Lecture with Dr. Marion Rana on 06/14/16: “From the Inside Out: Crip Poetry’s (Re-)Claiming of Identity and Agency”

Lecture with

Dr. Marion Rana

(University of Bremen)

“From the Inside Out: Crip Poetry‘s (Re-)Claiming of Identity and Agency”

June 14, 2016; 4 pm (16 Uhr c.t.)
Fakultätssaal, Philosophicum
Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz

“[There’s] a new definition of disability and it includes power,” crip poet Chery Marie Wade proclaims in “Disability Culture Rap.” The political stance of crip poetry clearly reverberates in her call for disability artists to take the stage as “proud freedom fighters” and to talk abut disability “from the inside out.” As Rosemary Garland-Thompson has argued, disability is a specular moment. Spinning around the medical and social gaze that claims to identify disability, crip poetry successfully gives voice to a new disability identity and renegotiates the terms under which individuals with a disability are viewed. Placing crip poetry into its political and literary context, this talk will give an introduction into the genesis of the genre and its roots within the disability rights movement; it will further discuss how two of its main representatives, Cheryl Marie Wade and Jim Ferris, negotiate the community’s strife for identity and agency.

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Lecture with Dr. Patrick Erben on 06/15/16: Migration, Exile, Imperialism: The Non-English Literatures of Early America Reconsidered

Lecture with

Dr. Patrick Erben

(University of West Georgia)

Migration, Exile, Imperialism: The Non-English Literatures of Early America Reconsidered

June 15, 2016; 10 am (10 Uhr c.t.)
S 1, Hörsaal des Sportinstituts

Since the early 2000s, American literary studies have witnessed a surge in textual and critical scholarship on the non-English literatures of early America and the Atlantic world. Yet, few non-English texts and authors enjoy true staying power in the pantheon of American literature courses and scholarship, with instructors clinging to the English-only canon.

The reluctance to teach and study the non-English literatures of early America goes beyond the lacking familiarity of U.S. based instructors with other languages. The field has not squarely faced a troubling question: what do Spanish, French, Dutch, German, and other early American writings have to offer beyond the familiar tropes of imperial conquest, and settler colonialism already dominating English-language texts? This lecture posits that reading the non-English literatures of early America as both diasporic and imperialist allows us to acknowledge that writers, texts, and communities may carry the guilt of conquest while espousing genuine sentiments of displacement, alienation, and loss of community.

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Obama Fellow 2016 Prof. Dr. Sandy Isenstadt 05/30/16 – 06/01/16: “Spacial Implications of Electric Lighting”

Workshops and Guest Lectures with

Professor Dr. Sandy Isenstadt (University of Delaware – Center for Material Culture Studies)


Please find a short description of the series of events and reference to access reading material prior to the sessions here.



“Groping in the Dark” (Lecture and Discussion)

May 30, 2016; 6 pm (18 Uhr c.t.)
Dekanatssaal, Georg Forster-Gebäude 04-101
Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz

Following decades of electrification and ever-brighter streets and interiors, wartime blackouts came as a big surprise in American cities.  Even before bombs began to fall in Europe, Americans anticipated air raids and began to stage blackout drills, precipitating a crisis in the visual field. Countless individuals and groups began to consider life in “scotopic space,” that is, the sense of space that develops under conditions of little or low lighting. Widespread ambivalence regarding whether or not blackouts were actually needed in the United States prompted numerous explicit justifications from a wide range of advocates. Just about everyone—from government experts to medical researchers, civil defense specialists, soldiers and pilots, judges and attorneys, investment advisors, poets and so on, not to mention ordinary citizens—offered advice on ways to adjust to dimmer surroundings, to infer spatial information from non-visual senses, to become familiar with nightscapes based on specular rather than geometric properties of surfaces and generally how to inhabit and navigate a darkened world. Although the blackouts lasted only a few years in the United States, and no city was ever bombed, they reveal the profile, albeit in negative terms, of how the nation’s visual environment was imagined around 1940.


“Manufacturing Vision” (Workshop)

May 31, 2016; 9 am (9 Uhr c.t.)
Fakultätssaal, Philosophicum, FB 05
Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz

The illumination of spaces dedicated to labor have long been a concern since the quality, speed and duration of productive activity are all affected by the way in which they are lit. But the degree of control possible with electricity heralded a new level of precision in lighting. A host of experts arose, including illuminating engineers, physiologists, cost accountants, efficiency experts, and industrial managers, to devise new scales not only to measure lighting levels but also to quantify its contribution to overall output. For many, lighting objects was less of an issue than enhancing workers’ eyesight as a means of accelerating productivity. At a moment when ideas of scientific management flourished, such experts extended labor relations into the field of perception, effectively trying to Taylorize vision. Seeing, in essence, was being commodified.  A promising topic for discussion would be how best to frame a historical narrative of factory lighting to go beyond the expected theoretical landmark of Foucault writings on surveillance (although surveillance was understood by factory managers as an explicit benefit of enhanced lighting).


“Driving Through the American Night” (Lecture)

June 1, 2016; 10 am (10 Uhr c.t.)
S1, Hörsaalgebäude im Sportinstitut
Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz

Early in the twentieth century, the roving cone of an automobile headlight appeared as a new type of space that was unprecedented in its ubiquitous mobility. Suddenly in conflict with other spaces and with other perceptual habits, the headlight became distinctly social: it was designed, regulated, adjudicated and gendered; it mattered greatly whether you found yourself inside it or outside, whether following it from behind or seeing its leading edge rapidly approaching. Drivers and passengers sat at the vertex of a luminous cavity, pursuing but never entering it, all the while moving through a mantle of dark; at the periphery, other drivers and pedestrians were insulted by the visual violence of sudden glare and the peril of collision. With its beam of projected light coincident with a viewer’s eye, headlights are comparable to cinema, but the visual field generated in night driving is the product of the body’s mechanically-driven motion through space, rather than the virtual recreation of motion through film. However acclimatized our routine encounters with the headlight have since become, the story of the headlight’s rapid diffusion—shaped, navigated, avoided, adjudicated, accommodated—is an extraordinary episode in the formation of a new space by electric light.

Lecture with Prof. Dr. Alan Lessoff on 05/31/16: “A South Texas Port in Tejano and Anglo-Texan History and Lore: Intersecting and Competing Regional Narratives of Corpus Christi, Texas”

Lecture with

Professor Dr. Alan Lessoff

(State University of Illinois)

“A South Texas Port in Tejano and Anglo-Texan History and Lore: Intersecting and Competing Regional Narratives of Corpus Christi, Texas”

May 31, 2016; 4 pm (16 Uhr c.t.)
Philosophicum, Fakultätssaal
Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz

The lecture examines Corpus Christi, Texas – a port, industrial, and tourist city of around 400,000 along the South Texas coast – in order to illustrate the myriad ways that competing, but also intersecting Mexican American and Anglo American understandings of regional history and identity show up in historical accounts of the city and shape the city’s appearance, art and architecture, and cultural politics. Despite its Spanish name, the city was founded in the 1830s by Anglo promoters and developed over the nineteenth century as a launching point of Anglo American commercial expansion into and colonization of the Mexican-U.S. borderlands. That dramatic, often violent experience remains at the heart of local historical discussion and debate, which even after a century of urbanization continues to take the form of competing frontier epics: a south-to-north Hispanic story of gradual colonization overwhelmed by a headlong east-to-west Anglo American invasion.

Download the poster here.

Lecture with Prof. Dr. Martin Jay on 06/07/16: “The Truth about Lying in Politics”

Lecture with

Professor Dr. Martin Jay

(University of California, Berkeley)

“The Truth about Lying in Politics”

June 7, 2016; 4 pm (16 Uhr c.t.)
Philosophicum, Fakultätssaal
Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz

The persistent and ubiquitous presence of hypocrisy, spin and even outright mendacity in political life requires more than moral disapproval. Instead, it is necessary to examine its multiple functions and perhaps even virtues, which will depend in turn on an analysis of what politics itself might mean in its various manifestations. By exploring competing definitions of “the political” and the permeability of its boundaries with what is alleged to be outside them, this talk will try to move beyond conventional deontological or consequentialist considerations of lying in politics.

Download the poster here.