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Associate Professor Katharina Vester

We are welcoming Katharina Vester, who will be spending the months of May through August 2020 at Ruhr University. She is Associate Professor of History and American Studies at American University in Washington, D.C. She is a fellow of the Humboldt-Stiftung and a guest of the Ruhr-Universität Bochum for a total of 14 months between May 2020 and August 2023. In this time, she plans to finish her second monograph, Bodies to Die for: Self-Help Ideology, Biopolitics, and Popular Media. Here she examines self-help literature as a measure of social control. She argues that it is a genre that implies that individuals, if they optimize themselves, can control their lives and destinies, downplaying the importance of social stratification and reducing the responsibility of the state towards its citizens. The optimization called for is typically in accordance with hegemonic norms, helping to secure existing power relations and maintaining an existing social order, often at the expense of those who cannot or will not comply with their subjectivation.
Vester is the author of A Taste of Power: Food and American Identities (California Studies in Food and Culture. Oakland: University of California, 2015). This monograph explores the construction of national, gendered and sexually determined subjects through food discourses and argues that culinary practices, as a site of everyday cultural expression, provide an opportunity to challenge and resist hegemonic relations of power. In addition, she has published a number of articles that investigate the representation of power relations, politics and gender in food media, such as "'The American Table': Tourism, Empire and Anti-Immigration Sentiment” (in Transnational American Studies Ed. Udo Hebel [2012]) or
“Epic (and not so Epic) Meal Times: Gender Performance in YouTube Cooking Shows” (in Performance and Transnational American Studies. Eds. Pia Wiegmink and Birgit Bauridl [2016]).

Transnational U.S. Literature: Transitions of Sense in Globalized Space.

The research team around Prof. Dr. Freitag deals with the leading question: How to acknowledge the changes in U.S. literature and in its canonizing strategies since the 1970s with special regard to the effects of contemporary globalization (as, e.g., the new flows of people) and/or earlier globalizing processes (as, e.g., the slave trade or results of U.S. annexation politics). The focus of the general project is on defining and theorizing the obvious changes occurring in literary texts that make life "in a world fundamentally characterized by objects [subjects and bodies] in motion" (Arjun Appadurai) a topic, without restricting the field and research to ethnic literature and postcolonial theory or ethnic studies. Hence the research profile of the chair fosters the investigation of concepts like Globalization, Transnationalism, the Postcolonial, or Cosmopolitanism, as well as close readings of literary texts. A major aim of American Studies in Bochum is to develop readings of "ethnic" and "non–ethnic" texts that concentrate on their transnational qualities and unearth parallels and junctions that have yet remained invisible and repressed in today’s national canon. This runs against the current tendency to divide literary texts along the lines of ethnic groupings, a strategy that – while helpful as descriptive tool – has much too often strong (d)evaluative overtones. American Studies in Bochum approach this trend critically and strive to counter and/or supplement it with transnational ( Evangelia Kindinger  , Selma Bidlingmaier), cosmopolitan (Dennis Mischke), techno-medial (Matthias Zucker), corporeal (Heike Steinhoff) as well as cultural–dialogical analyses.


  • Prof. Dr. Kornelia Freitag
    Lehrstuhl für American Studies
    Universitätsstraße 150
    D-44780 Bochum
    GB 6/143
  • Secretariat:
    Hildegard Sicking
    Tel.: 0234/32-28051
    Fax.: 0234/32-14418
    GB 6/142

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