Past Research

Past Research Themes:

2015-2016 Research Themes

Theme 1: Responding to Contemporary Challenges in Germany

Leader: Myra Marx Ferree, Professor, Sociology, Gender and Women’s Studies

Germany faces a variety of “hot button” political challenges today, ranging from the resurgence of anti-Semitism across Europe, to population shifts due to fertility decline and immigration, to global competition in higher education. Moreover, as the member state with the strongest economy, Germany faces a particular challenge in balancing its national economic priorities with sustaining EU integration and Euro stability. In this theme we look at the nature of the social and economic challenges that face Germany today and the specificity of German history in shaping contemporary political choices.

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Workshop Outcomes

Theme 2: Germany and the World: Transformation and Transmission of Ideas, Ideologies, and Identities

Leader: Pamela Potter, Professor, German and Musicology; Director, Center for German and European Studies

Weltanschauung is perhaps one of the best-known German terms to achieve an iconic status in the non-German speaking world. Yet the term itself and its origins encapsulate complecities surrounding Germany’s self-identification, political history, and cultural mission. “Germany and the World: Transformation and Transmission of Ideas, Ideologies, and Identities” extends our current DAAD project “Translation, Transformation, Transposition: Processes of Transfer among Languages, Cultures, and Disciplines,” and engages Wisconsin faculty from the departments of German, History, History of Science, Art History, Law, Scandinavian Studies, Theater, and Music. We will explore the various ways in which German culture and ideals have been developed and ecported to shape widely accepted ways of viewing the world.

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Theme 3: Environmental Future

Leader: Gregg Mitman, Professor, History of Science, Medical History, Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies
Art and science, literature and film, history and policy; all have been important tools upon which to build imagined environmental futures. “Environmental Futures” has brought together scholars in the humanities and social sciences, filmmakers, and writers to explore the intersections of future generations. In the rapidly expanding field of environmental humanities, we have initiated international and interdisciplinary conversation on the material impacts of representational forms and have forged a strong working relationship between our Center for Culture, History and Environment (CHE) and the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society at the Ludwig-Maximilian University in Munich.

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Workshop Outcomes

2013 Research Themes

CGES had three international, interdisciplinary research projects including teaching and outreach elements for 2013:

Theme 1: Environmental Futures

Leader: Gregg Mitman, Professor, History of Science, Medical History, Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies

Future imaginaries—utopian and apocalyptic—have been critical to environmental discourse and action across the globe. Art and science, literature and film, history and policy, have all been important tools upon which to build imagined environmental futures. Theme 1 brings together scholars in the humanities and social sciences, filmmakers, and writers to explore the intersections of artistic, humanistic, and scientific representations of environmental and societal change for future generations.

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Theme 2: Translation, Transformation, Transposition: Processes of Transfer among Languages, Cultures, and Disciplines (Trans3)

Leader: Marc Silberman, Professor, German; Director, Center for German and European Studies; affiliate Department of Theatre and Drama, Department of Communication Arts

Theme 2, called Trans3 for short, will cooperate with and build on the larger, UW campus Mellon-funded seminar that focuses on interarts processes of translation and transfer in the verbal, visual, and performing arts (art history, music, theater, film). Trans3 is more focused as it carves out an area of investigation in German studies to examine the transfer processes that occur at the peripheries and limits of our related disciplines, encouraging combinations of texts, materials, and media of a kind that is rarely nurtured or carried out in an individual department.

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Theme 3: Citizenship, Modernity, and Inclusion: How Gender and Nation Matter

Leader: Myra Marx Ferree, Professor of Sociology and Director, European Union Center of Excellence; affiliate Gender and Women’s Studies Department

This theme group addresses the modern German state and its relation to its people from a mix of demographic, political, and social perspectives. The central concern is to illuminate the dynamics of inclusion and exclusion at play in German social and political development in the past hundred years. These challenges are by no means unique to Germany; they are the issues that modernity has created for industrial democracies around the world. However, Germany’s economic power in Europe, as well as its historically-grounded sensitivity to the dangers in political, social, and economic exclusions of particular populations, makes it especially important to understand these processes.

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2008-2012 Research Themes

CGES had four international, interdisciplinary research projects including teaching and outreach elements for 2008 through 2012:

Theme 1: After the Violence: The Work of Memory in German Culture and Society

Leader: Marc Silberman, Department of German, UW-Madison

Contemporary art and literature, the design of monuments and museum exhibitions, commemorative event culture and the visual media contribute to what some have called a memory obsession that saturates the public sphere. This project establishes a network within and outside the University to investigate the relationship between memory and culture, contributing to the increasing complexity of our understanding of memory.

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International, Transnational and Comparative Law (Law 827)
Course: Spring 2011
Instructor: Heinz Klug

This course will serve as an introduction to transnational law which will be defined as incorporating a range of substantive legal fields implicated in the regulation of cross border activity as well as aspects of law that are directly effected by decisions and events that occur or have effects beyond national borders. The course will include a basic introduction to public international law, international economic law, human rights and humanitarian law as well as a more limited exposure to conflicts of law, comparative law and the use of foreign and international law in the domestic courts of the United States.

 

The Holocaust: Facts, Trials (Law 919/Jewish Studies 625)
Course: Fall 2009
Instructor: Frank Tuerkheimer

 

Education After Violence (Curriculum and Instruction 675, Section 6)
Course: Spring 2009
Instructor: Simone Schweber

In this communally designed seminar, we have chosen to address what education means, what it can achieve and what it looks like, in the wake of violence, at the individual, familial, societal, trans-national and generational levels. Beginning at the level of family violence, we are asking what trauma-specialists can teach classroom educators. Moving then to look at the impact of ‘natural disasters’ yoked to racist policies, we will examine the after-effects of Hurricane Katrina both for students and education systems. We will be comparing the educational impact of Katrina to the impact of the attacks on 9/11. We then move to look at nationalist violence, focusing on the impacts of the Holocaust, the Rwandan genocide and the former Yugoslavia. Here we will look especially at what it means to educate about violence, how such violence is depicted curricularly, and who learns what. Through this comparative approach, we hope to accomplish a variety of objectives simultaneously–mainly, though, to focus on what we can learn from violence in its wake.

 

Historicizing the GDR
Seminar: Fall 2008
Instructor: Marc Silberman

As the GDR recedes into an ever more abstract, Cold War past, there is a tendency to regard it from the perspective of its collapse in November 1989, blocking an understanding of the hopes and anxieties that accompanied its forty-year history. Although this seminar cannot provide a comprehensive overview of East Germany’s historical development, it will focus on the complex relationship between culture and power in East Germany, a key concern of modern societies. Many scholars have relegated state socialism to a pre-modern phase of social development that prevented the domain of culture from ever achieving autonomy vis-à-vis the state’s political dictates. Indeed, the state attributed a special value to culture, and artists and intellectuals enjoyed many privileges because the socialist party recognized their powerful contribution to changing the consciousness of the masses. Yet despite, or precisely because of the party’s attempts to control artistic production and reception in its own interests, the disparity between socialist vision and reality constantly generated contradictions and fantasies that permeated the literature, theater, and films produced in the GDR. We will examine a limited corpus of such works with a view toward their validity as a source for learning about East German reality, asking whether such works were a stabilizing element or a force of critical intervention.

 

Memory Discourses and Postwar German Cinema
Seminar: Spring 2008
Instructor: Marc Silberman

This graduate seminar will investigate critical theories and cinematic practices of how experience becomes memory. During the past fifteen years new forms of memory work have entered the public sphere: in literature, theater, monuments, museums, photography, and perhaps most strikingly in the visual media of film, television, and comics. Accompanying these cultural practices, new discourses have emerged that increasingly dominate the field of cultural studies: reflections on how memory shapes mentalities, identities, symbols, texts, and media. While this social and critical memory boom has evolved with strong transnational and interdisciplinary dimensions, the seminar’s focus will be primarily on Germany, which offers a case study not only of extreme “experience” (devastating war, Holocaust, economic collapse, political division) but also arguably of a protracted and rich trajectory of “coming to terms with the past” (Vergangenheitsbewältigung), with instructive blindspots, repressions, repetitions, and illusions. The first goal of the seminar will be to review the some of the major sources of current memory discourses such as “mémoire collective” (Maurice Halbwachs).

 

Theme 2: Positioning ‘Modern’ Germany in the World: Nationalism and Cosmopolitanism, Colonialism, Migration

Leader: B. Venkat Mani, Department of German, UW-Madison

Contemporary scholarship on modern Germany reveals an unprecedented attention to nationalism and cosmopolitanism, migration and colonialism. This project investigates these lines of inquiry and “positions” Germany – as a geopolitical unit and as a cultural-linguistic space – within and beyond the boundaries of Europe.

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Fall 2012: Transnational Approaches to German Studies, {3} cr.
German742 (meets with German 804/ French 804/ History 804/ Poli Sci 804/ Sociology 804/)
Tuesdays, 3:30-6:00 PM

Instructor: Professor B. Venkat Mani (bvmani@wisc.edu)
Prerequisites: Open to graduate students in all Humanities and Social Science disciplines with interest in Comparative/German Studies
Language of instruction: English (Knowledge of German appreciated, not Required)]

Course Description: This course seeks to evaluate the term transnational and its efficacy as a qualifier for a discipline such as German Studies, institutionally categorized as a national language and literature department. Through discussions on literary, historical, linguistic/pedagogical, philosophical, political, and sociological texts, the course aims to explore multi- and interdisciplinary perspectives on German Studies in the 20th and 21st centuries. Along with spotlighting key texts that form and inform German self-imagination and German imagination of the non-German/non-European Other,the course collates and examines reactions to German nationalism and cosmopolitanism, migration, colonialism and modernity from outside the geo-cultural boundaries of Europe. In addition, this course discusses contemporary scholarship on the German-speaking world that focuses on nationalism and cosmopolitanism, migration, and colonialism. The course analyses the modes in which the above-mentioned political and ideational phenomena have shaped and informed ‘modern’ Germany, and the actual processes by which migrant, colonial, and cosmopolitan subjects have challenged, innovated, and revised the very definitions of the German nation and modernity. The course situates the discipline of German Studies in the larger investigation of the Humanities through filters of globalization and postcolonialism, in order to surmise new directions for the field. The course is offered in English and is open to interested graduate students from any field/discipline.

This is a reading intensive course. The course reader includes texts by literary authors and critics such as Thomas Mann and Edward Said; historians such as Dipesh Chakrabarty, Friedrich Meinecke, and George Mosse; philosophers and cultural critics such as Theodor Adorno, Jacques Derrida, W.E. B. Du Bois, Jurrgen Habermas, and Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak; socio-political thinkers such as Arjun Appadurai, Etienne Balibar, Ulrich Beck, and Judith Butler; and a few contemporary scholars of German Studies working on cultural studies, history, literature, linguistics, film, sociology, political theory, and theater.

 

World Literatures Course (Lit Trans 276)
Spring 2010 and Fall 2010
Instructor: B. Venkat Mani

What is World Literature? Is it the master-catalogue of all works of all literary traditions from around the world? Or does the term refer to a select list of “Great Works”? If yes, what are the criteria for designation of these works as “Great Works”? What is the relationship between “national” and “World” literatures? What role do translations play in the conceptualization of World Literature? How do migration, economic globalization, and digital media such as Amazon’s Kindle and the Sony Reader enhance our understanding of World Literature? These questions are central to the course, “Introduction to World Literatures.” The purpose of the course is to develop an understanding of World Literatures—in the plural—within the dynamics of global literary production, circulation, and reception. Through readings and discussions of a wide range of texts, the course aims to promote comparative evaluations of literature on a global scale. The course starts with foundational ideas of World Literature articulated in the German-speaking World [J.W. von Goethe (1827); Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels (1848); Hermann Hesse (1929); Eric Auerbach (1952)], and moves to readings and discussions of literary works from around the world.

 

Transnational Perspectives on German Studies (German/Sociology/Political Science/History 804)
Seminar: Fall 2009
Instructor: B. Venkat Mani

This course seeks to evaluate the term “transnational” and its efficacy as a qualifier for a discipline such as German Studies, institutionally categorized as a “national language and literature” department. Through discussions on literary, historical, linguistic/pedagogical, philosophical, political, and sociological texts, the course aims to explore multi- and interdisciplinary perspectives on German Studies in the 20th and 21st centuries. Along with spotlighting key texts that form and inform German self-imagination and German imagination of the non-German/non-European ‘Other,’ the course collates and examines reactions to German nationalism and cosmopolitanism, migration, colonialism and modernity from outside the geo-cultural boundaries of Europe. In addition, this course discusses contemporary scholarship on the German-speaking world that focuses on nationalism and cosmopolitanism, migration, and colonialism. The course analyzes the modes in which the above-mentioned political and ideational phenomena have shaped and informed ‘modern’ Germany, and the actual processes by which migrant, colonial, and cosmopolitan subjects have challenged, innovated, and revised the very definitions of the German nation and modernity. The course situates the discipline of German Studies in the larger investigation of the Humanities through filters of globalization and postcolonialism, in order to surmise new directions for the field.

 

Kafka and the Kafkaesque (LitTrans 277/CompLit 368)
Semester: Fall 2009
Instructor: Hans Adler

 

German Literature of the 20th and 21st Centuries (in German) (German 305)
Semester: Fall 2009
Instructor: Hans Adler

 

Romantic Visual Culture (English 801)
Seminar: Spring 2009
Instructor: Theresa Kelley

 

Theme 3: Transforming European Governance

Leader: Nils Ringe, Political Science, UW-Madison

The projects for this theme will explore the developing forms of European governance underpinning the EU’s capabilities of generating a dense and expanding web of internal rules and policies, and of projecting them outwards as a regional and global actor, examining key dimensions of the union’s internal and external decision-making processes and policies, including the relationship between them.

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Comparative Regional Integration: The European Union and Beyond (Poli Sci 401)
Fall 2010
Instructors: Nils Ringe and Mark Copelovitch

 

The Politics of the European Union and its Member States (Poli Sci 948)
Spring 2010
Instructor: Nils Ringe

The European Union (EU) constitutes one of the most complex and intriguing political systems in the world. Its existence, its evolution over time, and its politics raise many theoretical and empirical questions. The objective of this class is to address these questions, to familiarize ourselves with the relevant literatures, to gain a deeper understanding of what the EU is and does, and to examine how studying the EU can contribute to the study of Comparative Politics more generally. The course puts a particular emphasis on investigating the relationship between the EU and its member states, and the EU and its citizens, including questions relating to participation and representation, public opinion, and identity.

 

European Influences on Modern Foreign Policy Strategy (History 600)
Undergraduate Seminar: Fall 2009
Instructor: Jeremi Suri

 

Regional Integration and International Governance: The European Union in Comparative Perspective
Seminar: Spring 2009
Instructor: Jonathan Zeitlin

Regional integration is one of the most controversial and widely debated phenomena in international governance and political economy, with the rise of the European Union and the development of other regional organizations and trading blocs such as NAFTA, Mercosur, ASEAN, and the African Union. What are the drivers of regional integration and how extensive are regionalization trends within the global economy? Do regional trade agreements threaten the multilateral trading system, or do they facilitate international economic and regulatory cooperation? Should regional organizations such as the EU or ASEAN be understood as shelters against globalization, challenges to US international hegemony, or building blocks of global governance? How do patterns of integration vary across different world regions, and what accounts for such variations? Are other regions likely to follow the European model, or are looser and more open forms of integration more probable and sustainable elsewhere? This course approaches such questions through a comparative analysis of the European Union, the most highly institutionalized regional organization in the world today.

 

Theme 4: Work, Family and Education in Europe: Challenges of Globalization and Gender

Leader: Myra Marx Ferree, Department of Sociology and Women’s Studies, UW-Madison

Advanced capitalist societies such as the US and Germany are all undergoing transformation in the direction of more flexible labor forces, family forms, educational systems and gender relations. By looking closely at transformations happening in Europe and extending outward to other parts of the world, we intend develop theoretically advanced and methodologically sound analyses of intersectional social change, and substantively will consider the role of gender as it crosses these areas

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World Regions: Problems and Concepts (Geo 140)
Summer 2011
Instructor: Kris Olds
Geo 140 Course Website

 

Gender, Politics, and Society (Soc 623)
Fall 2010
Instructor: Myra Marx Ferree

 

Globalizing Higher Education and Research for the ‘Knowledge Economy’
Seminar: Fall 2009
Instructor: Kris Olds
Geo 675/901 Course Website