Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin

W.E.B. Du Bois Lectures - Summer Semester 2022


24 May 2022


Beth H. Piatote (University of California, Berkeley)

"Antíkoni and the Politics of Performance"


6.30 – 8.00 P.M. (CEST)

Online Lecture on Zoom

Please register for this online event:


In this talk, Beth Piatote describes the development of her play, Antíkoni, which animates the themes of Sophocles' Antigone in the contemporary context of Native American efforts to repatriate ancestral remains and belongings from museums.


BIO: Beth H. Piatote is a scholar of Native American/Indigenous literature and law; a creative writer of fiction, poetry, plays, and essays; and an Indigenous language revitalization activist/healer, specializing in Nez Perce language and literature. She is the author of two books: Domestic Subjects: Gender, Citizenship, and Law in Native American Literature (Yale 2013), which won an MLA award; and The Beadworkers: Stories (Counterpoint 2019), which was longlisted for the Aspen Words Literary Prize, the PEN/Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction, and shortlisted for the California Independent Booksellers Association "Golden Poppy" Award.



NEW DATE! - 7 June 2022


Samira Spatzek (Freie Universität Berlin)

"Unruly Narrative, or, On How Private Property Claimed Freedom and Being"


6.30 – 8.00 P.M. (CEST)

Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
Dorotheenstr. 24
Room 1.501

In this talk, Samira Spatzek will discuss her forthcoming book Unruly Narrative: On Private Property and Self-Making. In it, she examines the intricate connections between modern Western self-making and liberal ideas of private property, offering an intervention into questions of the white liberal Human. Understood here to be intimately bound by the formations of European liberalism, Atlantic slavery, and settler colonial expansion in the New World, the talk will consider the importance of narrative for the liberal subject and argue that notions of self-ownership and the ability to own others are fundamental to the liberal subject’s coming-into-being. Spatzek traces private property’s positioning and formative powers as she turns to Toni Morrison’s historical novel A Mercy (2008). She will closely examine its representation of colonial North America for the ways it scrutinizes complex entanglements between power, race, and subjectivity that are so fundamental to US society till this day. Ultimately, Spatzek’s reading of A Mercy positions the novel as a key literary text that generates a fundamental philosophical and political critique of the connections between self-making and private property—a critique that refuses the Human grammar of being that Atlantic slavery induced.


BIO: Samira Spatzek is a postdoctoral researcher of American studies and fashion studies at the Cluster of Excellence 2020 “Temporal Communities: Doing Literature in a Global Perspective” at FU Berlin. She studied English-Speaking Cultures and American Studies at the Universities of Bremen, Sheffield, and Groningen, and holds a PhD from the University of Bremen. In 2016, she was a visiting research fellow at the Callie House Research Center for the Study of Global Black Cultures and Politics and African American and Diaspora Studies at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. She won a fellowship for her doctoral research by the Rosa-Luxemburg-Foundation and is currently a member of the editorial team of the peer-reviewed e-journal COPAS: Current Objectives in Postgraduate American Studies. She is the author of Unruly Narrative: On Private Property and Self-Making (forthcoming with DeGruyter "American Frictions").



July 20, 2022


Jessica Ullrich (Kunstakademie Münster)
"Aesthetic Practices of Attentiveness – Caring Beyond the Human in Contemporary Art"

6:30-8:00 p.m. (in-person lecture)

New place: Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Unter den Linden 6, Hörsaal 1072


In my talk I will discuss North American contemporary artistic practices within the framework of human-animal studies, speculative ethics of care, and entangled empathy.

After the so-called animal turn, non-human animals who are involved in artworks have increasingly been considered to be co-creators of art. Interspecies Art, in which they play an active role as co-producers of art, has become a legitimate new relational art genre. This development represents an important new phase in art history because it means that non-human animals are finally being taken seriously as social, cultural, and aesthetic actors. But the aesthetic agency, creativity, and resilience of non-human animals does not play a role in all current artworks inspired by the animal turn. There is also Interspecies Art that responds more to the dependency, disposability or suffering of non-human animals and that is deeply concerned with the well-being of specific animal individuals in need. Caring for non-human animals in art is then not only represented or mediated but also materialized and embodied in very practical ways.


BIO: Jessica Ullrich is professor for art history and aesthetics at the University of Fine Arts Muenster. She studied art history, fine arts and German literature in Frankfurt as well as arts administration in Berlin. She holds a PhD in art history and has been assistant professor at the University of Arts in Berlin and at the University Nuremberg-Erlangen as well as visiting professor at the University of Fine Arts Münster and lecturer at the universities of Frankfurt and Flensburg. Before that she has worked as research assistant at the Georg-Kolbe-Museum Berlin and as head of the education department and curator for education at Kunstpalais Erlangen. She curated art exhibitions and video screenings in Berlin, Utrecht, and Sao Paulo.

Jessica has edited exhibition catalogues and collections of essays, and publishes widely articles on modern and contemporary art and on human-animal relations in art. She is a founding member of several animal-studies research groups in the German speaking countries, for example Animals in History, FITT-Forschungsinitiative Tiertheorien, IRI-Individual Rights Initiative, and Animality and Aesthetics as well as member of EACAS (European Association for Critical Animal Studies) and CLAS (Cultural Literary Animal Studies).