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Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Department of English and American Studies

W. E. B. Du Bois Lectures




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The W. E. B. Du Bois Lecture Series in American Culture Studies offers new contributions to the urgently needed intercultural dialogue by inviting scholars and intellectuals to give lectures open to a wider audience that address some of the crucial aspects and problems of public culture and the modes of cultural critique today.

The lectures are named in honor of William Edward Burghardt Du Bois (1868 to 1963) an important and influential intellectual, scholar, public figure, and writer of 20th century America. After doing graduate work at Harvard University, he was a doctoral student at Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität (now Humboldt-Universität) from 1892 to 1894. In Berlin he studied with Gustav von Schmöller, Adolf Wagner, Heinrich von Treitschke, and Max Weber. The first African American ever to receive a Ph.D. from Harvard in 1895, he was subsequently professor of economics and history at Atlanta University from 1897 to 1910 and became widely known for his numerous historical and analytical studies of the social, economic, political, and cultural status of black people in the United States. In his famous book The Souls of Black Folk (1903), which combined political essays, cultural critique, autobiographical sketches, and fiction, Du Bois elaborated his notion of the inescapable "double-consciousness" that characterizes the lives of black Americans and his vision of the crucial role racial conflicts were to play all over the world in the new century: "The problem of the Twentieth Century is the problem of the color line." He was a co-founder of the racially integrated civil rights organization National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and organized several Pan-African Congresses (from 1919 to 1945) which addressed the problems of imperialism and decolonization in a worldwide context. As editor of The Crisis, the journal of the NAACP, from 1910 to 1934, and of Phylon, from 1940 to 1944, Du Bois created a forum for black American literature, cultural and political debate, and social thought that situated African Americans in the wider frame of a revised notion of a multicultural democratic society in the United States and its interrelations with other parts of a postcolonial world. In 1958/59, he received an honorary doctorate from Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin. He emigrated to Ghana in 1961 where he edited the Encyclopedia Africana. Du Bois died in Ghana in 1963.

American Studies in Perspective

In the age of globalization, the gradual unification of Europe, and the increasing awareness of the crucial importance of the political organization of social heterogeneity and cultural differences, a critical engagement with U.S. American culture and society has become ever more urgent. The repercussions of American multiculturalism, the interplay of competing public cultures, the impact of the new media, and the transnational perspectives of American cultural production have fundamentally changed the direction, the academic organization, and the public role of the interdisciplinary project of American Studies in the United States. These new developments not only challenge our understanding of the role American Studies should play in German universities, but also demand a new, genuinely dialogical conception of American Studies that articulates different and conflicting experiences and visions of the future from both sides of the Atlantic in a globalizing context. American Studies in Germany, seen in the wider European frame, can provide a forum in which the most pressing issues of the powerful dynamics of cultural differences, of the reorganization of the production of cultural knowledge, and of the implications of a reconstitution of the public sphere, all of them critical issues for the new Berlin Republic, can be debated in a transnational, comparative perspective.

The American Studies Program at Humboldt-Universität defines its research objectives and curricula in this context. It therefore focuses on the literary and cultural representations of, and theoretical approaches to, categories such as 'race,' ethnicity, gender, class, region, and age, and their complex interrelations within and beyond American society. Literary studies are complemented by studies of other print media, film, television, the internet, and the arts. The American Studies Program is involved in the new interdisciplinary Gender Studies program and cooperates closely with Cultural Studies, Cultural Anthropology, and the Modern Literature and Language Departments at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin. Intercultural dialogues are pursued in collaborative research projects with scholars from the United States and European countries. These activities materialize in a number of student and faculty exchange programs with various American and European universities.



Winter Semester 2020/2021:


Dear friends of the W.E.B. Du Bois Lecture Series,

we will continue our Du Bois Lecture Series digitally now.

In the meantime, we have also been planning to install a W.E.B. Du Bois memorial in the main building of Humboldt University, for which we created a crowdfunding platform, to finance the final 5.000 € of the 20.000 € needed. Please share or contribute if you have the means, we really appreciate it!

For more information, read this interview with visual artist Jean-Ulrick Désert and our American Studies colleague Dorothea Löbbermann.

Thank you and take care!
American Studies, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin



24 November 2020

Yehuda Sharim (University of California, Merced): “We & We: Cinema of Two”
6.30-8 p.m. (Central European Time)
Please register for this online-event: evangelia.kindinger@hu-berlin.de

In this talk, scholar and filmmaker Yehuda Sharim will screen and discuss excerpts from his films Songs that Never End (2019) and Seeds of All Things (2018) that have been screened at film festivals and universities across the world. They offer comparative perspectives on immigration and displacement and the changing constructions of home, nation, and belonging. His interest lies in exploring the role film, and art can play in better our experiences as communities, primarily as we cross borders to find solace, as we decolonize and uncolonize oppressive tools of violence, as we struggle to locate justice, and as we reimagine notions of community and community building.

Bio: Yehuda Sharim is a filmmaker and a poet. Currently, he is an Assistant Professor in the Global Art Studies Program, University of California, Merced. He holds a Ph.D. in Culture and Performance from UCLA’s World Arts and Cultures program (2013). His most recent film, Songs that Never End (2019), nominated for the Best International Documentary Film for 2020 at the International Documentary Film Festival in Vienna, is concerned with the experiences of refugee youth. His upcoming book manuscript, We Are In It: An Anthology of Border Crossing presents personal histories and accounts by refugees and those who seek refuge without documentation. Comprised of interviews in monologue form, his projects reveal the fear, trauma, and resilience of immigrants and refugees. For more, please go to: https://www.sharimstudio.com.

14 January 2021

A Conversation with E. Patrick Johnson (Northwestern University)
6-7 p.m. (Central European Time)
Please register for this online-event: doingsouthernstudies@gmail.com

E. Patrick Johnson, Dean of the School of Communication and Annenberg University Professor of Performance Studies and African American Studies at Northwestern University, performance artist and author of books such as Sweet Tea: Black Gay Men of the South (2008), Black. Queer. Southern. Women. – An Oral History (2018) and Honeypot: Black Southern Women Who Love Women (2019) joins Evangelia Kindinger (HU Berlin) and Anne Potjans (HU Berlin) in a conversation about his oral history projects and the intersections of African American Studies, Queer Theory and Southern Studies. This conversation is part of the program of the international conference “Doing Southern Studies Today” that will take place from 13-15 January, 2021.

BIO: E. Patrick Johnson is Dean of the School of Communication and Annenberg University Professor at Northwestern University. A member of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, Johnson’s work has greatly impacted African American Studies, Performance Studies, and Gender, and Sexuality Studies. He is the author of several books, including Appropriating Blackness: Performance and the Politics of Authenticity (2003); Sweet Tea: Black Gay Men of the South – An Oral History (2008); Black. Queer. Southern. Women. – An Oral History (2018); Honeypot: Black Southern Women Who Love Women (2019), in addition to a number of edited and co-edited collections, essays, and plays.   


16 February 2021

Sina A. Nitzsche (Dortmund University of Applied Sciences and Arts)

„besinne mich unserer Pflicht, geb' dir Geschichtsunterricht“: Hip-Hop Knowledge, Germany’s Colonial History, and Afrodiasporic Masculinities in Platz an der Sonne (2017)

6.30-8 p.m. (Central European Time)
Please register for this online-event: evangelia.kindinger@hu-berlin.de

In her talk, Sina Nitzsche analyzes the album Platz an der Sonne (Place in the Sun) released in 2017 by the Berlin-based Afrodiasporic rap crew Black Superman Group (BSMG). BSMG consists of Dutch-Nigerian-German rapper Megaloh, Sierra Leonean-German rapper Musa, and Ghanaian-German producer Ghanaian Stallion. Focusing on the song “Geschichtsunterricht” (“History Lesson”), the talk will consider how the rap song negotiates the consequences of Germany’s colonial past by engaging in a larger hip-hop tradition of sharing knowledge. It will also show how the song draws on African American and Afrodiasporic histories, musical styles, and narratives to respond to ideas of racial equality formulated by the global Black Lives Matter movement. Nitzsche ultimately argues that Platz an der Sonne attempts to fill the collective gap of knowledge about Germany’s colonial past and postcolonial present by teaching a new rap audience poetic lessons about marginalization, self-empowerment and the re-formulation of a Black German identity.

BIO: Sina A. Nitzsche is a researcher and coordinator in the Department of Digital Teaching and Learning at Dortmund University of Applied Sciences and Arts. She is the author of Poetic Resurrection: The Bronx in American Popular Culture (2020) as well as co-editor of Hip-Hop in Europe (2013) and Popular Music and Public Diplomacy (2018). Bridging the gap between academia and community, she founded the European Hiphop Studies Network and has organized several hip-hop education projects, workshops, and events in the Ruhr Area and beyond. Her research interests include hip-hop studies, popular culture studies, urban studies, and digital culture studies.




The Lectures