Welcome to American Studies

Welcome

American Studies at Eichstätt is an interdisciplinary field that aims at a comprehensive understanding of North American literatures and cultures from early colonial times to the present. With a special emphasis on race and diaspora studies, the program examines the variety of literatures in the U.S. and Canada from multiethnic, postcolonial, regional/transnational, and comparative perspectives, thus reflecting the internationalization of American Studies in recent years.

Our research and teaching moreover reflects the multifold interrelations between various forms of media: investigations of visual and auditory cultures (photography, film, radio, music, TV) stand alongside theater and performance studies as well as architecture. To explore this wide variety of textual, visual, audio, material, and performative manifestations and interpretations of American experiences, American Studies Eichstätt draws on methodologies ranging from literary and cultural studies to media theory and history and theories of space.

 

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If you would like to educate yourself further, here are some reading, listening, and viewing recommendations. As we will continuously update our selection, please make sure to come back at a later point and visit our page with further reading recommendations here.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Americanah. New York: Anchor Books, 2014.

Nigeria-born writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s acclaimed novel Americanah depicts the life of a young Nigerian student in the United States and the grim experience of what it means to be black in contemporary America. Adichie’s book gives a blunt yet deeply personal perspective on the persistence of racism, racial inequality and injustice. Blending diverse narrative voices and oscillating between documentary and fiction, her book is both unsettling and deeply thought-provoking.   Julia Rössler

 

James Baldwin. The Fire Next Time. New York: Dial Press, 1963.

The writer and civil rights activist James Baldwin opens his seminal book The Fire Next Time with a letter to his fourteen-year old nephew, written on the hundredth anniversary of the Emancipation, the freeing of slaves. He ends this letter with a wake-up call: “the country is celebrating one hundred years of freedom one hundred years too soon.” The Fire Next Time is both a plea against continuing racial injustice and an outcry for survival, human interconnection, and change. Baldwin’s meditation on race is “relevant for understanding the pain and anger behind the protests“ (Barack Obama), as it dwells on the young James’s life in the ghetto, his encounters with white supremacy on the streets, and the police brutality he experiences in Harlem. What Baldwin asserts almost 60 years ago remains true today: whatever white people do not know about Black people “reveals, precisely and inexorably, what they do not know about themselves.”   Julia Faisst

“A Letter to My Nephew” was originally published in The Progressive and the “Letter from a Region in My Mind” in The New Yorker.

 

Amiri Baraka. It’s Nation Time – African Visionary Music. Black Forum, 1972.

In 1970, Motown founded the progressive subsidiary label Black Forum. The unique spoken word label created a platform for black activists and artists to critically address racism and inequality in the wake of Martin Luther King’s assassination. Among the eight LPs the label issued, Amiri Baraka’s album It’s Nation Time stands out as a complex compilation of poetry, African music, free jazz and R&B. In the course of its 14 tracks, Baraka unfolds an uncompromising vision of a utopian black nation. Today, It’s Nation Time remains current in its radical and urging call for social change.   Ulla Stackmann

You can listen to It’s Nation Time here.

 

Ta-Nehisi Coates. Between the World and Me. Spiegel & Grau, 2015.

Ta-Nehisi Coates’s award-winning book Between the World and Me is a letter from father to fifteen-year-old son in which Coates shares his thoughts on what it means to be Black in America at the beginning of the twenty-first century. It is a powerful examination of the dangers and impediments for the adolescent development of Black youth in an environment governed by systemic racism. At the same time, it provides readers with multigenerational insights into the embodied experience of white supremacy. “Race is the child of racism, not the father,” Coates writes in Between the World and Me. It is a sentence that stuck with me because his concise and effortless phrasing of the fact stands in stark contrast to the stifling and growing historical record of its erasure through hegemonial strategies of dismissal, denial, delegitimization, and dehumanization. This book is an excellent starting point for those seeking to better understand the significance of the current moment.   Nathalie Aghoro

 

Barbara Ransby. Making All Black Lives Matter: Reimagining Freedom in the 21st Century. University of California Press, 2018.

A good place to start reading up on the Black Lives Matter movement and the protests currently taking place in the United States is Barbara Ransby’s Making All Black Lives Matter. It offers a dense, yet comprehensive and hands-on description of the Movement for Black Lives, its core values, and the principles behind their demands. An activist and organizer herself, Ransby is able to present background information and places contemporary activism for black liberation in a context that is both historical and socio-political, as well as nation-spanning and local. I think it provides a good overview of the reasons people protest and the demands that go beyond calls for prosecution of individual offenders.   Nicole Schneider

 

Richard Rothstein. The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How our Government Segregated America. New York: Liveright, 2017.

Many Americans today believe that racial segregation exists due to de facto segregation, believing that de jure segregation was eliminated long ago. This “willful blindness” (xiii), however, removes obligation from white Americans in particular to accept responsibility for being complicit in structuring America’s racially segregated residential neighborhoods, as American historian Richard Rothstein cogently outlines in his book The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How our Government Segregated America. Using the U.S. Constitution as a basis, Rothstein lucidly explains how governmental policy at the federal, state, and local levels in the mid-twentieth century in particular enforced residential segregation across America and examines how law enforcement and justice officials brutally upheld the racially divisive standards implemented by the government, leading to inequities in American society today, which come to the fore during periods of civil unrest. To overcome its racial division, Rothstein argues that America must directly confront the unconstitutional practices applied into the twenty-first century and finally assume responsibility for its systemically racist practices. This is essential reading for anyone seeking to understand how governmental policy and everyday inaction have sustained an inherently racist residential system in the United States and includes a section on “Frequently Asked Questions” that tackles some of the most frequent misconceptions the public has.   Bobbi Reimann

You can listen to an NPR interview with the author here. Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor's "How Real Estate Segregated America," published in Dissent Magazine in 2018, adds a further piece to the puzzle of residential segregation, namely public-private partnerships, which you can read about here.

 

Jesmyn Ward, ed. The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks about Race. New York: Scribner, 2017.

Over 50 years after the publication of James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time (1963), Jesmyn Ward now brings together a wide range of contemporary voices that have taken Baldwin’s influential book as a point of departure for their responses to both Baldwin and to the bitter and continuing reality of racism in America today. This “choral response” (Jelani Webb) consists of biographical pieces, as, for instance, Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah’s trip to Baldwin’s house in France through ruminations on mourning as a condition of black life by Claudia Rankine or Edwidge Danticat’s “Message to my Daughters” to Emily Raboteau’s discovery of the neighborhood mural “KNOW YOUR RIGHTS!”   Kerstin Schmidt