Courses offered at the Summer School 2018

Course 1

Crossing Borders: Environment, Futurity and Migration

Prof. Dr. Hermann Wittenberg, University of the Western Cape, South Africa

The sustainability of the biosphere, the evolving nature of being human in the digital age, and a concern with global social justice, are questions that increasingly shape contemporary debates and thinking. We will critically examine a diversity of contemporary cultural forms (both textual and visual) that engage with these questions, focusing on the idea of border experience. The border, both spatial and conceptual, is a fluid, contested and unstable site in our contemporary world, and crossing borders between the known and the unknown, between self and other, or the present and an imagined future, constitute the “liquid modernity” of our times.

The course has three broad, interlinked areas of focus:

•             ‘Hot, Flat and Crowded’: Environment and Futurity

•             Species Crossings / Becoming Technical of the Human

•             Migrant Fictions in the North and South


Course 2

Culture, Identity, Globalization

Prof. Gregory J. Lobo, Ph.D., Universidad de los Andes, Colombia

Globalization has been linked to a rise in both madness and suicide, as traditional cultural paradigms have weakened and identity formation has become more open and less restrictive. We are at a paradoxical time in history in which people have to choose to be authentic, to be traditional, or can choose to be something unprecedented: we can cross international borders, but we can also cross identity borders, opting into and out of gendered, sexual, tribal, and even class and national identifications that were, once upon a time, unquestionable.

This class re-searches notions of identity and culture in the context of globalization, asking questions like: What is identity and how can it change? The same can be asked of culture; so, what does it mean to have a culture? Or, in what ways does culture have us? How should we understand globalization, and what does it mean for borders, both personal and collective? Are we all more similar or more different as a result? What is the role of communication and media in all this? Globalization would seem to be pushing us towards some sort of convergence, and yet, in many countries today neighbors are more foreign to each other than ever before. (Examples include: Brexit, the Trump phenomenon, and the peace process in Colombia—students will be asked to contribute their own examples.)

Class texts come from Indian, Chinese, Turkish, as well as European and North American intellectuals. We will watch some short videos and one longer film (Men, women and children. Dir. Jason Reitman, 2014B. Beyond the classroom, we will take at least one class period to the streets of Mannheim, to see what sense we can make of how culture and identity in the time of globalization and the deconstruction of borders are actually lived.


Course 3

Crossing Borders through Communication Technologies - Then and Now

Prof. Christine McWebb, Ph.D., University of Waterloo, Canada

In this course, students will be introduced to key moments in western history, in which communication networks (i.e., the interlinking of knowledge and information on a large scale) enabled the crossing of social and geographical borders. We will investigate the socio-cultural and political impact information technologies, such as the printing press of Renaissance Europe, early cinema and photography at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century, and the interactive internet of the 21st century, had on an increasingly interconnected world. To carry out these investigations, students will be introduced to research methods and theoretical concepts from (trans)media theory and cultural studies that will enable them to think, speak, and write critically about information and networked technologies in a historical and global context.

Sample topics for lectures and discussions:

Ø  What did the coming of print and the printed word mean for the Europe of the late Middle Ages and the early Renaissance? - Crossing borders through the dissemination of intellectual, religious and political information

Ø  Twentieth-century cinema as a means to spread fascist propaganda across Europe – Crossing borders through political thought

Ø  The digital revolution facilitates and enables a globalized world – Crossing borders between virtuality and reality


Course 4

Intercultural Encounters in German and Austrian Cinema

Prof. Dr. Thomas Wortmann, University of Mannheim, Germany

This seminar asks how German and Austrian films deal with questions of identity by establishing intercultural encounters. While there will be some sessions on film history classics, the course will mainly focus on contemporary cinema - and, yes, even German comedies. All films are available with English subtitles.


Course 5

Foodways and Borderlands Cultures: American and European Perspectives

Prof. Elizabeth A. Duclos-Orsello, Salem State University, USA

The foodways of border regions around the world have always been rich records of demographic, cultural, religious, economic and even political exchange while also offering rich source material for cultural production. Grounded in theories of borderlands culture, place making and hybridity and blending social scientific and humanistic approaches this course will examine the foodways of three borderlands regions in the United States and Europe in order to consider the ways in which national, cultural and personal identities are constructed, defined and challenged through and by foodways and debates over them.

The course will begin with a unit focused on three key theoretical frameworks: hybridity, borderlands and ”creole”. Following this, the foodways of three specific borderlands regions will be examined in turn: the southeatern US, the US/Mexico border and northen Greece/Balkans/Medditerraean. The exploration will include both an analysis of the historical processes that led to the cuisine under investigation as well as representations of it in literature, film, folklore and art.

Course texts will be drawn from the writings of poets, novelists, food scientists, historians, cultural critics and ethnographers and augmented by films. In order to engage in experiential learning, we will also try our hand at cooking some of the foods we study and examine the foodways to be found in the crossroads city of Mannheim, considering them in light of our theoretical frames.