Field Research. The Living Classroom

We are especially proud in Leipzig of how we integrate the classroom, research, and engaging other cultures into what we call “The Living Classroom”, or the pursuit of new knowledge and understanding through Study Tours to the United States. Study Tours are an outstanding opportunity for our students to go beyond the class room and explore classroom related issues through dialogue and direct encounters with people, places and institutions in today's America.

In just the past few years, American Studies Leipzig has organized five Study Tours to the United States. Professor Hartmut Keil has been the driving force behind this remarkable record of “learning by doing”. Each study tour has a theme, and so far these have been:


Religion in the United States (2015)

The tour will head to the heartland of the United States and focus on areas and cities that mirror central beliefs and values in American society.

We want to understand how religious traditions have persisted despite momentous social, economic, and demographic change, and what impact they continue to have on millions of Americans. Europeans often perceive American society as inscrutable, even contradictory. On the one hand they admire it as a model of technological advance and innovation, on the other they are puzzled by its claims to be “a city on the hill”, and a nation of believers that is in significant ways different from secular societies.


Immigration, Religion, and Citizenship (2013)

The study tour will bring students from the University of Leipzig and the Jagiellonian University Kraków to Houston, Texas. Having undergone tremendous demographic, economic, social, and cultural transformations, Houston can be regarded as a microcosm reflecting national as well as global developments. In order to better understand the interrelated dynamics of immigration, religion, and citizenship, as well as their ramifications for Houston’s economic, social, and cultural diversity in present and future, we will meet, among others, representatives of various organizations, institutions, interest groups, media, and religious communities.


African Americans in the South: Traditions and Contemporary Challenges (2011)

The study tour “African Americans in the US South – Traditions and Contemporary Challenges” was a joint project of the American Studies Institute and the Institute of Ethnology, both at the University of Leipzig, Germany, and of the American Studies Institute at the Jagiellonian University at Kraków, Poland. A group of nineteen students and two professors traveled to various locations in the state of South Carolina and the city of New Orleans to gain deeper insight into African American cultures, the legacy of slavery and Civil Rights struggles as well as current political issues.

Immigration and Ethnicity (2009)


The tour will target the Upper Midwest of the United States for several reasons. This region was the destination of millions of immigrants from Europe, and especially its urban centers continue to attract immigrants from Latin American countries and Asia. In addition it reflects significant internal migration patterns of specific ethnic groups. We want to talk to researchers at several universities but also to representatives of ethnic groups, local social institutions, religious congregations, citizens’ initiatives, think tanks, interest groups, the media, religious and secular voluntary associations, and neighborhood organizations. Read more…


Voluntarism, Diversity, and Civic Engagement (2006)

This study tour to Houston, Texas, will investigate a topic that has been claimed to be essential for understanding the American political system. Scholars have emphasized the importance, and the embeddedness, of civil society and civic participation in the lives, and for the identity, of American citizens. Whereas Europeans continue to underscore the importance of political activities top to bottom, the political system of the US is considered to have developped from the grassroots upward. Read more …


Civil Society (2003)

This study tour allowed 12 American Studies students to deal with a fundamental issue of the American political process: the importance of civil society for the everyday life of Americans and their self-image. Closely connected with the role of civil society is the grass roots level; it is essential for understanding the political engagement of Americans. The political system of the United States, contrary to the European idea, functions from the lowest level upwards. As a result, community and state issues play a much larger role in the U.S. than they do in Europe. Read more …


Religion in US Culture and Society (2002)

This stury tour focused on the impact of religion on Americans’ daily lives to develop an understanding of the seeming paradox of the strict separation of church and state (as defined in the First Amendment to the Constitution) and the impact of religion on politics and social issues. Another central question regarded America’s so-called civil religion (i.e. the symbolic presence of the Judeo-Christian tradition in public and official activities) and whether it is still shared by the majority of Americans, thus continuing to serve a unifying purpose. Read more …


The US Political System (1999)

Students had the opportunity during this Study Tour to Washington DC to become much better acquainted with the working of the well-known “checks-and-balances” institutions and culture of American politics represented by the executive (White House), legislative (Congress), and judicial (Supreme Court) branches of government. In addition students could explore the racial, class, gender, and generational components of American politics that make the country's political process so contested, competitive, controversial, open, and unique.


The American South (1996)

Students traveled to different locations throughout the South to experience the many changes underway in this fascinating part of America, and to experience how the legacies of the past continue to shape daily life. Clichés were challenged, and the diversity of the region widely engaged.