitl (UR)
15. February | Exam (for students only)
CONCLUDING PANEL DISCUSSION: 8 FEBRUARY 2021, 18:15
What's next for Europe and the US? This is the central question that will be address on 8 February in the concluding discussion of the lecture series "Special Relations Revisited: Europe and America since the 19th century". Three weeks after the inauguration of President Joe Biden, two Berlin-based experts, Prof. Dr. Lora Anne Viola (John F. Kennedy Institute) and Dr. Jana Puglierin (European Council on Foreign Relations) will discuss with the political scientist Dr. Gerlinde Groitl (Regensburg), what could be in store for transatlantic relations. Key issues, including the end of Donald Trump's presidency, Brexit, and what happens after Angela Merkel leaves office mean many questions remain open for European-American relations. The audience is invited to join in the debate.
Two leading experts on US-European relations, Lora Anne Viola of the JFK Institute in Berlin and Jana Puglierin of the European Council on Foreign Relations, engaged in a wide-ranging and open discussion on what could lie in store in 2021 and beyond for transatlantic relations. In her opening statement, Lora Anne Viola set out the large number of pressing issues for Brussels and Washington, ranging from the role of NATO through finding approaches for relations with Russia and the NordStream question and climate policy to restoring a multilateral approach to international relations. It was telling that President Joe Biden’s first calls were to Europe, yet the divisions over how to approach China, for example, remain in place, whatever the ambitions of his “go fast, go big” approach. Equally, while not an “America First” vision, it seems evident that Joe Biden’s foreign policy has US voters’ concerns at its centre, as his first speech on foreign policy addressed boosting the USA’s economy, Black rights and LGBTQ rights, among issues.
The sense that “foreign policy begins at home”, as does nation-building, was taken up by Jana Puglierin in her opening statement. This approach is particularly necessary, she argued, because the Capitol riots and the extensive support for Trump had made clear that many domestic issues remain to be resolved and wounds healed. In terms of foreign policy and relations with Europe, it was clear that the landscape had shifted with goodwill towards the US and its leadership role in the world no longer a given, while the belief in the project of globalization and exporting democracy is also questioned. On the other hand, Europe is aware that it can no longer hide behind the difficulties posed by the unpredictable Trump administration for not cooperating with the US on foreign policy or its demands regarding NATO contributions. The landscape has shifted for European countries, for those that were supportive of Trump (like Hungary and Poland) and for those that distanced, meaning that in dealing with a reasonable US President, Europe has been manoeuvred into a cooperative stance. Indeed, Europe’s position in world politics requires collaboration with the US as it struggles to achieve a unified position on, for example, Russia, as the recent Navalny case makes clear.
Chaired by UR political scientist Gerlinde Groitl, the discussion took up the wide range of particular points on the European-American agenda, but also the big questions of whether there is and can be a common grand vision for the world. For Lore Anna Viola, there are shared values, such as promoting democracy and free trade, but there are also disagreements over the form of the transatlantic alliance and how military power can be employed and where. This is in part a result from the realization that in a multi-polar world, a trend evident under President Obama already, US authority has shifted and it can no longer exert immediate authority even over allies. Negotiation is thus necessary. Also recognizing this shift in the global order, where a unipolar North no longer prevails, with China a world player, Jana Puglierin emphasized her belief that the West was for a long time treated as a given and necessity. The shared values of international liberalism might have survived the crises that stemmed from the Iraq War and the use of Guantanamo Bay, but now, though, there is a need for a “better West”. And not only because of the rise of populism, likewise in the US through Trump or the UK with Brexit, but also because the limits have been reached with the distribution of natural resources. Thus the sense of a growth-based capitalism as the basis of the international liberal order would require rethinking. One way for Europe to ensure it remains a significant player is to invest in new technologies, ensuring it is not left reliant on the US or China in the realm of artificial intelligence and technological infrastructure.
1 February 2021
While “transatlantic values” have dominated the US-Europe relationship for several decades, the world’s current geopolitical and sociocultural transformations have challenged the previously shared vision of the broader notion of Eurasia. While the US tends now to look at Russia through a “great power competition” prism that is mostly focused on China, Europe offers more diversified policy perspectives, depending on the country and on political orientations. In this lecture, Marlene Laruelle reflects on her ten year experience in Washington DC and her knowledge of American think tank culture and the growing divergences that seem to emerge with many European perspectives on the way to interpret post-Soviet transformations.
Marlene Laruelle - George Washington University
Director, Institute for European, Russian and Eurasian Studies (IERES)
Director, Illiberalism Studies Program
Director, Central Asia Program
In her lecture, Marlene Laruelle drew on her experience as a scholar of international relations and the think-tank culture in the US and Europe, including Russia, to outline how mutual perceptions of world regions are shaped. In her discussion of the “think tank ecosystem” that has emerged in Washington DC, she claimed that many centres reproduced prevailing narratives about Russia as a “second-rate power” or “rogue state”, thus reaffirming political strategies that see China as the leading competing global power. The pivot to Asia thus has an adversarial undertone. While there are some “doves” offering policy advice that is bilateral and pragmatic, there is a tendency for “hawks” to prevail, with a refusal to “go soft” on Russia and instead insisting on pushing back. She contrasted this with the diverse positions of European powers, where a variety of stances has emerged – ranging from historically-conditioned opposition to Russian power, through human rights-inspired critique of Russia, to more favourable or accommodating stances, as expressed by France, Italy and now Hungary. Indifference or neutrality should also not be overlooked. Drawing on her knowledge of geopolitical developments in the Arctic region, she presented Norwegian-Russian relations as something of an outlier that could serve as a more pragmatic model. While being pro-US and pro-NATO, Norway has also succeeded in developing a collaborative approach with Russia in the realms of fishing, nuclear waste and sea access, among other areas. She argued that mid-to-long-term this could become a significant model, as she suggests that the human factor – with increasing numbers of people of Hispanic background joining the State Department – could mean the US increasingly looks towards Central and Latin America, leaving Europe to deal with security issues in Eurasia and the Middle East.
The lecture was followed by in-depth and open discussion, where the diversity of think tanks’ positions, in part influenced by their funding, became clear. The debate also addressed the ways in which Russian influence stems from organizations that deviate from the traditional think tank model, such as by spreading disinformation. In the discussion, Marlene Laruelle also addressed the difficulty that scholarly institutions can have in making their voice heard in an environment where think tanks prevail.
25 JANUARY 2021, 18:15
The security of Europe has been a transatlantic issue since the founding of NATO in 1949. From a historical perspective, the political involvement of the USA in such an alliance could hardly be considered a given. Ultimately, though, it was the USA that proved to be a long-term, reliable guarantor of security, contributing to the development of a stable European peace order. Even after the end of the Cold War, it proved possible to adapt the transatlantic alliance to new challenges. However, in recent years the relationship has been characterized by contention and friction over the sharing of burdens within NATO, over solidarity within the alliance in the context of the Afghanistan conflict, suitable approaches towards Russia, and the supposedly insufficient competences of the European partners. Donald Trump’s presidency has tested an already strained relationship even further over the past four years. This lecture outlines developments and future perspectives in the transatlantic security partnership, while also discussing current debates with the audience.
Gerlinde Groitl is a lecturer in International Policy and Transatlantic Relations at the University of Regensburg where she also gained her PhD. She has also been a researcher at Johns Hopkins University in Washington and at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). Her research focuses on US-European and US-German relations, exploring questions of interventionism, world orders and security policy.
For more information on the subject of the lecture, see Gerlinde Groitl’s recent publication: “Die USA und die transatlantischen Beziehungen: Ende einer Ära?“ Handbuch Politik USA. 2nd ed. Ed. Markus B. Siewert, Christian Lammert und Boris Vormann. Wiesbaden: Springer, 2020. 633-43.
In her lecture, Gerlinde Groitl argued that the sense that transatlantic relations are experiencing a crisis transcends both Trumpism and the term of his presidency. Critiques of European countries for supposedly not contributing fairly to NATO were evident under Barack Obama, too, for example, although Trump was exceptional in his explicit crticism. Adopting a longer-term perspective, she argued that scepticism towards Transatlanticism is not unprecedented and indeed, the transatlantic partnership that emerged after World War II is something of an exception in US history. Because of its emergence in the Cold War context, the question arose soon after 1989/91 of whether it was necessary for the liberal West to stand “shoulder to shoulder”; alternatively, when seen in terms of the potential for the expansion of democracy, the question became whether it might be possible to globalize the liberal international order. This move in turn meant transforming international institutions, such as the WTO, and the NATO alliance, whose unity was no longer a prerequisite for US-led interventions in the Middle East in response to 9/11, for example. Under George W. Bush, then, it was no longer that the coalition defined the mission but the mission defined the coalition. Another challenge to the existing international order emerged with the rise of China in this arena, meaning the focus of US foreign policy increasingly looked away from NATO’s realm. In this respect, Europe has adopted a more accommodating stance towards China based on constrainment and incorporating China in a rules-based order, rather than seeing it necessarily as a threat to economic and political dominance as the US does, highlighting another divergence of approaches. The Trump era amplified the turbulence affecting the liberal international order with its predominantly transactional and bilateral, rather than multilateral, view of foreign relations, with “America first” meaning coming out on top of any “deals”. It remains to be seen if the Biden era will mean a return to multilateral Transatlanticism.
The in-depth discussion addressed a variety of questions, drawing on Gerlinde Groitl’s expertise on transatlantic, US-China and US-Russia relations, as well as the impact of shifts in the Transatlantic alliance for Bavaria, where significant troop numbers are stationed.
18 JANUARY 2021, 18:15
In the context of the so-called Cold War, the US military began to facilitate military spouses joining deployed service members around the globe at a large scale. Military spouses overseas, as Donna Alvah has shown, often became “unofficial ambassadors” of US culture and functioned as agents of soft power diplomacy. My talk will take this postwar role as a starting point and focus on the (partially) new assignments for military spouses since the transformation of the US military to an all-volunteer force and especially in the context of the “Global War on Terror.” Based on the analysis of various cultural representations of military spouses in the 21st century (incl. magazines, life-writing, and fictional portrayals), I will show how (transatlantic) mobility, travel, and cultural contact shape public discourses on and by military spouses. Yet, I argue that military spouses in the cultural imaginary of the US have primarily become unofficial ambassadors stateside, tasked with a double mission: to promote the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and to bridge the growing “familiarity gap” between civil society and military culture.
Katharina Gerund (FAU Erlangen-Nürnberg) is assistant professor of American Studies at FAU Erlangen-Nürnberg. Her research interests include Americanization and cultural mobility, gender and feminism, and cultures of sentimentality and affect. She is coordinator of the DFG-funded „Global Sentimentality Project“.
In her lecture, Katharina Gerund explored the role of military spouses – and mainly military wives – in staged and mediatized versions of Americanness. In television shows and on the ground, where US troops are stationed, spouses become unofficial ambassadors bridging the gap between civil society and military culture. While attitudes towards US foreign and military policy shaped relations on the ground, the spouses possess “affective agency”, serving to project a degree of soft power. This is increasingly possible because the role of spouses is not limited to the domestic realm, even if their presence abroad was part of improving soldiers’ morale (and morals). Instead, military wives (and husbands) were increasingly visible in local communities and media, with the West German press, for example, largely buying into the image of unofficial ambassadors. At the same time, the way the host countries were portrayed suggested that the role was often one-sided, projecting US-American culture while doing little to alter the sense of, say, Bavaria as “potato and pork” country. Still, the domestic and international success of television shows depicting the lives of military spouses suggests there is recognition of this “civil religion”, in the US honoring the military and abroad often an idealized USA.
The discussion explored further the ways race, class, gender and sexuality intersect in the lives of military families and the depictions.
11 January 2021, 18:15
Large-scale emigration from Eastern Europe to the US took place in the nineteenth century, a process that had far-reaching and often unforeseeable consequences. The impact of migration on religion is explored here to show that westward migration actually led, in a rather complex way, to the "easternization" of the religious sphere in the Northern Carpathian region. People who in the Habsburg Empire had been separated from the Orthodox Church and via the Union of Rome had been brought closer to Western Christendom used US-American religious freedoms to rediscover their Orthodox roots. Ultimately, they invested their financial and cultural capital in order to initiate an exceptionally successful missionary movement in their former homelands. This resulted in hundreds of thousands of people in Eastern Slovakia and Carpatho-Ukraine turning to Orthodoxy. Such entanglements are again important today, as evident in the case of the impact of "Made in the USA" Ortohdoxy theology in today's Ukraine.
Klaus Buchenau has been professor of Southeast and European history at UR since 2013. His research interests include exploring the history of Serbia and Croatia comparatively in the context of religion, culture, and informality and corruption. He is currently working on a history of the noble Thurn and Taxis Family in former Yugoslavia.
In his lecture, Klaus Buchenau explored the transnational connections of Ruthenians/Rusyns, a group inhabiting Eastern Slovakia and Carpathian Ukraine. He focused on migration experiences and how they affected religious life on both sides of the Atlantic. Living on the edges of various empires and then nation-states, this group often went against the grain of dominant religious trends or led to large confessions making compromises, hence the formation of the Uniate Church. Loyal to the Catholic Pope, they kept the Orthodox rite, leading to misunderstandings, for example, when cooperating with the Roman Catholic Church in the US, as there were married priests. On the other hand, migration experiences could also lead to closer contact with Orthodox communities in the USA, which fed into a tendency for Pan-Slavism in some villages at home in Europe. This meant aligning with the Orthodox Church, both abroad and at home, with migration experiences tending to entrench confessional divides. Equally, experiences of the West did not necessarily mean developing pro-Western identities or tendencies; indeed it could often provide fertile ground for criticism. Ultimately, though, the diversity of the group could not withstand Stalinism, thus in the Ukrainian lands there was forced conversion to Orthodox. Still, the forms of Orthodoxy remained shaped by global experiences, as Sunday School and fundraising practices were unknown before the transatlantic crossings of clergy and believers. These then spread outwards from the periphery, ultimately influencing religious life in the centre, in Russia.
14 DECEMBER 2020, 18:15
Alongside Mickey Mouse and Coca-Cola, Elvis Presley is today one of the most significant pop-cultural symbols of the United States. His original rise to fame in the 1950s, however, was surrounded by heated debate. Presley’s lascivious performances on stage, together with his adaptations of African-American rhythm and blues music, were considered a provocation by many people in Eisenhower’s deeply conservative USA. In other parts of the world and against the backdrop of the Cold War, Elvis was often treated as a symbol of the controversial expansion of US-American mass culture consumerism.
This lecture explores the transformation of the image of Elvis Presley from a rebellious teenage figure to one of the greatest pop-cultural icons of the United States. It investigates how broader questions relating to US identity were often negotiated through the singer as a public figure. I interpret Elvis Presley as a pioneer in the development of a transatlantic youth culture, showing that pop-culture and consumerism were two aspects influencing the public image of the United States within the framework of the East-West conflict.
Mathias Häußler is lecturer at the Chair of European History at the University of Regensburg. He gained his PhD from the University of Cambridge. His first book, Helmut Schmidt and British-German Relations: A European Misunderstanding (Cambridge University Press, 2019), is based on his dissertation. Alongside his interest in political history and the history of international relations, he also works on pop culture, including the figure of Elvis Presley and mass tourism in the nineteenth century.
In his lecture, based on his recent book Inventing Elvis: An American Icon in a Cold War World, Mathias Häußler explored the role of Elvis Presley in the construction of US identity, with its complex intersections of race, North-South divides, class, gender and age. He considered Elvis’ part in global projections of US (soft) power and the development of a US and then transatlantic popular culture. It was the medium of television that made Elvis Presley, enabling him to transcend his status as a regional star, even if his rise also revealed the class-based divisions of US society, where for some this Southern, “white trash outsider”, who mixed country and Black-inspired rhythm-and-blues offended sensibilities. For others, though, this was a mark of authenticity, while his sexualized performances offered a thrill as he seemed to disrupt the existing social order, even if his performances ultimately were more of a vent for social and generational frustrations, rather than genuinely subversive.
Forged on the regional stage, hardened by national television, it was as a multimedia star that Elvis became known to the world, in the form of films and merchandising, as well as his records. The focus of establishment concerns internationally around Elvis were less focused on class, race and sexualization but on broader fears of “Americanization” and rebellious youth culture. Still, even in countries like Germany with longer traditions of anti-Americanism, younger people were attracted to Elvis and what he stood for. The rise of youth culture meant there was also a market for local imitators, including the Austrian Peter Kraus, or French Johnny Hallyday, while the US embraced the British Beatles who in part retranslated the influence of Elvis. Thus, the emergence of youth culture and popular culture can be seen in terms of transatlantic entanglements and exchange.
The discussion explored Elvis’ largely apolitical stance and his place in US race relations, as it was the South where he faced most controversial and heated reactions because of his affinities to Black culture, while today his fan-base remains largely white and Christian.
7 December 2020, 18:15
The proposed talk explores transatlantic child relief in post-WWI Central Europe. While exemplifying the case of Budapest’s children in need, the talk seeks to reconstruct how, in the aftermath of the First World War, Central Europe became a laboratory of transatlantic humanitarian intervention. It explores how the capital’s children triggered humanitarian sentiments and large-scale material intervention from the United States. It exemplifies how the American Relief Administration and the American Red Cross became invested in delivering tons of material ‘things’, such as cotton, shoes and milk powder, to Budapest’s impoverished and starving children. Here the talk investigates how transatlantic humanitarian child relief consolidated images of destitute Central Europe, while contrasting them with notions of the modern and wealthy U.S. which could not just win the First World War but also this war against hunger and destitution. Examining discourses and everyday practices of relief, the analysis throws light on the ambiguous repercussions of ‘humanitarian’ relief both on local recipient societies and on transatlantic power relations.
Friedrike Kind-Kovács is Acting Professor for Modern and Contemporary History at TU Dresden and a researcher at the Hannah Arendt Institute for Research on Totalitarianism. She completed her habilitation degree in East and Southeast European History at the University of Regensburg in May 2019. She gained her PhD from Potsdam University and an MA from St Andrew's, Scotland. This lecture draws on her forthcoming book, Budapest's Children: Humanitarian Relief in the Aftermath of the Great War, which is being prepared for publication with Indiana University Press. She has also published extensively on samizdat/tamizdat writings, broadcasting in the Cold War and public health in Central and Eastern Europe.
In her lecture, Friederike Kind-Kovács explored the place of Budapest children in the development of post-World War I humanitarian aid relief through the US Food Administration and from 1919 the American Relief Adminsitration. This programme was also part of the United States’ growing visibility in Europe and influence in world politics. While Austria-Hungary had been an enemy state during the war, after a period of reluctance, the US did opt to offer assistance. The postwar states of Austria and Hungary suffered disruptions to food supplies not only because of the war but also because of the collapse of empire, with fertile agricultural areas in Poland, Ukraine, Romania and elsewhere no longer accessible. Food shortages were not the only problem facing Hungary, but also unemployment, economic challenges and political crisis. The pressing food needs, addressed through the American Relief Administration and European Children’s Fund, made clear the glocal dimensions of food and aid policies – geopolitical objectives were negotiated through local actors and conditions. The relations with local actors were in some cases shaped by some preconceptions of “Central European backwardness”, with there being a sense that they needed to be controlled and guided through the process to avoid corruption and inefficiency. It also ensured that the aid strategies could also support US projections of greatness, which inscribed itself into the children’s material world. At the same time, as the subsequent discussion made clear, Hungarian cooperation with the US was shaped not only by material needs but also political calculations, including that the United States might help reverse territorial losses imposed by the Treaty of Trianon. By 1923, the US was withdrawing not only from cooperating with the Soviet Union but also more broadly from the region.
30 NOVEMBER 2020, 18:15
Francophone Canadians, canadiens français, have traditionally defined their identity in terms of struggle. This offers a gesture of self-assertiveness by the petit peuple in the face of the vastness of the North American continent – seen both as a natural and as a cultural space – where the French-speaking groups see themselves as being in the competition with the Anglophone great power to the south. The battlelines between the Francophone and Anglophone emerged not only as a result of colonial dependencies or the subsequent policies of the Québec region, likewise towards the rest of Canada, but also as a means of putting up a front against US influence, especially because the border to the United States proved to be quite permeable in many respects. While the Québecois, as “français améliorés“ (Lionel Groulx/Duplessis), stressed their French cultural heritage, their francité, they increasingly framed demands to show their americanité within the framework of l’autre Amérique, an America that in respect of social solidarity and the welfare state, set its own standards. This America, then, was one that was based on the alternative vision of the amalgam forming the “modèle québécois“ (Dupuis) that drew on various influences and examples.
It is in the années 68 in particular, in the course of which changes in values and protest movements in Québec also saw separatist voices grow louder, that the transnationally-oriented and contested self-positioning of identity discourses becomes especially evident. The 1967 International and Universal Exposition (Expo 67) in Montréal allowed Québec to present itself as open to the world and the future. Many of the nationalists who demanded independence for the region adopted Third-Worldist, anti-capitalist and, therefore, anti-American models of identity, meaning that they thus sought to build alliances with left-wing liberation movements. Particularly controversial but also somewhat simplistic was Pierre Vallières’ image of the Québecois as “nègres blancs de l’Amérique”, which led him to seek an alliance with the Black Panther movement as part of the struggle of the Francophone proletariat against social inequality.
This lecture draws on various examples to show how Québecois definitions of identity were positioned in a network of transnational and transatlantic relations that spanned Europe, the French-speaking world, Third-Worldism and Anglophone America. It considers, furthermore, whether and, if so, how this identity was perceived as both Other and familiar in both France and Germany.
Dagmar Schmelzer is senior lecturer (Akademische Oberrätin) at the Institute for Romance Studies at the University of Regensburg. Her research interests include intermediality, travel writing and autobiography, as well as Spanish- and French-language literature and culture since the nineteenth century.
In her lecture, Dagmar Schmelzer addressed the notion of Quebec as “another” or “an Other” America – drawing attention to how Francophone Canada has often been overlooked in general conceptions of the idea of “America”. She explored the complex identity-formation frameworks and processes shaping the region, as it differed linguistically and also in terms of religious affiliation (Catholic rather than Protestant) from the rest of Canada. However, these common denominators of identity were not the only ones at play in Quebec, as its efforts towards autonomy meant many of those striving for independence aligned with the global protest movement around 1968. Scandinavian influences were also evident in self-projections and visions of a future state. The case of Quebec thus makes clear how identities form often through connections, exchanges, borrowings and intersections with a variety of ideas, rather than being a reinforcement of essential traits. Of course, such borrowings can be problematic if they turn into appropriations, thus from today’s perspective it can be questioned if the interweaving of Black liberation discourse necessarily furthered solidarities, especially where terrorist methods emerged with the Front de libération du Québec. Instead, the 1967 World Expo in Montreal was a site from which the progressive, modern Quebec sought to project itself to the world.
The discussion addressed many interesting questions, including whether Quebec could be seen as “Latin America”. Dagmar Schmelzer argued that despite linguistic commonalities, there has been little identification even when oppositions to the USA were projected strongly. The discussion also turned again to some of the more problematic consequences of the intersections with global liberational discourses, with this framing proving unsustainable with time, especially in light of the very different relations to Europe, where it would be difficult to present Canada and Quebec in a postcolonial framework.
23 November 2020, 18:15
Discourses of slavery profoundly impacted notions of self and other as well as processes of both national and cultural self-fashioning. In particular for German immigrants to the United States, debates over slavery became an important site of negotiating possible pathways of Americanization. At the same time, the German American experience is often considered a male experience; German American women’s views about the journey across the Atlantic, their assimilation into American society, and their reflection on American society still largely remain a blank spot in the historiography of the German American immigrant experience.
Concordantly, German American women’s antislavery literature seems to be a particularly apt means to trace how German immigrants publicly negotiated their assimilation into American culture via their participation in antislavery discourse as Germans. In my talk, I will show that the arrival in the New World, the challenges of Americanization, and the issue of slavery were prominent issues in nineteenth-century German immigrant women’s literature. As writers and protagonists of antislavery fiction, as journalists of reports on interracialism, slavery, and the Civil War, but also as interlocutors of renowned abolitionists like Frederick Douglass, German immigrant women profoundly contributed to the discourse of American abolition.
Pia Wiegmink is Deputy Professor of American Studies at the University of Regensburg. She received her PhD from the University of Siegen and completed her Habilitation on American antislavery literature at the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz. Her research interests include performance studies, African American literature and culture, and protest.
In her lecture, Pia Wiegmink explored how German immigrant women writers, in particular Ottilie Assing and Mathilde Franziska Anneke, negotiated multiple aspects of their identities through their contribution to antislavery and abolitionist discourse. Their experiences as women intersected with their status as migrants, their origins in German lands and broader US-American perceptions of what Germany stood for. US critiques of slavery were entangled with transatlantic debates over liberty and freedom, with critical German voices seen as particularly significant because of the revolutionary events around 1848. Assing’s writings for popular magazines in Germany in turn shaped perceptions of slavery and the US more generally there, while she also produced a notable biography of Frederick Douglass. Thus the broader framework of transatlantic relations and mutual perceptions was embodied not only in intellectual debate but also in individual lives and small-scale spaces, with Assing attaching particular significance to Douglass’ home as an embodiment of the ideal of liberty and the abolition of slavery. Even if some of the representations of African-Americans in the works of Assing or Anneke might seem somewhat troubling or essentializing, reading into the texts, lives and historical context as Pia Wiegmink does reveals the significant contribution to the cause of abolitionism that these authors made from simultaneously inside and outside positions.
The lecture not only expanded upon the previous lecture by Volker Depkat in chronological terms, but also reinforced the argument that bi-national relations do not exist in isolation. As Wiegmink’s talk made clear, German authors’ position in abolitionist discourse was different to that of their British colleagues, since the former were free of the burden of being perceived as interfering in a former colony’s internal affairs.
16 NOVEMBER 2020
The question of the role of the United States of America as a political role model for Europe in the first half of the nineteenth century was a key theme addressed by West German Cold War-era historiography. This field took a particular interest in the “influence” US ideas had on constitutional developments in the German lands before the 1848 March Revolution. With the end of the East-West conflict, the scholarly importance of this subject declined radically. However, it is worth reconsidering its relevance now, especially given the emergence of entangled histories and an interaction-focused approach to history as part of a critical area studies.
This lecture will outline the historiographical debates that took place in pre-1989 West Germany on the USA as a political role model in the first half of the nineteenth century. It will then explore the reasons why the topic became less significant after 1991. In the final part, the lecture discusses the potential of the theme “US-American democracy as a model of political order” for a transnationally-oriented, critical area studies. Such an approach would trace European-American relations as a history of multidirectional interactions, entanglements and transfers.
Volker Depkat has been Professor of American Studies in Regensburg since 2005. He completed his Habilitation at the University of Greifswald and gained his PhD from the University of Göttingen. His research focus lies in US and North American history, including European-American connections. He is one of the coordinators of the ScienceCampus research module "Practices of Belonging."
In his lecture, Volker Depkat offered insights into German perceptions of US democracy and how its role as a model shifted historically. While focusing largely on the first half of the early nineteenth century, he also considered the changes in perceptions that were evident in both German society and historiography. His lecture also offered significant insights for approaching the history of relations between states in an area studies context, examining the significance of the transnational turn that has broadly affected the humanities in recent decades while also querying some of the methodological premises of comparative approaches. As the case of the German perceptions of the US shows, he argued, this question cannot be examined without accounting for the German lands’ stance towards other states, particularly France, and regional configurations in Europe. The Cold War context of post-WWII West Germany, expanded this entangled approach to a hemispheric or global scale. West Germany projected its desire to be seen as Western onto the US, with historiography, too, reflecting this admiration for the imagined ideal of the US political model. With the end of the Cold War, the teleological move towards “Westernness” seemed to be fulfilled and historians’ interests also shifted elsewhere.
The history of nineteenth-century German elites’ perceptions of US democracy as a political model – or something to avoid – was similarly characterized by a significant degree of entanglement and refracted connections and disconnections with the US. Much of the debate in German-language periodicals of the time was conducted by people without any direct experience of the US and was conducted on the level of ideal types. It would be possible to move further away from national and state-centred analytical containers that are perpetuated by such source bases by turning to the images of the US evident in correspondence and memoirs of actual migrants who crossed the Atlantic.
9 November 2020, 18:15
On 22 March 1908, an Orthodox Mass was held in Albanian for the first time. And not in Albania, but in New York. The priest, whose actions were the first step towards the creation of an independent Albanian-Orthodox Church, was Fan Noli. He was a dynamic US-based activist who supported the Albanian national cause at a time when there was no Albanian state. He went on to be appointed Foreign Minister of the young Albanian state in 1922, while also serving as Prime Minister for short period in 1924. He lost out in a power struggle with rival native groups and was forced to leave the country at the end of the year.
But Fan Noli was not the only representative of émigré communities from East and Southeastern Europe based in North America who drew on American Freedoms to campaign for national sovereignty and emancipation across the Atlantic. This lecture explores the often surprising entanglements between émigré communities (or “diasporas”) in the USA and East European nationalisms. I also consider the reactions of states including Austria-Hungary, which were not entirely enthusiastic about such efforts.
Ulf Brunnbauer has been Professor for the History of Eastern and South-Eastern Europe at the University of Regensburg since 2008. He defended his Habilitation at Berlin Free University and gained his PhD from the University of Graz. He is Director ofthe Leibniz Institute for East and South-East European Studies (IOS) and Co-Director of the Graduate School for East and South-East European Studies. His research focuses on migration, social history, and nations and nationalism.
In this lecture, Ulf Brunnbauer examined the ways in which different émigré communities formed in the United States, emphasizing the diversity of different national groups’ relations to their original homelands. He sought to avoid using the concept of diaspora directly, recognizing that it is a term that has become more popular in scholarship since the Second World War. Thus the concept could be both anachronistic and out of place for the late nineteenth and early twentieth-century. Still, what was evident with émigré communities is that the “identity space” and “decision space” did not overlap, thus identities, often national, were formed that operated in transnational spaces that were not congruent with national or cultural boundaries. There was a sense, then, that Greek, Croatian, Albanian and other communities practiced a form of “long-distance Balkan nationalism”, one that often grew more pronounced in response both to crises in the homeland and to the sense that these communities were not fully accepted into a dominant white Anglo-Saxon Protestant vision of the USA. Despite some degree of alienation experienced in North America, emigrants did act as agents of cultural transfers and exchanges, bringing practices, fashions and norms back to their homelands in the case of return migration. An area studies-inspired approach thus reveals that the national and transnational are entangled, drawing on a similar set of resources, while the mental maps of apparently peripheral or isolated populations were, and remain, shaped by global, or at least transregional, mental maps.
2 November 2020, 18:15
Nineteenth-century elections lead us back to the roots of modern democracies. How did such elections that made claims to universality emerge? What did the elections mean for the men who participated in them? What commonalties and differences were there in the three countries investigated here: France, Germany and the USA? And what do these comparisons tells us about the functions of elections and democracy in these particular cases and more generally?
Hedwig Richter is Professor of History at the Universität der Bundeswehr (Munich). Her research interests include the history of Europe and the US in the 19th and 20th centuries, migration, and gender. Her most recent book Demokratie. Eine deutsche Affäre is nominated for the Bayerischer Buchpreis (Bavarian Book Prize).
In her lecture, Hedwig Richter offered a comparative exploration of the emergence of elections with increasingly broad, male participation in the nineteenth century. She examined how in France, the USA and German lands the expansion of suffrage was connected to nation-building efforts. Because the states drew inspiration from each other, with the French Revolution a particularly significant moment in the transition towards modern democratic elections, nation-building was ultimately configured in transnational processes. Still, the forms that elections took over the course of the century and the significance they acquired were shaped by cultural specificities and traditions in particular countries. Thus in France, for example, elections were often part of festivities that sought to celebrate popular, male, sovereignty and the nation. In the USA, elections were embedded in a grand narrative of the country as the epitome of modern democracy yet on the ground they were marked by voter suppression and efforts to limit access to voting booths. As the lecture made clear, the history of democratization cannot be presented according to a narrative of increasing successes but was instead marked by progress and regression, with tendencies towards inclusivity and exclusion shifting throughout the century in the three countries discussed.
Since 1945, the Western world seemed to have mastered crises and crisis management. The Cold War and the fall of the Iron Curtain or intensified economic globalization and their consequences were something that Western states managed to deal with. Yet twenty-first-century crises seem to be having a destabilizing impact on democracy, the international order and public discourse in politics and society. This is evident in the impact of the 2008 financial crisis, the nuclear catastrophe at Fukushima, the so-called “migration crisis” of 2015, and the significant manipulation of the results of recent elections in the US and the Brexit referendum in the UK enabled by digital and social media. It also seems that trust in traditional political parties is declining. Yet there are also crises that can generate international solidarity and cooperation, as is evident in the Fridays for Future movement inspired by the climate crisis.
The CITAS lecture series explores the spatial and transnational dimensions of crises. The international entanglements of the economy and politics, as well as the movement of people, ideas and cultures, indicate that crises cannot be considered within a narrow national framework. Instead, it is necessary to explore their regional, national and global impact, and the intersections of these scales of action across multiple social realms, in order to understand crises and their consequences. Indeed, such international and transnational connections can be a cause of crises, they can intensify them, but they can also offer solutions to them.
Various crises originating in both the recent and more distant past will be explored through the framework of comparative area studies in their international and transnational dimensions. The lectures offer insight into particular case studies, as well as more theoretical and conceptual contributions to the study of crises.
Students are welcome to sign up for the course via the LSF. The lecture series is open to the public
21 October 2019 - Jochen Mecke and Paul Vickers
This lecture offered a general introduction into the central concept of the lecture series - crisis. It also presented an overview of the ways in which area studies can be conceived and some of the recent concepts, methods and theories that have been developed in the field.
28 October 2019 - Jürgen Jerger
Jürgen Jerger, Professor of International and Monetary Economics, gave a lecture on the economic impact of Brexit on Germany. At the time of the lecture, there was still a chance of the first stage of Brexit being carried out on 31 October 2019. By then, there had already been noticeable economic impact as economies and business have sought to prepare for forthcoming changes. Public debate has largely focused on the problems that Brexit has caused for the United Kingdom itself. But Britain’s trade partners are also affected. How far-reaching will the impact of Brexit be on the German economy? Which branches of industry have been and will be most affected? And how will the eventual form that Brexit takes affect the impact it will have?
As the second largest economy of the EU in 2018, its impact will be felt even if it is difficult to predict exactly what might happen given the unclear nature of the state of negotiations between the UK and EU. Likewise, the fact that the Leave side of the argument never presented a clear vision for a post-EU Britain as it merely turned the European Union into a scapegoat makes challenging a forecasting business.
One possible outcome is trade diversion (Handelsumlenkung), as other countries benefit from the UK’s turn away from the EU market, although any gains are likely to be marginal, particularly in the short-term and medium-term as business practices are disrupted. This is because the UK is not prepared to guarantee the four freedoms of the European Single Market, the movement of goods, people, services and capital over borders. The integrated nature of global supply chains means that the impact of Brexit will be felt particularly intensively in some areas abroad, so Bavaria can expect to see a fall in output of between 0.12% and 0.22% because of its connected to the motor industry. On a more positive note, though, the experience of Brexit might serve the cause of European integration and offset the impact of Britain’s long-winded departure.
4 November 2019 - Mathias Häußler
Mathias Häußler, Lecturer at the Chair of European History, Regensburg, discussed the history of Britain's role in European integration and disintegration since 1945.
In the ongoing public debate, Brexit has often been presented as an existential crisis for the EU. However, the role of the United Kingdom in European integration has been problematic from the outset in the 1940s. This lecture explored Britain’s shifting stance towards European integration from 1945 to the present, discussing the reasons for the UK often remained on the sidelines of the early efforts towards integration and the long-term consequences of this stance.
He argued that it was Realpolitik, so pragmatic political concerns, rather than any grand strategy or supposedly inherent national traits that have guided British policy towards Europe. He argued that there have been four key phases in relations with Europe since the Second World War: 1. Deference (Enthaltung) to 1961; 2. Exclusion (Ausschluss( to 1973, as a result of de Gaulle’s policies; 3. Membership (Mitgliedschaft) to 1990; 4. The Long Goodbye (Langer Abschied).
The lecture thus questioned the view that the UK has been “the persistent outsider” within the EU and its predecessor institutions, with Great Britain having played a constructive and proactive role in, for example, the development of common foreign and security policy, as well as in the full realization of the common market. “Brexit” should thus be viewed not as an inevitable result of apparently relentless “Euroscepticism” but rather as a contingent process that has been shaped by short-term political dynamics.
While Churchill supported European integration, there was always a sense that Britain would remain on the outside as an imperial power. Following the exclusion driven by de Gaulle’s policies, Britiain joined the EEA in 1973 at a time when the economy was struggling, while the long goodbye was initiated once German reunification made clear who the continent’s leading power would be and thus Euroscepticism acquired ever greater mainstream presence. While this process has culminated in Brexit, it has also revealed the divisions that characterise the UK – between rural and urban areas, prosperous and poorer areas, but also between the constituent nations.
11 NovemBer 2019 - ANNE-JULiA ZWIERLEIN
In her lecture, Professor of British Studies Anne-Julia Zwierlein, addressed the impact of Brexit on notions of Englishness, with a particular focus on the North of England and the post-industrial Black Country.
She addressed the question of the extent to which the United Kingdom really is divided or united in light of the Brexit vote and ensuing years of uncertainty. While the divisions between the constituent nations have become more apparent, what has also become more noticeable are the consequences of long-term structural shifts in the UK related to deindustrialization and the shift towards a service-centred economy under Margaret Thatcher in the 1970s and 1980s.
The impact of these policies has been keenly felt in many areas that are among the poorest now in Western Europe and also voted largely to Leave the EU, with the Black Country one example of this. This area near Birmingham has not necessarily benefitted from the urban revival of the UK’s second city, as services are largely based there and any attempts at regional devolution have focused on the metropolitan areas, rather than on the post-industrial “edgelands” as Farley and Roberts called them.
This lecture also sought to explore cultural representations of these structural shifts and divides, particularly in “state of the nation” or "condition-of-England" novels. While nineteenth-century literature sought to address the disruption brought about by industrialization, contemporary writers are also addressing industrial decline and Brexit. There have been particular attempts to address the condition of perceived Leave strongholds, examining what might have made people and areas seem “left out”. With a few notable exceptions, though, much of the literature has struggled to make sense of these regions and instead found them to be a source of mystery or a plane on to which frustrations could be projected, while the stereotypes of racist and closed-minded voters were not fulfilled.
18 November 2019 - Volker DEPKAT
Volker Depkat, Lecturer in American Studies, Regensburg, explores how notions of exceptionalism have fuelled the identity crisis affecting the USA today, drawing on his research on the long history of exceptionalism in the US.
This lecture focused on the notion of American exceptionalism, so, following Byron Shafer, the belief that “the United States was created differently, developed differently, and thus has to be understood differently – essentially on its own terms and within its own context." Instead of being a coherent, monolithic and unitary ideological formation, American Exceptionalism is more of an assemblage of myths, symbols and narratives revolving around concept like "the city upon the hill," "the American Dream," "Manifest Destiny" or "Land of the Free." While American Exceptionalism has shaped narratives of national identity in the U.S. to a degree that can hardly be overestimated.. Volker Depkat argues that, perhaps contrary to expectations, the idea has experienced something of a decline more recently, even under Trump. The deep economic, social, cultural and political transformations that the U.S. has undergone since around the mid-1970s have unsettled, if not invalidated many of the identity narratives born of exceptionalist persuasions. U.S. President Donald Trump has repeatedly suggested that the American Dream was dead, and the number of U.S.-Americans holding the U.S. to be unique and superior has been declining significantly since 2002.
The current crisis of the U.S., therefore, is to a very large extent a crisis of disorientation forged by the uncertainties about America's alleged exceptionality, continuing trends that emerged with cases where the US’ perceived superiority failed, so the Vietnam War or the Watergate scandal. However, it also came from increasing awareness of the United States’ place in globalization or that the US has in some ways created imperial structures through “exemptionalism” and gunpoint diplomacy, rather than through exceptional moral superiority. Likewise, the claims to economic greatness and thus exceptionalism are being undermined by the lack of realistic hope of achieving affluence and prosperity. Deindustrialization and the emergence of “rust belt” regions blighted by underinvestment and inequality present one challenge to the hopes of a revival in affluence and thus the American dream, as does the fact that new economic structures based in the digital economy are doing little to redistribute wealth.
Another factor that has contributed to the weakening of the exceptionalist narrative is that the de-Europeanization of the US has meant that its traditional “Other” has faded from view. Historically, exceptionalism was built on the US not being Europe, a continent imagined as lacking liberty and entrepreneurialism. On the one hand, then, the US lacks a space onto which to project its imagined superiority. At the same time, the self-critical turn in US history has marked great figures forming the US’ Leitkultur as sometimes questionable, while also revealing the agency and significance of minority groups, the oppressed and marginalized. The decline of exceptionalism can thus also be seen in terms of the broader decline of grand narratives. Both the liberal vision of exceptionalism that argues that increasing liberty, likewise outside US borders but also for minorities, can offer proof of US-American greatness, as well as the conservative vision of exceptionalism, which argues that the state should withdraw as much as possible from the economic, domestic and foreign policy realms, to allow liberty to flourish, struggle to gain traction.
This lecture thus described the deep transformations the U.S. has experienced since the mid-1970s (de-industrialization and the rise of the internet economy, immigration and the pluralization of lifestyles, the growing inequality and the erosion of the middle-class, the United States’ changing role in an international system that is in flux) and relate them to the uncertainties about America's national identity.
Sebastian Teupe, Professor in Economic History at the University of Bayreuth, addressed the long-term history of protectionism. He argued that free trade has been something of an exception when seen from a longue-durée economic history perspective. His central focus was on the reasons for a shift in the relationship between democracy and protectionism. Traditionally the rise of the former was seen as symptomatic of the latter being stripped away, yet today there is evidence of the compatibility of both ideas. Particularly important moments for examining the relationship between the two are “crises”, such as the Gruenderkrise of the 1870s, the Great Recession of the 1930s and the 1970s Oil Crisis, as well as the consequences of the 2008 financial crisis. Crises, he argued, are moments that are often instrumentalized to push through transformations even if events can be particularly difficult to manage. Such actions would suggest that democracy was being weakened, hence the need to test whether turns to protectionism necessarily increased in the wake of crises in different historical circumstances. His findings from the different case studies were that this was the case, despite the evidence each time pointing to the fact that protectionism neither increased prosperity nor helped meet the challenges of growing competition and globalization. US prosperity increased significantly after the Second World War, for example, when it embraced multilateral world trade, while competitiveness increased when it came to accept Japanese management methods rather than complaining of anticompetitive practices, as it did in the 1970s. Of course, from a political perspective protectionism can seem effective in securing votes, but ultimately it does not improve economic standards.
This lecture focused on the longer impacts of the financial crisis of 2008 on Spain and the narratives that have formed around it. Jochen Mecke argued that crisis is constituted by disruption to the normal workings of a system affecting aspects of law, economy, society, and politics within a particular timeframe. His approach was to examine how the crisis and its impact has been framed from below, by the people affected, by some of the institutions responsible, and in literature. At the same time as examining the narratives, he also argued, following Kosselleck, that narratives themselves have agency and can themselves produce crises or at least intensify their dynamics. This is something that Robert J. Shiler also examined in ‘Narrative Economics’. At the same time, for Mecke, there is a broader trend going back to the postmodern condition as identified by Lyotard that the grand narratives (Meistererzählungen oder Metaerzählungen) are in crisis. Thus particular certainties of the modern age, such as the belief in progress have been undermined. While this can be a self-fulfilling argument in some cases, it is also intensified by real events, such as Chernobyl undermining faith in technological progress. While the financial crisis might have undermined faith in the property market and post-industrial capitalism, it can perhaps best be considered as one of many crises in the modern world, with crisis thus itself integral to the age.
CITAS Lecture Series - Crisis? What Crisis? 09.12.2019, 18:15. H14
This lecture explored the longer-term history and presence of narratives of crisis surrounding migration in France. Since the Industrial Revolution of the mid-nineteenth century, France has experience multiple phases of intensified migration. The first time this was framed in terms of a “crisis” was in the 1960s with the arrival of largely Muslim populations from the former colonies in the Maghreb, with discrimination of second-generation children particularly prominent in the 1980s as the Front National gained political prominence. Since 2000, France has pursued an increasingly restrictive migration policy and imposed security measures on asylum seekers and young people with a migration background. The narrative of a migration crisis was again particularly prominent following the protests in the suburbs French cities in 2005.
Marina Hertrampf argued that the narratives that emerge depend upon the perspective taken – is migration viewed from the perspective of the Leitkultur or the migrants coming to or through France? She argues that crisis has emerged as one of the dominant frames for migration, although this narrative does not exist in isolation but is entangled with economic arguments and broader ideological disruption in Europe. Particular social and cultural conditions also shape the way the French narrative of crisis around migration develops, hence the focus on questions of integration and the looming spectre of French colonialism and neo-colonial racism. Its impact is evident in the way the banlieu of big cities are framed, at the same time impacting on residents’ life chances. While the crisis framework will likely remain dominant, turning to histories from below and life stories can offer an alternative perspective on lives and spaces that are somehow marginalized yet part of such a prominent media and public debate. She outlined works of literature and semi-fictional autobiographical narratives that gave voice in particular to female migrant and refugees’ experiences, which are subject to particular marginalization.
CITAS Lecture Series - Crisis? What Crisis? 16.12.2019, 18:15. H14
Ulf Brunnbauer, director of the Leibniz Institute for East and Southeast European Studies, explores the successes and failures of this process, as well as the ambivalent attitudes of the population of southeast Europe towards economic and political transformation since 1989.
He examined the situation of Eastern and Southeastern European industry, economies and society, thirty years after the collapse of communism. He noted the difficulty of writing the history of post-communism, as the way the recent past is framed is constantly shifting. Thus, he considered whether the initial hopes and positive outlook in the region remained, despite collapsing social structures and industries. If hopes had faded, he examined the causes of this, with a particular focus on (post-)industrial spaces. He noted that a significantly larger portion of the working population remains employed in industry in the region compared to Western European countries, for example around a third in the Czech Republic and Slovakia but only 20% in the UK, although Germany, of course, is an exception to the rule. The proportion of GDP produced by industry is around a quarter in the Czech Republic, a proportion that is growing, but only around 10% in the UK, thus the notion of a post-industrial society does not necessarily carry the same meaning either side of the former Iron Curtain.
While populations are generally more satisfied with life and enjoying better living conditions, beyond the realm of statistics and when turning to social attitudes, the present and recent past are being contested, hence the rise of populist parties querying the justice of the way power was handed over or the legitimacy of critically working through the national past (Vergangeneheitsbewältigung). Likewise, by turning to regional disparities within individual countries, whether in Eastern, Western or Southern Europe, it becomes clear that inequalities in the distribution of wealth and life chances are a source of frustration through out the continent. In Eastern Europe, this has been a factor in shaping outward migration while at the same time allowing rather minimal numbers of inward migration to become something of a scapegoat as a sense of being the losers of transition takes hold. Outward migration contributes to a trend whereby populist claims can enjoy increasing success among an older, less mobile electorate.
Professor of Media Aesthetics Christiane Heibach explored the apparent crisis of communication evident in social media in the context of the longue-durée of media history and the public sphere as a realm of communiation. She argued that if you open up a newspaper today and you will undoubtedly find at least one headline about the evils of social media – from the more or less secret mass-scale collection of user data by octopus-like mega-companies that sift the internet through coarse political mudslinging to the daily shitstorms that blow through Facebook, Twitter and other platforms. It is easy to come to the conclusion that with Web 2.0, the World Wide Web, which was once seen as the foundation for a democratic communication and information network, has had the rug pulled from under it, leaving it as the rubbish dump of the media landscape.
But is this really the case? How are such dynamics created and is the current situation really that exceptional? Starting with a survey of today’s media landscape, this lecture explores the history of media in order to consider whether there is a genuine crisis of communication today. If this is the case, then perhaps exploration of previous experiences of transformation in the media realm can offer insight into how to defuse the problem.
This lecture addressed whether current trends and practices in social media, when viewed from a media history perspective, must necessary be considered as crises of communication. Indeed, the rise of “shitstorms” and filter bubbles determined by algorithms suggests that some of the ideals attached to the early days of the internet and world wide web have been abandoned. David Baker argued in 2017 that ‘The Internet is Broken’, as it has been dominated by Big Data and political forces, rather than providing an environment for “commons” and a free exchange of well-argued, progressive views. Generally, the media coverage of the state of online debate and the directions further technological developments will take is negative. Hate speech, conspiracy theories and abuse seem to flow freely behind a cloak of anonymity. At the same time though, the message behind the medium of the rise of web-based communication can be liberating, particularly for those who previously found no platform for their voices and experiences. It could be argued, that the full impact of the medium – with the internet as a hybrid medium enabling communication, distribution and instant feedback – is still being worked out.
Nevertheless, it is clear that the affective turn that has been analysed in recent social-science and humanities scholarship – whereby emotions, their control and instrumentalization are a central focus – will be of increasing importance, whether in a trend towards rising anger and rage, or towards a more constructive outrage that can transform society. The public sphere (or Öffentlichkeit) as identified by Habermas thus appears to be in another state of flux, as new voices come to the fore – just as they did with the rise of bourgeois discourse in the seventeenth century or with the rapid commercializaiton of media since the 1980s. Which model of society posited by macrosociologists – Beck’s risk society, the information society, or Reckwitz’s notion of the society of singularities – cannot be established. However, filter bubbles shaped by algorithms do seem to be reinscribing particular versions of the self and communities from existing traces and trails of data.
This lecture traces the developing concept of civilian morale from the First World War through the Second World War in Europe and East Asia. Despite its lack of precision, “civilian morale” became one of the century’s Deadliest Discourses. In its name, millions of civilians were bombed and malnourished, as belligerents sought to "break the morale" of the enemy's civil population. I discuss the British "Hungerblockade" against Germany; Imperial Germany's morale reports (Stimmungsberichte); German and British bombing of cities in 1915-18; interwar developments in "strategic bombing" by the RAF and Japanese air forces; "morale bombing" in 1940-45; Britain, Japan, and Nazi Germany's morale reports; and the USA's "Operation Starvation" against Japan. How did it become "normal" to try to win wars by attacking cities and "civilian morale?" Ideas and practices relating to morale and the "home front" circulated rapidly around the world in an intensely transnational process.
A specialist in modern and contemporary Japanese history, Sheldon Garon also writes transnational/global history that spotlights the flow of ideas and institutions between Asia, Europe, and the United States. He recently authored “Transnational History and Japan’s ‘Comparative Advantage.'” (link is external) His transnational history, Beyond Our Means: Why America Spends While the World Saves (link is external) (2012), examines the connected histories of saving and spending over the past two centuries in Japan, other Asian nations, Europe, and America.
SUMMARY FROM THE LECTURE
In his lecture, the Princeton historian Sheldon Garon presented a comparative and transnational history of the impact of aerial bombardment on morale in Japan, Germany and the UK. He argued that the fact that in the period from 1914 to 1945 various militaries, including the US, too, adopted the method was a transnational phenomenon, as was the tendency to attempt to ascribe scientific or empirical weight to morale. There was a sense that by attacking the civilian population, uprisings could be inspired against the ruling regimes in particular countries, or that at least industrial production could be disrupted for a while. Paradoxically, then, British forces chose to attack Hamburg, for example, because the working class population was seen as being potentially most anti-Hitler. Such arguments acquired a theoretical underpinning in the interwar period, with BH Liddell Hart, for example, publishing “Paris, or the Future of War” in 1925. His argument was that civilians were the weakest link in society, as evidenced by the mass panic and social disorder that followed the Tokyo-Yokohama earthquake a few years earlier. Aerial bombardment was to achieve something similar. The British had observed the Japanese aerial bombardment of China in 1937 and believed it was ineffective because Chinese society was not organized enough to be disrupted, but they believed an industrial society like Germany could be disrupted. The US believed the same about Japan in 1945, hence the regular firebombing of cities which disrupted the economy and social order before the atomic bombs were dropped. He argued that the US could have ended the war without the atomic bomb, as aerial bombardment was proving effective enough at demoralizing Japanese society. It was more the case that with the wealth of resources at its disposal, the US could use all methods rather than restricting itself to a single strategy, unlike more stretched armies.
The discussion moved on the question of morale in the Cold War, with Sheldon Garon arguing that the US continued to believe in its effectiveness. This was one justification for expanding the nuclear arsenal. He also addressed the position of aerial bombardment in international law, noting that the existing provisions of the Hague conventions were vague and thus attacks were justified by aggressors, while in full-blown war sanctions could not be imposed anyway.
The Enlightenment was also a period when the Holy Roman Empire witnessed the mass expulsion of followers of different faiths and denominations. This was often a result of political-denominational crises in particular territories, although the expulsions themselves also generated crises because the majority of those affected required accommodation and sustenance.
In the early modern period, “crisis” was a concept that had primarily medical connotations. The idea that a crisis could function as a trigger for political change was not a common although there are some cases, such as the emigration of Salzburg Protestants in the 1730s, that proved to be an exception to this rule. In the course of their forced migration, they sent petitions to the Reichstag in Regensburg. They pointed to the Peace of Westphalia as something that ought to have guaranteed their rights as Protestants. The expulsion of protestant Lutherans by the Archbishop of Salzburg became something of a spectacle during a period when print media flourished. It acquired a mass resonance in the Holy Roman Empire with the image of the “sorrowful Salzburger” becoming a leitmotif of the age that helped Protestantism claim the moral high ground over Catholicism. It was only the mass forced migration that led to a secondary vicitimization and sacrificial narrative coming to frame the expellees. In order to avoid a Reich-wide crisis, the expellees had to be resettled across different territories where they were often unwelcome as outsiders. Some of the eighteenth-century experiences thus suggest clear similarities with current migration processes. Nevertheless, the Salzburg emigration cannot be considered in terms of a “migration crisis”, even though 200 years later, under Nazi rule, revicitmization of the descendants of the sorrowful Salzburgers was in evidence.
At the University of Regensburg there is a broad range of expertise in teaching and research in the field of area studies, with a particular focus on East and Southeast Europe, Western Europe, and North America, as well as the connections and entanglements between these regions. The recently-established Center for International and Transnational Area Studies (CITAS) is a platform designed to encourage greater collaboration across disciplines, faculties and regional expertise. The first CITAS Lecture Series brings together colleagues from various fields to investigate and explore two opposing trends in a world that is today highly networked and interconnected. As a result of globalization, nation-states are no longer capable of solving problems in isolation. National identities are also faced with the need to adapt and develop transnational facets. On the one hand, the world is marked, then, by processes of political, economic, legal, linguistic and cultural debordering or delimitation. On the other hand, there are clear tendencies towards growing renationalization in these spheres. This tension between overcoming or transcending the nation and the revival of nation-centred political orders and cultural identities is the focuxs of this multidisciplinary and multifaceted lecture series. The contributions will illustrate the disciplinary and regional breadth of area studies research in Regensburg.
CITAS Lecture Series. 15 October 2018, 18:00-20:00
As part of the CITAS lecture series "Jenseits der Nation?" (Beyond the Nation), Dr. Gerlinde Groitl gave an introductory lecture on October 15. She presented CITAS, the new Center for International and Transnational Area Studies and Regensburg as part of the University's broader framework for developing area studies research and teaching.
She emphasized that area studies is a field that examines the interconnections and relations between actors in regions of varying scales, from the local region through the nation to broader regional blocs in their global contexts. Dr. Groitl noted the multi- and interdisciplinary nature of area studies, something that became evident in her outline of the forthcoming talks in the CITAS lecture series.
Dr. Gerlinde Groitl is a Researcher (Akademische Rätin a.Z.) at the Chair of International Politics and Transatlantic Relations at the University of Regensburg. Her work focuses on American, German and European foreign and security policy, the Western intervention policy as well as great power relations and world order issues.
CITAS Lecture Series. 22 October 2018, 18:00-20:00
On 22 October, Prof. Dr. Ulf Brunnbauer gave a lecture - in German - as part of the CITAS lecture series, "Jenseits der Nation?" (Beyond the Nation). His talk was on "Anti-Balkanisation: Ideas of Federalism in Southeast Europe in the 19th and 20th centuries". It offered a critical re-reading of the concept of Balkanisation in the historical context.
He outlined the multiple efforts towards forming federations and alliances of nations within the region of Southeastern Europe, particularly focusing on the post-imperial context. He differentiated the French-style state-centred vision of federalism and the German-style, Romantic-influenced and ethnic-focused interpretation of the idea, tracing how they were translated (or failed to translate) in the Balkan region.
He offered particularly interesting insight on the way that nation-building and ideas for federalism ran in parallel, with smaller nations often seeking strength in numbers, at least in theory. He traced the history of federal ideas for the region into the post-WWII era under communism, noting the tensions that emerged with the Soviet Union as a result of Yugoslavia's foreign policy pursuing greater integration with Bulgaria, for example. This idea for a pragmatic-diplomatic federation ultimately failed because of tensions within the communist bloc, with the Yugoslav move perceived as a challenge to the Soviet Union's own internationalist federalism.
Ulf Brunnbauer's engaging lecture offered a regional perspective on the global phenomenon of federalism, while offering an image of the Balkan region that runs counter the typical idea of it as an area plagued by fragmentation and conflict.
Prof. Dr. Ulf Brunnbauer is Director of the Institute for East and Southeast European Studies (IOS), Co-Speaker of the Graduate School for East and Southeast European Studies, Professor for Southeast and East European History at the University of Regensburg, and a member of the CITAS executive board.
CITAS Lecture Series, 29. Oct 2018, 18-20.00, Lecture Theatre H4
This lecture argued that the Russian empire was indeed a colonial empire, yet the Russian state refused to see its eastward expansion in such terms. Prof. Khodarkovsky placed Russia's colonial expansion in comparison to other empires, arguing that its ventures into areas in the Caucusus, Central Asia and Siberia were already a state-led and state-building exercise from the sixteenth century already. This approach differed from practices familiar from other European powers, as Russia's state-led colonization that made subjects of the peoples conquered in the early modern period. Russia was ahead of other empires, which adopted this approach only in the nineteenth century. Prof. Khodarkovsky focused in particular on the mediators emerging from local populations, who faciliated the Russian colonial project by enabling cultural exchange and contact.
In a lively discussion, Prof. Khodarkovsky argued that Russia's westward expansion from the late eighteenth century onwards could not be considered colonial but was instead an imperial power game. This is because, he argued, Russia could not consider itself culturally superior to the lands it conquered to the west, with such an attitude a necessary condition for any colonial endeavour. He also argued that Russia's colonial enterprise has had long-term consequences for Russian identity and political practice, with Putin's politics a revival of the imperial mindset as Russia seeks to assert its greatness in relation to international competitors.
Michael Khodarkovsky is Professor of History at Loyola University Chicago. In his research and teaching he specializes in the Russian empire, comparative empire studies, colonialism and Western civilization. In his first books he explored Russia’s imperial expansion and the resulting encounters with non-Christian peoples. His current project examines the Russian empire’s practices in comparison with other Eurasian empires. Prof. Khodarkovsky has lectured at many universities and institutions around the world, including the Central European University in Budapest, the Humboldt University in Berlin, Beijing, Göttingen, Cambridge and University College London, while his books have been translated into several languages including Russian, Turkish and Polish.
We are grateful to Prof. Dr. Guido Hausmann for arranging for Prof. Khodarkovsky to joing the CITAS Lecture Series and for leading the discussion with him.
CITAS Lecture Series, 29. Oct 2018, 18-20.00, Lecture Theatre H4
This lecture presented American Exceptionalism as a socially constructed world of ideas. It outlined the essential elements of this phenomenon, reflecting in particular on its spatial and historical dynamics. Volker Depkat then presented an overview of how narratives of American Exceptionalism have been used to justify very different, and indeed sometimes diametrically opposed, foreign policy strategies. The different approaches oscillated between expansion, particularly into Spanish-influenced areas in the late nineteenth century, and a self-protection. Fears of a collapse of exceptionalism were fundamental to support for and opposition to both approaches.
The core of the lecture discussed the exceptionalist foundations of the policy of "Democratic Internationalism" in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, as the US started exporting its "way of life" around the world, arguing that this was necessary to protect its own democracy and indeed the very idea of it. Thus, Democratic Internationalism engendered a perspective on the international system of power that interpreted conflicts as systemic antagonisms between democracies and anti- or non-democracies. Specific stereotypes and constructions of enemies were structurally linked to it. The images of enemies were not as much related to other states and nations, but rather to largely despatialized "ideologies".
A lively discussion followed the lecture, inviting Prof. Depkat to discuss American exceptionalism in relation to other nation's exceptionalisms. The debate also examined the relationship of Donald Trump's politics to exceptionalism and the state of US-Russian relations.
Prof. Dr. Volker Depkat has been Professor of American Studies at the University of Regensburg since 2005 and is currently Dean of the Faculty of Languages, Literature and Culture. He is also a co-director of REAF - the Regensburg European American Forum. His research focuses primarily on the history of North America from the colonial era to the present and the history of European-American relations from the early modern era to the present.
CITAS Lecture Series, 12. Nov 2018
100 years ago, the League of Nations, the predecessor organization of the United Nations, was founded as part of the Treaty of Versailles in the wake of the First World War. The establishment of a "world parliament" pursued the Wilsonian ideal of reconciling a free market economy with social justice. This liberal utopia was taken up again after the Second World War in renewed efforts to secure peace.
Prof. Stegmann's lecture examined the tensions that emerged in the pursuit of the ideal between European values and global perspectives. The talk also commented on the relationship of the European Union to the global order. She reflected on the key idea that international organizations require nation-states to relinquish a degree of national sovereignty in order that such sovereignty be preserved in the long run. Throughout the lecture Prof. Stegmann highlighted the position of Eastern Europe as an actor in and object of international organisations' activities. The fact that gender issues were connected to the emergence of the new international order was another key pillar of her lecture.
CITAS was pleased to welcome to the lecture a group of 12th-year pupils from the Pindl Schule together with their teacher Werner Schottenloher. The class studies international relations and gained insight into how the the subject can be examined historically and in the transnational context at university. The group was also given an introduction by Paul Vickers to the various international and binational study programmes on offer in Regensburg as they come to consider their options for their future.
Apl. Prof. Dr. Natali Stegmann has been Research Coordinator for East European Research since March 2009 and serves as Deputy Women's Representative of the Faculty of Philosophy, Art History, History and Humanities. Her teaching and research focuses on the history of East Central Europe, especially Poland and the Bohemian lands, gender and cultural history, and post-war politics and society in the 20th century and late socialism.
CITAS Lecture Series, 19. Nov 2018
After the early nineteenth century wave of independence swept across Latin America, the dream of “El Libertador” Simón Bolívar was soon shattered. He had hoped to establish a united region built on mutual cooperation, but what emerged was a proliferation of states that over time consolidated into nation-states.
The twentieth century saw a number of initiatives, albeit largely failed, that sought to promote political and economic cooperation between Latin American countries. More successful, however, were the efforts of intellectuals to shape identities that transcended national borders, leading to conceptions of Latin America as a large region with common cultural traits that at the same time reflected differences within particular spaces.
Prof. Pöppel offered a fascinating insight into the way nation-building took place in Latin America in parallel to Europe, but translated and transformed the cultural and political models that provided the basis for the construction of imagined communities. Thus poetry and literature, for example, were put to use but without necessarily basing on a strong differentiation from neigbouring states. His lecture also outlined the long-term consequences of this mode of nation building, including a tendency towards civil wars rather than cross-border conflict. Overall the lecture pointed towards the diversity of the region today in terms of its political orders and treatment of indigenous populations, which was a theme that came up regularly in lively discussion.
Apl. Prof. Dr. Hubert Pöppel is a lecturer and researcher at the Department of Romance Studies of the Faculty of Languages, Literature and Culture. Since 2007 he has been Managing Director of the Research Center on Spain (Forschungszentrum Spanien) at the University of Regensburg. His research focuses on Latin American and Iberoromanic literature and cultural studies.
CITAS Lecture Series, 26. Nov 2018, 18-20.00, Lecture Theatre H4
Global economic integration and, specifically, cross-border trade experienced almost unbroken growth since the end of the Second World War. It is for this reason that globalization is often (mis)understood as an almost natural development. The aim of this lecture was to demonstrate that such arguments are logically flawed and can be countered by drawing on historical evidence. Thus the current challenges to free trade stemming from the Trump administration, among others, are thus nothing new.
The second part of the lecture applied game theory to explore the conditions that shape whether political actors opt for liberal or protectionist trade policy. Using methods including the Nash Equilibrium, it was demonstrated that it is the political actors’ perceptions that are of crucial significance, with the perceptions often being dependent upon their affinity to particular interest groups within their own countries while also seeking to account for the behaviour of the other party involved in trade.
Prof. Jerger offered a fascinating insight not only into the history and current state of globalisation as multilateralism seems to be coming under threat, but also a clear demonstration of the methods used in economic research, including statistical analysis and game theory. He offered a global perspective while turning to his particular knowledge of trade relations involving the US, Germany and Eastern Europe. His argument was that ultimately trade policy has always oscillated between free trade and protectionism, thus some alarmism relating to Trump or China, the two main topics of the lively discussion, is perhaps overstated.
Prof. Dr. Jürgen Jerger is Head of the Department of International and Monetary Economics at the Faculty of Economics and was a principal investigator at the Leibniz Institute for East and Southeast European Research in Regensburg. He is currently Dean of the Faculty of Economics. His research interests are International Economics, Monetary Economics and Labor Markets.
CITAS Lecture Series, 03. Dec 2018, 18-20.00, Lecture Theatre H4
Since 1991, the successor states of the Soviet Union have faced the challenge of developing and implementing their own policies towards international law. The dynamics of conflict in the post-Soviet region, particularly the Russian-Georgian war, the annexation of Crime and the armed conflict in Eastern Ukraine, mean that not only these states but also the entire international community are confronted by attempts to redefine or even undermine principles that are at the foundation of international law and political order(s).
This lecture examined the state of knowledge over the dynamics of conflict and cooperation in the realm of policies towards international law and the politics of international law in the post-Soviet space. Cindy Wittke addressed the issue of the relative underrepresentation of legal and political specialists from the region in an international discourse that is dominated by Western specialists. Her lively account offered insight into how her ongoing BMBF-sponsored project is seeking to address these epistemic imbalances while taking into account the sense that a "multipolar" world is forming where different conceptions of international law and sovereignty compete for legitimacy.
The discussion also turned to contemporary issues, including the diverse conceptions of international law that Russia applies to its "near abroad" and to conflicts further away, such as in Syria.
Dr. Cindy Wittke graduated with a degree in international law and is currently leading the research group Frozen and Unfrozen Conflicts at the Leibniz Institute for East and Southeast European Studies (IOS). She is currently developing a new project there, titled ‘Test the West‘ – Contested Sovereignties in the post-Soviet Space, alongside another project based on the subject of her lecture in the CITAS series. She is also a member of the CITAS Advisory Board.
CITAS Lecture Series. 10.12.2018, 18.00-20.00, H4
The European Union has entered a phase of transformation. It not only faces the challenge of overcoming acute crises but must also find new ways of securing federal stability. Integration and disintegration have been a permanent feature of the development of the EU. This lecture enquired into how much disintegration the European Union can tolerate or indeed requires, while also exploring the ways in which the EU is particularly dependent on integration, common rules and values.
Prof. Kingreen argued that adopting the term "crisis" is too simplistic to describe the current state of the supranational structures of the EU even as they come under pressure from events in both western (Brexit and the Yellow Vest protests in France) and eastern Europe (questionable practices in relation to the rule of law and press freedom in Poland and Hungary). Instead, his historical outline of the emergence of what has formed European law since the founding of the European Coal and Steel Community, showed how tensions of integration and disintegration have always shaped relations within the EU. His lecture, like the subsequent discussion, addressed the way in which supranational European law addresses the tensions over superdeding national sovereignty in jurisdiction and on the way it can be used to promote not only international trade but also common values.
Prof. Dr. Thorsten Kingreen holds the chair of Public, Social and Health Law at the Faculty of Law at the University of Regensburg. His wide-ranging research interests include European Community Law as well as social, health and medical law.
CITAS Lecture Series. 17.12.2018, 18-20 c.t., H4
No other medium has shaped national identity as significantly as literature. This is particularly the case in the history of German culture. Indeed, it was one of the most important figures in German culture, Johann Wolfgang Goethe, who forged the idea of world literature. What is the connection between national literature and world literature, two seemingly contradictory ideas? And what does world literature mean today? Are international bestsellers, such as Harry Potter, part of world literature? Or is the idea reserved for the classics that form a canon that is recognized around the world? What is the function of world literature? Does it constitute an expression of cultural globalization and homogenization that overshadows cultural diversity? Perhaps world literature is a form of cultural imperialism in which the idea of being “Beyond the Nation” primarily means overcoming the notion of Kulturnation, or national cultures? This lecture offered an exploration of the roles and functions of world literature today.
Jochen Mecke's engaging lecture offered an overview of the nationally, regionally and historically differentiated conceptions of world literature that have emerged. Indeed, early defintions of the concept were reflected the global implications of Goethe's concept, presenting world literature as key texts produced by civilisations over the millennia in a variety of cultural settings. While some definitions did construct an often Eurocentric canon and other definitions applied purely quantitative - and thus commercial - frameworks, Prof. Mecke favoured a dynamic definition. He argued that world literature is a construct shaped by the demands of the cultures and age the concept is applied in.
He also emphasized the importance of the content of a work, as well as its significance for the producing culture in determining whether a piece of literature can be considered "world literature". The intersection of global or universal ambitions, particularly with world literature today often meaning works with transnational dimensions, and the way literature could serve nation-building projects was particularly stimulating for the discussion.
Prof. Dr. Jochen Mecke is a specialist in the literature and culture of Spain and France. He leads the Spanish Research Centre (Forschungszentrum Spanien) in Regensburg and is spokesperson of the CITAS executive board. He has published widely on literature, culture and film in France and Spain. His current research focuses on crises in Spain and the cultural history of lying.
CITAS Lecture Series. 07.01.2019, 1815-1945, H4
What began in 1951 as the European Coal and Steel Community with six member states has developed over the decades into the European Union, a highly complex political organization involving a great number of European countries. This lecture examined whether European integration can be seen as a successful project or whether the tendency is now towards a new division of the continent.
Prof. Liedtke's in-depth overview of European integration took a historical approach, returning initially to some of the nineteenth-century ideas of European economic integration. He then outlined the development of structures and institutions forming today's EU whose foundations can be found in the Schuman Declaration of 1950 and the 1956 Treaty of Rome. He also examined the historical conditions at various stages of the EEC and then EU's expansion. Here long-standing historical connections, such as France's connections to Romania or Germany's to East-Central Europe, influenced West European perspectives on eastward expansion, while there were also political goals in its southern expansion into former dictatorships in the 1980s. While the early years of institutional European integration were marked by cooperation between national governments, over time national interests gave way to a supranational strategy. Whether national interests will again prove dominant as Europe experiences new tensions, remains to be seen.
His historical overview suggested that while economic integration has been relatively uncontested, though not without frictions and inequalities or "two-speed" approaches to the single currency, it is in the realm of values where the idea of Europe is producing some divergence. These fears over Europe's future were prevalent in the following discussion.
Prof. Dr.Rainer Liedtke is chair of European History in Regensburg. He completed his PhD at Oxford before writing his habilitation in Giessen. He has published comparative historical studies in several languages with a focus on urban history examining the experiences of Britain, Germany and Jewish communities above all.
CITAS Lecture Series. 14.01.2019, 1815-1945, h4
This lecture presented an overview of what constitute narratives and memory narratives, examining in particular their role in the production of identities as part of (European) national and transnational memory discourses. The thematic focus was on the expulsions of populations across wartime and postwar Central Europe. Claus Leggewie’s model of European memory cultures in the form of concentric circles placed the Holocaust at the core, with the expulsions and forced migration forming the next circle, demonstrating their centrality to European memory. This became evident in the controversies of the 2000s as the idea for a Centre Against Expulsions emerged from German supporters of the cause. This lecture drew on examples from Czech literature to demonstrate how depictions of expulsion and forced migration have gradually shifted away from national frameworks towards transnational equivalents.
Prof. Nekula offered a clear theoretical and conceptual insight into key concepts of narrative studies, including narrative itself, discourse and master narratives (Meistererzählung). He demonstrated how these concepts can be applied in tracing the dynamics of memory narratives in Czech-German relations. Focused on the tensions between self-perceptions and perceptions of others as victims and/or perpetrators, he demonstrated how these core concepts can be applied in writing literary history and a history of memory. Likewise, the transnational circulations of the terms used by each group to describe experiences (including Czech Odsun and German Vertreibung or Heimat) are indicative of the extent to which dialogue is possible or thwarted.
Ultimately, he argued, Czech literature has moved from a focus on Czechs as victims towards a model of recognizing Germans as victims of Czech actions. Public political discourses on memory, he noted, were less dialogic and remained bound to national narratives, but he could point to examples, particularly in literature, of a turn towards transnational memory narratives that moved away from national categories and focused on the other groups as victims.
Prof. Dr. Marek Nekula is Professor of Czech Studies. He is the director of the Bohemicum and a member of the Graduate School for East and Southeast European Studies. His research focuses on comparative linguistics and also on memory cultures in the Czech Republic and neighbouring countries.
CITAS Lecture Series, 21.01.2019, 1815-1945, H4
In 1945, the US forces bombed the Wehrmacht training complex near Grafenwöhr in the Upper Palatinate (Oberpfalz) region; two weeks later they liberated the nearby concentration camp in Flossenbürg. This was the beginning of the complex entangled history of German-American presence, encounters and memories in rural areas of Upper Palatinate. This lecture examines the diverse sites of negotiation and performative stagings of these transnational memories, ranging from the memorial site in Flossenbürg through the 9/11 Memorial in Oberviechtach to the German-American Volksfest in Grafenwöhr.
The lecture highlighted in particular the role of the region as an actor located between national and transnational influences, while indicate how memory can be manifested outside the archive in the form of an event and behavior. Dr. Bauridl's engaging lecture examined the multiple scales of transnational relations, with single sites of memory or cultural exchanges within village communities having transnational dimensions that can span the globe. She also demonstrated how everyday experience in the present, including the formation of identities, likewise in seemingly peripheral dimensions are shaped by border-crossing, transnational dimensions. In her contribution to debates in memory studies, Dr. Bauridl demonstrated that it is not only the material archive of the past that is involved in memory- and identity-making but also performative aspects of encounters that are embodied.
Her lecture vividly illustrated the turn to 'transnational American studies', which seeks to investigate not only American life, culture and society within national borders, but the impact of US policy, culture and citizens around the globe.
Dr. Birgit Bauridl is an assistant professor in American Studies at the University of Regensburg and co-director of the Regensburg European American Forum (REAF). Her research explores and applies transnational theory, critical regionalism, cultural performance in relation to German-American memory culture after 1945. Her publications include "Betwixt, Between, or Beyond: Negotiating Transformations from the Liminal Sphere of Contemporary Black Performance Poetry" (2013); "South Africa and the United States in Transnational American Studies" (co-ed. U. Hebel; AmSt 2014); "Approaching Transnational America in Performance" (co-ed. P. Wiegmink, 2016); "German-American Encounters in Bavaria and Beyond" (co-ed. I. Gessner, U. Heble, 2018). Together with Dr. Pia Wiegmink she led the international DFG Network ‘Cultural Performance in Transnational American Studies’ that ran from 2014-2018.
CITAS Lecture Series. 28.01.2019, 18:15-19:45, H4
This lecture was held in English.
Language variation is an intrinsically areal phenomenon – our speech shows where we come from and who we are. The association between language forms, space and identity operates on several scales – the local, regional, national, supranational and global ones. Examples illustrating all these dimensions in the English-speaking world were explored, with Prof. Schneider drawing on audio and video clips, as well as findings based on multiple corpora. In conclusion, the lecture examined ways of theorizing the areal (or spatial) variability of the language, examining in particular debates around how to define areal boundaries, how to Model "World Englishes"; and the notions of "pluricentricity" and "pluri-areality".
Prof. Schneider draw on examples from across the globe, indicating the impact of the intersections of official policies, economics and everyday practices from below on the way multiple varieties of English has formed. He noted the importance of linguistics to area studies research and vice versa, as the fields operate with spatial categories, tracing the interconnections of policy and practice as both structures and identities intersect. His lecture traced the ways in which multiple scales are evident in language formation and use, ranging upwards from the local through the national and supranational to the global (the ASEAN countries' use of English as their working language is an intriguing example of the supranational). But Prof. Schneider also showed the significance of non-contingent connections that are transnational and global shaped, for example, through migration or, alternatively, through isolation of speakers.
He also offered a clear demonstration of the multiple methods used in linguistic research, from corpus studies to interviews, as well as more recent turns to scientific micro measurements of speech.
Prof. Dr. Edgar Schneider is chair of English linguistics in the Department of English and American Studies. His research focuses on worldwide varieties of English, including varieties of American English and pidgin and creole languages. He has published extensively, including a monograph with Cambridge University Press titled English Around the World: An Introduction (2011) and the forthcoming The Cambridge Handbook of World Englishes edited with Marianne Hundt and Daniel Schreier. At the University of Regensburg he leads the Research Center for World Englishes.
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