The Student Thesis - whether for the Magister, BA, or MA - represents a student's most substantial effort to create new knowledge, to create new scholarship. At American Studies in Leipzig we think it is especially important to highlight the wide variety of Student Theses, and their outstanding quality.
The diversity of topics explored by students underscores the complexity, richness, and importance of American Studies.
This part of the website is currently being assembled, and so examples of Magister Student Theses are still few (but growing quickly). For examples of BA and MA Theses, it will take some time: These programs are just starting.
Students' Theses (Abstracts)
Greta Köhler. 2009. The African-American Debate on Barack Obama: Notions of Community, Race and Leadership.
Using nine indepth interviews with African Americans from different regions of the United States, and from differening socio-economic, generational, and ethnic backgrounds, Ms. Köhler reveals in telling details the complexities involved in discussing notions of community, race and leadership in today’s America. The candidacy of Barack Obama unleashed an animated debate among African Americans about “being black” in the country’s current social, economic, and cultural configurations. Ms. Köhler shows how the “democratization” of concepts of community, race and leadership in the African American communities has empowered new voices in the pursuit of civil rights (and the very definition of civil rights), and by doing so, made efforts at national movements more difficult to mobilize.
Susann Trinh Quang. 2008. The Integration Process for Vietnamese Immigrants in the USA and the former East Germany.
Ms. Quang interviewed over twenty immigrants in the United States (California, Texas, New York) and in eastern Germany to write this fascinating comparative and transnational study. She herself is the daughter of a Vietnamese who accepted an apprenticeship in the GDR in the 1970s. Here is one difference with the Vietnamese experience in the United States: for many Vietnamese coming to East Germany was considered an honor, one was “selected” for the privilege. The initial wave of Vietnamese immigration to the United States was born from misery—the aftermath of the Vietnam War. But there were also several similarities: for Vietnamese in the USA and the GDR there were chances unlike at home to secure a basic economic foothold, there were the expressions of intolerance from local communities, and there was the pressure to conform quickly. But there were also clear differences. While the official reason for bringing Vietnamese to the GDR was “international solidarity”, the real reason was a major shortage of labor in the country. The Vietnamese thus tended to be isolated and kept away from the general population. In the United States there was also isolation, but relatively much more social and economic mobility. In Los Angeles today, one can take Highway 405 and see the turn-off exit for “Little Vietnam”, showing in itself all the complexities of the American immigrant experience.
Melanie Mai-Ly Duong. 2008. Public Diplomacy, the Goethe-Institute, and German-American Relations.Ms. Mai-Ly Duong spent six months as an intern at the Goethe Institute in San Francisco, and this contributed to this fascinating magister thesis exploring the role of public diplomacy in German-American relations. She analyzes what the “third column” of foreign policy means for international politics (a phrase used by Willy Brandt to describe public diplomacy, saying political diplomacy and economic relations were the first two columns), and how Germany has tried to implement it in the United States, and how Americans have received that effort. She integrates a case study in which she was directly involved: The staging of the film festival in San Francisco by the Goethe Institute entitled “Berlin and Beyond”. Her extensive “field work” allows Ms. Mai-Ly Duong to write a magister thesis that contains both scholarly sophistication and direct lessons for the professions of culture and diplomacy or more broadly, public diplomacy.
- Katja Wenk. 2006. Valerie Plame, Judith Miller, and the American Press: A Case Study of the Valerie Plame Case and its Journalistic Context.
Katja Wenk has written with this Masters thesis the first systematic narrative, available either in English or German, of the Valerie Plame affair, a series of events that has absorbed America’s journalistic, political, and legal communities for the last four years. Ms. Wenk consulted essentially every available resource currently available to the public to provide a step by step account of how this case involving the CIA agent Valerie Plame, the New York Times correspondent Judith Miller, and the White House, unfolded and became increasingly intricate. The fundamental issues involved in the case speak to First Amendment rights for journalists, the authority of the legal system to uphold laws of ethics and accountability for both elected officials and journalists, and the possibilities of political actors to manipulate the press for political goals. Katja Wenk provides a nuanced and original analysis of a major case study in American journalism, political authority, and judicial practices.
- Sebastian M. Herrmann. 2006. Neo-Conservative Rhetorics: Is There a Post in Neo?
Sebastian M. Herrmann explores the political rhetoric used by the Bush Administration. He is interested in the 'postmodern' tactics neo-conservatives are using to further their political goals. In close readings of neo-conservative language, he uncovers and analyzes rhetorical strategies that relativize and debate the status of reality. Neo-conservatives, Sebastian argues, thus imitate and adapt modes of inquiry pioneered by Cultural Studies.
- Heiko Roch. 2006. The Policy of Affirmative Action, and the Course of American Politics.
Heiko Roch investigates one of the most controversial and central subjects in American politics and society since the civil rights movement emerging in the 1960s: the introduction of what is known as affirmative action by the federal government to try to make American society more inclusive. Heiko explores how affirmative action has both unified and divided the country’s two main parties, the Democrats and Republicans, and still provides a bellwether for the content and direction of American politics.
- Marie-Luise Löffler. 2006. Reclaiming the Black Female Body: Motherhood in Nella Larsen's Quicksand and Passing.
Marie-Luise Löffler focuses on two novels by one of the most acclaimed female authors of the Harlem Renaissance, a notable phase of African American writing in 1920s New York. She argues that Larsen's novels strategically employ representations of motherhood to critique sexual and racial conventions in American society. Marie-Luise argues that the two novels reject maternity as a primary mission for women and instead call on black women to define themselves outside biological or sentimental conventions.
- Katja Böttcher. 2005. Contemporary Transatlantic Relations, Attitudes toward Appeasement, and the Emerging International Order.
In this work, Katja Böttcher explores the transatlantic debate about what key values and institutions underpin differing security cultures in the United States and Europe. She focuses on two case studies: China and Iran, and the American and EU approaches to these countries and their foreign policies. While undertaking an internship at the German Embassy in London, Katja conducted primary research at the British Library, and interviewed many leading scholars and practitioners of international politics.
- Christin Rettke. 2005. Representing the Community? The Function of Neighborhood Councils in Los Angeles.
Christin Rettke sought to answer the fundamental question of how Neighborhood Councils change the quality and influence of grassroots democracy. Los Angeles provides a major case study via its strong ethnic and social diversity. Christin conducted primary research with a survey she constructed and submitted to various Neighborhood Councils in Los Angeles. The results of her survey research allowed Christin to create convincing, and richly contextualized, conclusions about the nature of grassroots democracy in the United States today, and how it is unfolding in one of America’s most dynamic "global cities".
- Simon Herchen. 2005. How Ideas and Identity Shaped U.S. Foreign Policy Toward Nicaragua.
Simon Herchen examines how perceptions of "the other" and "the self" interact with international institutions, national interests, and traditions in international politics to shape national cultures of foreign policy. Simon focuses on three different chapters of American interaction with Nicaragua during the 20th century to analyse how the United States has pursued politics in the region, and thereby exercised power. Based on his acquired expertise and the excellence of his thesis, Simon was invited to offer an undergraduate colloquium on contemporary US-Latin American relations.
- Sandra Gäbler. 2005. The Cultural, Social, Economic and Political Embedding of Volunteerism in American and German Society.
Sandra Gäbler explores the concept of volunteerism in American and German society, and undertakes a multifaceted exploration of how differing perceptions of what volunteerism entails, and what role it should play in society, has emerged in these two respective countries. Sandra looks at multiple factors, including cultural, social, economic and political developments in both societies over the course of the past two centuries and how these have embedded cultures of volunteerism in the United States and Germany that have similarities (for example, the role of religion), but also clear differences (for example the role of the state and social services). Sandra completed an empirical survey of American firms in Germany to explore the contemporary concept of corporate volunteerism, and how it is changing the overall nature of voluntarism in a German-American context.
Janett Niklas. 2009. Native North American Contest Powwows Meet German Indianthusiasm: A Dynamic Phenomenon Beyond Cultural Survival and Revival.
Tracing the construction of the powwow in Indian cultures, American interaction with Native Americans, and German receptions of “Indianness”, Ms. Niklas has produced a fascinating study of the emergence and evolution of the powwow as a case study of cultural imposition, interaction, and integration. In Ms. Niklas’s study, culture is a thoroughly dnymic phenomenon, importantly because it is another manifestation of constructing others, reaffirming selves, and thus in short about the projection and consolidation of power. Ms. Niklas does an especially good job exploring eastern and western German receptions and cultivation of powwow cultures and in analyzing the transatlantic dynamics informing German-American powwow networks.
- Lars Weise. 2009. The Revolution of Democracy Online? An Application of Social Capital Theory to the American Political Blogosphere.
- Lisa S. Schönmeier. 2009. Transatlantic Strategies of Public-Private Outsourcing of National Security.
- Michelle Glauser. 2009. The Mommy Blog: A Fulfilling Autobiographical Niche for Stay-at-Home Mothers.
- check back for abstracts soon