Research Projects & Collaborations

Prof. Dr. Sabine N. Meyer

From Black | Indigenous to Black Indigenous: Envisioning Black Indigenous Identities since the Turn of the 21st Century

This project seeks to analyze the rapidly growing, diverse body of work produced since the turn of the 21st century by writers, artists, activists identifying as African Native American/Black Indigenous. The corpus of materials to be examined includes: literature across the genres; artwork and museum exhibitions; films/documentaries; various forms of online content. These primary texts will be subjected to contextualized, close readings with the aim to shed light on their active role in envisioning what it means to be Black and Indigenous and in gauging the potentialities inherent in recalibrating dominant binary conceptions of identity – in short, to move from Black|Indigenous to Black Indigenous.

The context in which the primary materials will be placed are the legal debates that have been fought in the political bodies and courts of both the United States and Native tribal nations on African American identity, tribal identity, race, and “Indian blood.” The multiple court cases over the citizenship of the so-called Cherokee freedmen—the descendants of those African Americans/African Native Americans enslaved by the Cherokee Nation—are a particularly rich source not only for analyzing dominant conceptions of Cherokeeness vs. Blackness, but also for unearthing the genealogy of these conceptions: their groundedness in a history of settler colonial violence and domination and in settler colonial ways of seeing, knowing, and categorizing the world. Hence, in this project Black Indigenous expression will be approached with a particular eye to how it negotiates dominant legal discourses that have defined Black and Indigenous as two mutually exclusive categories of classification/identification and have hence written Black Indigenous subjectivities out of existence.

Project Funding:

Feodor Lynen Research Fellowhsip for Experienced Researchers (2023-2025), Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, host institution: University of Minnesota, Twin Cities



Prof. Dr. Sabine Sielke

"Memory, Mediation, Seriality: Re-cognizing Literary and Cultural Studies, Re-membering the Subject":

Taking off from three central concepts of cultural analysis – memory, mediation, and seriality – the project interfaces methods and research questions of cultural studies and the cognitive sciences and explores the potential of such transdisciplinary dialogue for our sense of cultural practice. What issues relevant to current cultural studies can be interrogated at the crossroads with the cognitive sciences? And in what ways can cultural analysis and cognition research be mutually instrumental?
Since both constructivism (which relegates the materiality of the body and cognition to the periphery of its perspectives) and current brain research (which cannot adequately account for consciousness and individual experience by way of neurophysiology) position the subject as nodal point and blind spot of their inquiries conceptions of subjectivity are central to my study. After all, both the subject and modes of perception are continuously being redesigned by a complex ever-shifting media ecology. My analyses therefore focus on phenomena such as cinematic adaptations of literary texts, advertisements, and computer tomography which, as transformations of canonized late 19th- and early 20th-century cultural practices, mediate new processes of perception rather than modes of cultural memory. What, however, would it mean for cultural studies to acknowledge and “re-member” the subject as an agent whose main faculty is to transform fragmented experiences into coherence?

The project is funded by the German Research Council.

Prof. Dr. Sabine Sielke

"Science into Narrative"

"Science into Narrative" explores how contemporary US-American fiction, including novels by Michael Crichton, Jeffrey Eugenides, and Richard Powers, among others, translates science into narrative and thereby foregrounds how some scientific endeavors are continuous with literary discourse while others, clearly resisting narrative, are not. In this way American literature calls for more radically transdisciplinary readings while also exposing the limits of transdisciplinarity.

Coordinators: Dr. Katharina Fackler and Nathalie Aghoro

The research network “The Cultural Politics of Reconciliation'' investigates literary and artistic engagements with reconciliation in the USA and Canada. It proceeds from the observation that “reconciliation” has become a frequently used key term in North American public discourse. The network’s goal is a first stocktaking of the ways in which reconciliation is imagined and critiqued in cultural representations in Canada and the United States. While reconciliation efforts have traditionally been aimed at so-called transitional countries, whose political, legal, and social institutions are fundamentally transformed, this network focuses on nontransitional societies in North America where institutional structures persist as social and political actors are trying to find ways to overcome the legacies of historical injustice and institutionalized inequality. The network’s aim is to break new ground for American Studies by exploring the aesthetics and poetics of reconciliation and its discontents with respect to slavery, abolition, imperialism, settler colonialism, and decolonization. The network examines how literary and cultural interventions complement institutional, economic, and legal approaches to reconciliation and seeks out critical debates about the meaning of and possibility for reconciliation as a comprehensive project for civil society. Members place these representations and debates in conversation with theories from critical ethnic studies, Black-Indigenous studies, and decolonial studies to gauge the depth and meaning of their engagement with the structural production of social inequality.

The Zentrum für Kulturwissenschaft/Cultural Studies is one of the research centers of the University of Bonn and aims at interdisciplinary dialogues and scholarly joint ventures – in both teaching and research – between the fields of literary and cultural studies, political science, sociology, history, ethnography, and media studies.

From 2012-18, Prof. Dr. Sabine Sielke acted as the center's spokesperson. Under her directorship, the focus was mainly on the project "Nostalgie: Zeit-Räume, Affekte, Warenkultur".

Before it was terminated in the summer of 2012, the Forum initiated and promoted interdisciplinary dialogues on central issues and research areas of current women and gender studies. Under the directorship of Prof. Dr. Sabine Sielke, it organized panel discussions, lectures, conferences, symposia, and exhibitions and engaged in publication projects, thus making accessible trends in women and gender studies to both academic audiences and a wider public.

The North American Studies Program supported the work of the research network “The Futures of (European) American Studies.” The network was funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG) from June 2005 to January 2008. Its fifteen members, young American Studies scholars and cultural historians from various German and international universities, set out to explore the ongoing repositioning of the field as well as the institutional challenges and opportunities that accompany its paradigmatic shifts.

Situating itself within the prominent debate over the futures of American Studies as it had been promoted by scholars in the U.S. and in Europe, the name of the network drew on the title of Donald Pease and Robyn Wiegman’s volume The Futures of American Studies (2002). It also adopted the thematic framework of the symposium annually hosted by Pease at Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH. At the same time, the network sought to recontextualize and critically assess this markedly U.S. American debate from ‘the outside,’ asking how it may be translated into European contexts of research and teaching.

The network organized conferences on “Positioning American Studies” (July 2005), “The New Americanists” (January 2006), “Internationalizing American Studies” (July 2006), and “American Studies as Media Studies” (February 2007), "Inter/Transdisciplinarity" (June 2007), and "American Studies in Germany" (January 2008). Among the guests at these conferences were Winfried Siemerling, Paul Lauter, Walter Benn Michaels, Robyn Wiegman, and Joseph Tabbi.

Established in October 1995, the German-Canadian Centre is the result of a successful collaboration of the North American Studies Program at the University of Bonn, the German-Canadian Association (DKG), and the Canadian Embassy which has generously supported the centre ever since. The German-Canadian Centre acts as a forum for the discussion of current cultural, political, and economic issues involved in German-Canadian relations while at the same time aiming to intensify German-Canadian relations through its contacts to a variety of Canadian institutions and partner universities. In part by way of its cooperation with the German-Canadian Association we encourage an interested public from outside the university to engage in this particular intercultural and transatlantic exchange.

As part of a joint venture, the North American Studies Program and the German-Canadian Centre define North American studies at the University of Bonn as comparative studies. The continuity of Canadian and Comparative North American studies in Bonn is ascertained by having a Visiting Assistant Professor join the faculty each year. This position rotates among the disciplines engaged in the North American Studies Program and has in recent years been reserved for young Canadian academics. So far we have enjoyed the expertise of, among others, Hugh Thorburn (Political Science, Queen's University), David G. Haglund (Political Science, Queen's University), Eva-Marie Kröller (English & Canadian Literature, University of British Columbia), Robert MacKinnon (Geography, University College of the Cariboo), Dawn Farrow (Sociology, University College of the Cariboo), Meghan McKinnie (Linguistics, Grant McEwan University), Anne Gagnon (History, University College of the Cariboo), Christine Straehle (Political Science, McGill University), Christine Hantel-Fraser (University of Victoria), Oliver Schmittke (Political Science, University of Victoria), Ian Rae (English, McGill University), Mark McCutcheon (English, University of Guelph, Ottawa), Timothy Kaposy (Cultural Studies, McMaster University), Katherine Verhagen Rodis (English, University of Toronto), Andrew Pendakis (Cultural Studies, McMaster University), and Justin Sully (Cultural Studies, Queen's University).

We also invite authors, among them Yann Martel, and experts from various public institutions and private businesses for lectures and events and organise symposia which are open to the public. The symposia have so far focused on "Competitiveness in Germany and Canada: Wages and Indirect Labour Costs" (1996), "Canadian Investments in Germany and German Investments in Canada" (1997), "Margaret Atwood" (1998), "Regionalism" (1999), "First Nations: Cultures and Literatures" (2000), "Ecology and Sustainability: Canadian Perspectives" (2002), "Film Across the Borders: Zooming in on Canadian Cinema" (2004), "Canadian Popular Cultures: Tune in on Canadian Music" (2004), "Canada and Cultures of Innovation" (2005), "Attention! Provocations on the Culture of Canadian Visual Forms" (2008), "Organic Material: the Many Threads of Canadian Book History" (2009), and "Complicating Canada" (2010).

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