Summer Term 2022

Tuesdays via Zoom


March 29, 6 pm (CET)

Michael Docherty (University of Innsbruck): “The most extraordinary thing that ever was heard of”: Speculative Blackness in Californian Fiction

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This lecture explores the central role played by California in contemporary African American fiction’s theorizations of alternative possibilities for Black existence and experience in the United States. Such fiction, this lecture suggests, responds simultaneously to California’s contested and ambiguous role in histories of African American resistance and liberation, to the absence of Black writers from earlier (but still powerful) visions of the California canon, and to a dichotomous sense of extreme possibility (at once utopian and apocalyptic) that defines the cultural construction of California in the American imagination. For authors from Octavia Butler to Paul Beatty, Dana Johnson to Walter Mosley, California invites – perhaps demands – new ways of thinking about Blackness in America, ways of thinking in which representational decouplings from the “real” perform alienating acts of speculation, counterintuitively making racialized reality hyper-visible. These “speculations” take many forms: from Butler’s science fiction, to Mosley’s recasting of L.A. noir with Black detectives, to Johnson’s revisionist fictionalized biographies of Black Californian pioneers, to the scabrously satirical parallel universe Californias of Beatty and Ishmael Reed. Though their approaches and conclusions differ, what these writers share, this lecture will argue, is a sense that California suggests in the same moment reparative alternatives to American histories of racial injustice and the extrapolation of those histories to instructive extremes.

Michael Docherty is a postdoctoral scholar of 20th- and 21st- century American literature and culture at the University of Innsbruck. His primary research specialism is the multiethnic literary representation of the American West. Other interests include the figure of the bald man in American culture and cultural depictions of Richard Nixon. Michael’s first monograph, The Recursive Frontier: Race, Space, and the Literary Imagination of Los Angeles, is forthcoming from SUNY Press. Recent work has appeared in Textual Practice, Crime Fiction Studies, and the European Journal of American Culture.

April 26, 5 pm (CET)

Annie Gilbert Coleman, (University of Notre Dame): Moving Through Mountains: Thoughts on the History of Sport, Representation, and Power 

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How does skiing illuminate the environmental history of culture and the cultural history of the environment?  Mountain sports function simultaneously as recreation and performances of embodied knowledge and identity.  What they mean and who has access to them emerges through a dynamic relationship between individual experience, cultural production, and structures of capitalism.  Moving through physical environments while situated firmly within an expanding industry and consumer culture, outdoor recreationists, athletes, and guides reflect, reinforce, and occasionally contest the whiteness and masculinity so attached to their sports.  With sources ranging from maps and advertisements to GoPro footage and corporate YouTube channels, this talk will consider how the meaning and practice of skiing, climbing, and other mountain sports in the United States have changed from the 1930s to today. 

Annie Gilbert Coleman is an Associate Professor of American Studies at the University of Notre Dame.  Her research focuses on the cultural and environmental history of outdoor sports and recreation.  Her publications include “The Unbearable Whiteness of Skiing” (Pacific Historical Review, 1994), Ski Style: Sport and Culture in the Rockies (Kansas, 2004), and “Shredding Mountain Lines: GoPro, Mobility, and the Spatial Politics of Outdoor Sports” (in The American Environment Revisited, 2018).  Her second book, a history of American professional outdoor guides and their labor, is under contract with Oxford University Press.  

May 24, 6 pm (CET)

Jennifer Guiliano (Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis): Indian Spectacle: How One School Shaped Football's Halftime Show

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Indian Spectacle: How One School Shaped Football’s Halftime Show argues that the University of Illinois was a central actor in creating the vehicle by which mascotry expanded halftime performance. The dominance of its athletic teams in the early and mid-twentieth century coupled with the exciting performances offered by its internationally-recognized band offered an ever-widening circle of competitors, University administrators, and alumni that were primed to consume the implicit and explicit messages of Indian mascotry. This presentation demonstrates a revisionist history of the establishment of the University of Illinois mascot that locates the creation of “Chief Illiniwek” as a collaborative endeavor developed by Lester Leutwiler (Chief Illiniwek), Ray Dvorak (Assistant Band Director), and three previously unexplored compositions by famous American composers. Importantly, by urging the consideration of halftime as interwoven with football’s commercial expansion, this presentation demonstrates that we must consider sport as a form of cultural communication laden with messages of race, identity, and colonialism.

Dr. Jennifer Guiliano is a white academic living and working on the lands of the Myaamia/Miami, Pokagon Band of Potawatomi, Wea, and Shawnee peoples. She currently holds a position as Associate Professor in the Department of History and affiliated faculty in both Native American and Indigenous Studies and American Studies at IUPUI in Indianapolis, Indiana. She is the author of Indian Spectacle: College Mascots and the Anxiety of Modern America (Rutgers, 2015) and 10 Principles for Teaching Digital History (Duke University Press, May 2022). You can follow her on twitter @jenguiliano.

June 14, 6 pm (CET)

Silke Braselmann (Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena): Addressing Racism in English Language Education - Challenges, Principles, and Some Practical Examples

Zoom Link:

Ever since the Black Lives Matter movement gained new momentum in June 2020, racism has become an increasingly important topic for young adults all over the world: As (mostly younger) people in Berlin, London or Vienna protested the murder of George Floyd alongside the racist attacks and police brutality in their own countries, racism became an integral part of the European discourse on racism. This transcultural and globalized dynamic calls for implementation in English language teaching – with English as lingua franca of the global anti-racism movements and the US as a major point of reference in the discourse, English language teaching (ELT) offers many starting points for critical, self-reflexive and engaged debates and for establishing an anti-racist teaching practice. However, classroom realities differ widely – and so do perspectives on racism. While some learners (and teachers) may encounter racism in their everyday lives, others will not share these experiences or may not be aware of these realities at all. Yet, in order to dismantle racism, one needs to be able to identify and describe it. This talk focuses on the ways in which English language education can help to foster competencies and hone skills that are required to do so – especially in predominantly white settings. Based on a theoretical framework that draws on Critical Race Theory and Critical Whiteness Pedagogy, the talk outlines some of the main aspects and challenges that may arise when racism is addressed in the EFL classroom and offers some ideas and practical examples. By suggesting heuristic principles as well as teaching materials and activities, the talk engages in the ongoing debate about the value and necessity of critical, engaged, and oftentimes uncomfortable teaching practices that actively counter racism – in the classroom and beyond.

Silke Braselmann, Dr. Phil., is postdoctoral researcher and lecturer for Teaching English as a Foreign Language at Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena. Her current research focuses on antiracist English language teaching and teacher education, Young Adult literature, critical media literacy, as well as inter-and transcultural learning in digital spaces. She has published a monograph about the role of (Young Adult) literature and film in the construction of the school shooting discourse (The Fictional Dimension of the School Shooting Discourse: Approaching the Inexplicable, Berlin/Boston: De Gruyter, 2019) and several articles about antiracist, multiperspective or social media-based ELT, for example: “Ecology, Cultural Awareness, Anti-Racism and Critical Thinking: Integrating Multiple Perspectives in Foreign Language Teaching” with Katharina Glas and Laurenz Volkmann (Ecozon@ Vol. 12 Nr. 1. 8-24, 2021).

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