The Global Sentimentality Project (funded by the German Research Foundation, 2018-)

Prof. Dr. Heike Paul

What makes us cry? Where do we allow ourselves to cry? And when do we enjoy being moved to tears? In other words, what are the forms and functions of the sentimental? The Global Sentimentality Project examines how the sentimental unfolds its power as an aesthetic narrative strategy, as a practice of crisis management, and as a technology of political mobilization. Our understanding of the sentimental revises the stigmatization of the term in popular parlance and extends its meaning beyond a set of literary texts. The sentimental shapes aesthetic experiences of all kinds. It operates in different cultural settings and in various political contexts where it has been analyzed as either facilitating or obstructing change. The Global Sentimentality Project brings together scholars from around the world and from different disciplines in order to compare the workings of the sentimental across cultures, social formations, and historical periods. The Project facilitates exchange and collaboration across disciplines in workshops, lecture series, and public talks as well as in joint publications, among other formats.

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Interdisciplinary Research Project: Reeducation Revisited: Transnationale und kulturvergleichende Perspektiven auf die Nachkriegszeit in den USA, Japan und Deutschland (funded by the German Research Foundation, 2018-2022)

Prof. Dr. Heike Paul & Dr. Katharina Gerund

(with Prof. Dr. Fabian Schäfer/Japanese Studies)

This interdisciplinary project examines US-American reeducation politics in its various aspects in Germany and Japan after World War II in a transnational and comparative perspective. It takes into account entanglements in the cultural imaginary, the mass media, and civil society at large. The project seeks to identify the multidirectional influences, ramifications, and interdependencies between the US and Japan, the US and Germany as well as Japan and Germany which work in each of those domestic as well as foreign settings as part of a foundational discourse of legitimation. For instance, the positive self-representation of the US as a democratic exemplum to Japanese and German audiences points to attempts to mitigate social tensions and conflicts ‘at home’. Individual projects address gender regimes (in reeducation and Hollywood films as well as in Japanese women’s magazines), discourses on race (in cultural representations of and by African American soldiers and in Japanese-Okinawan identity constructions), and public opinion (broadcasting and public opinion research in Japan and Germany); instead of looking primarily at national developments, the aim is to study transnational relations, intra-cultural differences, and subnational formations. The main focus is on the construction of imagined communities as well as the ways in which reeducation efforts unfold in specific contexts characterized by asymmetrical power relations. Ultimately, this project works towards establishing “comparative reeducation studies” as an interdisciplinary field of study.

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Research Training Group “Presence and Tacit Knowledge” (funded by the German Research Foundation, 2012-2018)

Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Heike Paul

The research training group investigates culturally divergent forms and functions of presence and tacit knowledge, integrating cultural studies approaches to presence with social sciences approaches to tacit knowledge. The two concepts can only be properly understood from a perspective that acknowledges that they are intrinsically linked, if not mutually dependent: tacit knowledge becomes most tangible in experiences of presence, while such experiences, in turn, tend to result in a surplus (or sedimentation) of tacit knowledge. Most importantly, both concepts and the phenomena they describe are understood to be culturally specific and are addressed with regard to intracultural distinction and (inter)cultural difference, at times in a comparative framework. Aspects of affect, power relations, and historicity play a large role in the research program.

Dissertation projects:

Carmen Brosig: Kulturnationalismus und Konstruktionen transnationaler Solidarität: Protestkultur(en) ethnischer Minderheiten während des Vietnamkriegs zwischen implizitem Wissen und Präsenz.

Stephen Koetzing: Am Ende: Alter(n) und hegemoniale Maskulinität im zeitgenössischen US-amerikanischen Roman.

Monika Sauter: He Was With Me in a Way I’d Never Felt Before: Konstruktionen von Weiblichkeit in zeitgenössischer evangelikaler Populärkultur der USA. Published as Devoted! Frauen in der evangelikalen Populärkultur der USA. Bielefeld: transcript, 2017.

Florian Tatschner: The Other Presences: Reading Literature Other-wise after the Transnational Turn in American Studies. Hanover, NH: Dartmouth College Press, 2019.