Network Project: Contemporary Musical Theater in San Francisco and New York City
By focusing on the performance and reception of an opera and a musical, this case study highlights interfaces between transnational American Studies and Performance Studies–oriented research on American theater. Not discounting the 'nation' as a powerful entity in transnational cultural phenomena (Traister) parallels the necessity to include mainstream stages in the study of theater by marginalized groups (Román). The opera Heart of a Soldier (librettist: Donna Di Novelli, composer: Christopher Theofanidis), which premiered in San Francisco on 10 September 2011, and the musical In the Heights (book and lyrics: Lin-Manuel Miranda), which received four Tony Awards in 2008 and toured internationally, require site-specific scrutiny. Comparative analyses of the contexts in which these works were commissioned, created, and premiered participate in the interdisciplinary inquiry into a hitherto unexplored ecology of cultural, social, and political factors indicative of the degrees to which specific groups are represented in the theater and the ways in which their agency within US society (perceived as both ethnically diverse and as united through American civil religion and political ideology) is depicted. Theoretical debates within transnational American Studies (Fisher Fishkin, Fluck, Hornung, Lenz, Radway), complemented by theories of the contemporary and of historically informed cultural memory (Hebel, Linenthal, Román), will provide criteria for assessing definitions of identity and citizenship in their demographic and performative phenotypes. The interdisciplinary nature of music theater studies offers collaborative possibilities that foster the rededication to truly interdisciplinary work geared toward complex inquiries into multiple facets and into the historical depths of cultural phenomena.
Nassim Winnie Balestrini is full professor of American Studies and Intermediality at Karl Franzens University Graz, Austria, where she also serves as director of the Centre for Intermediality Studies in Graz (CIMIG). Before assuming her position in Graz, she taught at the universities of Mainz, Paderborn, and Regensburg, Germany, and at the University of California, Davis. In the course of her studies and her career as a researcher and teacher, she has received fellowships by the Studienstiftung des deutschen Volkes, the German Academic Exchange Service, and the Fulbright Commission. Her publications include two monographs on Vladimir Nabokov’s Russian and English fiction, a monograph entitled _From Fiction to Libretto: Irving, Hawthorne, and James as Opera_ (Frankfurt: Lang, 2005), and the edited volume _Adaptation and American Studies: Perspectives on Research and Teaching_ (Heidelberg: Winter, 2011). She has also published essays on, for example, African American poets and poetry, American drama and musical theater from the nineteenth through the twenty-first centuries, Chicana fiction from the perspective of transnational American Studies, participatory online art, and the use of visuals in hip-hop life writing (Popular Music and Society 2014). In addition to her work within this DFG network, her current research focuses on interactive Internet culture and its role within re-definitions of “art,” on hip-hop life writing, on intermedial novels, on the intersections between literature and cultural psychology, and on the U.S. and Canadian poet laureate traditions. In addition to her scholarly publications and teaching in the field, she has been using her expertise in intermediality and adaptation in order to share American Studies scholarship through outreach efforts such as public performances of poetry adaptations which allowed her to collaborate with professional musicians and to discuss the social relevance and cultural history of American poetry.
Network Project: From Global Places to Local Spaces: Festive Performances In- and Outside the US
This project scrutinizes the negotiation—the self-constitution as well as the appropriation—of local spaces which are (quite literally) crossroads of transnational paths and mobilities by scrutinizing cultural performances situated in these local contact zones. It spotlights contemporary festive culture, i.e. parades and holiday celebrations, in local contact zones both characterized by fleeting presences of diverse cultural and national communities and nevertheless identifiable as sites determined by their local cultural and socio-political particularities. Insisting that the sites of inquiry of transnational American Studies may be located both in- and outside the US, for its case studies, this project zooms into a US city and into a German town. It scrutinizes the Mummers Parade in Philadelphia—dating back to the 17th century, to multiple roots, e.g. Swedish, Irish, English, German, or African, and to Roman traditions—which serves as a mirror of the transnational composition of the US. And it investigates the festive culture emanating from the US military community of Grafenwoehr, Germany—4th-of-July Celebrations or (Multinational) Training Area Anniversary Celebrations in Bavaria—and their impact on local neighborhoods. The diverse participants in the respective local spaces, this project argues, construct and enact cultural and national identifications—thereby also defining the spaces they inhabit, i.e. the sites of their performance—in order to negotiate cultural/political visibility hegemony. Ultimately, by focusing on site-specific, local performances, this project critically reflects on the position of the US within global processes and assesses methods offered by Performances Studies for issues raised by transnational American Studies.
Birgit M. Bauridl is Assistant Professor of American Studies at the University of Regensburg. Her research focuses on triangular American Studies; spaces of cultural transfer, esp. German-American encounters in the Upper Palatinate; interdisciplinary approaches to cultural performance and transnational festive culture. Her publications include Betwixt, Between, or Beyond: Negotiating Transformations from the Liminal Sphere of Contemporary Black Performance Poetry (2013); “Rowing for Palestine, Performing the Crossroads, Living Multiple Consciousness: Mark Gerban and Suheir Hammad” (Arab American Literature and Culture, Hornung/Kohl; Journal of Transnational American Studies 5.1 ); “[N]ow they had captured the King of Rock ‚n‘ Roll«: Ein Streifzug durch die amerikanische Oberpfalz” (Die Befreiungshalle Kelheim, Wagner, 2012); “‘A Lens Into What It Means to Be an American’: African American Philadelphia Murals as Sites of Memory” (Transnational American Memories, Hebel, 2009); “Contemporary Black? Performance Poetry” (African American Literary Studies, spec. issue of Amst, Carpio/Sollors, 2010). From 2007 to 2011, she served as Assistant Editor of Amerikastudien / American Studies. She is a member of the advisory board of Brno Studies in English and reader for MELUS and JTAS. From 2012-2015 she served as member, co-chair, and chair of the ASA Women's Committee. Awards and grants include ERASMUS teaching assignments, a doctoral fellowship by the Elite Network Bavaria, and a Fulbright American Studies Institute Fellowship. Together with Dr. Pia Wiegmink (U Mainz), she heads a German Research Foundation (DFG) network on “Cultural Performance in Transnational American Studies.”
Network Project: Petit Paris en Amérique? The Francophone Theatre in Antebellum New Orleans.
In the conflicted space of nineteenth-century Louisiana, New Orleans's vibrant theatre scene provided a steady focal point for people from all social and ethnic walks of life. The city's theatres also represented sites of struggle over cultural sovereignty, acting as a 'stage' for negotiating ethnic identities. My contribution to this network explores how the dominant anglophone culture and Louisana's older, francophone community used the theatre to display their own vision of local, national, and transnational belonging. I argue that New Orleans's francophone community imagined itself as distinctly "Franco-American" fusing its commitment to French traditions and local Louisiana culture with American expansionist designs and a transamerican defense of republican values. My contribution to this cluster looks at the francophone theatre in New Orleans as a transatlantic and transamerican contact zone and a showcase of current social and political developments. Local events such as the division of the city into three separate municipalities (1836) or General Taylor's visit (1847) were echoed in the theatre through scheduled performances of the "Marseillaise" or "Yankee Doodle", respectively. Moreover, a close analysis of the French-language drama penned by Louisianian playwrights reveals that it similarly registered, mediated, and appropriated changing power relations, struggles over cultural agency, and shifting alliances between the different social groups in antebellum New Orleans. In sum, I see my contribution to this network as one example for a multilingual approach attentive to local formations, comparative perspectives, and the aesthetic traditions of a transnational America, teasing out the ways in which the various performances of culture overlapped and collided in antebellum New Orleans.
Juliane Braun is Assistant Professor in American literature and culture at the University of Wuerzburg, Germany. Her first book titled Creole Drama: Theatre and Society in Antebellum New Orleans shows how New Orleans’s francophone population used the theatre to maintain their political, economic, and cultural sovereignty in the face of growing Anglo-American dominance. Moving from France to the Caribbean to the American continent, the book follows the people that created, shaped, and sustained French theatre culture in New Orleans from its inception in 1792 until the beginning of the Civil War. In doing so, it draws upon the neglected archive of francophone drama native to Louisiana, as well as a range of documents from both sides of the Atlantic, teasing out how the members of Louisiana’s French-speaking community intervened in current debates about political representation, slavery, US expansion, and the place of ethnic and racial minorities in the early Americas.
Juliane teaches courses on multilingual American literature, theatre and drama, and early American literature at the University of Wuerzburg. Her new research project, tentatively titled “Translating the Pacific: Imperial Imaginations, Nature Writing, and Early Modern Print Cultures,” focuses on the intersections of transnational American studies, translation studies, book history and print culture studies, and the environmental humanities. It explores how an Atlantic world print culture imagines, represents, and constructs the natural environment in the Pacific. More specifically, it investigates how early naturalists from England, France, Spain, Russia, and the Netherlands described and catalogued the plants, animals, and peoples they encountered in the Pacific and how, upon their return, their descriptions were modified through translation and re-publication in order to serve competing political and commercial agendas in Europe and the early United States.
Network Project: Curating Cosmopolitan Conviviality: Transnational Performances of Art and Life in the Autobiographies of Gertrude Stein and Peggy Guggenheim
Nanne Buurman is an art mediator, curator, and scholar based in Leipzig and Berlin. She holds an M.A. in Cultural Studies/American Studies and a State Certificate (M.A. equivalent) in Art Education/English Teaching from Leipzig University, where she has also taught as an adjunct lecturer in the Cultural Studies Department. Since October 2012 Buurman has been a doctoral candidate of Art History at the Free University Berlin, where she was a DFG-funded member of the International Research Training Group 'Interart Studies' at Free University in Berlin. In 2013, Buurman spent the summer term as a visiting associate researcher at Goldsmiths College in London. Her main research areas include curatorial - and exhibition studies with a focus on curatorial authorship and gender. Forthcoming in English: 'Hosting Significant Others. Autobiographies as Exhibitions of Co-Authority,' in Hosting Relations in Exhibitions, Sternberg Press, ed. by Beatrice von Bismarck, Benjamin Meyer-Krahmer, Thomas Weski.
In addition to her academic commitments, she has worked for a number of art institutions, including documenta 12 (Kassel) and EIGEN+ART (Leipzig). Furthermore, assuming various authorial positions, Buurman was involved in numerous formats of cultural production, such as the art mediation project Arbeitslose als Avantgarde/The Unemployed as an Avantgarde (documenta 12 Kassel 2007), the exhibitions Welcome to the Ivory Tower! (Academy of Visual Arts Leipzig, 2008), Facing the Eye (Independent Art Space D21 Leipzig, 2009), Featuring/Featuring (Gallery of Contemporary Art GfZK Leipzig, 2010), and more recently the seminar Mediating Mediating (Leipzig University, 2012/13) as well as the catalogues Jack in the Box (2012) and Catalogue Raisonné (Clichés) (Spector Books, 2014).
Ben Chappell is an Associate Professor of American Studies at the University
of Kansas. He earned a doctorate in anthropology from the University of Texas
at Austin, working in the Américo Paredes Center for Cultural Studies. He is
the author of Lowrider Space: Aesthetics and Politics of Mexican American
Custom Cars (U. Texas, 2012) as well as articles on Mexican America,
ethnography, and cultural theory, most recently in the volumes The Routledge
Companion to Latina/o Popular Culture (2016) and Approaching Transnational
America in Performance (2017). Prior to publication, his research on lowriders
was recognized with awards from the Wenner-Gren Foundation; the Society for
Urban, National, and Transnational/Global Anthropology; and the Foundation for
Urban and Regional Studies. In addition to Mexican American softball, his
current research includes work on neoliberal knowledge production both in
higher education and the larger public sphere. He is active in promoting
ethnographic research through the American Studies Association Ethnography
Caucus, which he organized in 2015. Currently he is a Fulbright Guest Professor
of American Studies at the University of Regensburg, where he teaches seminars
on “The United States in the World” and “The Cultural Lives of
Network Project: Precarious Belongings: Architectures of Class in U.S. Literature and Visual Culture
My project is located at the intersection of cultural performances of urban ethnic architectures and unequal race relations in a transnational US. The aim of my inquiries into aesthetic and site-specific practices of diverse cityscapes is to undertake a critical analysis of how urban geographies are performed through ethnically marked architectures. How do individuals and communities with ethnic backgrounds create specific architectural sites, and how do these sites build and perform their identities? In other words, how do those who construct and live in ethnic environments, access, own, use, and develop these environments? Focusing on built environments of disparity, I thus bring to the forefront the complex performances that surround the building, inhabiting, reconstructing, and, at times, demolishing of domestic and public spaces. I investigate filmic, televised, literary, and material representations of domestic and public architectures of glocal ethnic sites, including the plantation, the urban ghetto, public housing projects, migrant social housing, and trailer homes. Understanding architecture as an aesthetic and political practice, American Projects contributes to the emerging discussion of the significant impact performances of architecture have on racial and class relations in the US. The project thereby aligns itself with the interest that has only recently started building around spatiality, ethnicity, class, and urban studies. For it is precisely at the intersection of race and class—where racial segregation meets income inequality—that we can begin to understand today's ramifications of deeply ingrained US notions such as (dis)placement and (re)location that become most visible in US ethnic architectures.
Julia Faisst is Assistant Professor of American Studies at the Catholic University of Eichstaett-Ingolstadt, Germany. After receiving her MA and PhD from Harvard University's Comparative Literature Department, she spent a year as Visiting Assistant Professor in the Department of English at Wake Forest University before she accepted a Postdoctoral Research Fellowship at the International Graduate Center for the Study of Culture at Justus Liebig University Giessen, funded by the German Excellence Initiative in Higher Education. Her research and teaching fields include American and US ethnic literatures and visual cultures, space and architecture, and class and poverty studies. She is the author of Cultures of Emancipation: Photography, Race, and Modern American Literature and co-editor (with Werner Sollors and Alan Rosen) of David P. Boder's I Did Not Interview the Dead, one of the earliest collections of multilingual interviews with concentration camp survivors. She has published numerous essays on urban renewal in the TV series Tremé, the liberatory potential of photography in African American Literature, neo-slave narratives and plantation architecture, Philip Roth's fictions of race, and the spatial turn in literary and cultural studies. She is currently at work on her second book project, the habilitation, Precarious Belongings: Architectures of Class in U.S. Literature and Visual Culture, on housing inequalities and the segregated home in literature, film, and photography since the housing crisis in the 1980s. She has received numerous fellowships, grants, and awards, including a Whiting Dissertation Completion Fellowship, an Archie Fund for Faculty Excellence Research Grant, a Japan-U.S. Educational Commission Scholarship, and three Harvard teaching awards. She has co-organized and participated in numerous national and international conferences, including the MLA, the ASA, the ALA, the German Association for American Studies, and the Nagoya American Studies Summer Seminar. As an invited speaker, she has presented her work at, amongst others, Duke University, Loyola University New Orleans, the Jewish Museum in Frankfurt/Main, and Utrecht University.
Network Project: The Racial Sensibility Project (Phase One: Kansas City)
How does the salience of racial meaning depend upon what is visually perceived through the senses? If we understand sensibility as being able to perceive, to identify a mental or emotional responsiveness towards something or someone and/ or a refined awareness in matters of feeling, how then do people feel race? The Racial Sensibility Project challenges existing understandings of race by investigating the significance of our dependence on the senses when visual cues associated with the physicalization of race are disrupted through the manipulation of the body and voice in performance. Without dismissing the role of visual cues, The Racial Sensibility Project operates as an interactive and experimental performance work that explores how the senses of smell, taste, touch, seeing and hearing adjust to, and compensate for, sensorial shifting perspectives of race across national borders and socio-historical contexts. Integrating live performance, audio-visual spectacle and web forums such as Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest, I will create virtual and live performances that seek to explore how the senses adjust to, resist, transgress and redefine the shifting boundaries of racial identity in the 21st century. Using a comparative transnational American Studies and Performance Studies approach, this pilot project will use a single city performance location in Kansas City to prompt glocal sensorial experiences of race through performance. This dialogue will be incited through an onsite installation in Kansas City and on-line installations of visual, audio and directed scent and touch files created at Tumblr and Pinterest that are integrated into the live performance.
Nicole Hodges Persley is an Associate Professor of Theatre at the University of Kansas. She teaches courses on hip-hop, acting, African American theater, race and performance and improvisation theory. Her research interests include African-America drama, performance, and culture, hip-hop, women's and gender studies, solo performance and transnationalism.
Her research and performance works address the impact of racial, ethnic and national identity on performance practices in theatre, television and film. She completed her Ph.D. in American Studies and Ethnicity at the University of Southern California. Her current book project, Sampling and Remixing Blackness in Hip-hop Theater and Performance, examines the impact of African American expressions of blackness In Hip-hop on the artistic practices of non-African American artists in theater, conceptual art and dance in the United States and England. A Francophile, she has lived and conducted research on Hip-hop’s influence on the arts in Dakar, Sénégal and Paris, France. She is one of the founding program directors of the Hip-hop Archive at Harvard University’s W.E.B. Dubois Institute.
An actress and director, Hodges Persley is a member of SAG and AFTRA and has credits in regional theater, television and film. Her performance and directing work have been featured at the Kansas City Fringe Festival, the California Hip-hop Theater Festival, the Hudson Theater, and Highways Performance Space. She has published articles on Jay-Z and Suzan-Lori Parks with forthcoming work on Nikki S. Lee and Jean Genet. (http://theatre.ku.edu/nicole-hodges-persley)
Network Project: Fandom, Stardom, and Popular Music: Performing (Queerly) in Transnational Spaces
This project examines the role of performances – as opposed to fixed visual and auditory representations – for contemporary constructions of stardom and fandom in popular music by looking at US American singer Lady Gaga and her fan community. More specifically, it will examine the 2010–11 international tour The Monster Ball, whose narrative presentation of a queer utopia was visually based on a specifically US American iconography, to address the formation of transnational communality. Further considerations will be given to surrounding online performances by both star and fans which in their temporal fleetingness and interactive immediacy extend traditional formations of ‘presence’ and ‘liveness.’
Analysis of the concert’s queer meaning draws on the work of Jill Dolan and José Antonio Muñoz to account for the utopian aspects of performances. The work of Philip Auslander on ‘mediated liveness’ and David Román’s understanding of the role of “the contemporary” frame the reading of these performances’ live aspects.
Overall, this project seeks to explore new options for Cultural Studies to engage with popular music by bringing into focus reciprocal performances rather than static texts. Attention to the performance allows this project furthermore, I argue, to specify transnational meanings of a supposedly global commodity, and thus also to interrogate the transnational enactment of an American(ized) queer identity.
Katrin Horn is currently a lecturer in American Studies at the FAU Erlangen-Nürnberg. As a member of the research network she will explore the significance of the US-American singer Lady Gaga's global live performances as local acts of resistance for the singer's queer fans. This research interest results from her Ph.D. thesis Camp/Pop: Interventions Into Popcultural Discourses of Gender and Sexuality, submitted in December 2014. Here Katrin Horn presents a reevaluation of camp's affective potential and thus also reexamination of the use of media trends and tropes after 2000 (such as postfeminism and lesbian chic) in popcultural texts reliant on camp aesthetics. For her second book she will turn to the 19th century and focus on the entanglements of gender and money by analyzing the economic aspects of gossip, scandal and female respectability. As a research associate at the DFG-funded research project Voice and Singing in Popular Music in the US (1900-1960) at the Franz Liszt School of Music Weimar, she has recently contributed two book chapters on the development and cultural significance of singing styles in country and folk music between the 1920s and 1960s. Katrin Horn has published and lectured on queer and gender studies, various aspects of popular culture, and film history.
Network Project: Comedy and the Transnational Public Sphere in Early America
This project examines how comedies contributed to the emergence and maintenance of a transnational public sphere in late-eighteenth century America. Through the humorous enactment of serious political problems on the theater stage, I argue, many early American comedies articulated public argument in complex and unpredictable ways: Instead of entering into a rational debate, they typically relied on strategies related to affect and embodiment in order to discuss politics. Through ridicule and raillery, mockery and banter, these comedies negotiated publicly not only regional and transnational, but also racial, gender, and class differences that were gradually subsumed under an emerging national framework. What’s more, early American comedies made explicit the theater’s more general proximity to notions of fakeness, dissembling, posture, or masquerade, and thus posed a playful challenge to the liberal fantasy of a public sphere made up of autonomous private individuals. By investigating a number of comic plays (such as Robert Munford’s The Patriots [1777?], Mercy Otis Warren’s The Group , or the anonymous The Trial of Atticus ) as well as the ways in which these plays and their contexts circulated in the transatlantic world, the project seeks to offer a more precise understanding of the contours and contents of the public sphere in early America.
Leopold Lippert is a post-doctoral researcher at the FWF-project “Gender and Comedy in the Age of the American Revolution” at the University of Salzburg. He holds a PhD in American Studies from the University of Vienna (2015); his dissertation Performing America Abroad focused on the politics of transnational cultural practices in the context of neoliberal capitalism. In his post-doc project, he is concerned with the relationship of comedy and laughter to the public sphere in late-18th and early-19th century America. He has published on a number of topics in theatre and performance studies, gender and sexuality studies, as well as transnational American studies.
Network Project: Performing the Self: Health and the Public Space
Frederike Offizier is a Ph.D. candidate at the American Studies Department of the University of Potsdam where she is currently employed as a research assistant and lecturer teaching literary and cultural studies classes. Her dissertation “Help Yourself so Help You Science” focuses on the dynamics of security narratives and affects in U.S.-American literature and culture. Part of her research was conducted at the University of Washington with a Fulbright Scholarship. Frederike completed her double major in American Studies and Spanish Philology in 2011 with the MA thesis “DeComposing the Self: Dying in American Literature”, for which she received the Hans-Jürgen-Bachorski-Preis from the University of Potsdam. Her main research interests are security studies, bioculture, and cultural theory (especially performativity and affect studies), as well as transnational American Studies, Border Studies, and Latino/a studies. In addition to her academic work she is actively involved in and a founding member of the Network for Intercultural Communication e.V, an association that attempts to build bridges between academia, politics, and art through a series of seminars and workshops.
Network Project: Recent Visual Performances on New World Slavery: Kara Walker
This project investigates how contemporary performances on slavery by artists of the African diaspora interrogate, trouble, and reshape the visual legacy of New World slavery. Focusing on select works by artist Kara Walker, I inquire about the role of visual performance in a) uncovering and deconstructing the various cultural and economic transnational processes that consolidated a visual vocabulary of racial slavery in a circum-Atlantic space and b) in engaging the contemporary legacy of this vocabulary. Here I am particularly interested in Walker’s deployment of modes of irony and humor (parody, satire) as well as forms of theatricality – a practice that she shares with other contemporary artists (e.g. Glen Ligon, Renée Cox, Carla Williams) – to implicate her spectators in the construction of meanings of race, to highlight how notions of blackness are defined relationally and situationally. The prominent performative and relational character marks Walker’s works as cultural performances (rather than static art objects). Moreover, in delineating Walker’s use of various strategies of visual Signifyin(g), I aim to show how contemporary performances on slavery actively intervene in processes of collective memory formation and mediation. In troubling received mnemonic practices and in challenging visual narratives and iconographies of slavery that were established and canonized during the earlier social paradigms of the Civil Rights and Black Power movements, Walker, along with other contemporary artists, attempts to reshape the memory of slavery in light of notions and experiences of race that have emerged in the post-civil-rights era. Works to be discussed include the exhibit Kara Walker at the Met: After the Deluge (2004), the sugar sculpture A Subtlety, or the Marvelous Sugar Baby (2014), and her recent production of Vincenco Bellini’s Norma at the La Fenice Opera House in Venice (2015).
Ilka Saal: bio coming soon
Network Project: From Farm to Stammtisch: German Immigrants' Food Cultures in California in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries.
In my contribution, which feeds into my post-doctoral project, I focus on the role of food and drink in the German immigrant community in the greater San Francisco Bay Area during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. I contend that German-American foodways evolved to serve as a cohesive force in this regionally, culturally, and dietetically diverse group. I examine how these new foodways emerged from interactions of German immigrants amongst themselves, with other immigrants, and with Americans. I specifically concentrate on how they came into existence as amalgamations of traditions selected from the old world and reinvented in Northern California. By scrutinizing food cultures, then, I intend to chart a history of how immigrants from German-speaking regions developed a sense of 'Germanness', negotiated and performed their ethnic identity, and thus became German-Americans in California. Analyzing German immigrants' food cultures, I use a farm-to-table approach to unearth the economic and cultural systems that undergird communities. Using this approach, but applying it historically, my study concentrates on networks that emerged in everyday German-American interactions. I link German agricultural enterprises, such as farms and ranches with processing businesses such as wineries, breweries, and canneries, and these in turn to groceries and wholesale retailers, and lastly, to German restaurants. As a space where individuals from all classes and creeds gathered on a regular basis to dine and drink, enjoy music, and meet with their interest groups, the Stammtisch in the restaurant played a major role in German communal life. They simultaneously served as a prime transnational contact zone, where San Franciscans would come to experience 'Germanness' in food, entertainment, and politics.
Leonard Schmieding is a DAAD Visiting Researcher at the Center for German and European Studies at Georgetown University. He earned his PhD in history with a dissertation on hip-hop culture in the German Democratic Republic at the University of Leipzig in 2011. His book "Das ist unsere Party": HipHop in der DDR was published by Steiner Verlag in Stuttgart in May 2014. Other publications include the edited volumes Ambivalent Americanizations: Popular and Consumer Culture in Central and Eastern Europe (2008) and Kohte, Kanu, Kino und Kassette: Jugend zwischen Wilhelm II. und Wiedervereinigung (2012). In his post-doctoral research he examines food cultures of German immigrants in the San Francisco Bay Area in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and thus analyzes their everyday lives as newcomers to the Golden Gate.
Network Project: Performing Health the Trans/National Way in Contemporary U.S.-American Culture: Let’s Move! and Beyond
Health is a current and very conspicuous topic in U.S.-American culture and politics today. Although it has been a matter of public interest before, it has gained momentum during the time of the Obama administration in particular, for example with the introduction and ratification of the Affordable Care Act in 2010 as well as with the first couple’s actions promoting a healthier and more active lifestyle. This project explores the performative dimensions of health by focusing on notions of health as a lifestyle, as a socially and culturally determined ‘restored behavior’ (Schechner), whose meanings and definitions are continuously negotiated through performance. It takes Michelle Obama’s public performances and events, especially in connection to her Let’s Move! initiative, as case studies in order to demonstrate how a healthy lifestyle is defined and performed by the Obamas and how health issues intersect with matters of access, social status, identity categories, and ideas of nation. As the Obamas are representatives of the United States in the world, they use a rhetoric that strengthens and reaffirms the notion of nation, for instance by presenting the “epidemic of childhood obesity” (Let’s Move!) as a direct threat to the nation’s health and security. While the national dimension of this campaign against childhood obesity seems obvious as a consequence, this project also examines transnational dimensions and perspectives of Michelle Obama’s initiative, as the cultural performances linked to Let’s Move! cross the borders of the United States and spread to a wide audience around the world. Through this mobility of information and influence on countries outside of the United States, Michelle Obama’s performances, I argue, partly serve as cultural contact zones (Pratt) on issues of childhood health and healthy behavior and thus challenge the borders of the nation while at the same time highlighting them.
Claudia Trotzke is a Ph.D. candidate in American Studies at the University of Regensburg where she is employed as an assistant and lecturer teaching classes in literary studies and literary theory. In her dissertation project on performing health in U.S.-American television series and beyond, she explores performative dimensions of health and its interdependencies with identity discourses. She completed her M.A. in American Studies at the University of Regensburg in 2014 with a thesis entitled “‘One of the most expensive zip codes in the world’: The Performance of the Hamptons as a Space of White Privilege in ABC’s Revenge,” for which she received the Dr.-Katharina-Sailer-Award from the University of Regensburg. Inspired by courses at her alma mater as well as her academic semesters abroad at Wesleyan University (2009-2010) and the University of Kansas (2012), her research interests include, among others, performance studies, critical whiteness studies, critical race theory, and television studies.
Network Project: Reconfiguring the Nation: Transnational Abolitionist Cultural Performances in Nineteenth Century US America
This project examines the interdependencies between abolitionist cultural performances, transnationalism, and conceptions of personhood in nineteenth-century US America. In US American abolitionist cultural performances, I argue, issues like black emancipation, changing notions of womanhood, and discourses of naturalization and citizenship are inextricably intertwined. Instead of consulting the textual archive of abolitionist narratives, legal documents or written speeches, my project proposes to examine more immediate forms communal encounters, or cultural performances. By drawing on the works of Richard Schechner, Diana Taylor, and Joseph Roach who consider performance a form of "restored behavior" (Schechner 36), as "embodied practice [which] offers a way of knowing" (Taylor 3), and as "mnemonic reserves" (Roach 26), my project is informed by the idea of performance as part of a broad variety of social and political discourses that make up US American culture(s) in the nineteenth century. By employing a transnational perspective on US American abolitionist discourses, my analysis of selected examples of cultural performances—such as US American commemorations of international abolitionist events or women's participation in the transnational public debates on slavery in form of public lecture tours, anti-slavery fairs, and other events—intends to draw attention to the rich archive of cultural practices and transcultural encounters which are inextricably connected to conceptions of the nation and its various discourses of personhood in the nineteenth-century United States. By shifting the focus away from textual documents to performative enactments and expressions of abolitionism, my project thus proposes to approach abolitionist culture as a as transnational and transcultural contact zone (Pratt, Rowe) which emphasizes the importance of immediate, corporeal presence and exchange as pivotal elements of cultural encounter.
Pia Wiegmink is Assistant Professor (wiss. Mitarbeiterin) in American Studies at the Johannes Gutenberg-University Mainz, Germany. From 2011 to 2012, she was visiting scholar at Georgetown University, Washington DC. For her current research project "Re-Configuring the Nation: Transnational Abolitionist Narratives and Discourses of Personhood and Gender, 1776-1920" (working title) she received a one-month ECCLES Center fellowship in North American Studies from the British Library (2011) and a one-year post-doc fellowship from the German Academic Exchange Service (2012). Pia Wiegmink received her doctorate from the University of Siegen (2010), Germany, and is author of two monographs, Theatralität und Öffentlicher Raum [Theatricality and Public Space], Tectum 2005, and Protest EnACTed, Winter 2011 and has published numerous articles on political performance as well as essays on American dramatist Naomi Wallace, the Obama campaign of 2008, and the Boston Female Anti-Slavery Society.
Walking in Darkness. Performance Art and Attentiveness
In her fundamental work The Archive and the Repertoire (2003) Diana Taylor announced optimistically that performance makes “visible (for an instant, live, now) that which is always already there: the ghosts, the tropes, the scenarios that structure our individual and collective life” (143). Here, she refers to Jacque Derrida’s concept of hauntology that theorizes an invisible presence. In Spectres de Marx (1993), Jacques Derrida coined the term hauntology (hantologie) a near homonym (at least in its original French) to ontology. Hauntology questions the focus on material, manifested and visible forms of being by introducing the spectre as an omnipresent yet invisible but influential form of presence. The spectre, Derrida suggests, is in between; a state of irritation, confusion and mystery that we have to learn to live with. He speaks of the revenant, a repetition, always expected to return (from the past or from the future) and disturb in unpleasant ways. Thus, the spectre becomes potentially the remains of that which cannot be forgotten, which is too easily neglected and which cannot be erased.
In Ghostly Matters (1997), Avery Gordon does not so much trace the spectres as she follows the events that create the specters. Therefore, her specters are not the ultimate threats lurking in dark corners of power systems but essential aftermaths that resist reconciliation. They are ambivalent and manifest in words unspoken. Power is no longer clear-cut, but a troubled misadventure. Norms, (scientific) order, chaos and control become shadows of larger things unsolved. The spectre is not a mystified phenomenon but the very source of discomfort that needs to be addressed.
When Taylor announces that the specters can be “made manifest through performance”, that they can in fact “alter future phantoms, future fantasies” those very same fantasies that “shape our sense of self, of community, that organize our scenarios of interaction, conflict, and resolution” (2003, 143), she does not only suggest that performance can help to address those potential conflicts but more so that the act of performance can solve them. However, the approach still relies on the binary between the visible and invisible insisting on absence as a category of vision.
I would like to argue that performance can overcome these binaries by precisely working beyond vision and material manifestations. Looking at Erica Mott’s experimental epic 3 Singers, I will try to understand the presence of the immaterial in a performance constellation that relies on the body as artefact and machine. I will show that performances can produce something I call attentiveness which is able to shift our focus from the visual into other spheres. Since Taylor and Gordon work in a transnational dimension for making their arguments and Erica Mott’s work deliberately crosses national borders as well, the discussion will use the transnational focus in order to complicate the notion of border crossing.
Andrea Zittlau is a lecturer and postdoctoral researcher in American literature and culture at the University of Rostock. She also coordinates the interdisciplinary Graduate Center “Cultural Encounters and Discourses of Scholarship” (funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft) at the University of Rostock (http://www.gk-kulturkontakt.uni-rostock.de/). Her doctoral research focused on ethnographic museums and theories of display treating exhibitions as haunting performances. Furthermore, she has worked with and about performance artist such as the group La Pocha Nostra, Verbo*bala and Natalie Brewster Ngyuen. Andrea’s current work deals with nineteenth-century trial reports, psychiatry and theories of disorder and absence. Her publications include the edited volume (with Anna Kerchy) Exploring the Cultural History of Continental European Freakshows and Enfreakment (2012).