Dear Colleagues, Students and Friends of the Obama Institute:
The Corona pandemic has upset all our plans of teaching and research, also a Fourth of July conference with the Fellows of the Obama Institute. The proliferation of COVID-19 has questioned conventional patterns of political decision making and has challenged the constitution not only of democratic societies. It has brought home to us the urgent need of transnational American studies to which the Obama Institute is dedicated.
Thanks to the support of the state of Rhineland-Palatinate and the Johannes Gutenberg University we have established a research platform on the topic of “Disruption and Democracy in America: Challenges and Potentials of Transcultural and Transnational Formations,” which focuses on the rapid changes caused by forced migration, racial violence, ethnic division, health inequalities, and the legacies of social injustice.
Instead of the planned conference we present the following digital platform of documents and references to the research and publications of members of the Obama Institute which address historical and contemporary aspects of the current developments in the United States. This program reflects our strong research record in diversity studies and the implications for the political recognition of under-represented and under-privileged people. It is a selection of many relevant publications which we invite you to look up on our homepage and in the three published volumes of the Obama Institute Annual Report (2017, 2018, 2019). These titles will guide you to previous work done in Mainz American Studies. We will also establish a Forum section on the Obama Institute homepage as a platform for the exchange of opinions in which we can all share. Please subscribe to our mailing list to stay in frequent touch. We look forward to the end of the lockdown and to returning physically to the classroom.
On behalf of the Executive Board of the Obama Institute for Transnational American Studies, I would like to wish all of us a Happy Fourth of July Celebration in which we honor the America we teach, research and love.
Research and Publications
Banerjee, Mita. “A Kaleidoscope of Color or the Agony of Race? Barack Obama’s Dreams from My Father.” Journal of Transnational American Studies 10.2 (2019/20).
Ernst, Jutta. “‘What Is Africa to Me?’: Blackness and Transgression in Contemporary African Canadian Poetry.” Transgressions/Transformations: Literature and Beyond. Ed. Brigitte Johanna Glaser and Wolfgang Zach. Tübingen: Stauffenburg, 2018. 71-81. Print.
Hornung, Alfred. „#7 Wie steht es um die amerikanische Demokratie?“ Podcast Denkanstoß Demokratie, Landeszentrale für politische Bildung RLP
Listen on SoundCloud or Spotify.
Obenland, Frank, Nele Sawallisch, Johanna Seibert, and Pia Wiegmink, eds. Special Forum on Transnational Black Politics and Resistance: From Enslavement to Obama. Online Publication of The Journal of Transnational American Studies.
Introduction: Obenland, Frank, Nele Swallisch, and Elizabeth J. West. “Introduction: Transnational Black Politics and Resistance: From Enslavement to Obama: Through the Prism of 1619.”
Scheiding, Oliver. “Nineteenth-Century American Indian Newspapers and the Construction of Sovereignty.” The Cambridge History of Native American Literature.” Ed. Melanie Benson Taylor. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2020. 89-112. (Text as PDF accessible with JGU login.)
Raphael-Hernandez, Heike and Pia Wiegmink, eds. German Entanglements in Transatlantic Slavery. Special Issue of Atlantic Studies.
Introduction: Raphael-Hernandez, Heike and Pia Wiegmink. “German Entanglements in Transatlantic Slavery: an Introduction.”
Schäfer, Axel. “Inequality, Ethnopolitics, and Social Welfare: U.S. Health Care Reform in the World War I Era.” Ed. Barbara Hahn, Kerstin Schmidt. Inequality in America: Interdisciplinary Perspectives. Heidelberg: Winter Verlag, 2017. 57-76. (Text as PDF scan accessible with JGU login.)
As members of the Obama Institute at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz and personally, we are terribly saddened to see the developments in the United States of America. We, therefore, express our solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement and those who are protesting for justice and equal rights for all.
The past years have shown that against common belief we are still facing deeply rooted systemic racism in society and public institutions in the United States of America and across the globe in general. There is still a long way to go until we create a society, free of racial bigotry and injustices and we specifically want to acknowledge that it is the responsibility of privileged institutions like us to take it upon themselves to educate, to be educated and no longer to remain silent.
The current unrest in the United States of America and manifestations of systemic racist violence have caused worldwide reactions and concerns about the peaceful co-existence of all groups in democratic societies. As members of the Obama Institute for Transnational American Studies, we stand with the African American community and all other groups who are institutionally oppressed and will offer support to their cause.
We condemn all forms of racism, violence and police brutality and therefore join our exchange partners in the United States in finding peaceful solutions to create a world in which nobody “will […] be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” These common endeavors are part of our teaching and research activities.
It remains an ongoing challenge of academia not only in American Studies to try to contribute towards changing the structures of white supremacy. As members of an institution, it is essential that we reflect on our own biases and the systemic injustices that we, too, may be complicit in perpetuating. Such reflection is all the more important since in our research, we often study the role of white privilege, of implicit or explicit bias, and the mechanisms of hegemony. Yet, such academic knowledge will ultimately be void unless it is translated into the concrete lives we lead, and the decisions we make in both our institutional and our individual lives. For this reason, we believe that our work needs to be comparative; it needs to investigate racial prejudice not only in the US, but in Germany as well.
Our research about the challenges to democracy both in the US and in other parts of the world is dedicated to the pursuit of precisely the pressing needs and questions about the function of democracy in societies undergoing rapid changes in the 21st century whilst combatting inequalities such as health conditions, violence and racial injustice.
We invite our students, colleagues, and friends to join us in believing in the true potentials of multi-ethnic democracies on a transnational scale. Let us honor the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and so many others before them; and let us constantly remind ourselves that we need to resist injustice in whatever shape it may take.
– Team American Studies II
Early America through the Lens of Science Fiction
Laura M. Stevens (University of Tulsa, Oklahoma, USA)
Thursday, June 27, 2019
P 15 – Philosophicum
This talk will consider some of the frameworks that science fiction has provided for depicting and understanding early America. Our focus will be on two main approaches: first, direct contemplation of early American history through the mechanism of time travel, and second, analogical treatments of Euro-American contact through episodes of alien contact with humans. We will also compare the perspectives offered by Native versus non-Native authors. In the first category, we will consider Orson Scott Card’s Pastwatch: The Redemption of Christopher Columbus, “Custer on the Slipstream” by Gerald Vizenor, and Sherman Alexie’s Flight. In the second category we will consider Orson Wells’s, The War of the Worlds, Mary Doria Russell’s The Sparrow, Cixin Liu’s The Three-Body Problem, Celu Amberstone’s Refugees, and Ted Chiang’s Story of Your Life. There will also be some brief consideration of Science Fiction films including Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Alien, Arrival, and District 9. Most of all, we will consider what science fiction or speculative fiction, through the mechanism of what Darko Survin famously termed “Cognitive Estrangement,” helps bring to the fore how shocking and difficult early encounters were between the peoples of Europe and the two continents that would come to be called the Americas. We will, in closing consider what potential science fiction offers for confronting the moral quandaries and horrors that early American history poses. Most of all, we will consider how we in the present day can bring our ethics to bear upon the cultural clashes, exploitations, and violence of the past. We will ask: How does science fiction serve to excuse or indict the sins of the past? Can imaginations of alien encounters or time travel help us understand the decisions that individual humans made over the preceding five centuries, as the peoples and cultures of lands previously separated by an ocean came into contact?
To visit Prof. Stevens website, please click here.
You can download the poster for the event here.
Brenden Rensink (Brigham Young University)
June 11, 2019
4-6 p.m., P 207 (Philosophicum)
Drawing from his recent award-winning book, Native but Foreign: Indigenous Immigrants and Refugees in the North American Borderlands, historian Brenden W. Rensink will compare the histories of indigenous peoples who traversed North American borders in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The Crees who crossed the border from Canada into Montana and Yaquis who migrated across the border into Arizona from Mexico provide unique examples of Native peoples crossing into the United States as laborers, immigrants, and refugees. These histories question how opposing national borders affect and react differently to Native identity, offer new insights into what it has meant to be “indigenous” or an “immigrant,” and complicate familiar narratives in Native American, American West, and Borderlands histories. Rensink’s presentation will hopefully generate as many questions as it answers and urge scholars to reexamine their own research from new angles.
Brenden W. Rensink (Ph.D., 2010) is the Associate Director of the Charles Redd Center for Western Studies and an Associate Professor of History at Brigham Young University. His most recent book, Native but Foreign: Indigenous Immigrants and Refugees in the North American Borderlands won the 2019 Spur Award for Best Historical Nonfiction Book. He is also the co-editor and co-author of four additional books, and author multiple articles, book chapters, and reviews. Rensink is the Project Manager and General Editor of the Intermountain Histories digital public history project and as the Host and Producer of the Writing Westward Podcast.
You can download the poster for the event here.
Ian Afflerbach (University of North Georgia, USA)
June 6, 2019
ROOM CHANGE: 02.102 (Philosophicum II)
This talk examines debates about method in modernist periodical studies and the digital humanities, focusing on recent conversations abount “strong” and “weak” theories of reading. In so doing, the talk would draw on examples from my experience with journals like Partisan Review, The Dial, and Astounding Stories, describing the benefits (and complexities) of conducting research with these journals, as well as teaching with them – a vital benefit of periodical studies that we too often exclude.
Ian Afflerbach is an Assistant Professor of American Literature at the University of North Georgia. He teaches and researches in 20th century American literature and politics, modernism and modernist studies, African-American Literature, periodical culture, and the history of ideas.
You can download the poster for the event here. (Please note the room change as indicated above.)