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Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Faculty of Language, Literature and Humanities

Distinguished W. E. B. Du Bois Lectures

To the same extent that the increasing integration of the European Union diminishes the role of nation-states and creates something like a new European identity, a self-critical and open exchange with an America whose culture seems so similar and so different at the same time becomes, especially in the aftermath of September 11th, ever more urgent. For the United States, Europe in the process of unification provides a strong challenge for comparison and self-reflection. Social and cultural developments that have often been experienced and denounced as effects of an "Americanization" of the world, can be seen in this wider comparative perspective as tendencies of globalizing postindustrial societies and their accompanying, locally very different processes of transculturation, which in many respects have most penetratingly been analyzed by American critics.

The Distinguished W. E. B. Du Bois Lectures offer new contributions to this intercultural dialogue by inviting outstanding American scholars and public intellectuals to give a lecture and teach a seminar addressing important issues of public culture, of the social and political role of cultural differences, of intercultural translation, and of the interactions between cultures, seen from a transatlantic perspective.

The lectures have been named to honor W. E. B. Du Bois as one of the most influential intellectuals, scholars, public figures, and writers of 20th century America. He was a doctoral student at Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität, the first African American to receive a PhD from Harvard University (in 1895), and was awarded an honorary doctoral degree from Humboldt-Universität in 1958.


CANCELLED - February 7, 2019

Lonnie Bunch



Memory and Forgetting: The Challenge of Building the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC)


Lonnie G. Bunch III is the director of the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture. Bunch worked as a history professor at the University of Maryland. 1983 he became the first curator of the California African American Museum. Before his July 2005 appointment as director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, Bunch served as the president of the Chicago Historical Society (2001-2005). There, he led a successful capital campaign to transform the Historical Society in celebration of its 150th anniversary, managed an institutional reorganization, initiated an unprecedented outreach initiative to diverse communities and launched a much-lauded exhibition and program on teenage life titled "Teen Chicago."

A prolific and widely published author, Bunch has written on topics ranging from the black military experience, the American presidency and all-black towns in the American West to diversity in museum management and the impact of funding and politics on American museums. Lectures and presentations to museum professionals and scholars have taken him to major cities in the United States and many nations abroad, including Australia, China, England, Ghana, Italy, Japan, Scotland, South Africa and Sweden.


Thursday, February 7, 2019

6:30 PM

Hörsaal 2094,
Hauptgebäude Humboldt-Universität,

Unter den Linden 6

(Bushaltestelle Staatsoper, S-U Bahnhof Friedrichstraße)


Auf den Vortrag folgt eine Diskussion mit dem Publikum, moderiert von Dr. Dorothea Löbbermann (Institut für Anglistik und Amerikanistik der Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin).

Die Distinguished Du Bois Lecture findet in Hörsaal 2094 der Humboldt-Universität, Hauptgebäude: Westflügel, Unter den Linden 6 statt. Der Eintritt ist kostenlos. Im Anschluss laden wir zu einem kleinen Empfang mit Getränken ein.


April 23, 2018

Faith Ringgold

Painter, Sculptor, Quilt Maker, Performance Artist, Writer, Activist

Press release (in German)

Faith Ringgold will talk about her work with Zoe Whitley (curator at the Tate Modern in London), who is also doing the introduction.

Monday, April 23, 2018

6:30 PM

Hörsaal 2094
Unter den Linden 6
10117 Berlin


Video of the lecture by Faith Ringgold


You can also download the video here.


October 19, 2017

Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak
University Professor and Founding Member of the Institute for Comparative Literature and Society, Columbia University

W.E.B. Du Bois in Today's World


October 19, 2017

6:30 PM, Audimax


In this lecture, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak offers a new reading of W.E.B. Du Bois's seminal book The Souls of Black Folk, with references to Antonio Gramsci and Tillie Olsen. These readings will be in the context of the largest sectors of the electorate in Africa and Asia today, and their relationship with Du Bois's struggles as they developed out of recognizable German contexts, Gramsci's invocation of the production of the subaltern intellectual, and Tillie Olsen's background in Rosa Luxemburg's Mass Strike.

In cooperation with the American Academy in Berlin.



June 27, 2017

Fatima El-Tayeb - poster
(University of California, San Diego)

“German” and “Ungerman”: Racial Crisis as the New Normal in the United Germany
Introduction: Maisha Auma

18:30 Uhr s.t.
Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, KINOSAAL
Unter den Linden 6, 10117 Berlin (Hauptgebäude)

Fatima El-Tayeb, Professor of African-American Literature and Culture at the University of California San Diego, is the author of the ground-breaking study European Others (2011), translated into German as Anders europäisch. Her research shows that the predominant form racism takes in Europe is an ideology of 'racelessness' that externalizes racialized groups and questions of 'race' more generally. In order to contest such exclusion, she argues, People of Color mobilize queer strategies of resistance in cultural productions such as hip hop, video and performance art.

One of the foremost experts and most innovative scholars in Critical Race Theory and Critical Whiteness Studies with regard to Germany, Prof. El-Tayeb offers analyses and insights significantly advancing a critical engagement with racism and other social hierarchies both in Germany and the United States.


July 12, 2016

John B. Emerson (US-Ambassador)

The US Presidential Elections 2016

18:00 s.t., Unter den Linden 6 (Hauptgebäude), Audimax

Pressemitteilung (PDF file)

  • You can find pictures of the Distinguished W. E. B. Du Bois Lecture with John B. Emerson here on this page.


January 30, 2015

Kara Keeling (University of Southern California)
"A Now that can Breed Futures: Audre Lorde and the Cinematic Politics of Documentary Projects as Legacy Building"
6:30pm s.t.
Senatssaal (main building, Unter den Linden 6)

The lecture is part of the conference Audre Lorde’s Germany.


November 22, 2013

Valerie Babb  (University of Georgia):
"The King and His Court: LeBron James, the New Othello"
6:30pm s. t., Festsaal, Luisenstr. 56, 10115 Berlin

Invitation A,B (download both for full flyer)

Conference Poster


December 4, 2012

Philip D. Murphy (The Ambassador of the United States of America):
"The Changing Face of Demographics in America: The Path to a More Perfect Union"
6:30pm s. t., Senatssaal, Hauptgebäude, Unter den Linden 6, 10099 Berlin

invitation to this lecture


February 11, 2009

Bharati Mukherjee (University of California, Berkeley):
"Towards a Post-Racial Society. An American Experiment"
6pm s. t., Reuter-Saal, Dorotheenstr. 24, house 2


June 25, 2008

Hortense Spillers (Vanderbilt University):
"The Idea of Black Culture. Some Aspects of Diaspora"
6pm, room 2003, main building


April 15, 2008

David Levering Lewis (New York University and American Academy Berlin):
"W. E. B. Du Bois in Germany and Germany in W. E. B. Du Bois"
6.30pm, Senatssaal, main building


February 12, 2008

Kevin Maynor with Eric Olsen:
"Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King. A Celebration of the Architects of Global Movements Towards Peace — with Music and Text"
6.30pm, Reuter-Saal, Dorotheenstraße 24, house 2


October 16, 2007

E. L. Doctorow:
"Notes on the History of Fiction"
introduction: Paul Nolte (History and Cultural Studies, Freie Universität Berlin) and Prof. Dr. Eva Boesenberg (American Studies, Humboldt-Universität)
moderation: Georg Diez, DIE ZEIT
6pm, Audimax, main building


October 30, 2006

Tony Robert Judt (Erich Maria Remarque Institute, New York University):
'"The World We Have Lost?' Some Transatlantic Reflections on European History Since 1945"
introduction: Paul Nolte (History and Cultural Studies, Freie Universität Berlin)
6pm, Senatssaal, main building


July 10, 2006

welcome address: Prof. Dr. Christoph Markschies (president of the Humboldt-Universität)
introduction: Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Kaschuba (Department of European Ethnology, Humboldt-Universität)
S. E. William R. Timken, Jr. (ambassador of the USA):
"Immigration in the 21st Century"
7pm s. t., Senatssaal, main building
invitation to this lecture


June 27, 2005

Nancy Fraser (New School University, New York):
"Parity of Participation. A View of Justice for a Globalizing World"
introduction: Renate Hof (Humboldt-Universität)
6pm, Senatssaal, main building

invitation to this lecture


May 31, 2005

K. Anthony Appiah (Princeton University):
"Ethics in a World of Strangers"
introduction: Gary Smith (American Academy Berlin)
6pm, Senatssaal, main building

invitation to this lecture


May 23, 2005

Seyla Benhabib (Yale University):
"Crises of the Republic. Reconfigurations of Sovereignty and Citizenship"
introduction: Günter H. Lenz (American Studies, Humboldt-Universität)
6pm, Audimax, main building

invitation to this lecture


July 15, 2004

Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett (Faculty of Arts and Sciences, New York University):
"From Memory Palace to Performance Space. The Development of the Museum as an Art Practice"
7.30pm, Senatssaal, main building

invitation to this lecture


June 24, 2004

Iris Marion Young (Dept. of Political Science, University of Chicago):
"Structural Injustice and the Politics of Difference"
6pm, Senatssaal, main building


February 11, 2004

Karsten D. Voigt (coordinator for the German-American cooperation in the Auswärtiges Amt):
"Transatlantische Beziehungen. Wertegemeinschaft oder 'Clash of Civilizations'?"
6pm, Senatssaal, main building

invitation to this lecture


December 1, 2003

Henry Louis Gates (W. E. B. Du Bois Professor of the Humanities & Director of the W. E. B. Du Bois Institute of Afro-American Research, Harvard University):
"W. E. B. Du Bois and the Encyclopedia Africana"
6pm, Senatssaal, main building

invitation to this lecture


June 24, 2003

Mark Poster (University of California, Irvine):
"Towards a Planetary Culture (and Its Discontents)"
6pm, Senatssaal, main building

invitation to this lecture


April 30, 2003

Hayden White (Stanford University, University of California):
"Historical Revisionism"
6pm, Senatssaal, main building

invitation to this lecture


January 20, 2003

Richard Sennett (New York University):
"Du Bois' Paradox. On Welfare, Racial Integration, and Resisting the State"
6pm, Senatssaal, main building

invitation to this lecture


June 17, 2002

Daniel R. Coats (Ambassador of the United States of America):
"American Cultural Diplomacy. A Transatlantic Perspective"
6pm, Senatssaal, main building

invitation to this lecture