29th Annual Berkeley Interdisciplinary German Studies Conference: “Traveling Forms: Global German Studies”

As a pandemic and international solidarity for Black Lives Matter demand reckoning with crises of a global scale, we propose to rethink German Studies in its constitutive contradiction: formed around a national canon, yet also situated in global networks, the discipline calls for conceptual, aesthetic, and historical reevaluations of cultural-medial forms in motion. Around 1800, Immanuel Kant conceptualized cosmopolitanism without leaving Königsberg, and the decreasingly mobile Goethe projected the idea of world literature from his study in Weimar, suggesting that visions of global circulation often arise in tension with local limitations on mobility. In this sense, we pose questions such as: how has the relationship between bodies, forms and their circulation been envisioned? How does the movement of bodies and forms shape our understanding of transnational exchange? What happens to forms when transported into different cultural contexts? Such questions must also be considered in light of their political implications. On a fundamental level, even the terminology of the “global” reenacts an imperialist attitude towards the earth and adheres to the logics of market value and racial capital. Scholars like Claudia Breger and Pheng Cheah speak of “world making” to challenge these logics and in turn highlight the constitution of communities through literature and film. World is not identical with the spatial expansion of the globe but a temporal process in which affective attachments are unfolded and reconfigured. What worlds are created by the transnational circulation of forms? And how do border regimes and asymmetrical power relations impact these transmissions? How can travelling forms imagine a world that departs from colonial legacies?