The interdisciplinary lecture series “Mapping the Margins, Revisited: Intersectionality and American Studies” addresses the topic of intersectionality by surveying individual segments of U.S. literary and cultural history. As a theoretical framework that addresses how aspects of a person’s social and political identities (e.g., gender, race, class, sexuality, religion, ability/disability, age, physical appearance, etc.) can interact, intersectionality concerns the overlapping and simultaneity of different yet interconnected forms of discrimination and privilege against a person.
Police brutality in recent years against people of color in the U.S. (and beyond) serves as just one current and prominent example of structural and systemic discrimination at the intersection of such categories as race, class, and physical appearance. More than thirty years after the term intersectionality was coined by U.S. law professor and civil rights advocate Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw (1989), the concept has gained global currency and widespread transdisciplinary academic appeal. We take this as an occasion and starting point to (re)examine U.S. literary and cultural production across media, genres, text types, and eras.
The lectures take place on Mondays from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. via Zoom and are open to anyone interested. All lectures in the lecture series will be held in English.
Prof. Dr. Karsten Fitz, American Studies, University of Passau
Vanessa Vollmann, PhD student, American Studies, University of Passau
Alexandra Hauke, American Studies, University of Passau
Dr. Chelsea Mikael Frazier, Department of Literatures in English, Cornell University
Bettina Huber, American Studies, University of Passau
Dr. Viola Huang, History Education & American Studies, University of Passau
|31.05.2021||Florian Zitzelsberger, American Studies, University of Passau|
"Contesting Realness, or: Drag Race is Burning"
|07.06.2021||Kai Prins, Department of Communication Arts, University of Wisconsin-Madison|
"The Gay-te Keepers at the Fourth Wall: Queering the Borders of the Drag Stage"
Prof. Dr. Alisa Kessel, Department of Politics and Government, University of Puget Sound
|21.06.2021||Prof. Dr. Rebecca Brückmann, History of North America and its Transcultural Context, Ruhr-Universität Bochum|
"Towards an Intersectional History of White Supremacy and the Black Freedom Struggle"
|28.06.2021||Prof. Dr. Karin Stögner, Sociology, University of Passau|
"Intersectionality and Antisemitism - A Critical Approach"
|05.07.2021||Thomas Stelzl (plus Passau team), American Studies, University of Passau|
"Where Are We Today? - Assessing three Decades of Intersectionality Discourse"
Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Broadway musical Hamilton can be viewed as a text that reclaims the framer narrative “for those who were left out” (Romano 2016) as it deconstructed, for the first time, in the eyes of many, in a widely received popular text, the elitist, exceptionalist White male founder narrative. It is surely uncontested that the women of Color framer narrative constitutes one of the narratives that has long been left out. By reading the musical through an intersectional Critical Race Feminist lens, this presentation illustrates how Hamilton deconstructs the Founding Father myth of contemporary America and reclaims it for women by colorbending, genderbending, and genre-bending the narrative through the characters of Eliza Hamilton, Angelica Schuyler, and Maria Reynolds. At the intersections of gender and race, the representation of these characters sheds light on tropes that affect specifically women of Color identities and establishes Eliza’s character as a Republican Mother of Color, a Founding Mother of Color.
Over the past 20 years intersectionality has gathered significance across disciplines. Based on thoughts and critique of black feminists, intersectionality in the late 1980s addressed the combined disadvantage of being both black and female in a concrete juridical context. Since then intersectionality has become a travelling concept and was thus transferred and broadened into an analytical framework, a theoretical and methodological paradigm, and into social action such as society-and work-centered movements or legal and policy advocacy.
Intersectionality as an analytical framework illuminates the social inequalities that arise for and marginalize African American women at the intersection of race, gender, and class. Impoverished black mothers in particular have been excessively stigmatized within the welfare discourse. Prominent example is the powerful narrative of the Welfare Queen, which morally judges and denigrates black mothers and as such serves to justify supervisory and punitive approaches in welfare policies. This presentation scrutinizes the genealogy and history of the long lasting controlling image of the Welfare Queen, which in turn plays a crucial role in how programs commonly termed welfare are perceived and consequently designed.
Grit Grigoleit is principal investigator in the BMBF-funded research project “'Welfare Queens' and 'Losers': eine intersektionale Untersuchung zur Wirkungsweise von Rasse und Geschlecht und deren Reproduktion im US-amerikanischen Wohlfahrtsstaat“. In this project she investigates how the intersection of race, gender, and class structure and determine the U.S. welfare system for generations and thus produce inequalities and different outcomes for racial groups. Prior to this she conducted research on migration and gender issues at the Helmut Schmidt University Hamburg, Hamburg University of Technology as well as at Texas A&M in College Station, Texas.
The history of the United States is replete with violence against underprivileged groups. At the same time, the alleged “discovery of America” has its roots in the domination of lands that became known as “the New World,” allowing settlers to conquer both territory and people at the same time. This became one of the earliest iterations of the interconnectedness between the oppression of the American ecologies and social-cultural-political “Others” that disciplines such as ecofeminism and intersectional environmentalism continue to expose and scrutinize. The Puritan ideologies that developed from this takeover are largely identified with religious discourse that heralded the Biblical Adam as the new “American hero” and Eve’s “primal crime,” which caused the fall of the Garden of Eden, as justification for the alleged insubordination of women as well as yet another reason for interlinking woman and land—both seen as inferior. American narratives of all eras, genres, and media have since negotiated this gendered space wherein the environment is always already identified with female—and thus stereotypically feminine—biologies, ecologies, and behaviors. In this lecture, I will read both classic and contemporary American cultural productions, from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter (1850) to Disney’s Moana (2016), across theorizations of ecofeminism and/as intersectional environmentalism to raise awareness of and question the enduring and essentialist interconnected disenfranchisement of subordinated groups (among them women) and nature.
Alexandra Hauke is a lecturer in American Studies at the University of Passau, where her research and teaching focus on ecofeminism, Indigenous studies, folk horror, film studies, and digital cultures. She has written and published on American ecofeminist gothic and horror fiction, law and legal cultures in Native American detective fiction, blackness in horror film, utopian idealism in dystopian literature as well as self-branding on YouTube, and has co-edited essay collections on Native American survivance, 21st-century Canadian literatures and politics as well as the post-truth era in the United States.
The prevailing disciplinary and theoretical frameworks for comprehending black feminist subjectivity and its integral relationship to world/land/territory/earth-ethics are impoverished. We can address this impoverishment by turning to black women cultural producers like author Octavia Butler and visual artist Wangechi Mutu to configure a heteromorphic understanding of the social, political, and physical worlds we currently inhabit.
Through narrative and visual culture, Mutu and Butler articulate political ecologies that move beyond the limited correctives made available through the conventions of Western formal politics. Moreover, I argue that Butler and Mutu disrupt environmental studies frameworks informed by colonial European notions of ‘the political.’ These disruptions allow both visionaries to reconstitute the (un)limits of humanity and construct alternative conceptions of ecological ethics within our present world and beyond it.”
Chelsea Mikael Frazier is a Black feminist ecocritic—writing, researching, and teaching at the intersection of Black feminist theory and environmental thought. As Founder and Chief Creative Officer at Ask An Amazon she designs educational tools, curates community gatherings, gives lectures, and offers consulting services that serve Black Feminist Fuel for Sustainable Futures. She is also a Faculty Fellow in the Cornell University Department of English and in the Fall of 2021 she’ll begin her tenure-track appointment as an Assistant Professor of African American Literature.
Her scholarship, teaching, and public speaking span the fields of Black feminist literature and theory, visual culture, ecocriticism, African art and literature, political theory, science and technology studies, and Afrofuturism.
She is currently at work on her first book manuscript—an ecocritical study of contemporary Black women artists, writers, and activists.
The idealized soldier, strongly connected to the concept of ‘warrior,’ is expected to be a courageous and aggressive white man. In the context of these gender expectations, femininity is often equated with peace and masculinity with war. In this discourse, men are also seen as protectors of women and children, but also of ideas, of traditions, and even of democracy. This trope is frequently used in movies surrounding war experiences.
But more recent cultural productions employing this idealized soldier motive, especially following 9/11, often depict a broken and isolated man unable to reintegrated into civilian life who is hurt – physically and/or mentally. In this presentation, I will examine the use of these tropes in selected action and war movies and give tentative conclusions regarding the possibilities and limits of these representations for the cultural understanding of trauma and white masculinity.
Bettina Huber finished her M.A. in American Studies at the University of Regensburg in 2017 and is currently teaching American Studies at the University of Passau. Her research focuses on the negotiations of identities and the challenges of perpetrator traumas in life narratives of U.S. soldiers. Her research interests include gender studies, trauma studies, life narrative studies, and the U.S. military. Her articles, focused on gender studies and life narrative studies, have been published, among others, in the Journal New Horizons in English Studies and in the COPAS Journal.
On May 3, 1967, the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense was mentioned for the first time in the New York Times with the headline “Armed Negroes Protest Gun Bill”. Only two years later, in 1969, former F.B.I. Director J. Edgar Hoover labeled the Panthers the “greatest threat to internal security of the country”. Within public spheres Black Power activists have been portrayed as beret-wearing, gun-swinging, violent, nationalist, masculine, urban militants and radicals in the North.
This lecture will provide a more complex picture of the Black Power Movement, emphasizing the history of the movement’s intersectional politics. The lecture will discuss Black Power’s contributions to equal education, employment, and housing; highlight the movement’s interracial programs and collaborations as well as emphasize the important roles of Black women in the movement, thus challenging the idea that the movement was entirely male-dominated.
Viola Huang is a research associate in the Department of History Education as well as American Studies at the University of Passau in Germany. She holds a Ph.D. in History and Education from Columbia University in New York City. Her research focuses on 20th century African-American history, specifically the history of social movements, community activism, and alternative and transformative education. As part of the interdisciplinary project SKILL.de (Strategien zur Kompetenzentwicklung: Innovative Lehrformate in der Lehrkräftebildung, digitally enhanced), her teaching addresses questions of historiography, memory, and (counter) public history.
This lecture addresses the concept of realness in drag performance and its history in ball culture to ask how real the notion of realness can be in times when drag seems to have made it in the cultural mainstream. By situating RuPaul’s Drag Race in the “great tradition” of the 1990 documentary Paris Is Burning (as promoted by RuPaul himself), I discuss the representational politics that render both examples unreal. While realness can be understood as a disidentification with the queer-of-color self, the embodiment of hegemonic norms, with the aim to secure survival within a majoritarian (racist, transmisogynistic, etc.) society, both Paris Is Burning and Drag Race deviate from this idea by producing narratives that foreclose possibility because they follow pre-determined paths. Realness, if presented through the filter of a genre that is inevitably constructed—despite a certain claim to authenticity of both reality TV and documentaries—, becomes something other than real. Once the queer-of-color self or the drag artist become a storytelling device, I argue, they are implicated in a narrative trajectory that cannot escape a (hetero)normative framing. Recognition thus comes at a cost, and my task in this lecture will be to mediate between the queer utopian becomings implied in the very promise of recognition and teleological narrative models that bind individuals to stories of progression/success or regression/failure.
Florian Zitzelsberger is a PhD candidate at the University of Passau whose research primarily focuses on queer theory and narratology, performance studies, and musicals on stage and screen. He is interested in the peripheries of drag culture and currently studies performance in the context of posthumanism and death. Recent publications include articles on metalepsis, queer desire, and failure. As part of the interdisciplinary project SKILL.de (Strategien zur Kompetenzentwicklung: Innovative Lehrformate in der Lehrkräftebildung, digitally enhanced), his teaching addresses questions of canonization, representation, and literacy in the digital age.
Borders are more than physical sites of separation between nation and state: borders are also discursive sites at and through which we identify belonging. In this lecture, I examine a metaphorical border and its exclusionary implications: the fourth wall on the drag stage. Despite the marginal advances of trans and non-binary drag queens on recent seasons of RuPaul’s Drag Race, the drag stage largely represents a space of “homonormative hegemony”: only queer people whose performances of drag are intelligible and nonthreatening to mainstream audiences are given a stage. Drag kings are described by drag queens and academics alike as threatening or boring and are routinely denied entrance onto mainstream stages. Using contextual rhetorical analysis of contemporary moments of drag king visibility in mainstream drag, I explore how the mainstream drag stage becomes a space for cisgender male drag queens to enact and enforce homonormativity. I situate my analysis on the metaphorical border of the theatrical fourth wall to demonstrate how reading the drag stage as a space to enact citizenship and drag queen performance as a signifier of belonging opens the door to understanding how homonormativity operates, as it envelops queer bodies in normative, neoliberal values and narratives and norms queer spaces.
Kai Prins is a graduate student in the Department of Communication Arts at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, where s/he studies rhetoric at the intersections of gender, bodies, and performance. Kai is also the award-winning drag king and burlesque performer known as Will X. Uly (pronounced “Will Actually”).
When the Supreme Court of the United States declared racial segregation in public schools as unconstitutional in its 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision, segregationists across the South formed a counter-movement that came to be known by its self-designation as “Massive Resistance.” Segregationist politicians as well as grassroots agitators attacked Black Freedom activists from a variety of hostile positions. Whereas Massive Resistance’s masculinist rhetoric and the concomitant ideal of (white) Southern Womanhood has previously led to a focus on hegemonic masculinity in the movement’s historiography, white women played a vital role. This lecture will provide an intersectional analysis of white supremacist women’s activism in the 1950s and 1960s South. It will examine the entwinements of gender, race, differential social backgrounds, motivations, and forms of action, thereby highlighting the importance of multi-dimensional analyses of power in the history of the Black Freedom Struggle and white supremacist resistance.
Rebecca Brückmann is an assistant professor of North American history in its transcultural context at Ruhr-University Bochum. She completed her Ph.D. in modern history at the Graduate School of North American Studies at Freie Universität Berlin in 2014 and taught at the Universities of Cologne and Kassel. Her research focuses on North American sociocultural and spatial history, including Black history and Southern history, the history of white supremacy, and gender history. Her recent publications include articles in the South Carolina Historical Magazine, the European Journal of American Studies, and the monograph Massive Resistance and Southern Womanhood: White Women, Class, and Segregation (University of Georgia Press, 2021).
In the social sciences, intersectionality is used as a methodological tool to investigate the multidimensionality of power relations. Coined in the 1980s by theorists of Black Feminism to analytically grasp and criticise the specific forms of multiple discrimination of women of colour, the concept has experienced an unparalleled upswing in recent years and has been applied to a multitude of other cases of discrimination. However, it is striking that global antisemitism is only rarely included in intersectional theory, and Jews are often excluded from feminist anti-racist social movements that claim to be guided by intersectionality. Jews are rarely mentioned as a minority with special interests that need to be protected and promoted; rather, they tend to be regarded as representatives of Whiteness that is under critique. This poses the question: why does the intersectionality framework routinely exclude antisemitism? In this presentation I will first contrast antisemitism and racism, before showing that antisemitism research and intersectionality need not necessarily exclude each other. I will go on to develop a specific approach to intersectionality that views ideologies in relation to each other and reads antisemitism itself as an intersectional ideology.
Karin Stögner is Professor of Sociology at the University of Passau, co-ordinator of the Research Network on Racism and Antisemitism in the European Sociological Association and co-founder and speaker of the Working Group Antisemitism in the German Sociological Association. Previously she did research at the University of Vienna, Lancaster University, Georgetown University, Goethe University Frankfurt and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Her research focuses on the critical theory and feminism as well as on the interrelation of antisemitism, sexism and nationalism.
The lecture series is sponsored by the university women's representative Prof. Dr. Andrea Sieber.