Dec 10 – “The Status of American Democracy” – Lecture Series (zoom) 🗓

Dec 10 – “The Status of American Democracy” – Lecture Series (zoom) 🗓

“The Status of American Democracy”

Moustafa Bayoumi (Brooklyn College, City University of New York)
David Sirakov (Atlantic Academy Rheinland-Pfalz)
Sean M. Theriault (The University of Texas at Austin)
Chad E. Seales (The University of Texas at Austin)

Friday, 10 December, 2.15 p.m. – 6 p.m.

Zoom Access:
Meeting Code: 874368

Everyone is welcome to join us for this series of guest lectures on the status of American democracy!

Please see below for all details or click here for an overview of the program.


The Obama Institute for Transnational American Studies organizes a lecture series by internationally renowned fellows of the Obama Institute and eminent critics of current crises and challenges of democracy as visible in the United States of America and elsewhere. For long, American democracy has served as an exemplary model for the introduction and practice of democratic principles which have inspired and determined transnationally the growth of nations. Germany is certainly one of the prime examples.
In his publications, Barack Obama has repeatedly addressed issues of democracy in crisis and questioned for whom democracy works at home and abroad. „And so the world watches America … to see if our experiment in democracy can work“ and he continues to believe „in the possibility of America—not just for the sake of future generations of Americans but for all of humankind“ (A Promised Land). We will begin with the following lectures:

2.20 p.m.
“That’s the thing about the Americans. They’ll believe anything but the truth.”: What reading Guantánamo Bay Literature Can Tell Us About the Future of American Democracy
Moustafa Bayoumi

Abstract: Since near the beginning of the War on Terror, the American penal colony in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba has been considered by many to be an “exceptional” space, a prison seeking to exist beyond the reach of the laws of war. But what happens if we consider Guantánamo Bay as something “ordinary” instead? In so doing, do we discover, within this very ordinariness, an even more pressing threat to the future of American democracy? This lecture takes up these questions and examines them through reading some of the contemporary literature that has been produced out of Guantánamo Bay.

Bio: Moustafa Bayoumi is the author of How Does It Feel To Be a Problem?: Being Young and Arab in America (Penguin) and This Muslim American Life: Dispatches from the War on Terror (NYU Press). He is also the co-editor (with Andrew Rubin) of The Edward Said Reader (Vintage), which was recently reissued in an expanded edition as The Selected Works of Edward Said (1966-2006). Bayoumi is a regular contributor to The Guardian and The Nation and is a professor of English at Brooklyn College, City University of New York.

3.15 p.m.
The Populist Moment: Populism and Polarization in the US
– David Sirakov

Abstract: Political and societal polarization in the U.S. at least over the past 30 years has paved the way for the rise of populism and the electoral victory of Donald J. Trump. In his talk, David Sirakov explores the meaning and interrelation of these two phenomena that so profoundly shape US politics and society today.

Bio: Dr. Sirakov is the director of the Atlantic Academy Rheinland-Pfalz. He studied political science and public law at the University of Trier and obtained his doctorate on the U.S.-Russian relations in the Bush-Putin era (2000-2008) at the Technical University Kaiserslautern. His research focuses on polarization in U.S. Congress and American society, the rise and challenges of authoritarian populism, U.S. foreign policy and transatlantic relations. Amongst others, he is a member of the advisory boards of the Obama Institute for Transnational American Studies.

4.15 p.m.
American Politics and the Midterm Elections 2022
– Sean M. Theriault

Abstract: Professor Theriault will describe the status of American politics at the end of 2021 with an eye toward the 2022 midterm elections. He will place these elections into a broader context taking into consideration both the lessons from history and the polling of today.  He will end his presentation with his predictions of what is likely to transpire in November 2022.

Bio: Professor Theriault, who is a University Distinguished Teaching Professor in the Government Department at the University of Texas,  is fascinated by congressional decision-making. He is the author of five books and numerous articles and is currently researching the effect of interpersonal relationships within the U.S. Congress. Professor Theriault, whose classes include the U.S. Congress, Congressional Elections, Party Polarization in the United States, and the Politics of the Catholic Church, has won a number of the biggest teaching awards given on campus.  Before obtaining his Ph.D. from Stanford University (2001; M.A. in Political Science in 2000), he attended the University of Richmond (B.A., 1993), and the University of Rochester (M.S. in Public Policy Analysis, 1996).

5.15 p.m.
The System Will Not Be Labeled: Industrial Food and American Democracy
– Chad E. Seales

Abstract: This talk examines the relationship between the industrial food system and participatory democracy in the United States. It focuses on the lack of transparent labeling for Genetically Modified (GM) foods, despite citizen support for effective federal legislation, to show how the marketing of biotechnology obscures relationships between production and consumption. On the side of production, biotech companies clearly brand and market GM seeds to farmers, in order to protect their proprietary claims. However, on the side of consumption, biotech companies do not reveal GM ingredients of food products produced through industrial agriculture. The goal of the talk is to consider how the producer/consumer split is part of a broader American secularism that hides the very industrial and consumer religions it produces within neoliberal democratic ideals of free markets, personal choice, and moral goodness.

Bio: Chad Seales is Associate Professor of Religious Studies and Brian F. Bolton Distinguished Professor in Secular Studies. He taught at New College of Florida in Sarasota and George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia before arriving at The University of Texas at Austin. He earned a B.A from the University of Florida, an M.T.S. from Candler School of Theology at Emory University, and a Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His research addresses the cultural relationship between religion and secularism in American life, as evident in the social expressions of evangelical Protestants, the moral prescriptions of workplace chaplains and corporate managers, and the salvific promises of neoliberal capitalism. He is the author of Religion Around Bono: Evangelical Enchantment and Neoliberal Capitalism (Penn State University Press, 2019), and The Secular Spectacle: Performing Religion in a Southern Town (Oxford University Press, 2013),and has published articles on industrial religion, corporate chaplaincy, religion and film, and secularism and secularization in the United States.

Nov 26 – “Identity, Regional Conceptualization, and the Pacific” (Dr. Craig Santos Perez) – zoom 🗓

Nov 26 – “Identity, Regional Conceptualization, and the Pacific” (Dr. Craig Santos Perez) – zoom 🗓

“Identity, Regional Conceptualization, and the Pacific”

Dr. Craig Santos Perez (U of Hawai’i at Manoa)

Friday, 26 November, 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. (s.t.)

Everyone is welcome to join us for this guest lecture!
Please see and download the poster below for more details and the zoom access link.

If you have further questions, please contact Sandra Meerwein, who will host this guest lecture as part of her course on “Transpacific American Studies”.

Nov 25 – Thanksgiving Obama Lecture, Obama Dissertation Prize & Galinsky Memorial Prize – Antrittsvorlesung Reisner 🗓

Nov 25 – Thanksgiving Obama Lecture, Obama Dissertation Prize & Galinsky Memorial Prize – Antrittsvorlesung Reisner 🗓

Nov. 25, 2021 – 15.30-17.30 – Obama Lecture – Dekanatssaal (ReWi, 03-150)

Come join us for the annual Thanksgiving Obama Lecture, where we will hear a lecture on “Graphic Narratives of the Middle Passage” by Prof. Dr. Daniel Stein from the University of Siegen and will give out awards for outstanding undergrad and PhD work.

Please see the flyer below for details.

Nov. 25, 2021 – 18.00 – Antrittsvorlesung Reisner – Online (MS Teams)

Following the Obama Lecture and Award Ceremonies, please join us online on MS Teams for Dr. habil Philipp Reisner’s Öffentliche Antrittsvorlesung on “Crises of Faith in Jonathan Franzen’s Fiction and the Role of Theology in American Studies”


OI Welcomes GAAS/DAAD Visiting Lecturer Hugh Sheehy 🗓

OI Welcomes GAAS/DAAD Visiting Lecturer Hugh Sheehy 🗓


GAAS/DAAD Visiting Lecturer Hugh Sheehy

Winter Term 2021/22

Prof. Hugh Sheehy (Ramapo College, NJ)

The Obama Institute welcomes Prof. Hugh Sheehy, author and Professor for Creative Writing and Literature at Ramapo College, NJ. Prof. Sheehy will spend the winter semester 2021/22 as a teaching fellow of the German Academic Exchange Service (GAAS/DAAD) at Johannes Gutenberg University, Mainz, where he will offer seminars on the American short story as well as a creative writing workshop.

Prof. Sheehy is the author of several award-winning short stories and two forthcoming novels. His collection of stories, The Invisibles (University of Georgia Press, 2011), has won the 2012 Flannery O’Connor Award and has since been translated into French. His fiction has appeared in magazines such as Five Points, The Cincinnati Review, The Kenyon Review, Glimmer Train, The Antioch Review, Crazyhorse, and Copper Nickel, as well as in The Best American Mystery Stories 2008. His critical work has been published in several outlets, including the L.A. Review of Books. He sits on the advisory board of the Hong Kong Review. In his teaching, Prof. Sheehy focuses on creative writing of long- and short-form prose as well as poetry.

The Obama Institute and Johannes Gutenberg University are excited to have Prof. Sheehy join our team this semester. We look forward to offering JGU students a unique round of courses and workshops that will allow them to engage with American literature in new ways, by approaching writing from a maker’s perspective. We thank the GAAS/DAAD for making this visit possible.

Damien Schlarb (project coordinator)


sponsored by

Sep 15 – Von Dumbo zur Eiskönigin: Das Walt Disney-Imperium und die Entwicklung der Zeichentrickklassiker (Univ.-Prof. Mag. Dr. Stefan Brandt) 🗓

Sep 15 – Von Dumbo zur Eiskönigin: Das Walt Disney-Imperium und die Entwicklung der Zeichentrickklassiker (Univ.-Prof. Mag. Dr. Stefan Brandt) 🗓

Let’s Talk America – Online Lecture

“Von Dumbo zur Eiskönigin: Das Walt Disney-Imperium und die Entwicklung der Zeichentrickklassiker”

Univ.-Prof. Mag. Dr. Stefan Brandt (University of Graz)

Wednesday, 15 September, 6:00 p.m. – 7.30 p.m.

Please visit for more details and access information. 

(organized by Atlantische Akademie Rheinland-Pfalz and the Obama Institute)

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.