July 5 – Fourth of July Lectures 2021 🗓

July 5 – Fourth of July Lectures 2021 🗓

We would like to invite everyone to the Obama Institute’s annual Fourth of July Lecture on July 5 (4 p.m.). Members of the OI Executive Board will start by briefly introducing the latest news in Research at the OI, including the recently established SFB 1482 “Humandifferenzierung”, which was approved for its first four years of funding by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) just a few weeks ago.

Then, we will welcome Professor Glenn T. Eskew from Georgia State University for a talk on “The Ongoing Ideological Struggle ‘To Redeem the Soul of America’ and the World” before Dr. habil. René Dietrich will give his Öffentliche Antrittsvorlesung on “Viet Thanh Nguyen’s Fiction and Being Committed in/to American Studies” in order to formally complete his Habilitation and receive his Venia Legendi.

Please see below or here for more details on the talks and our schedule.


July 5, 4 – 8 p.m.
You can join the event on MS Teams at any time for any or all talks by following the link on the poster or here: https://tinyurl.com/xrx8c9y2

An installation of the MS Teams application is recommended but not necessary. MS Teams will also let you access the meeting in a browser through its web client. Google Chrome or Microsoft Edge work best. Apple’s Safari is not fully supported!

RSVP to c.plicht@uni-mainz.de is welcome but not necessary. If you register, you will receive an email through MS Teams with the link and Teams calendar event prior to the event.


4.00 – 4.30 p.m.
Welcome and Introduction
Latest OI Research News
OI Executive Board Members

4.30 – 5.45 p.m.
Fourth of July Guest Lecture with Q&A
“The Ongoing Ideological Struggle ‘To Redeem the Soul of America’ and the World”
Professor Glenn T. Eskew
Georgia State University, USA

5.45 – 6.00 p.m. BREAK

6.00 – 8.00 p.m.
Öffentliche Antrittsvorlesung
“Viet Thanh Nguyen’s Fiction and Being Committed in/to American Studies”
Dr. habil. René Dietrich
JGU Obama Institute


“The Ongoing Ideological Struggle ‘To Redeem the Soul of America’ and the World” – Professor Glenn T. Eskew
On January 6, 2021, the nation and world watched in horror as reactionaries attacked the United States Capitol in an effort to stop the certification of duly elected Joe Biden as the 45th President in the most extreme example of an ongoing conflict over the nation’s future. The violent clash of interests on display in Washington that day finds its roots extending fifty years into the past when postwar America’s ideological consensus began to crack. While fundamental changes in political economy, society, and culture have marked the decades since then, the United States has yet to recoalesce around a renewed ideology, although efforts have been made to do so in a landscape of competing memories. Increasingly cast as a geopolitical fight between autocracy and democracy, advocates of an inclusive American system harken back to the founding ideals of the nation in a bid to articulate a vision forward for global peace and prosperity.

“Viet Thanh Nguyen’s Fiction and Being Committed in/to American Studies” – Dr. habil. René Dietrich
In a novel following the path of a Vietnamese Refugee veering between local drug gangs and leftist circles in Paris of the early 1980s, America might seem far from one’s mind. And yet, with the novel featuring a character naming himself “Le Cao Boi” (pronounced Cowboy), engaging the observation that American imperialism exists in alignment with European colonization, and asking how U.S. racism is used to excuse French racism inherited as part of its colonial legacy, America never seems far off the novel’s focus either. Thus, I want to show how The Committed, by Vietnamese-American Pulitzer price-winning author Viet Thanh Nguyen can best be approached through an American Studies perspective that is itself committed to questions of the transnational, (anti-)imperial, and decolonial. Doing so, I am also exploring what it means to me to be committed to these principles of critical inquiry in my own approach to American Studies.

June 29 – The Poetry Reading Series: Javier Zamora (USA) 🗓

June 29 – The Poetry Reading Series: Javier Zamora (USA) 🗓

The Poetry Reading Series: Javier Zamora (USA)

Tuesday, 29 June at 7:00 p.m.

(co-organized and sponsored by the University of Duisburg-Essen, the Obama Institute, and Studienprogramm Q+)

Zoom: https://uni-due.zoom.us/j/64684497115?pwd=TUttQXFQSWRWMmN0MTdxR1NBODQvQT09

In a 2014 interview for the National Endowment for the Arts Works Blog, Javier Zamora states, “I think in the United States we forget that writing and carrying that banner of ‘being a poet’ is tied into a long history of people that have literally risked [their lives] and died to write those words.”

Join us for an evening of poetry with Javier Zamora, acclaimed author of the full-length poetry collection Unaccompanied (Copper Canyon Press, 2017), featuring poetry written about his experience travelling without documentation from El Salvador to the United States to be reunited with his parents at the tender age of 9. Zamora will read from this collection as well as some newer material and discuss the writing process. At the end of the reading, there will be time for a short Q&A with the poet.

Currently, Javier Zamora is engaged at JGU leading “ReWriting Migrant Integration: Creative Writing as a Chance for Intercultural Exchange,” a seminar and creative writing workshop, together with Dr. Eva Klein and Ana Elisa Gomez Laris as part of this semester’s Studienprogramm Q+ course offering. Alongside Q+ students, two students from the Obama Institute are also taking part in this course. More information on this course may be found here.

Zamora holds a BA from UC Berkeley and an MFA from NYU. Over the years, he has been the recipient of the 2015 National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, the 2016 Ruth Lilly Fellowship, a 2016-2018 Wallace Stegner Fellowship, the 2017 Lannan Literary Fellowship, and the 2017 Narrative Prize. His memoir, Solito, is slated to be published by Random House in 2022.

For questions about Javier Zamora’s reading or on the The Poetry Reading Series in general, please contact Prof. Dr. Florian Freitag or Ana Elisa Gomez Laris (both from the University of Duisburg-Essen).

Dec 15: Online Guest Lecture “Claiming ‘The Great Black North’ in Contemporary Short Stories from Canada” 🗓

Dec 15: Online Guest Lecture “Claiming ‘The Great Black North’ in Contemporary Short Stories from Canada” 🗓

Claiming ‘The Great Black North’ in Contemporary Short Stories from Canada

Dr. Nele Sawallisch
(Catholic University Eichstätt-Ingolstadt, Germany)

Dec 15, 09:40-11:00, BigBlueButton

Free access: https://bbb.rlp.net/b/ern-ciz-knc-2v5
(BigBlueButton does not require a standalone app and works best on Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome. Safari and other browsers can cause technical issues.)

Canada’s popular moniker of “the Great White North” has long exceeded its reference to the land of ice and snow, assuming another metaphorical meaning in the context of the country’s demographic. Despite the adoption of an official policy of multiculturalism in the latter half of the 20th century, to immigrant populations as well as BIPoC in Canada, the country has often proven less than welcoming both in diachronic and synchronic perspectives. This talk therefore considers short fiction by Black Canadian and second-generation Black authors that negotiates the intersections of Blackness, Canada, and belonging. On the one hand, their short stories posit experiences of discrimination and racism as facts in the daily lives of BIPoC in Canada despite its professions of a tolerant multicultural society. On the other hand, the authors also appropriate and claim Canada’s geography to map histories, presents, and futures of a “Great Black North” that “remix[es]” (Mason-John and Cameron 2014) Canada’s story as we know it.

Dr. Nele Sawallisch works as a senior lecturer in American Studies at Catholic University Eichstätt- Ingolstadt, Germany. Her first monograph Fugitive Borders: Black Canadian Cross-Border Literature at Mid-Nineteenth Century (transcript, 2019) discusses community-building processes and genealogies in autobiographical writing by formerly enslaved men from the 1850s in the North American borderland between the United States and Canada.

You can download the poster here.

We are very much looking forward to seeing you (electronically) at the lecture!

Nov 26 – Thanksgiving Obama Lecture, Obama Dissertation Prize & Galinsky Memorial Prize 🗓

Nov 26 – Thanksgiving Obama Lecture, Obama Dissertation Prize & Galinsky Memorial Prize 🗓

Nov. 26, 2020 – 16.15 – 18.00 – BigBlueButton


Come join us online for the annual Thanksgiving Obama Lecture, where we will hear from the Obama Institute’s Executive Board members about the OI’s activities and current research and will award the Obama Dissertation Prizes as well as the Galinsky Prize for outstanding PhD and undergrad work. Each recipient will present their project and we will open a conversation about their work as part of and in relation to the research conducted at the OI.

Please download the flyer here or see below. It includes more information and access details.




Nov 14-21 + Nov 19: On-demand Film Screening + Talk and Q&A with filmmaker Yehuda Sharim (UC Merced) 🗓

Nov 14-21 + Nov 19: On-demand Film Screening + Talk and Q&A with filmmaker Yehuda Sharim (UC Merced) 🗓

Watch Songs That Never End (2019) on-demand
Nov. 14-21 (register on eventbrite)

Talk with filmmaker Yehuda Sharim
Nov. 19, 6 pm CET (on BigBlueButton)


The Obama Institute is hosting a week-long on-demand film screening (Nov 14-21, https://obamainstitute.eventbrite.com) of Yehuda Sharim’s documentary film Songs that Never End (2019). Part of a trilogy, with Seeds of All Things, Songs that Never End offers a lyrical, poetic, and intimate portrayal of the emotional histories tied to displacement and immigration.

Having fled their home in Iran, the Dayan family is greeted in Houston with hurricanes and perilous politics. Nine-year-old Hana is bold and brilliant and struggles to be heard while her family comes to grips with life in the sprawling Texan metropolis, constantly reaching out to all that is gone but is still here: a hunger for the future, and songs about a kind world.

In addition, the filmmaker has kindly agreed to be available for an online talk and Q&A session (Nov 19, 18:00, https://bbb.rlp.net/b/pli-yvk-y8a-lot) about his film.

Come join us and share your questions and thoughts on the film or simply listen to the discussion!

For more details and all links to the event, please see or download the poster here or click on the image below.


Please note: BigBlueButton does not require a standalone app. Please use Firefox or Chrome to access.

Direct Exchange – Info Sessions 2020 for Programs in 2021/22 🗓

Direct Exchange – Info Sessions 2020 for Programs in 2021/22 🗓

On Nov 11 the Obama Institute will hold info sessions on its Direct Exchange programs. Please join us on BigBlueButton for more information about the exciting exchange opportunities!

Nov 11, 6-7 p.m.
Universities Group A (https://bbb.rlp.net/b/mee-xih-fuc-v4k)

Nov 11, 7-8 p.m.
Universities Group B (https://bbb.rlp.net/b/vel-uyc-szp-ypo)

Please find all details regarding each session on the flyer, which is available for download here and on the Exchange page.

Looking forward to seeing you online!

Anne Bull, Sandra Meerwein, Nina Heydt, and Julia Velten