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Summer School "Inside/Outside: Queer Networks in Transnational Perspective"

September 11 – 16, 2016

This summer school aims to bring together scholars and activists from Central and Eastern Europe with peers from the United States and scholars of North American Studies. It reflects on the current cultural, legal, and political conditions of representation, articulation, and critique in Central and Eastern European societies, focusing on the very varied responses to sexual diversity, including the academic establishment of gender and queer studies. In some countries the efforts inside and outside academia to live, express, and explore non-normative sexualities have brought about robust and visible structures of organization, which reach into the academic sphere, while in other countries LGBTI activists are threatened and forced underground, so that the cultural and academic organization of the field runs up against heavy obstacles. In all of these cases, the current debates around sexual rights and the strategies of political activists gesture to earlier struggles and movements, and to a history of queer protest, consciously and unconsciously responding to longstanding patterns of political assertion and cultural self-fashioning. The U.S. minority movements form one particularly intriguing point of reference for the current developments in Europe, and the summer school is interested in exploring the intersections between historical and present, Western and Eastern formations and figurations, and to review them comparatively in their unfolding across social spheres and national boundaries.

Political strategies, cultural theories, and modes of meaning-making and organization cannot be simply transposed from one context to another. Still, theorists, academics, and activists cooperate and communicate, they observe and appropriate, borrowing political strategies, and research methodologies across borders and drawing on a joint repertory of queer rhetoric and ritual. It is the interest of the summer school to investigate how such processes of transfer and translation operate, and how they can be put to use in a constructive fashion.

The planned summer school aims to facilitate processes of exchange and inspiration, and to provide an arena to not only discuss research proposals and papers but also explore other modes and formats of social and cultural work. It plans to provide a space for people from different regional and professional backgrounds to come to terms with joint goals, expectations, and trajectories of action, and to discuss the significance and impact of local specificities and needs, and their dynamics. To emphasize its situatedness at the intersection of the academic and the public, the summer school will take place in a public site – at the socio-cultural center Pavillon in Hannover, which is located in the middle of the city, and attracts an audience with a broad spectrum of cultural interests. We encourage participants with extra-academic backgrounds to submit proposals.

Major areas of interest:

  • Queer organization: local needs and translocal structures
  • Queer mediation: images, sounds, campaigns of queerness and their global distribution and local impact
  • Queer rituals: gay pride parades, coming out rituals, etc. in their transnational unfolding
  • Queer talk: terms, concepts, identity politics in East and West
  • Queer theory: traveling concepts and concepts stuck in place

Please send a cv and an abstract of your planned presentation (max. 500 words) to anna- lena.oldehus@engsem.uni-hannover.de by June 15, 2016. Abstracts can relate to relevant academic work (papers, research or phd projects, etc.), but may also sketch projects outside the academic field which fall within the summer school’s scope

Notification of acceptance will be sent by July 01, 2016

There is no participation fee. All costs (travel, accommodation, meals) are covered by the VW-Foundation

Summer School Venue:

Kulturzentrum Pavillon Hannover
Lister Meile 4
30161 Hannover


Prof. Dr. Ruth Mayer
Chair of American Studies
Leibniz University of Hanover
English Department
Königsworther Platz 1
30167 Hannover, Germany

Anna-Lena Oldehus
M.A. Junior Researcher
Leibniz University of Hanover
English Department
Königsworther Platz 1
30167 Hannover, Germany

Download CfP as .pdf



Research Projects

"Serializing Mass Culture: Popular Film Serials and Serial Structures in the United States, 1910-1940" (Research Project, Mayer/Brasch, funded by the German Research Foundation DFG, 2013-2016)

This project concerns the study of film serials, one of the most popular cinematic narrative formats in the United States and in Europe between 1910 and the 1940s. These serials emerged from a rich context of competing medial forms, being influenced by serial novels, the serialized periodical press, comic strips or radio serials and impacting on these formats in turn. Rather than describing a simple competition of different media, these complex structures of serial cross-reference constitute the mediatized mass culture of the first half of the twentieth century. Investigating a range of film serials from various genres, such as Fantômas, 1913-14; Perils of Pauline, 1914; Exploits of Elaine, 1914; Officer 444, 1926; Tarzan the Tiger, 1929; Flash Gordon, 1936/38/40; Dick Tracy, 1937/38/39/41, the subproject considers the structures and practices of filmic seriality (cliffhanger, tableaux, repetition/variation, suspense management, audience address) in their intersections with the figurations and functions of a serialized mass culture (fashion/consumer practices, totalitarian/populist formats of politicization, community-building media ensembles). 

Thus, the project does not solely focus on the selected serials' narratives but is interested in the expansive momentum of popular seriality as such, taking into consideration spin-offs in the form of mass-produced extra-textual merchandizing, the multilayered medial interlinkages of various serial formats in film, radio, comics, etc., and the "serial" adjustment of audiences by means of an intersecting of political propaganda and economical streamlining. It explores the narrative and politico-ideological dimensions of a semantics of the serial on the grounds of specific historical constellations and medial configurations. Situated in the realm of cultural theory, the project is informed methodologically by approaches from film semiotics, narratology, and discourse analysis. The project is part of a research unit funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG) on "Popular Seriality - Aesthetics and Practice", located at Freie Universität Berlin. 

"Operational Detection: Crime Serials and the American Cinema, 1910-1940" (Dissertation, Ilka Brasch)

The dissertation studies film serials as part of American popular culture before the marketing of home television. Between 1910 and the 1940s, film serials constituted an important part of American cinemas. Audiences returned week after week for the next "chapter" of a serial, from the Serial Queen Melodramas of the 1910s to the comic strip adaptations of the 1930s and 40s. Throughout these decades, a large number of serials were based on crime plots and the prosecution of a masked villain. Starting, arguably, with the French serial Fantômas and the American The Exploits of Elaine, both the detective and the villain relied on novel or made-up technologies. By means of these technologies, the film serials display their status within the booming context of new inventions that marked the second half of the nineteenth century and continued well into the 20th. Film serials not only reflect upon existing inventions, but they dream up alterations or entirely new mechanisms. Additionally, the serials themselves emerge as part of the comparatively new medium of serialized cinema, thus also bearing their own history as technological innovation. The study argues that these crime serials invite a certain type of audience, or a distinct mode of engaging with the serials. Instead of focusing on individual characters, this mode encourages audiences to consider the structure of the mechanisms displayed in the serials as well as the structure of the plot as mechanism. This mode of engagement reframes the 19th-century interest in how mechanisms function - an interest that Neil Harris addressed as "the operational aesthetic". In short, the study reframes Harris' concept as a receptive mode and moves it into the 20th century, with seriality as its predominant driving force. 

"Digital Seriality: The Serial Aesthetics and Practice of Digital Games"

This project, a collaborative effort between Shane Denson and Andreas Jahn-Sudmann (Freie Universität Berlin), investigates the seriality of digital games and game cultures - their aesthetic forms and cultural practices - against the background of broader medial and sociocultural transformations in the wake of digitization of popular media culture. Seriality is a central and multifaceted but largely neglected dimension of popular computer and video games. It is present not only in explicitly marked game series (with their sequels, prequels, remakes, and other types of continuation), but also within games (e.g. in the series of "levels" or "worlds") as well as on the level of transmedial relations between games and other media (e.g. comics, film, and television). Particularly with respect to the processes of "synchronization" (Vergleichzeitigung) that in the current age of digitization and media convergence are challenging the temporal dimensions and developmental logics of pre-digital seriality (e.g. because once successively appearing series installments are now available for immediate, repeated, and non-linear consumption), computer games are well suited for an exemplary investigation of a specifically digital type of seriality. 

The project looks at serialization processes in digital games and game series and seeks to understand how they relate to digital-era transformations of temporally-serially structured experiences and identifications on the part of historically situated actors. These transformations range from the microtemporal scale of individual players' encounters with algorithmic computation processes (the speed of which is measurable only by technological means) up to the collective brokering of political, cultural, and social identities. To account for this complexity, the project follows a decidedly interdisciplinary approach, combining media-aesthetic/media-philosophical perspectives with resources of cultural history and American studies. The seriality of digital games is approached both in terms of textual and aesthetic forms and in the broader context of serialized game cultures and popular culture at large. 

"Figuring Serial Trajectories" (Post-Doc/Habilitation, Shane Denson)

The post-doctoral research project "Figuring Serial Trajectories" (working title) will use approaches from the philosophy of technology (such as Don Ihde's materialistic phenomenology and Andrew Pickering's "mangle theory"), science studies (above all, Bruno Latour and N. Katherine Hayles), and media theory (for example, Mark Hansen and the systems-theoretical media theory of Niklas Luhmann) to investigate the historical relations between serial figures and the media in which they have been staged. Mediality and media are conceived here as non-neutral, but also non-deterministic, "mediators" between the producers and recipients (viewers, readers, etc.) of serial narratives. Popular serial figures, according to the book project's central thesis, present an exemplary view of the processes of media transformation - processes that are generally visible only indirectly and in retrospect. A central focus of the study is on the material formats of the negotiations and interactions between production and reception, i.e. publication technologies and techniques, mediating apparatuses, spatially manifest institutions, and the somatic-emotive perception of these framing conditions. The project aims to articulate a systematic theoretical framework for a plurimedial and historically sensitive comparison between long established and recurring figures in popular culture, e.g. Frankenstein, Dracula, Tarzan, Sherlock Holmes, Batman, and Superman. This comparison suggests that interactions between instances of production and reception, orbiting around serial figures as a gravitational point of attraction, are in fact part of a self-propelling or eigendynamischen process of serial development, not subject to the control of either side. 

"Modern Mass Entertainment: The Serial Unfolding of the Yellow Kid" (Post-Doc, Dr. Christina Meyer)

The project explores the first serialized, mass-produced, and colored "Yellow Kid" comics which appeared in two competing New York newspapers in the late nineteenth century. The colorful Sunday supplements that held the comics pages rapidly attracted new audiences and enticed the contest for sales figures. Their appearance marks the peak of sensational journalism and the American newspaper wars. The advent of the so-called Yellow Kid comic character in the Sunday supplement sections is a historical and cultural phenomenon that has, despite its regular mentioning in scholarly debates about comics, not yet been contextualized, nor thoroughly analyzed. The basic premise of the project is that the serialized newspaper comics are both commercial product and expressive forms of representation; they are a central cultural field of American modernity and offer insights into the popular imagination of the late nineteenth century. The project aims to investigate the contexts of the origin of the Yellow Kid newspaper comics and to examine the multimodal techniques of (re)-presentation in order to make a contribution to the debate about mechanisms and effects of American popular culture. The Yellow Kid comics are historically situated and are analyzed as manifestations of a new cultural and culture-political practice of the Progressive Era. By looking at the Yellow Kid pages, which offer new perspectives on the social and cultural changes and developments of the Progressive Era, the project will offer an analysis of the cultural work of comics at the end of the nineteenth century. The key concerns of the project are on the one hand to critically engage with the question of how the Yellow Kid pages visually and verbally negotiate social and cultural processes of modernization and on the other to explicate the (creative) modes and means of representation and the platforms of identification that the pages offer to their diverse readerships. The objective is to unfold the (popular) cultural self-representation of the U.S. in the late nineteenth century. 

"Imagining the Nation: Constructions of Community after the American Civil War" (Habilitation, Dr. Kirsten Twelbeck)

This book project investigates how Americans imagined their future society during the American Civil War and Reconstruction. With the abolition of slavery and the adoption of the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments to the Constitution, a new, democratic era seemed to be under way. Yet Reconstruction soon became a time of racial segregation and anti-feminist backlash, and many historians have in fact defined it as an overall political and social failure. My research project is more interested in the multifaceted nature of the era than in its political assessment. In keeping with recent research I no longer refer to it as a historical period that started with the end of the war (1865) and lasted until 1877 (when Northern troops were officially withdrawn from the Southern states) but as a far longer phase of national consolidation during which Americans fought over the meaning of their nation. By analyzing literary and non-literary texts written between 1861 and 1882, I examine the changing rhetoric, discourses, and cultural strategies that were established to either defend or attack democratic renewal. By trying to identify the hopes and fears of this era, the book takes a closer look at cultural negotiations during Reconstruction than at their political outcome. 

Chapters analyze texts from a range of genres, including journal writing and correspondence, sensational, religious, and utopian literature, and poetry. With this mixture of "private" and public texts and of popular and established writings, the project seeks to show how strongly and profoundly Civil War and Reconstruction culture actually shaped late-nineteenth-century America. By examining the cultural transformations that took place during an era generally perceived as "minor" with regard to its cultural output, the project thus seeks to shed new light on the last decades of the nineteenth century. While I do not deny the immense impact of industrial modernization, scientific innovation, and mass migration on late-nineteenth-century America, I argue that the roots of the era's thought must also be traced to the war and to Reconstruction. The book project is funded by the "German Research Foundation," DFG and will be finished in 2013. 

Initiative für interdisziplinäre Medienforschung

The significance of media increases continuously, both in our daily lives and in the academic world as well. The effects and consequences of media and related techniques and technologies are multifaceted and far-reaching, so much so that practically no academic discipline is immune to medially conditioned changes in methods, contents, and even disciplinary self-understandings. Simultaneously, though, and for the very same reason, practically every discipline can contribute something to our understanding of media and their effects, while no individual (traditionally understood) discipline can claim a monopoly on media knowledge. The relatively young discipline of media studies (of the type that’s called Medienwissenschaften here in Germany) rightly positions itself in a central role here, but it’s important to keep in mind that media studies operates with methodological and theoretical principles and processes that it has inherited, borrowed, or adapted from the more established “classical” disciplines. Highlighting the positive, productive side of these dependencies, media and television scholar Jason Mittell has described media studies itself as an “inter-discipline” and argued that media research is best conducted as an interdisciplinary undertaking.

In this spirit, the Initiative for Interdisciplinary Media Research at the Leibniz University of Hannover, Germany, aims to provide a forum for a mutually beneficial, supra-disciplinary exchange of ideas on the topic of media. Through sponsored lectures, workshops, reading groups, and film screenings, among other activities, we hope to stimulate this exchange and thus contribute to the interdisciplinary understanding of a wide range of media and media-related phenomena. This blog serves as a platform for this exchange and provides information about our activities. You can find the blog here.

Schwerpunktprogramm "Ästhetische Eigenzeiten. Zeit und Darstellung in der polychronen Moderne" (SPP 1688) (Leitung Gamper/Wegner, 2013-2016)

Das DFG-Schwerpunktprogramm will in zwei Perioden von drei Jahren die Phänomene 'Zeit' und 'Zeitlichkeit' an ausgesuchten Kunstwerken, Artefakten und Objekten der Moderne analysieren, wobei sich der Untersuchungszeitraum von der Gegenwart bin in die Frühe Neuzeit erstreckt. Dieser Ansatz geht davon aus, dass 'Zeit' sich als grundlegendes Phänomen von Sukzessivität nicht allgemein fassen lässt und dass ihr Erscheinen als geschwindigkeitsbezogene räumliche Bewegung, Distanzüberwindung, Veränderung des Entwicklungszustands von Materie und Lebewesen, Ausdehnung und Kontraktion oder (un)regelmäßige Wiederholung an die merkmalsevidente Verbindung mit konkreten Gegenständen gebunden ist. Den integrativen Bezugspunkt der Forschungen bildet das Konzept der 'ästhetischen Eigenzeiten'. 'Ästhetische Eigenzeiten' bezeichnen die wahrnehmbar gemachten, irreduzibel idiosynkratischen Temporalitätsregime einzelner Objekte oder Subjekt-Objekt-Konstellationen. Sie realisieren sich durch 'ästhetische Form' in der doppelten Semantik des Worts, also durch sinnlich-materielle Erscheinung und aisthetische Darstellung oder, spezifischer, durch künstliche oder künstlerische Gestaltungspraktiken. Das Konzept der 'ästhetischen Eigenzeit' bezieht sich zum einen auf die in Artefakten selbst gesetzte, (per)formierte Zeit im Vollzug, zum anderen artikuliert es ein auf die allgemeineren gesellschaftlichen, technischen, kunsttheoretischen und wissenschaftlichen Zeitkonzepte reagierendes, sie kommentierendes, reflektierendes und mitgestaltendes historisches Zeitbewusstsein. Dieser methodische Zugang verspricht einen neuen Blick nicht nur auf das Wissen von der Zeit, sondern auch auf die Zeitlichkeit allen Wissens. 

Ruth Mayer fungiert als eine der Initiatorinnen des Programms.