The Institute for American Studies holds conferences to encourage international and interdisciplinary knowledge and networks in order to enrich scholarship and dialogue about the United States in its historical, contemporary, transatlantic, and global context. The conferences are thus international meeting places for discussion and debate among scholars, students, and the broader community about America’s place in the world, and about the complexity, challenges, and controversies connected to American society, culture, and politics.

Below is a sample of recent conferences at the Institute for American Studies in Leipzig:

Beyond Narrative (2019)

Literature, Culture, and the Borderlands of Narrativity

October 10-12, 2019

For the past two years, researchers from around Germany have investigated and discussed ‘narrative liminality’ in a network funded by the German Research Foundation. As part of their collaboration, they have explored and theorized the boundaries and interrelations between the symbolic forms of narrative, play, data, ritual, spectacle, and others. On October 10-12, 2019, this work will culminate in a conference on the topic “Beyond Narrative: Literature, Culture, and the Borderlands of Narrativity,” organized by American Studies Leipzig faculty and will convene at Leipzig’s University Library.

Attendants of the conference will hear keynote addresses by Jared Gardner (Ohio State), Caroline Levine (Cornell), and Maurice S. Lee (Boston), as well as presentations from scholars around the globe probing into different understandings of narrative liminality and exploring what it means for a text to foreground meaning-making potentials other than narrative. The members of the Narrative Liminality network, in turn, will present their research in a poster session that allows for a hands-on exchange of ideas among the network members and the presenters and guests.

More information is also available on the conference homepage.

Invectivity and Democracy (2019)

A Powerful Tool to Destroy, Reform and Revitalize Political Order and Democracy?

June 20-21, 2019

Democracies are at stake (Levitsky and Ziblatt), democracy has died, and liberalism has failed (Deneen 2018). These seem to be the depressing but prevalent perceptions these days (Kufferath 2018). At centre stage are rising right-wing populist movements all over the world. Making matters worse is the decay of US politics, which are no longer acting as a safeguard of democracy but instead are starting to undermine democratic institutions and weaken democratic procedures, with implications for the entire world.

The conference will use as a point of departure the concept of “invectivity” – a neologism defined by the Dresden Collaborative Research Centre as “verbal and nonverbal, oral and written, gestural and pictorial communicative practices that are capable of degrading, offending or excluding others.” Invectivity has the power to produce, define, stabilise or change social and political structures. This conference will bring together scholars from different disciplines in order to compare the characteristics, effects, and emotions of invective practices in different societies and historical settings. Concentrating on the dynamics and productivity of invectivity will broaden our understanding of derogatory communication and produce a deeper understanding of why there are certain circumstances and conditions when shame-oriented communications can produce necessary reform and become a powerful tool for democracy.

The conference is organized by Dagmar Ellerbrock (University of Toronto/Universität Dresden), Andres Kasekamp (University of Toronto), Katja Kanzler (University of Leipzig; SFB 1285) and Sabine Müller-Mall (Universität Dresden; SFB 1285), as a Joint Initiative in German and European Studies between the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy, University of Toronto, Sonderforschungsbereich 1285, and Technische Universität Dresden.

For more information regarding the conference’s program click here.

Weiter sehen: Realität in Serie (2019)

Interdisciplinary Conference on Reality in Serial Fromats

May 24-25, 2019

In times of ‘fake news’ and ‘alternative facts’ the question of the construction, representation and functionalization of ‘reality’ - and to what degree these are connected to declarations of truth - has gained new relevance in television as well. The conference is concerned with the different social, cultural, political and aesthetic potentials of truth claims and -effects in serial television formats. Questions of reality, fictionality, seriality, authenticity and the tools used to create these in television will be discussed by a range of interdisciplinary researchers in talks on a diverse selection of genres and formats. The conference is hosted by ASL in conjunction with the Collaborative Research Center “Invectivity” (SFB Invektivität) and the network Weiter sehen: Interdisziplinäre Perspektiven der Dresdner Serienforschung.

The conference is hosted by ASL in conjunction with the Collaborative Research Center “Invectivity” (SFB Invektivität) and the network Weiter sehen: Interdisziplinäre Perspektiven der Dresdner Serienforschung.

More detailed information regarding the program can be found here.

Spatialization Processes in the Americas (2017)

Configuration and Narratives

April 5-6, 2017

The questions of when, where, and under which conditions transnational spatialization processes involve the crossing or creating of borders is particularly relevant in the Americas. How should transnational space be defined: geostrategically, culturally, historically, philosophically, geographically, politically, or as a combination of these and other approaches? Which configurations emerge from such definitions? What do the economies, politics, histories, cultures, languages, philosophies, religions, and literatures of the Americas tell us about the dimensions and depths of processes of spatialization and the boundaries created by them?

Do present processes of globalization weld together the different parts of the Americas or do they rather create divisions, for example between highly industrialized and less developed countries? What is the role of contact zones and peripheries, of rimlands and borderlands between North and South – which have produced not only “open wounds” (Anzaldúa) but also reimaginations of space, nation, and national cultures – as well as places such as Miami or New Orleans, which are often considered extensions of the Caribbean? And how do free trade zones, migrations, networks of drug trade and violence, and new currency flows (such as remittances) impact the transformation of national borders into new frontiers? What is the relationship between imagined border crossings and existing or newly drawn borders and the discourses produced by them?

These and related questions will be discussed in a two-day interdisciplinary workshop co-organized by Sonderforschungsbereich 1199 “Processes of Spatialization under the Global Condition,” Prof. Heidrun Zinecker and Dr. Hannes Warnecke from Leipzig Univesity.

You can find more on the conference’s program if you click here.

Crafting Economic Security (2016)

North America, Europe, and the Future of Transatlantic Trade

April 29, 2016

Germany and Europe are seeking to build a 21st century trade architecture with North America. The Canada-EU Free Trade Agreement (CETA) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) are the most significant transatlantic effort since the end of the Cold War to craft a new model of economic security between North America and Europe. These efforts are controversial, however, and are being hotly debated on both sides of the Atlantic. This one-day conference will be joined by leading experts to discuss and debate the future of transatlantic trade. As a keynote speaker, U.S. Ambassador to Germany, John B. Emerson will join the conference.

You can watch the talk of U.S. Ambassador John B. Emerson on YouTube

Democracy and Difference in the “Pacific Century” (2015)

July 9-11, 2015

German-American relations broadly defined are increasingly influenced by developments in the Pacific space. For many in Germany and Europe “the rise of the Pacific“ portends a new situating of their place in the global commons that can involve their increasingly being “pushed to the periphery.“ The unfolding of the “Pacific Century“ reflects generally a multitude of exchanges and interactions that center importantly on the negotiation of concepts of difference and democracy or the opening of new spaces for the expression and practice of diversity. The place of the Pacific in the German and European imagination thus offers the potential to contextualize, complicate, and connect “provincial“ politics with global themes centering on difference, diversity, and democracy.

This conference seeks to bring together diverse scholars and a variety of other voices exploring the meaning of the trans-pacific in the context of trans-atlantic interactions and transnational American Studies. The bridging theme will be dialogues on difference and democracy as explored in diverse forms of expression, including literature, culture, knowledge construction, politics, economics, and the narrating of history. By thus “globalizing“ the “Pacific Century“ thematically, we seek to encourage a transnational and transcultural exchange that will help enrich a global commons debating the nature and articulations of democracy and difference. More specifically and in relation to American Studies, we seek to strengthen and broaden the exploration of trans-pacific themes among German and European scholars and other interested publics, as well as encourage theoretical discussions of transpacific studies in connection with transatlantic and hemispheric studies.

Selling Ethnicity and Race (2013)

Consumerism and Representation in 21st-Century America

November 6-8, 2013

While critics have envisioned both a “post-ethnic” and “post-racial” turn in the United States over the past two decades, it cannot be denied that ethnicity “sells”: Ethnic labels are an important economic factor, ethnic festivals experience a revival, and there is a growing market for ethnic difference and racialized commodities. At the same time, the character of ethnic identification is changing: Marilyn Halter in her study Shopping for Identity speaks of a “portable ethnicity” based on symbolic structures rather than on concrete cultural practices. The buying power of African Americans, Latinos, Asians, and Native Americans is increasing faster than that of white households, and demographers predict a population development that will make white Anglosaxons a minority by 2050, a trend often described as a “browning of America.” Ethnic and racial minorities utilize their diverse cultural backgrounds and historical experiences to preserve and express their respective and often distinct group identities through consumerism and specific commodities. 

Against this background the conference will explore the production and performance of ethnic and racial identities as well as the consumption of “ethnic” and racialized products in the complex field between representational politics, economics, and consumerism. We will investigate new emerging ethnic imaginaries and the ways in which they respond to the re-invigoration of ethnic
identification and to the increased visibility of nonwhite Americans in the United States.

The international Conference is organized by Prof. Dr. Gabriele Pisarz-Ramírez (American Studies, Leipzig University), Dr. Frank Usbeck (English and American Studies, Technical University Dresden), Anne Grob, MA (American Studies, Leipzig University), and Maria Zywietz (American Studies, Leipzig University). 

For more information about the conference program, venues, and speakers, please visit our hompage:

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Poetics of Politics (2013)

Textuality and Social Relevance in Contemporary American Literature and Culture

June 20th - 22nd, 2013

Contemporary American literature has rediscovered politics. As scholars who proclaim an end of postmodernism, a post-postmodern turn, maintain, literature around the turn of the millennium has broken with the ‘narcissist’ playfulness of postmodernism and demonstrates a rekindled interest in addressing issues of social concern, an interest that it pursues by literary strategies nonetheless deeply shaped by postmodern aesthetics. This ‘political turn’ in literature coincides with what we may call a ‘poetic turn’ in politics. Political (sub-)cultures show themselves increasingly conscious of their own textuality.

The conference aims to interrogate the ‘poetics of politics’ at this crossroads of contemporary American literary and political cultures. It wants to shed light on the textual dynamics by which texts in and across the realms of literature, culture, and politics negotiate political issues and assert their own social relevance.

This conference is part of the Dresden-Leipzig Research Initiative Selbst-Bewusste Erzählungen and is organized by Prof. Dr. Katja Kanzler (TU Dresden), Dr. Frank Usbeck (TU Dresden), Dr. Sebastian M. Herrmann (Leipzig), and Carolin Alice Hofmann (Leipzig).

You find more information on the conference’s program, venues, and on registration on the conference homepage:!/PoP

Hemispheric Encounters (2012)

The Early United States in a Transnational Perspective

April 25th - 27th, 2012

In the past two decades scholars in American literary and cultural studies have emphasized the necessity of transnational approaches to American history in order to overcome the residues of American Exceptionalism and to study American specificities in a comparative framework. One of the major results of this research has been a shift in perspective that has directed attention to the multiple connections the early United States had to other regions in the hemisphere. As has become visible, the formation and consolidation of national and collective identities in the early United States was not only impacted by the need to distinguish Americans from Europeans but also by its situatedness on the American continent.

The internatioanl symposium is organized by Professor Dr. Gabriele Pisarz-Ramirez (American Studies Leipzig / Minority Studies, University of Leipzig) and Dr. Markus Heide (Department of English and American Studies / American Studies, Humboldt-Universität Berlin).

On our homepage you find detailed information on the symposium’s participants and their presentations, on travel recommendations and the conference locations, and on the program of our symposium (Please click here to read more).

 Toward a New Transatlantic Space? (2007)

Changing Perceptions of Identity, Belonging, and Space in the Atlantic World

June 21-23 2007

With the end of the global dichotomy imposed by the Cold War, European perceptions of the Atlantic as the formerly dominant frame of reference have lost their immediate necessity. Simultaneously, the United States as the defining Atlantic power have shifted their geopolitical attention to other areas of the world, which appear to hold greater potential for cooperation than an increasingly self-confident European Union critical of the United States’ role as superpower. The traditional transatlantic alliance is revived on instances like 9/11, but its structural, ideological, and intellectual basis seems to have weakened.

The American Studies Institute at the University of Leipzig and the German Historical Institute Washington will host the conference entitled “Toward a New Transatlantic Space? Changing Perceptions of Identity, Belonging, and Space in the Atlantic World”, to be held in Leipzig, 21 June – 23 June 2007. (Please click here to read more.)

Ambivalent Americanizations (2005)

Popular and Consumer Culture in Central and Eastern Europe

24-26 November 2005 Leipzig University

The project explores the complex dynamics involved in the ‘Americanization’ of popular and consumer cultures across Europe with a focus on the years 1945-89. A central concern is to advance scholarship on ‘Americanization’ by asking for the experience of Central and Eastern Europe. Here ‘Americanization’ figured within a political, cultural, and economic context that defined itself in sharp contrast to ‘America.’ This perspective provides for a concept of ‘Americanization’ as a set of complex processes of cultural mixing and practices of cultural appropriation, underscoring the various ambivalences of boundaries, parameters and modes of engagement. (Please click here to read more.)

Please find more information, a conference report and audio files at the conference homepage