Undergraduate Symposium 2012

Debate America

As part of the American studies undergratuate program, it is essential for the students to critically deal with various topics of the American culture and society. Once again, this debate has been located outside of the classroom to offer an insight the to those who are curious about American studies, interested in contemporary discussions about America, or just love to debate in general. For this reason the BA class of 2009 invites every interested listener to participate in this year’s Undergraduate Symposium “Debate America” in which they will present and discuss their research outcome of this year’s Project Module.

The symposium will be held on February 3, 2012, starting at 2pm at the Kulturkaffee Plan B (Härtelstraße 21).

The debates cover a wide range of topics, from different perspectives on the cultural and societal Zeitgeist, to a closer look on the struggles of African Americans in the modern America, to critical and analytical views on modern literature and film.

All through the different branches of the American Zeitgeist, the notion of the ‘American Dream’ has been a part of American life for centuries and was undergoing a revival, especially during the last years. However, academic voices have emerged describing the American Dream as a dying construct that is only artificially kept alive. Other opinions range from a denial of this issue, stating the original dream is still very existent, to a description of a entirely new American dream that just adapted the old name. Directly connected to these thoughts about the American Dream is the idea of a unique position of the United States in the world. This idea of ‘American exceptionalism’ is a major part of how the United States presents itself to the world. This attitude, however, in combination with thoughts about a possible end of the American Dream raises questions about the justification of this self positioning. The symposium will present arguments for either side and try to find a consensus during the debate.

Almost from its very beginning, American history included the history of African Americans. More and more intertwined with the American narration, African American history has become a huge field in American studies. Especially, the struggles that young African Americans have to face in their early life but also the immense role that sports play in their young career are issues that the symposium wants to address. Therefore, the students focused on “African Americans in College Sports” during their research about African American culture. For many African Americans sports and a career in one of the American major leagues constitutes their understanding of the perfect life: “African Americans and the American Dream.” However, not only sport is a dominant topic when further investigating African American history in America, but also the depictions of African Americans in the media, i.e. in movies, have become a major topic in American studies. The “Narrative Perspective in Blaxpoitation Films” offers an insight into this field from different angles and how points of view differ, depending on certain factors. The symposium will present the different aspects of these complex topics and discuss the advantages and disadvantages that both the focus on sports this early in life and the influence sports have on the American dream, as well as the depiction of African Americans in movies from different perspectives.

There can not be an American studies symposium without thematizing contemporary discussions in literature. Due to his popularity to a wide audience and due to the numerous conspiracy theories that followed his novel The DaVinci Code, Dan Brown has been chosen to be this years literary examination object. The debate about “Authenticity in Dan Brown’s DaVinci Code” further investigates in how far the depictions of Dan Brown’s story about a conspiracy around the Pope and the incoherency of science and religion can be true. The modernity and topicality of this topic and the dominance of the Catholic church in media coverage right now, combined with Dan Brown’s conspicuous novel guarantee for an interesting and informative presentation.

After the presentations, there will be an informal get together where the participants will be available for further questions. Snacks and drinks will be provided.