Students sitting at table, talking, laughing ©Brooke Cagle /

7th International Summer Academy

Material Cultures

7th International Summer Academy

May 10 – 23, 2015 in Munich and Regensburg, Germany

"We have many Chairs of History but few historians of chairs," historian Marie Ellwood once quipped in order to call for a turn to material culture (and its symbolic functions), i.e. a turn away from predominantly text-based sources and scholarship. And many scholars have joined her in pointing out the central role of material culture and materiality for an understanding of cultural meaning production.

One may look at material objects as presence, evidence, as relics of a historical alterity, or as fetishized objects, to name a few possible angles; regardless of the angle of view, this prompts particular theoretical and methodological considerations: how do we "read," interpret, and analyze material objects in the study of (American) culture, literature, and history? What constitutes "thingness" in the first place? How are materiality effects created against the backdrop of widely accepted mind/matter-dichotomies? What is the role of affects and affective economies for the production and consumption of things? And how does materiality connect to aesthetics?

These are some of the questions that our summer school addressed and discussed in the context of a more general "turn" to material culture.

The summer academy was organized by and in cooperation with:

Friedrich-Alexander-University Erlangen-Nuremberg
Wayne State University
Regensburg University
Augsburg University
Uppsala Universitet

and generously funded by

German Academic Exchange Service (GAES/DAAD)


The program of the academy was structured into three parts:

  • key-note lectures on crucial issues of material culture studies by
    • Prof. Sandy Alexandre (MIT, Cambridge)
    • Prof. Bill Brown (University of Chicago)
    • Prof. Volker Depkat (Regensburg University)
    • Prof. Markus Heide (Uppsala University)
    • Prof. Anke Ortlepp (Kassel University)
    • Prof. Heike Paul (FAU Erlangen-Nürnberg)
    • Prof. Martha Schoolman (Florida International University)
    • Prof. Barry Shank (Ohio State University)
    • Prof. Jane Simonson (Augustana College)
    • Prof. Silvia Spitta (Dartmouth College)
    • Prof. Babette B.Tischleder (University of Göttingen)
    • Prof. Barrett Watten (Wayne State University)
  • work-in-progress presentations by the doctoral participants
  • workshop sessions in which participants discussed key texts in the field

The program also included city tours and excursions in and around Munich and Regensburg as well as visits to museums, a boat cruise, and other cultural events related to the overall theme of material culture.

Photo: ©Brooke Cagle /