This multi-year collaborative research project was founded by Professors Deniz Göktürk and Anton Kaes in 2001. For current activities, please visit the Multicultural Germany Project.
BTWH: The Emergence of German Modernity
An international network of scholars based at Berkeley, Tübingen, Vienna, and Harvard, BTWH is a working group dedicated to interdisciplinary research on topics in German Studies related to issues of modernity. The group was founded thirteen years ago under the auspices of the Townsend Center and the International Research Center for Cultural Studies (IFK) in Vienna. Bringing together scholars interested in literature, film and visual culture, history, and more, our group offers graduate students at Berkeley a unique opportunity to engage in international exchange and scholarship on cutting-edge topics in German Studies. Over the years, the group’s projects have given rise to a number of publications, dissertation topics, and MLA and GSA conference panels. Berkeley members have accepted faculty positions at institutions such as Harvard University, Washington University, the University of Virginia, McGill University, George Washington University, and Georgetown University. For questions, contact Erik Born.
Bay Area German
Newsletter readers who are native speakers of German in the San Franciso Bay Area may have already experienced a phone call or e-mail seeking their language expertise in the Bay Area German Linguistic Filedwork Project (conveniently called BAG). Since 1984, graduate students of Germanic linguistics, together with Professsor Rauch, have been observing how the German language is changing in the speech of native speakers of German residing in the Bay Area.
Through interviews with Bay Area German speakers we have rich sets of data on an array of topics which include politically correct (PC) German, the German language of vulgarity and civility, and the grammar of e-mail German as well as that of snail-mail German. In the case of PC German we also gathered comparison data from German speakers in Berlin, and with the vulgarity/civility project we sought comparison data from a group in Bonn. In recording the sounds of spoken German in the Bay Area, the BAG fieldworkers interviewed not only German speaking adults but also first-generation German-speaking children (yielding a “Kinderlect”) to compare with the spoken English of both of these groups. It allowed us to understand how the sounds of California English had affected the German language. Presently we are investigatiing the study of German verbal language and gestural language which accompany emotions.
Our fieldwork modus operandi is as follows: first we formulate a hypothesis about a given German language phenomenon, for example, that German e-mail is more infected by English than is German snail-mail. We then devise an optimal questionnaire for elicitation of our data. Next we make contact with possible resource persons who are native-speakers of German in the Bay Area to ascertain if they might be willing to participate in providing answers to the data questionnaire. We assure them that their name, address, and phone number will be kept confidential. After the student fieldworkers complete the interviews, the BAG group analyses the data; the findings are then prepared for publication. Student fieldworkers benefit from this educational experience by acquiring the theory and methods of linguistic fieldwork, which results in publication of the project findings. Resource persons who engage in the fieldwork experience by supplying data are often pleased to witness what sorts of educational work academics do.
Since the anonymity of the resource persons is strictly observed, we enrich our data analysis by factoring in elicited profile information such as age, sex, education, occupation, duration of residence in the Bay Area of the resource person. This leads to interesting conclusions, for example, the fact that the politically correct Frau, instead of the un-PC Fräulein, to designate “eine Person die 23 Jahre alt und weiblichen Geschlechts ist” is spoken by three men ages 28, 29, and 30 who hold higher degrees and who have resided in the Bay Area less than five years. Our comparative data yield valuable insights, for example, to the effect that while native German speakers produce the sounds of German better (for example, Kuh, Mehl, so, tun) than do first-generation German children, the children hear/perceive the distinction between between German and English like-sounding words better (for example, German du, English do). Lastly, comparaing elicted data on civil/vulgar German prompted fieldworkers to ask the provocative question whether the Bay Area or the Bonn resource persons are better at swearing? You can read all about it in volume 8, number 2 of the Interdisciplinary Journal for Germanic Linguistics and Semiotic Analysis to be published in Fall 2003, found in the departmental and the main library.
For further information, contact Professor Irmengard Rauch.
Gender in German Studies (GIGS)
Gender in German Studies (GIGS) is a working group dedicated to ensuring a space for graduate students interested in issues of gender, identity, and sexuality within German contexts. By focusing on current theoretical scholarship in gender and sexuality scholarship, the group is interdisciplinary in nature. Pertinent fields include history, anthropology, linguistics, cultural studies, film and media studies, sociology, literature, and political science. Bi-weekly meetings involve discussion of current scholarship and trends, particular case studies, and presentation of graduate students’ work. Each topic/reading is selected by the participants, allowing the group to be tailored to individual needs. Recent discussions have revolved around topics of multiculturalism, the canon and Turkish-German writers, Judith Butler’s Bodies that Matter, Elin Diamond’s discussion of gender and catharsis, Postcolonial women’s writing, representations of revolutionary women in 19th century Germany/France, Kafka’s Das Urteil, and the poetry of Else-Lasker-Schüler.
German Poetry Club
The German Graduate Poetry Club is a reading group founded upon the belief that passion, inspiration, and appreciation represent important ways of approaching poetic texts. The group reads a poem in German every other week. One of the members of the group translates this poem into English (or the translation is done on the spot as part of a group effort), and the process of translation is used as a springboard for interpreting and understanding the poem. The goal of the group is to have sophisticated readings of texts emerge from a spontaneous and creative interaction with the poetic material.