From Welcome Week to Christmas Break
This edition covers some exciting news about the institute and its students. In October, the HCA welcomed the MAS class of 2013 and one of its members tells us about his first experience in Germany and at the HCA.
One of our former students, who has recently moved to the U.S., gives us some insight on what Life After the MAS can look like.
You will also get an impression of how holidays are celebrated at the HCA.
Then we will take a look back at the university’s America Day in June, when U.S. President Barack Obama sent a message of greetings to the HCA to show his appreciation for the James W. C. Pennington Distinguished Fellowship. Furthermore, a new Ghamian scholar in residence, Charles Postel, has joined the HCA - we will introduce him in this issue.
Please feel free to forward our newsletter to anyone interested in American Studies. Of course, we appreciate any feedback you would like to share with us. If you would like to learn more about the HCA’s recent development, please have a look at the Annual Report 2010/2011, which is now online.
Many thanks and best wishes,
Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Detlef Junker
HCA Founding Director
On October 4, Prof. Junker and the HCA staff welcomed 15 new MAS students. The Class of 2013 is made up of students from nine different countries, including China, Russia, Turkey, Germany and the United States. The new MAS class is the eighth since the program was established in 2004. Tony Rush, one of our American students, arrived here in September. He shares his first experience with us and tells us how he fell in love with Heidelberg at first sight.
Coming from a military background, I was not sure what to expect at a civilian university. Having traveled abroad to Spain and Portugal on military orders to work with the Spanish Navy, this opportunity for me to study abroad in a civilian context provides me with a unique perspective: to juxtapose a military education with a civilian education is an exceptional opportunity that very few people have the benefit of experiencing.
Upon first arriving in Germany, I was immediately reminded of home, which is New York State. The mountains, the landscape, the weather and even the fall foliage are all similar to that of New York. Aside from the physical beauty of Germany, I took German classes at the Naval Academy which exposed me to the cultural beauty of the country. Everything, from the sights to the food to the language, is so rich in history and tradition that I will be fortunate enough to experience these next eighteen months. As for Heidelberg, I fell in love with the city as soon as I first walked into town. Heidelberg is the perfect microcosm of Germany for me: it combines the wonders of city-life in a small setting with the ability to go for day hikes in the great outdoors. I have been on several runs throughout the city, with my favorite run being the path up Philosopher’s Way to the trails on the mountain. Also, the Hauptstraße provides for a good nightlife for the student population, while at the same time it allows for great food, plenty of shopping, and of course, excellent schooling at HCA.
The Heidelberg Center for American Studies offers an outstanding program at one of the best known universities in Europe, and I am fortunate enough to be a part of it. The HCA allows for top-tier education with renowned professors, prominent guest speakers and a first-rate program. Another indispensable benefit of HCA is the international aspect of the program. With this year’s class of fifteen people coming from China, Germany, Ghana, Luxembourg, Palestine, Poland, Russia, Turkey and the U.S., the HCA exposes students to international perspectives, in both academic and non-academic settings, which is essential in a student’s education. For instance, on the Friday of Orientation Week, the MAS Class of 2013 went to a wine festival with a few members of the Class of 2012 and the coordinators of the MAS program. There we were able to socialize with one another outside of a classroom setting and start building friendships that will last a lifetime – perhaps the most important opportunity that HCA offers. I look forward to these next two years in Heidelberg and am extremely grateful for this opportunity I am about to embark upon.
Following my graduation from the HCA’s MAS program in 2007, I worked in a variety of positions in the PR and marketing field. I started out as a PR assistant for one of Germany’s largest agency networks in Munich and then moved on to support a parliament member in her office in Berlin. Most recently, I moved to the United States where I got married to fellow HCA ’07 graduate Bobby Lee this spring. We both live in Berkeley, California now. Bobby is pursuing his Ph.D. in history at UC Berkeley and I am working for the English Department. When I moved to Berkeley, I discovered there was only little support from the university for international partners and spouses, so I founded an international women’s group called the “Berkeley Wives” which is now becoming an official program within the university.
Another year gone by and we take a look back on how the season’s holidays were celebrated at the HCA.
On Thursday, November 24, MAS students and HCA staff celebrated Thanksgiving with the now well-established MAS Thanksgiving dinner in the Atrium of the Curt and Heidemarie Engelhorn Palais. Everybody had contributed delicious homemade dishes to the rich buffet. Before opening it, Dr. Mausbach, the HCA’s executive director, reminded the audience of the holiday’s origins and spoke thoughtfully about all the reasons we have to be grateful. Afterwards, he carved the turkey craftsmanlike and declared the buffet open and the evening proceeded with conversation, laughter, and excellent food and drink.
The MAS Christmas TGIF on Friday, December 16, was equally communicative, but conducted in a different style. After everybody enjoyed food and drinks and sneaked about the mistletoe, two brave students gave a start to the evening’s main attraction: Karaoke. Their version of the immortal ballad “Time of My Life” set the mood for an unforgettable party. We discovered concealed talents in students and staff alike, who demonstrated both their beautiful voices and their entertaining qualities. Everyone tried at least once and although at the end of the evening the more outgoing singers had a sore throat, the Christmas TGIF had been a lot of fun and a huge success.
Studying in Heidelberg
The HCA invites applications for the MAS class of 2014. From October 2011 until March 31, 2012, interested students can apply by using our online application forms. Have a look at: http://www.hca.uni-hd.de/ma/admissions.html
Further News from the HCA
U.S. President Barack Obama sent official greetings from the White House in Washington to the Heidelberg Center for American Studies. Consul Jeanine Collins of the U.S. Consulate General in Frankfurt delivered his letter on June 26, 2011, at the HCA’s Curt and Heidemarie Engelhorn Palais.
The president conveyed his greetings and his appreciation for the James W. C. Pennington Distinguished Fellowship, established by the HCA and the Faculty of Theology of Heidelberg University. It was introduced in a festive ceremony on the occasion of “America Day,” part of the university’s 625th anniversary celebrations. The president thanked the HCA for this initiative, which, he said, reflected the strong alliance and enduring friendship between the United States and Germany.
The fellowship honors the American pastor and former slave James W. C. Pennington, who received an honorary doctorate from Heidelberg University in 1849. This was the first award of its kind bestowed by a European—and perhaps any—university upon an African American. According to President Obama, it is especially appropriate that this fellowship will enable scholars to conduct research on subjects that were important to Pennington: slavery and emancipation, peace, education, religion and inter-cultural understanding.
The president expressed his conviction that in honoring James W.C. Pennington’s achievements, Heidelberg University will inspire future generations of Americans and Germans.
As part of its jubilee year celebrations, the Ruperto Carola is commemorating a pastor and scholar whose non-violent struggle for black freedom in the United States and beyond earned him fame within the international abolitionist movement. A former slave, Pennington was the first African American to attend classes at Yale University. He became a Presbyterian minister in 1838. During the 1849 Paris International Peace Congress, Pennington met Heidelberg scholar Friedrich Carové, who convinced the university’s theological faculty to bestow an honorary doctorate upon Pennington in the same year.
Professor Detlef Junker, founding director of the HCA, was deeply moved by President Obama’s words and thanked the president on behalf of the HCA’s students and staff. Obama’s letter, he emphasized, was a tremendous encouragement for the HCA to proceed on its chosen path.
Professor Junker also thanked Dr. h.c. Manfred Lautenschläger for his generosity in underwriting the initial fellowships in the new program. A first international call for applications will be released this summer. In his remarks, Lautenschläger, himself the recipient of an honorary doctorate from the Faculty of Theology and an Honorary Senator of Heidelberg University, stressed his foundation’s goals of promoting understanding between peoples and cultures.
Heidelberg University’s “America Day” paid tribute to the long and close relationship between the university and the United States. The event began at 3:00 p.m. with a panel of international scholars discussing the subject “The Obama Presidency: Will There Be a Second Term?” HCA political scientist Dr. Martin Thunert moderated the discussion. Following a musical interlude with Eva Mayerhofer and Christian Eckert, the Pennington fellowship was introduced with a keynote speech by Professor Manisha Sinha from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, entitled “James W. C. Pennington and Trans-Atlantic Abolitionism.”
The United States is experiencing the most profound economic crisis since the 1930s. In the midst of increasing political polarization, the Tea Party movement is demanding austerity measures to cut resources for education, infrastructure, and the social safety net. At the same time, the Occupy Wall Street movement is focusing on the responsibility of the financial industry in producing the present levels of economic distress, and on the regulatory and tax policies that over the last thirty years have led to a crisis of inequality.
I am the Ghaemian Scholar-in-Residence for 2011-2012, and for me this is a fascinating historical moment. My research focuses on social movements and political responses to economic crisis and inequality. My first book, The Populist Vision (Oxford University Press, 2007), examined the political ideology of the farmer-labor Populist movement of the 1890s. The original Populists represented a powerful challenge to corporate power, and the most successful third party movement since the mid-nineteenth century.
Here at the HCA I am working on a new book on the long Progressive era, focusing on movements of farmers, former slaves, workers, women, and other social movements that spread across the United States from the Civil War to World War One. I am especially interested in how these movements responded to the convulsive economic crises of this epoch and the corresponding growth of inequality. I am also examining how these movements contributed to the development of the regulatory state and the making of the modern United States.
My secondary research is on the post-World War Two conservative movement in the United States and the rise of the Tea Party phenomenon. While at the HCA I have had the opportunity to complete a book chapter titled “The Tea Parties in Historical Perspective: A Conservative Response to a Crisis of Political Economy.”
I am teaching a course at the HCA on “Problems of American Exceptionalism.” An elastic concept that emphasizes the unique features of U.S. historical experience, notions of “exceptionalism” have been present in U.S. history from the time of the Puritan colonists to the present. “Exceptionalism” has been a staple of American social science at least since the publication in 1906 of Werner Sombart’s famous essay “Why Is There No Socialism in the United States?” The course focuses on historical questions of state power, social policy, race, and religion. In this context, the course examines the validity of claims of “exceptionalism,” and in what ways such claims may or may not advance our understanding of American history.
My fellowship here in Heidelberg allows me to exchange ideas with a wide range of scholars who share my interests in the history of politics and social movements. I also have the opportunity to discuss the historical meanings of the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street movements with audiences of German scholars, students, and interested citizens.
I come to Heidelberg from my home in Berkeley, California. I received both my bachelor’s degree and my doctorate in history at the University of California, Berkeley. I have taught at Sacramento State University and UC-Berkeley, and at San Francisco State University where I am presently an associate professor in the department of history.
March 15-17, 2012, HCA
Marginalized Masculinities and the Nation: Global Comparisons, 1800-1945
International Conference, University of Heidelberg
March 26-30, 2012, HCA
9th Annual Spring Academy Conference on History, Culture & Politics
April 13, 2012, Alte Aula der Universität Heidelberg – 6 pm
Commencement Celebration for the students of the MAS Class of 2012
Heidelberg Center for American Studies (HCA)
Curt und Heidemarie Engelhorn Palais
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