American Studies at Bielefeld University is characterized by a hemispheric, transcultural and multimedia approach to cultural production, history and social change in North America, its often conflicting cultural geographies, and diverse urban and rural societies from the fifteenth to the twenty-first century. In addition to a focus on the study of U.S. literature, a particular interest lies in the interconnections between U.S. American and Canadian, Caribbean, and Latin American literatures and cultures and in the real and imagined crossings of manifold borders in North America.
Our faculty members investigate and teach early modern, colonial, romantic, and contemporary literature , culture and history. Lecturers focus also on manifold social positions and conflicts, intercultural processes, border cultures, hemispheric and transnational relations, as well as aspects of film, music, and performance art. They use approaches from gender studies, postcolonial and decolonial approaches as theoretical frameworks to study texts in their context. Our programs aim to promote creative and critical thinking among the students to prepare them for active participation in the urgent debates of out time in diverse professions.
Mental Illness as Cultural Narrative: Contemporary Literature from the Contact Zones between the U.S., Canada, and the Caribbean
Contemporary times witness a striking increase of the presence of mental illness in society. Identity problems, gender and race conflicts, migration and diaspora experience are driving forces behind this phenomenon. This has also lead to a contemporary boom of mental illness narratives in literature. Centuries of systematic oppression such as slavery, displacement, exploitation, and discrimination have formed and continue to shape human encounters in the Americas. These lived experiences have found their way into literary representations and expressions of mental illness. The proposed project explores mental illness as a cultural narrative in 21st century Caribbean-Canadian and Caribbean-U.S. American literature and as a decolonizing practice and symptom of systematic power asymmetries that can be traced back to the concept of ‘coloniality.’ The research project argues that gender, race/ethnicity, community and experiences of racism, sexism, migration, and diaspora shape mental illness as a cultural narrative. The project is embedded in the context of Hemispheric American Studies and uses an InterAmerican and Critical Disability Studies approach to analyze ‘mental illness’ by close reading of selected novels and stories.
(Re)Thinking Home in 21st Century Caribbean Diaspora Writing in North America
The collaborative project explores shifting and contested concepts of ‘home’ in contemporary Caribbean diaspora writing including fictional and life writing texts. This project argues that the diverse Caribbean diaspora experiences in heterogeneous nations such as Canada and the United States can be viewed as a particularly apt starting point for the investigation of ways of looking at new forms of international migration and the (re-)construction of new mode(l)s of belonging. Building on, and expanding, transnational and transcultural conceptual frameworks and case studies with relatively recent terminologies of ‘transmigration’—which aim at new types of demarcation that run transversally across regions of origins and arrivals and ‘translocation’, the project at hand works with inter-American appropriations of socio-spatial, spatio-temporal, and mobility studies paradigms.
The research group's fundamental assumption is that human rights and equality principles have never been universal, never inclusive. This was reflected in recent celebrations to mark the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in December 2018. However, the group's primary concern is the recent development towards the increasing contestation of gender equality principles across the globe. The presumed normative consensus about equality principles has become disputable in various nationalist political arenas. The demonization of gender politics and rights claims as 'gender ideology' functions as a rhetorical tool in the construction of a new 'common sense' against gender equality. Discourses on gender equality have become a resource for global right-wing alliances and function as socio-cultural instruments for symbolic boundary-making, rather than as resources of social solidarity and cohesion. Meanwhile, the growing neo-liberal permeation of all spheres of life is carrying on apace in the background; it reinforces gender as a constitutive dimension of the un-equal distribution of material and socio-cultural resources. By contrast, neo-patriarchal, authoritarian regimes question whether gender equality principles are part and parcel of the hegemonic global liberal order and instrumentalize religion against equality rights. Convenors: Alexandra Scheele (Bielefeld, GER), Julia Roth (Bielefeld, GER), Heidemarie Winkel (Bielefeld, GER)
This Research Training Group (RTG) investigates the experiences people have with their gender in any given societal context. The central focus is on the bodily-lived experiences of gendered being in the world. How do people experience their gendered mode of existence? How is gender constituted in lived experiences and in its entanglement with other dimensions of existence (class, ethnicity, nationality, sexuality, health, age, religion)? Because subjects experience themselves as gendered through this bodily-lived dimension, to what extent does this dimension present itself as a condition for the transformation of gender orders? The topic and research program of the RTG traverse the established disciplines: as such, subject fields that have so far largely worked separately on gender research will cooperate in this planned research network (American Studies, German Literary Studies, Health Sciences, Sociology, Sports Science, Political Science).The two-pillared research program consisting of: the lived bodily constitution of gendered modes of existence (research pillar I) and the transformation of the gender order thereby made possible (research pillar II) allows for each individual research project to systematically interrelate the empirical givenness of gender, on the one hand, with the theoretical conditions of the category of gender, on the other.
The Americas are shaped by a multitude of dynamics which have extensive, conflictive and at times contradictory consequences for society, culture, politics and the environment. These processes are embedded within a history of interdependence and mutual observation between North and South which originates in the conquest and simultaneous ‘invention’ of America by European colonial powers.
The series will challenge the ways we think about the Americas, in particular, and the concept of area studies, in general. Put simply, the series perceives the Americas as transversally related, chronotopically entangled and multiply interconnected. In its critical positioning at the crossroads of area studies and cultural studies the series aims to push further the postcolonial, postnational, and cross-border turns in recent studies of the Americas toward a model of horizontal dialogue between cultures, areas, and disciplines.
Established in 2009, the International Association of Inter-American Studies (IAS/EIA) seeks to promote the interdisciplinary study of the Americas, focusing in particular on interconnections between North, Central, and South American cultures, literatures, media, languages, histories, societies, politics, and economies. Going beyond national points of reference, the association’s conferences and publications examine the current intensification of transnational and global trends in the Americas as well as their historical developments. Intercultural issues—along with their regional, national and hemispheric contexts—are of particular interest to this academic forum.
The Inter-American Studies series creates a forum for a critical academic dialogue between North and South on the cultures, societies, and histories of the Americas, promoting an inter-American paradigm that shifts the scholarly focus from methodological nationalism to the wider context of the Western Hemisphere.
American Frictions presents cutting-edge research in the field of American cultural studies.
The series explores manifold complexities and frictions in the Americas, building on existing scholarship and propelling it in new directions. It challenges nation-based approaches by offering perspectives that are polyvocal, including interdisciplinary and transnational viewpoints from North America, the Caribbean, and Europe.
Volumes in the series – peer reviewed monographs and collections – delve into literature, culture, theory, and the arts, situating them in historical contexts of global networks and migrations. They contribute to epistemologies of difference, diversity, and inequality, including gender, queer, decolonial, indigenous, and critical race studies.
The forum for inter-american research (fiar) is the official electronic journal of the International Association of Inter-American Studies (IAS). fiar was established by the American Studies Program at Bielefeld University in 2008. We foster a dialogic and interdisciplinary approach to the study of the Americas. fiar is a peer-reviewed online journal. Articles in this journal undergo a double-blind review process and are published in English, French, Portuguese and Spanish. In addition to written work, we also publish selected audiovisual material of conference presentations, keynotes, and video features. The editorial board consists of a broad range of international scholars from diverse disciplinary backgrounds.
Mahshid Mayar, Citizens and Rulers of the World: The American Child and the Cartographic Pedagogies of Empire. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2022.
Wilfried Raussert, ‘What’s Going On’: How Music Shapes the Social. New Orleans: University of New Orleans Press, 2021.
Wilfried Raussert, Off the Grid: Art Practices and Public Space. Trier WVT, 2021.
Julia Roth, Can Feminism Trump Populism? Right-Wing Trends and Intersectional Contestations in the Americas. WVT/University of New Orleans Press, 2021.
Julia Roth, ¿Puede el feminismo vencer al populismo? Tendencias de derecha y disputas interseccionales en las Américas. Kipu Verlag, 2020.
Julia Roth, Olaf Kaltmeier, Mirko Petersen, Wilfried Raussert. Cherishing the Past, Envisioning the Future: Entangled Practises of Heritage and Utopia in the Americas. WVT/University of New Orleans Press, 2021.
Julia Roth, Gabriele Dietze. Right-Wing Populism and Gender: European Perspectives and Beyond. Transcript, 2020.
Wilfried Raussert et al, The Routledge Handbook to the Culture and Media of the Americas, 2020.