CfP: Labor and Capital in U.S. History 🗓

CfP: Labor and Capital in U.S. History 🗓

Dear colleagues,

after this year’s annual meeting of the historians in the DGfA/GAAS had to move online, we hope that many of us will be able to come together next year for a more in-person event, though we are planning on virtual components for those who may still be kept from traveling.

The Annual Meeting of the Historians in the German Association for American Studies (DGfA) will take place February 11-13, 2022, at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, Germany.

We are delighted to present you with a call for papers for this event:

Call for Papers: Labor and Immigration in U.S. History

The transnational turn has introduced significant new perspectives on the history of labor and capitalism in the United States. While the state remains an important object of analysis, decentering the nation in labor history provides additional lenses that focus on circulations, interactions, and connections below or beyond the nation-state. According to Ian Tyrell, they focus attention on exchanges across national boundaries, the impact of asymmetrical power exerted by one nation, and networks of relations not contained by nation-states. In questioning a coherent, all-encompassing national narrative, the voices and visions of people and groups who have been marginalized in the context of a nationalist myopia are reclaimed. The experiences of non-citizens and migrants, labor sojourners and “birds of passage,” inhabitants of border regions, workers of international corporations, and new digital and remote workers help provide a more complete and more complex picture of what both labor and capital have meant in various historical contexts. Negotiations of labor rights, property rights, the rights of capital or corporate personship from the emergent nation-state to globalization accounts for different appraisals of labor heroes or radicals, benevolent tycoons or robber barons. Historians such as Kiran Klaus Patel, for example, root the history of the New Deal in a global context, connecting the history of labor and capital to that of U.S. hegemony in the twentieth century. Others, such as Julie Greene, connect the immigrant experience with American empire. Likewise, Donna Gabaccia focuses on the migration world of Italian workers, and Mae Ngai traces the role of “impossible” illegal immigrant workers in the making of America.

This conference seeks to put into communication various strands of the recent historiography in labor history. To this end, we invite both individual papers and panel proposals on topics including:

Please send short CVs and abstracts for individual papers of no longer than 500 words and in the case of a panel proposal an additional introduction of no longer than 300 words to the organizers until July 23, 2021 to this address:

  • the changing world of labor (industrialization, urbanization, post-industrialization, digitalization, etc.)
  • labor strife
  • labor and gender
  • labor, race, ethnicity, and migration
  • internationalization of labor markets
  • working class culture and solidarity
  • changing forms of employment (small-self-employed farmers to employees and factory workers, to the new gig-economy)
  • labor and space (from home-production and small workshops, to industrial spaces, the open plan office, and call centers, to post-industrial coworking spaces, creative office playrooms, and work from home setups)
  • labor in different geographical contexts
  • the contemporary role and perception of capital and capitalists during a given historical era

Due to continuing uncertainties regarding travel and in-person meetings because of the COVID-19 pandemic, this conference will take place in a hybrid format at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz and online. When applying, please indicate whether you plan on attending in person or joining us virtually. For those attending in person, we will provide information on accommodation, but please make sure to organize your own stay in Mainz.

Up to date information on the conference, including this call for papers, can always be found at:

We hope to welcome many of you in Mainz next year!

Axel Schäfer
Anja-Maria Bassimir
Torsten Kathke

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:

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 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.

OI Projects Receive Funding as Part of New Collaborative Research Center “Human Differentiation” (SFB 1482; DFG) 🗓

OI Projects Receive Funding as Part of New Collaborative Research Center “Human Differentiation” (SFB 1482; DFG) 🗓

DFG (German Research Foundation) approves €10m in funding for a new Collaborative Research Center on “Human Differentiation” (SFB 1482)

The Obama Institute proudly confirms its participation in the new Collaborative Reseach Center “Human Differentiation” (SFB 1482), which has recently been approved for funding by the German Research Foundation (DFG). The Center will be established in July 2021 with an initial funding period of four years and potential renewals for up to twelve years.

The Center brings together a multitude of different research areas from the Social and Cultural Studies at Johannes Gutenberg University, Mainz (JGU) in order to explore categories of human differentiation. It will also build and establish a theoretical framework for the analysis of processes of categorization. 

Prof. Dr. Mita Banerjee, Prof. Dr. Axel Schäfer, and Prof. Dr. Oliver Scheiding of the Obama Institute will each be leading a project group within the CRC:

  • “Successful Aging: Best Agers at the Intersection between Differentiating Age and Achievement” (TP A04 Banerjee)
  • “Curated Bodies: Aesthetic Human Categorization and Bodily Differentiation in Magazines” (TP A06 Scheiding)
  • “Migration and Welfare States in the USA: Global and National Dynamics in Bureaucratic Human Differentiation” (TP B06 Schäfer)

For more details, please see the JGU and DFG press releases:

Happy Holidays! 🗓

Happy Holidays! 🗓

On behalf of the faculty and staff at the Obama Institute for Transnational American Studies at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, we thank you – our supporters, colleagues, students, and friends – for another successful year filled with meaningful and inspiring projects, alas, pursued under Corona conditions.

We look forward to collaborating with you, hopefully in person, in 2021 and wish you and your loved ones:
Happy Holidays and all the best for the New Year!

The Executive Board of the Obama Institute

(Univ.-Prof. Dr. Mita Banerjee, Univ.-Prof. Dr. Jutta Ernst, Univ.-Prof. Dr. Alfred Hornung, Univ.-Prof. Dr. Axel Schäfer, Univ.-Prof. Dr. Oliver Scheiding)


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:
(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 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, 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, 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.