Biopolitics Geopolitics Life Cover

Biopolitics, Geopolitics, Life: Settler States and Indigenous Presence, ed. by René Dietrich and Kerstin Knopf

The contributors to Biopolitics, Geopolitics, Life investigate biopolitics and geopolitics as two distinct yet entangled techniques of settler colonial states across the globe, from the Americas and Hawai‘i to Australia and Aotearoa/New Zealand. Drawing on literary and cultural studies, social sciences, political theory, visual culture, and film studies, they show how biopolitics and geopolitics produce norms of social life and land use that delegitimize and target Indigenous bodies, lives, lands, and political formations. Among other topics, the contributors explore the representations of sexual violence against Native women in literature, Indigenous critiques of the carceral state in North America, Indigenous Elders’ refusal of dominant formulations of aging, the governance of Indigenous peoples in Guyana, the displacement of Guaraní in Brazil, and the 2016 rule to formally acknowledge a government-to-government relationship between the US federal government and the Native Hawaiian community. Throughout, the contributors contend that Indigenous life and practices cannot be contained and defined by the racialization and dispossession of settler colonialism, thereby pointing to the transformative potential of an Indigenous-centered decolonization. 

Contributors René Dietrich, Jacqueline Fear-Segal, Mishuana Goeman, Alyosha Goldstein, Sandy Grande, Michael R. Griffiths, Shona N. Jackson, Kerstin Knopf, Sabine N. Meyer, Robert Nichols, Mark Rifkin, David Uahikeaikaleiʻohu Maile

Biopolitics, Geopolitics, Life will transform major conversations in settler colonial and Indigenous Studies. Its exceptional essays represent impactful and field-defining work.” — Jodi A. Byrd, author of The Transit of Empire: Indigenous Critiques of Colonialism

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Nathalie Aghoro, ed. The Acoustics of the Social on Page and Screen. Bloomsbury, forthcoming.

Sound positions individuals as social subjects. The presence of human beings, animals, objects, or technologies reverberates into the spaces we inhabit and produces distinct soundscapes that render social practices, group associations, and socio-cultural tensions audible. The Acoustics of the Social on Page and Screen unites interdisciplinary perspectives on the social dimensions of sound in audiovisual and literary environments. The essays in the collection discuss soundtracks for shared values, group membership, and collective agency, and engage with the subversive functions of sound and sonic forms of resistance in American literature, film, and TV.

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Kerstin Schmidt, ed. The State of Human Rights: Historical Genealogies, Political Controversies, and Cultural Imaginaries. Heidelberg: Universitätsverlag Winter, 2020.

Since their proclamation in the 1948 ‘Universal Declaration of Human Rights’, human rights have become a dominant language in controversies over ethics around the globe and a normative basis for concepts of a just society and ideas of the public good. This concerns a variety of issues, from slavery and warfare through fights over indigenous rights and disputes over preserving the heritage of minorities to current conflicts over asylum law and the status of refugees. What is the state of human rights both within and beyond the boundaries of the nation state? How can we take into account the significance of cultural texts in envisioning and critically reflecting the 'state of human rights’?

This book offers interdisciplinary perspectives from literary and cultural studies, theater, photography, history, political science, philosophy, sociology, and law, looking at historical controversies on human rights as well as at their current political, social, and imagined state(s).

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Kerstin Schmidt and Julia Faisst, eds. Picturing America: Photography and the Sense of Place. Leiden and Boston: Brill/Rodopi, 2019.

Picturing America: Photography and the Sense of Place argues that photography is a prevalent practice of making American places. Its collected essays epitomize not only how pictures situate us in a specific place, but also how they create a sense of such mutable place-worlds. Understanding photographs as prime sites of knowledge production and advocates of socio-political transformations, a transnational set of scholars reveals how images enact both our perception and conception of American environments. They investigate the power photography yields in shaping our ideas of self, nation, and empire, of private and public space, through urban, landscape, wasteland and portrait photography. The volume radically reconfigures how pictures alter the development of American places in the past, present, and future.

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Nathalie Aghoro. Sounding the Novel: Voice in Twenty-First Century American Fiction. Heidelberg: Universitätsverlag Winter, 2018.

Sounding the Novel investigates how American fiction in the early twenty-first century registers the sonic mediality of voice. It looks at ways in which novels enlist the reader’s auditory imagination to establish literary soundscapes where the sound of a voice becomes the main driver for the development of the story and for narrative experimentation. With its focus on novels written after 2000 by Richard Powers, Karen Tei Yamashita, Jonathan Safran Foer, and Jennifer Egan, this study examines the aesthetic and discursive investment in the acoustics of voice as a constitutive part of contemporary literary imaginaries. Drawing on literary theory, sound studies, and philosophy of voice, Sounding the Novel discusses how written representations of vocal expression explore the socio-cultural functions of its resonance and its material impact as a corporeal medium in the context of U.S. auditory cultures.

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Barbara Hahn and Kerstin Schmidt eds. Inequality in America: Interdisciplinary Perspectives. Publications of the Bavarian America Academy. Winter, 2017.

In the United States, income inequality has increased significantly. For decades, wage growth has been especially slow for the middle class, whereas the top 10% of earners has benefitted the most from the economic upswing. The same is true for distribution of wealth. According to an analysis by the Pew Research Center, the wealth gap between America’s upper-income and lower-income families has reached its highest level. There are not only disparities between regions of the United States, but also huge differences within American cities themselves that are often caused by urban governance and housing policies. All this is true for Canada and other countries of the Americas as well, but to differing degrees.

By the same token, racial and ethnic inequalities, as well as inequalities along gender lines, leave a deep mark on different countries of the Americas and are often the result of a lack of social justice, equality of opportunity, or access to education and health services. This wide range of systemic and structural inequalities is also negotiated in cultural practices, as novels, plays, short stories, or artistic productions thematize differences between individuals and groups of society, often along the 'color line.'

The essays collected in this book address inequality in America from a variety of perspectives, ranging from literary and cultural studies, sociology, economics, political science, history, geography, as well as museum studies.

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Theater and Mobility - Special Issue of the JCDE: Journal of Contemporary Drama in English - Vol. 5, Issue 1 (Apr. 2017)

Issue Editors: Kerstin Schmidt and Nathalie Aghoro

Full text PDF available here.

Weber: The Contemporary West, Special Issues

Guest editor: Kerstin Schmidt with Prof. Vijay Kumar (Hyderabad, India) and Prof. Michael Wutz (Ogden, UT, USA).

For more information. see Weber: The Contemporary West  (

Klick the cover image to browse the respective issue.

weber Cover Spring 2016
Spring/Summer 2016, Special Issue: South Asia Focus
Weber Fall 2016 cover
Fall 2016 Special Issue: Global Voices

Faisst, Julia. Cultures of Emancipation: Photography, Race, and Modern American Literature. American Studies: A Monograph Series. Heidelberg: Universitaetsverlag Winter, 2012.

Emancipation, both in aesthetic and political terms, was the decisive aim of modernist authors in the United States. Cultures of Emancipation investigates how black and white writers from the 1860s to 1945 (Frederick Douglass, Harold Frederic, Henry James, Gertrude Stein, Jean Toomer, and Charles Chesnutt) enlisted photography to set themselves free, politically and artistically. In the face of personal and historical crises such as Abolitionism and the Great Migration, they turned to photography to abolish slavery, obtain equal rights, and refashion themselves as writers of an era that would become dominated by images. Photography served as the thematic, structural, and conceptual fulcrum of modernist literature. Reading interdisciplinary modernism across the color line, this is the first study to place photography at the center of both black and white literary modernism. At the intersection of literary and visual studies, race studies, and cultural history, Cultures of Emancipation shows how vital photography was to the rise and development of modernist literature, as well as to the aesthetics and politics of modern selfhood.


Faisst, Julia, Alan Rosen and Werner Sollors, eds. David P. Boder. Die Toten habe ich nicht befragt. Second Revised German Edition of I Did Not Interview the Dead (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1949). Heidelberg: Universitaetsverlag Winter, 2012.

Bereits 1946 nahm der in Lettland geborene amerikanische Sprachpsychologe David Pablo Boder in Europa mit einem hochmodernen Drahttongerät über 100 Gespräche mit jüdischen und nichtjüdischen Überlebenden von Vernichtungspolitik, Konzentrationslagern und Kriegswirren auf, die heute eine der allerfrühesten Sammlungen von Nachkriegszeugenaussagen darstellen.

Während Boder Frauen und Männer in Deutschland, Frankreich, Polen und Estland von ihren bewegenden Lebenserfahrungen berichten lässt, gelingt es ihm, ihre noch frischen Erinnerungen und Emotionen in ihren eigenen Stimmen präzise aufzuzeichnen. So sind die traumatischen Spuren des Erlebten der oft verstörenden Sprache der Interviews prägnant eingeschrieben. Zusammen mit der von Boder entwickelten Trauma-Theorie kann dieser Beitrag zur Holocaust-Forschung als ungewöhnlich früher Versuch einer Erinnerungs- und Medienforschung gelten.

Fünf der acht in Boders Originalfassung I Did Not Interview the Dead von 1949 in englischer Fassung publizierten Interviews wurden auf deutsch geführt und erscheinen nun in der deutschen Erstausgabe zum ersten Mal in ihrer ursprünglichen Fassung.


De Kerckhove, Derrick, Martina Leeker and Kerstin Schmidt, eds. McLuhan neu lesen: Kritische Analysen zu Medien und Kultur im 21. Jahrhundert. Bielefeld: transcript, 2008.

Dieser international und interdisziplinär besetzte Band nimmt eine kritische Re-Lektüre von Marshall McLuhans Medientheorie vor und setzt sich so mit der zeitgenössischen Medienlandschaft auseinander.

Die medien- und kulturwissenschaftlichen Beiträge, die um künstlerische Stellungnahmen ergänzt sind, bieten eine umfassende und einmalige Sammlung von Perspektiven auf das Werk McLuhans, neue Erkenntnisse zur Genese und den Implikationen seines Denkens sowie zu Umsetzungen in der Medienkunst. Das Ergebnis ist ein so noch nicht da gewesener Einblick in den aktuellen Stand der Medien- und Kulturwissenschaften.

Dem Band ist eine DVD beigefügt, die neben Kurzinterviews mit den Autoren und Autorinnen auch vielfältiges medienkünstlerisches Material bietet.


Benesch, Klaus, and Kerstin Schmidt, eds. Space in America: Theory, History, Culture. Architecture, Technology, Culture. Amsterdam/New York: Rodopi, 2005.

America’s sense of space has always been tied to what Hayden White called the “narrativization” of real events. If the awe-inspiring manifestations of nature in America (Niagara Falls, Virginia’s Natural Bridge, the Grand Canyon, etc.) were often used as a foil for projecting utopian visions and idealizations of the nation’s exceptional place among the nations of the world, the rapid technological progress and its concomitant appropriation of natural spaces served equally well, as David Nye argues, to promote the dominant cultural idiom of exploration and conquest.

From the beginning, American attitudes towards space were thus utterly contradictory if not paradoxical; a paradox that scholars tried to capture in such hybrid concepts as the “middle landscape” (Leo Marx), an “engineered New Earth” (Cecelia Tichi), or the “technological sublime” (David Nye). Not only was America’s concept of space paradoxical, it has always also been a contested terrain, a site of continuous social and cultural conflict. Many foundational issues in American history (the dislocation of Native and African Americans, the geo-political implications of nation-building, immigration and transmigration, the increasing division and “clustering” of contemporary American society, etc.) involve differing ideals and notions of space. Quite literally, space and its various ideological appropriations formed the arena where America’s search for identity (national, political, cultural) has been staged. If American democracy, as Frederick Jackson Turner claimed, “is born of free land,” then its history may well be defined as the history of the fierce struggles to gain and maintain power over both the geographical, social and political spaces of America and its concomitant narratives.

The number and range of topics, interests, and critical approaches of the essays gathered here open up exciting new avenues of inquiry into the tangled, contentious relations of space in America.

Table of contents available here.


Schmidt, Kerstin. The Theater of Transformation: Postmodernism in American Drama. Postmodern Studies. Amsterdam/New York: Rodopi, 2005.

The Theater of Transformation: Postmodernism in American Drama offers a fresh and innovative reading of the contemporary experimental American theater scene and navigates through the contested and contentious relationship between postmodernism and contemporary drama. This book addresses gender and class as well as racial issues in the context of a theoretical discussion of dramatic texts, textuality, and performance. Transformation is contemporary drama’s answer to the questions of postmodernism and a major technique in the development of a postmodern language for the stage. In order to demonstrate the multi-faceted nature of the postmodern theater of transformation, this study draws on a wide range of plays: from early experimental plays of the 1960s by Jean-Claude van Itallie, through feminist plays by Megan Terry and Rochelle Owens to more recent drama by the African-American playwright Suzan-Lori Parks.

The Theater of Transformation: Postmodernism in American Drama is written for anyone interested in contemporary American drama and theater as well as in postmodernism and contemporary literary theory. It appeals even more broadly to a readership intrigued by the ubiquitous aspects of popular culture, by feminism and ethnicity, and by issues pertaining to the so-called ‘society of spectacle’ and the study of contemporary media.