Jan 22 – Discovering Difference: A Narrative Medicine  Investigation of Lived Retrospective Diagnosis 🗓

Jan 22 – Discovering Difference: A Narrative Medicine Investigation of Lived Retrospective Diagnosis 🗓

Danielle Spencer (Columbia University)

January 22, 2019, 12-2 p.m. 02-709 Georg-Forster Gebäude


In this project I “diagnose” a phenomenon I term discovering difference: the experience of newly learning in adulthood that one has a longstanding cognitive or perceptual difference from the norm, particularly one that may be considered pathological. It can occur when the condition has remained undetected, such as becoming aware that one is colorblind, and/or when the diagnostic categories themselves have shifted, as with the emergence of autism spectrum disorders or ADHD. This phenomenon has received relatively scant attention, yet learning of an unknown condition is frequently a significant and bewildering revelation, subverting narrative expectations and customary categories. In addressing the topic I articulate and deploy an evolution of narrative medicine as a robust research methodology comprising interdisciplinarity, narrative attentiveness, and creating a writerly text. Beginning with my own experience of discovering difference, I explore the issues it raises—from communicability to narrative intelligibility to different ways of seeing. Next, I map the phenomenon’s distinctive narrative arc through the stages of recognition, subversion, and renegotiation, and finally discuss this trajectory in light of others’ experiences. I propose that interdisciplinary understanding as well as the figure of blindsight—drawn from my own experience—offers a productive model for negotiating such revelations and for holding different forms of knowledge in generative tension. Better understanding discovering difference will aid those directly affected; moreover, it serves as a bellwether for how we will all navigate advancing biomedical and genomic knowledge, and how we may integrate medico-scientific revelations with what we understand to be our identities.

Danielle Spencer is a faculty member of the Program in Narrative Medicine at Columbia University. She is a co-author of The Principles and Practice of Narrative Medicine (Oxford University Press, 2017) and her work appears in a range of outlets, from Ploughshares to The Lancet. Her research interests include the intersection between narrative, identity, and diagnosis; bioethics and speculative fiction, and healthcare professions pedagogy. Spencer worked as artist/musician David Byrne’s Art Director for many years, collaborating on and exhibiting a range of projects, as well as with photographer Nan Goldin. She holds a B.A. from Yale University and an M.S. in Narrative Medicine from Columbia University, and a Ph.D. des. in American Studies at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz.

You can download the poster for this talk here.

Jan 21 – American Studies Summer School – Info Session 🗓

Jan 21 – American Studies Summer School – Info Session 🗓

Apply for the American Studies Summer School 2019!

The Civil Rights Movement, Southern Literature, and Southern Food & Music

Experience a unique and intensive research and learning opportunity focusing on the American South. The Obama Institute offers this three-week American Studies Summer School traveling through Arkansas, Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, and Tennessee from the end of July to mid-August. This educational trip provides students with courses in language, literature, and cultural studies. Starting in Little Rock, Arkansas and ending in Washington DC, participants will study the Civil Rights Movement, the history of food and music in the US South, and Southern Literature. They benefit from lectures, readings, and films, as well as on-site learning. Summer School participants can receive course credits in Independent Studies, Cultural Studies, or Written English.

Monday, January 21 at 4pm, Room P 11

If you cannot come to the info session, please contact:
Nina Heydt (niheydt@uni-mainz.de) or Julia Velten (juvelten@uni-mainz.de)

Jan 16–18 – Keeping the Faith: Glaube und Journalismus – Conference Room, Helmholtz Institute. Organized by Prof. Oliver Scheiding and Anja-Maria Bassimir 🗓

Jan 16–18 – Keeping the Faith: Glaube und Journalismus – Conference Room, Helmholtz Institute. Organized by Prof. Oliver Scheiding and Anja-Maria Bassimir 🗓

Religious media are part of the knowledge production of faith communities. As producers, disseminators and archivists they play important roles for perpetuating a certain faith tradition. In this workshop, we will analyze how religious journalists and others involved in producing religious online and print media work and thus nourish and support religious affiliation. For this purpose, we will look at three areas of religious journalism: content, technology, and the larger religious network.


Religiöse Medien sind Teil der Wissensproduktion einer Glaubensgemeinschaft. Als Produzenten, Verteiler und Archivare spielen Medien eine wichtige Rolle bei der Erhaltung und Weiterführung einer Glaubenstradition. In diesem Workshop setzen wir uns damit auseinander, wie religiöse Journalisten und andere, die an der Produktion von religiösen online Inhalten und Printmedien beteiligt sind, arbeiten und so religiöse Zugehörigkeit pflegen und unterstützen. Daher werden wir uns mit drei Bereichen des religiösen Journalismus auseinandersetzen: Inhalten, Technologien und dem Netzwerk.


Download the program for the workshop here.
Jan 17 – Fake News! The Media Debate in the United States – A Panel Discussion organized by Anja-Maria Bassimir 🗓

Jan 17 – Fake News! The Media Debate in the United States – A Panel Discussion organized by Anja-Maria Bassimir 🗓

The panel, “Fake News! The Media Debate in the United States,” will take place on January 17, at 6 pm, in the conference room (135) of the Helmholtz Institute, Staudingerweg 19, Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz.
Since “fake news” is an oft-used term in contemporary debate, used to both criticize shortcomings of the information age and employed as an accusation that discredits some media outlets, we want to engage the issue from several perspectives.
The panel will include Mark Galli, the editor in chief of the evangelical Christianity Today (who will be in Mainz for the workshop on religious magazines), who will speak to the question what challenges the “fake news” debate brings to religious journalism and how he and his staff address it. The panel will also include Dr. Philipp Reisner from the University of Düsseldorf – who will provide historical context on the debate, Dr. Torsten Kathke from the University of Mainz – who will discuss the role of social media, and Dr. Damien Schlarb – who will focus on “fake news” as a cultural phenomenon helped along by economic and technological factors. Students Sandra Meerwein, Benedikt Schneider, and Sophia Martin are ready to lead the discussion with questions and examples from today and from history.
You can find the poster for the event here.
4th of July Celebration 2018 at the Obama Institute

4th of July Celebration 2018 at the Obama Institute

The second annual 4th of July celebration at the Obama Institute picked up on Frederick Douglass’s famous oration, ”What to the American Slave Is the 4th of July?”

Obama Institute Speaker and board member Prof. Alfred Hornung made this connection in his introductory remarks. He welcomed Obama Fellow Prof. Celeste-Marie Bernier (University of Edinburgh) who held an engaging lecture titled “Suffering, Struggle, Survival: The Activism, Artistry, and Authorship of Frederick Douglass and Family (1818–2018).”


After lunch, the poster exhibit once again presented institute research to the public. Faculty members, graduate students, and students of the Obama Institute answered questions about their current research projects.

In the evening, Prof. Gerd Hurm (Trier University) held his timely lecture “On Documentary ‘Fakes’: Edward Steichen and Key Is- sues in 20th Century American Photographic Discourse.”




A joint summer fête of the department bookended this year’s 4th of July. Board members, students, and faculty continued discussions about the topics touched off by the day’s activities.