American Studies in a Transatlantic Perspective: Critical Regionalism in Politics and Culture - 5th International Summer Academy

 May 20 - June 3, 2013 in Munich and Nuremberg, Germany



Regionalism, i.e. the study of regions and regional identities, has always been an important dimension of American Studies-scholarship: regions have been examined, on the one hand, as symbolic spaces foundational for dominant national discourses (like the mythical conception of the American West) and, on the other hand, as sites of 'authentic' local cultures (like the 'local color' of the South). Both approaches are equally problematic, and the allegorical as well as the essentialist view have recently been deconstructed. Instead, questions of how regions are discursively fabricated and how they are (de)stabilized in the context of nation-building, empire, and globalization are foregrounded.


The summer academy addressed historical and current debates about American regions and regionalism from an interdisciplinary perspective.


This focus on a "critical regionalism" highlights the connections between regional identities and global (power) structures, the construction of specific regions in and beyond the United States, micro- and macro-structures of space and place as well as processes of cultural contact and mobility at play in the formation of regions. Such an approach covers aspects of cultural identity, political participation, and economic developments that will be discussed in a comparative perspective on regions as seemingly distant from each other as the Midwest and Ireland, the Greater Detroit and Greater Berlin areas, or Toronto and Jamaica. Drawing on various case studies, the summer academy also seeked to reflect on the theoretical and methodological problems of "critical regionalism."



The program of the academy was structured into three parts:

1. Work-in-Progress Presentations by participants (doctoral students and junior faculty)


2. Keynote Lectures on crucial issues of "critical regionalism" in politics and culture by

Prof. Klaus Benesch (LMU Munich)
Prof. Philipp Gassert (Augsburg U)

Prof. Miles Orvell (Temple U)

Prof. Cheryl Temple Herr (U of Iowa)
Prof. Claudia Sadowski-Smith (U of Arizona)

Prof. Martha Schoolman (Miami U)

Prof. Winfried Siemerling (U of Waterloo)
Prof. Barrett Watten (Wayne State U)


3. Cultural program included city tours of Munich and Nuremberg as well as visits of several museums and places of special interest



Participants of the summer school also took part in the annual conference of the German Association for American Studies (GAAS/DGfA) on the topic of Rural America at FAU Erlangen-Nuremberg, including keynotes by Barbara Ching (Iowa State U), David·B. Danbom (North Dakota U), Brigitte Georgi-Findlay (TU Dresden), Mary Gray (U of Indiana), Jerry Hagstrom (National Journal), and Rogelio Saenz (U of Texas). The conference fee was covered by the BAA.


Participants - doctoral students and junior faculty - were selected on the basis of the strength of their application. The tuition fee was 150 €. Acceptance to the summer academy included a full academic and cultural program, accommodation, and travel grant.



The summer academy was organized by