North American Studies (M.A.)

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The Interdisciplinary Modules

The interdisciplinary component of your degree is made up of three interdisciplinary module which are meant to give a broader understanding of the work of the individual departments and their interconnections. These courses are usually attended by a large number of students and offer a lively intellectual meeting ground for the entire student body to share insights and debate.

There are two interdisciplinary modules, each of which is co-taught by two professors from different departments. These courses are offered in various combinations and can feature cooperations between professors from all departments. Crucially, each modules takes place within one semester and is worth 10 credit points, which entails a high volume of required reading, and an intense work load. Typically these classes require students to work together in groups and submit their research in the form of classroom presentations or written assignments.

The interdisciplinary modules also include the interdisciplinary lecture series of the JFKI which is organised only during the winter semester under a unifying theme. The 'Ringvorlesung' as it is commonly referred to, features a talk by a different lecturer every week, often a visiting or guest professor, who has been invited specifically to share their relevant expertise on a specific topic.

In this seminar we seek to examine how racial identities are constructed through the use of images. We will mainly focus on cultural representations. of Blackness from the Early Republic to the present United States. Topics of discussion include, but are not limited to: slavery, resistance, violence, racial discrimination and Civil Rights. Using combined theories and methods from history and literary studies, in this interdisciplinary seminar we will examine a range of materials such as photography, pamphlets, comics, poetry, artworks and videos documentation.

Surveillance and Social Order: Visibility, Invisibility, and the Blurring of Boundaries Surveillance—broadly understood as a set of processes and practices for the collection, analysis, and application of information—has become a defining characteristic of late modernity. Although surveillance has ancient roots, new information technologies and the advent of big data have created conditions for the pervasive, penetrating, and highly consequential role of surveillance in the everyday lives of individuals, firms, and governments. New technologies allow watching to happen in greater depth, breadth, and immediacy. Technology, however, is only a precondition for our transformation into a new surveillance society. A wide range of social, political, cultural, and economic factors have made surveillance practices appear useful and even necessary. To understand surveillance, we need to consider the modes of governance that mobilize surveillance for the purposes of controlling and steering the process of social ordering. In particular, one of the central effects of surveillance is the blurring of boundaries. Processes and practices of surveillance are blurring traditional boundaries between the private and the public spheres, between private and public authorities, between the state and the corporation, between the police and the military, between logics of security and logics of profit, between the scrutinized and the scrutinizers. In a more general sense, surveillance blurs the line between the visible and the invisible, revealing some things as transparent and keeping others in utter obscurity. This lecture series interrogates the ways in which surveillance processes and practices are transformative of social order. In this spirit, we invite speakers to consider topics such as: the intersection of media and surveillance, capitalism and surveillance, surveillance in popular culture, the surveillance society as treated in historical or contemporary literature, surveillance as a mode of governance, surveillance and security, histories of surveillance, and many others.