May 2021

Maria Sulimma is reading Narrating Space / Spatializing Narrative: Where Narrative Theory and Geography Meet (2016) by Marie-Laure Ryan, Kenneth Foote, and Maoz Azaryahu. Whereas the first part of the monograph focuses on space in narrative (different functions, emotional or strategic relations, universal and particular features in plot), the second part develops analytical tools to explore how texts in “real-world” environments may tell stories. Among the case studies discussed are street names, historical and heritage sites, or museum displays and exhibitions. The authors argue that “organizing stories in such places involves issues of spatial form that are different from those involved in using books, e-books, or even computer screens for storytelling” (5). For instance, they highlight the need to distinguish spatial texts that possess narrativity but should not be understood as narratives. Their approach is particularly helpful to specify the notion of narrative (and scripts), especially since the much-proclaimed “narrative turn” has led to the widespread use of the term across a variety of disciplines.

 

Hanna Rodewald is reading an article by Kurt Wettengl, the former director and curator of Dortmund’s Museum Ostwall and honorary professor of Art History at TU Dortmund University, titled “Das Museum Ostwall als Kraftwerk” (2010). It is an essay which, along the ideas of Alexander Dorner, re-positions the function of the museum from a rather passive collector and conserver of cultural artifacts to an active institution within the cityscape. Wettengl critically argues that the museum should be understood as a “Kraftwerk” (powerhouse). This analogy aims to express the social and creative energies that are generated by the museum space through the multifaceted interaction with art. The article seeks the museum to be understood as a place of exchange of ideas which are created on a daily basis by all members of society. The Museum Ostwall therefore aims to be an institution which is highly participatory, educational and essentially democratic. Besides its traditional duties it works towards becoming a space of future-oriented negotiation between its visitors, artworks and society at large.

 

Chris Katzenberg is watching talks on "Pursuing Educational Equity in Uncertain Times" delivered at the Fall 2020 conference of the Race, Inequality and Language in Education program (RILE) at Stanford University. The five-day event brought together important scholars from education, sociology, critical race studies and beyond to discuss connections between COVID and many of the most pressing diversity and equity issues in US education today. Themes ranged from indigenous perspectives on COVID to this moment of crisis as a long-overdue opportunity to fundamentally re-imagine American education. You can find the conference program and recordings of the talks here. I recommend Friday's program in particular, with papers by the anthropologists Savannah Shange (see also: March readings) and Gloria Ladson-Billings.

Our Past Reading
Prof. Dr. Josef Raab passed away on November 10, 2019 after a long battle against terminal illness. / © L. Raab

Thank you,

to our colleague, advisor, and mentor Josef Raab, who sadly passed away last weekend after a long and brave battle against terminal illness. Josef Raab was the chair of American Literary and Media Studies at the University of Duisburg-Essen. He paved the way for the discipline of Inter-American Studies, significantly shaping its core debates. As a champion and supporter of the Ruhr Center for American Studies, he was also a pivotal figure for the establishment of our City Scripts research group. Josef Raab was a fighter of the good fight, never shy of supporting his students and of positively endorsing as well as tackling his colleagues. He never eschewed an argument he believed in. While he had to take a step back from in-person participation in recent months due to his illness, he was with us in thought and during our research. We lose a professor and mentor, who has accompanied and supported some of us since our bachelor’s degree, a colleague, who challenged us in academic discussions, and most of all a sincere and warm human soul.

All that is left for us to say now is, thank you and safe travels.