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 Dr. Frank Usbeck 

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Dr. Frank Usbeck
Research Fellow
Office Hours: by appointment


Research Initiative "Selbst-Bewusste Erzählungen": www.narrativeculture.de

Frank Usbeck's website and research blog: www.frankusbeck.net


I graduated as a Magister (M.A.) from the University of Leipzig in American Studies, History, and Journalism. In July 2010, I earned my PhD at the Leipzig American Studies Institute. I have spent most of my life in Leipzig, but study abroad and subsequent research trips led to longer stays in Tucson, Arizona and other places in the American Southwest, to California, Nebraska,  and Washington, D.C. I was raised in a family of geographers, which probably instilled an interest in maps in me. My sister is a specialist in fiber optics sensors, giving me a contrast in scientific methods and academic procedures outside of the Humanities. I love hiking, biking, and wide open skies.



Having liked history classes best, I am glad to teach American history now. My interests focus on tools for beginning history students, such as the basics of research, source and database management. I furthermore enjoy courses on Native American history, colonial history, and the history of violence and conflict in North America. It seems important to me to dwell in comparative history in order to raise an awareness of trans-cultural differences among students, to expand the understanding of "American Studies" into a study of the entire western hemisphere, and to promote Transatlantic studies. I emphasize the need to explore interdisciplinary approaches and to understand history as a dynamic field of study.



In my dissertation project, I wanted to find out how the Nazis approached Indianthusiasm, the well-known euphoria of Germans for all things Indian. It turned out that the German image of Indians had a large impact on the development of a German national identity and of nationalism during the 19th century. This image was also prevalent in discourses on the crisis of modernity, thus impacting the development of various social movements, such as the German Youth movement, neo-paganism, or the Lebensreform movement around 1900, some of whose ideas and concepts the Nazis would later appropriate for their ideology. Seemingly an oxymoron, the hype of non-white Indians by the racist Nazis was actually based on the stereotypical image of pristine, unspoiled, natural people, and thus a model for German Nazis proposing racial purity and cultural integrity.


My current project involves the analysis of the cultural work of new media, particularly blogs. I aim at an analysis of the ways in which soldier blogs (milblogs) trigger public discourse on war in a society, and in how far they support/negotiate community building. This research interest is based on the premise that traditional honoring, healing, and cleansing ceremonies of some Native American tribes help individual soldiers overcome combat-related stress by sharing their experience with their communities via narration and/or performance. My project will analyze in how far community-building in the (military) blogosphere can have comparable effects of social absorption and how, consequently, the cultural work of milblogs also assumes therapeutic functions.


Community Service

I am member of the ASL-based organizations ASAA and aspeers e.V. to help anchor American Studies Leipzig in the academic as well as in the local community and to promote interaction between the institute and local players. Due to my research interests, I keep contact with local activist and lobby groups who are involved in indigenous issues, and thus actively work to promote understanding for indigenous societies in Germany. In my spare time, I am engaged in a non-profit event and catering service which organizes benefits for social and grass-roots democracy projects.


Honors, Awards, Distinctions

  • Rolf-Kentner Dissertation Prize of the Heidelberg Center for American Studies (HCA), 2011.

  • Grantee of Fulbright American Studies Institute scholarship in San Francisco, 2007.

Selected Talks and Publications

  • Forthcoming:'Fellow Tribesmen. The Image of Native Americans, National Identity, and Nazi Ideology in Germany, New York: Berghahn Books, 2015. 

  • With Sebastian M. Herrmann, Carolin Alice Hofmann, Katja Kanzler, Stefan Schubert (eds.): Poetics of Politics. Textuality and Social Relevance in Contemporary American Literature and Culture. Heidelberg: Winter, 2015.

  • “'The Power of the Story': 'Popular Narratology' in Pentagon Reports on Social Media Use in the Military,” in: Poetics of Politics. Textuality and Social Relevance in Contemporary American Literature and Culture. Ed. Sebastian M. Herrmann, Carolin Alice Hofmann, Katja Kanzler, Stefan Schubert, and Frank Usbeck. Heidelberg: Winter, 2015. Print. 313-333.

  •  With Frank Engel: "Die Tipis der alten Nordamerika-Sammlungen im Leipziger Museum für Völkerkunde” (Native American Tipis in the Old North American Collections at the Leipzig Anthropological Museum), in: Deimel, Claus (ed.) Jahrbuch der Staatlichen Ethnographischen Sammlungen Sachsen, Vol. XLVI. Berlin: VWB, 2014. Print. 109-34.

  • “'Keep that Fan Mail Coming.' Ceremonial Storytelling and Audience Interaction in a US Soldier's Milblog.” Zeitschrift für Anglistik/Amerikanistik, Vol. 62.2. 2014. Print. 149-63.

  • “Learning from 'Tribal Ancestors': How the Nazis Used Indian Imagery to Promote a 'Holistic' Understanding of Nature among Germans.” Elohi. Peuples Indigènes et Environnement, Vol. 4. 2014. Print. 45-60.

  • “Clash of Cultures? 'Noble Savages' in Germany and America,” in: Iris Edenheiser and Astrid Nielsen (eds.): Tecumseh, Keokuk, Black Hawk. Portrayals of Native Americans in Times of Treaties and Removal. Stuttgart, Dresden: Arnoldsche, 2013. Print. 177-84.

  • “Representing the Indian, Imagining the Volksgemeinschaft. Indianthusiasm and Nazi Propaganda in German Print Media.” Ethnoscripts. Vol. 15.1. 2013. Print. 46-61.

  •  "'My Blog is My Therapy.' The Sense of Community and Ritual in American Military Blogs." Journal of Military Experience, Vol. 2. July 2012. 271-86. Online edition (February 2013): http://encompass.eku.edu/jme/vol2/iss1/

  • "'We are Indigenous!' National Socialist Constructions of German Indigeneity and the American Indian Image During the Third Reich." In Middell, Matthias, and Ulf Engel (eds.): Erinnerungskulturen in transkultureller und transnationaler Perspektive. Transnationalisierung und Regionalisierung vom 18. Jh. bis zur Gegenwart. Vol. 5. 2012. 23-36.

  • "'Fighting Like Indians.' The 'Indian Scout Syndrome' in American and German War Reports of World War II." In Fitz, Karsten: Visual Representations of Native Americans. Transnational Contexts and Perspectives. Heidelberg: Winter, 2012. 125-43.

  • With Sebastian M. Herrmann, Carolin Alice Hofmann, and Katja Kanzler (eds.): Participating Audiences, Imagined Public Spheres: The Cutural Work of Contemporary American(ized) Narratives. Leipzig UP, 2012.

  • "'Don't Forget About Us, Because We Can't Forget You.' A Narrative Approach to the Concept of 'Community' in American Soldier Blogs," in Herrmann, Sebastian M., Carolin Alice Hofmann, Katja Kanzler, and Frank Usbeck (eds.): Participating Audiences, Imagined Public Spheres: The Cutural Work of Contemporary American(ized) Narratives. Leipzig UP, 2012. 91-114.

  • "War Experience, Trauma, and Ceremonial Storytelling." Presentation and roundtable discussion with representatives of NGOs in Lebanon at the Forum Civil Peace Service (Forum ZFD), 27 April 2012. Beirut.

  • "Representing the Indian, Imagining the Volksgemeinschaft. Indianthusiasm and Nazi Propaganda in the German Print Media 1933-1945." 33rd American Indian Workshop, 12-15 April 2012, Zurich.
  • "Learning from 'Tribal Ancestors.' How the Nazis Used Indian Imagery to Promote a Holistic Understanding of Nature among Germans." International Symposium "Indigenous Peoples and the Environment," 8-10 Dec. 2011, Bordeaux.

  • "Fellow Peoples, Common Enemies. The Myth of the German-Indian Brotherhood in Nazi Ideology and Anti-American Propaganda." annual meeting of the New England American Studies Association, "American Mythologies," Plymouth, MA, 4-6 Nov. 2011.

  • "'Alles Aberglaube?' Eine ethnologische Besucherforschung zur Sonderausstellung 'Kallawaya - Heilkunst in den Anden' am Grassi-Museum für Völkerkunde zu Leipzig," annual conference of the German Anthropological Association, Vienna 14-17 September 2011 . 
  • Chair and Co-Organizer, Workshop "Narrative Audience, and Transnational Public Spheres", annual conference of the GAAS, Regensburg, 16-19 June 2011.

  • "The History of Native Americans in Film," introductory lectures to the film screenings of Barking Water, Cinematheque Leipzig, 8 November 2010, and Bayerisch-Amerikanisches Zentrum Munich, 20 January 2011.

  • Co-organizer, 2010 Postgraduate Forum, annual conference of young scholars in the GAAS, Leipzig, 5-7 November 2010. Guest editor for conference contributions in COPAS (Current Objectives in Postgraduate American Studies) Spring 2011.

  • "Die Powwow-Bewegung in Europa." Roundtable discussion with Dr. Renae Watchman Dearhouse (University of Arizona), Jörg Diecke (Freunde der Crow Agency e.V.), and Frank Usbeck (Universität Leipzig), 18 July 2009, in Grimma, Saxony.

  • "Deutsche als Indianer. NS-Konstruktionen von Nationaler Identität und der Einfluss des Indianerimage in Deutschland." Summer School of the Graduate Centre Humanities and Social Sciences, Universität Leipzig, 30 September 2009, Research Academy Leipzig.

  • "Germans, Indians, and the Forest. The German Oak as Link Between Cultures," Annual Conference of Historians in the GAAS, Tutzing, Bavaria, February 2009.

  • “Fellow Peoples. The German Affinity for American Indians.” Lecture Series American Studies in International Perspective, Creighton College, Omaha, Nebraska, October 2007.

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