Here you get basic information about ASL's professorship for Cultural History, its teaching and research focus, and about the people that work for this part of our institute.
American Cultural History
The Cultural History team is dedicated to studying history, society, and culture of (North) America within a broader transnational realm of transfer and entanglements. It stresses aspects of contemporary politics and socio-economics but does so in a clear historical perspective that underlines the importance of historical knowledge for understanding and analyzing American society and culture. Moreover, we take the term ‘Cultural’ seriously in studying historical actors, practices, and discourses as a significant part of how cultural work shapes and challenges meaning and power.
In our BA classes, we teach North American (mainly United States) History from colonial times to the early years of the 21st century with a strong emphasis on social and cultural history. Moreover, we introduce students to a wide variety of core methodological and theoretical approaches from Cultural Studies as well as from the social sciences that should help students in discussing contemporary American society and culture from a historically informed perspective.
Graduate classes work strongly within the module structure of ASL’s MA program. They interrogate the cultural work of historical actors and hence emphasize the necessity to historicize (and complicate) our understanding of American culture. Using a wide variety of topics and sources, classes stress intersectional approaches that seek to address the question of how gender, race, ethnicity, class, religion, sexuality, (dis/)ability, … interact in shaping as well as challenging meaning and power in American society.
Research interests within our team are broad and developing fast in a number of directions. Many projects revolve around Gender History and the History of the Body, and many of them do so with an emphasis on Visual Culture, using photography and/or film as primary sources. One of our main current projects – ‘Modernity in Motion: Visualizing Athletic Bodies, 1890s-1930s’ – works along those lines, as do projects that rely on Hollywood films to analyze American culture especially in the second half of the 20th century.
Memory Studies are also a prominent part of this professorship’s research interests. In an active effort to connect our historical interest to contemporary debates in American society and culture, we study how ‘the historical argument’ still works for different groups of people. Reaching out to scholars from Social Movement History, we discuss how the cultural work of memory influences the political and social environment of the United States today.