Research Associate in American Studies, FSU Jena
Student Assistant and Tutor (Introduction to Literary Studies II), Institute of English and American Studies, FSU Jena
M.A. North American Studies, FSU Jena
|2013-2016||B.A. English/American Studies and Digital Humanities, JMU Würzburg
"Losing Touch: Contemporary Black Cultural Identity and the Culture Industry"
Cameroonian philosopher Achille Mbembe suggests that "ours is a time of planetary entanglement" (2019: 93). His suggestion is part of a larger epistemological shift that foregrounds visions of the planet and advances planetarity as a critical-theoretical model and a way of being, i.e., planetarity as praxis.
The concept of planetarity originated in 1997 in a talk by the postcolonial theorist and literary critic Gayatri Spivak entitled "Imperatives to Re-Imagine the Planet." For Spivak, planetarity offers a necessary alternative to the totalizing paradigm of globalization, which is often thought of in terms of the universal abstractions of (neoliberal) capital. She writes: "Globalization is the imposition of the same system of exchange everywhere. […] The globe is on our computers. No one lives there. It allows us to think that we can aim to control it. The planet is in the species of alterity, belonging to another system; and yet we inhabit it on loan" (Spivak 72). Instead of conceiving of ourselves as ‘global agents’ within the neoliberal imaginary, Spivak suggests that we should instead imagine ourselves as ‘planetary subjects.’ This opens up a collective position of responsibility towards the planet and its inhabitants and calls for new modes of social and political interaction that take into consideration the complex histories of coloniality and global capitalism.
Throughout this course, we will try to theorize planetarity and devise and cultivate methods of planetary thinking. To do so, we will cover a broad range of theoretical texts ranging from postcolonialism (Gayatri Spivak, Achille Mbembe, Walter Mignolo, Catherine Walsh), ecocriticism (Ursula Heise), to visions of postcapitalism (Mark Fisher, J.K. Gibson-Graham), and look for possible applications. We will, for example, read Amitav Ghosh’s recent novel Gun Island (2019), which explores representations of global warming and cross-cultural mobility on a planetary scale, and (if possible) watch the feature film Vai (2019), which skillfully interweaves the personal stories of several Indigenous women across different Pacific nations connected by the common theme of water (‘vai’). The seminar will close with a term paper or an equivalent.
Mbembe, Achille. Necropolitics. transl. Steven Corcoran. Durham: Duke UP, 2019.
Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty. Death of a Discipline. New York: Columbia UP, 2003.
What does it mean to be human today, and what are we in the process of becoming in the future? To answer these questions, we will look at two fundamental theoretical approaches—biopolitics and posthumanism—and apply these notions to the genre of science fiction. The central assumption of our seminar is that science fiction and its speculative discourses hold a privileged position as expressions of the human imagination, thus making them extremely suitable to reflect on these questions critically. The French historian and philosopher Michel Foucault first coined the term biopolitics in Part V of his book The History of Sexuality Vol. 1 (1976). Broadly speaking, the concept denotes the intersection of life (bios) and politics (polis). It is often also defined as the "power over life," meaning the different ways in which human lives are governed and controlled on the level of the individual subject and the population as a whole. Given the historically often exclusionary definition of the human and the lack of the non-human in the biopolitical schema, we will also look at the notion of the posthuman. Posthuman philosophy oscillates between both post-humanism and post-anthropocentrism by offering ways to understand the human not in terms of a dominant position. Instead, posthumanism posits human beings within a network of multiple connections, thus allowing for an ”integral redefinition of the notion of the human” (Ferrando 1). At the same time, posthumanism allows us to ”think critically and creatively about what we are in the process of becoming” (Braidotti 11) in times of technoscientific progress, rapid globalization under late capitalism and possibly impending ecological disasters as the result of the former. This seminar will thoroughly engage with the two theoretical notions while at the same time retaining a strong focus on their practical applications.
Braidotti, Rosi. The Posthuman. London: Polity, 2013.
Ferrando, Francesca. Philosophical Posthumanism. London: Bloomsbury, 2019.
The second part (Teilmodul II) of the Introduction to Literary Studies focuses on the analysis of literary texts. The knowledge that students have acquired in the lecture course (Teilmodul I) serves now as a basis for a hands-on approach to literature: participants will develop the skills required to analyse poetry, narrative fiction and drama. The class also introduces into methods of research.
This seminar offers an overview of some of the most important cultural theories and concepts used in American Studies. In this seminar, we will discuss texts by authors such as Roland Barthes, Michel Foucault, Fredric Jameson, Edward Said, Judith Butler, and Kimberle Crenshaw among many others. Students are required to closely read and engage with the texts in order to actively participate in class discussions and group work. However, instead of just reading theory, a large part of the seminar will also focus on the application of these theories.