The following are excerpts or transcripts from presentations given as part of a roundtable titled, “Teaching German and Germanic Languages in the Age of White Supremacy,” which was held January 9, 2021, as part of programming for the annual conference of the Modern Language Association (MLA). The session was organized by Adrienne Merritt under the auspices of the MLA Germanic Philology and Linguistics Forum.
Adrienne Merritt (St. Olaf College)
I’d like to begin with a land acknowledgement.Today we are speaking from the unseated homelands of the Wahpekute Band of the Dakota Nation in Minnesota (St. Olaf College), the ancient homelands of the Lenni-Lenape people (Princeton University), the traditional, ancestral, and unceded territory of the Musqueam people (University of British Columbia), and the lands of the Aboriginal peoples of Australia.We thank them for their stewardship and strength, and recognize the historical and current injustices that continue to enact violence and trauma on the Dakota, Lenni-Lenape, Musqueam, and Aboriginal peoples.
I’d like to start my own portion of the event with a quote from Arundhati Roy:
"Whatever it is, coronavirus has made the mighty kneel and brought the world to
a halt like nothing else could. Our minds are still racing back and forth, longing
for a return to “normality,” trying to stitch our future to our past and refusing to
acknowledge the rupture. But the rupture exists. And in the midst of this terrible
despair, it offers us a chance to rethink the doomsday machine we have built for
ourselves. Nothing could be worse than a return to normality. Historically,
pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world
anew. This one is no different. It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the
We can choose to walk through it, dragging the carcasses of our prejudice and hatred,
our avarice, our data banks and dead ideas, our dead rivers and smoky skies behind us. Or we can walk through lightly, with little luggage, ready to imagine another world.
And ready to fight for it" (Roy 2020).
For me, this citation is very powerful for a variety of reasons, not just because of how current it is—i.e., the things that we struggle with in this COVID-reality—but when we’re looking through the lens of white supremacy, this concept of dead ideas, of dead weight that we are carrying, the suggestion of being willing and able to break with the past and imagine our world anew holds within it an emphasis on imagining, of imagining where our paths might lead. And so when we’re thinking about teaching in the age of white supremacy, I think that imagination is a key aspect. I think that we cannot think about moving forward until we take stock of what white supremacy means, not just within our fields or disciplines, but how those fields have been constructed over time through the language that we use, with a particular focus on both the use and misuse of language.
I am not speaking just of propaganda, which many of us can point to quite clearly, but the concept of fake news. When we’re thinking about a Trump presidency, of having to actually confront what we might consider fake news, of doing research, of asking not only our students but also the general public, to think about their consumption of news (and what that means, how that is presented, how to move forward) with how we will present and position ourselves in our personal and professional lives. I think the end of this quote—“and ready to fight for it”—is significant. To confront and discuss white supremacy is something active, not just thinking from an antiracist or antifascist perspective, but as educators we are willing to take risks in order to make change. And this is where I think smaller groups and collectives, such as the Diversity, Decolonization, and the German Curriculum Collective and the Coalition of Women in German, are really trying to work toward different ways of structuring German studies and challenging current practice, rather than upholding it as the status quo.
The next quote I include points to how I think about moving forward and ways that we might institute change. This quote is taken from James Baldwin’s “Letter to My Nephew” (1962). Baldwin writes,
"[White men] are in effect still trapped in a history which they do not
understand and until they understand it, they cannot be released from it.
They have had to believe for many years, and for innumerable reasons, that
black men are inferior to white men.
Many of them indeed know better, but as you will discover, people find it
very difficult to act on what they know. To act is to be committed and to be
committed is to be in danger. In this case the danger in the minds and hearts
of most white Americans is the loss of their identity" (Baldwin 1963, 20).
I think that this is something that we saw most clearly at the Capitol and the ways that language has figured in terms of a resistance, of a loss. That there is a loss of identity, that there is a loss of something when we start to name whiteness for what it is. Which leads me to my next quote, taken from another piece by Baldwin from his “Letter in a Region of my Mind”, also from 1962. Baldwin states there, “Whatever white people do not know about Negroes reveals, precisely and inexorably, what they do not know about themselves” (43).
Part of the reason I’m bringing up these quotes is because I want to make explicit that this is a discourse with a long history. We’re talking about this in 2021, but the reality is that this extends back so many centuries. Going back to Roy’s comment about “imagining other futures,” it can be quite difficult to find ways to imagine because white supremacy has infiltrated aspects of our daily and professional lives.
For me, taking stock of this and moving forward, and thinking about this, is that it’s all in a name, it’s exposing white supremacy. Of course Sara Ahmed has written “The Non-Performativity of Anti-Racism” as well as the “The Phenomenology of Whiteness,” where she has talked about some of these things. I would like to revise the language she uses slightly to reduce the harm inherent in the ableist connotation of “the invisibility of whiteness.” I would instead term it “naming whiteness.” I think that it’s important to name whiteness where it exists, rather than solely focusing on naming racism (and I’m taking cues from bell hooks in particular here). When I’m approaching white supremacy and aspects of whiteness in German studies as I’m teaching, in reality I don’t teach German studies; rather I teach in general white German studies because that is what I have learned—but we don’t call it that. Thinking about the impact of white supremacy in our disciplines, and thinking about the texts we assign, the presence of whiteness there and white supremacy, the languages that we utter—even the fact that I’m speaking English is an extension of white supremacy and colonialism—but also I think about the ways that critique and reflection, especially personally reflection, can be used as used as instruments of activism and discovery. I can tell students about the presence of white supremacy. I can even show them. But until there is an element of reflection, that message may be missed and most likely will not be internalized.
Encouraging students to think about the ways in which white supremacy impacts the Self, rather than simply focusing on the Other, is a way of confronting the presence of white supremacy and how it permeates throughout our lives and histories. Through the discussion of whiteness and fostering critical inquiry on this topic, students are encouraged to approach potential futures, imagining futures where whiteness and white supremacy are no longer centered and, I might say, omnipresent. When we are pushed to think about different ways of speaking and ways that we might combat whiteness and white supremacy, those imagined futures can start to take shape. In many ways, my points listed above connect to Audre Lorde’s famous quote: “My silences had not protected me. Your silence will not protect you” (2007, 41). By naming whiteness, we dispel the silence that has insulated white supremacy and white-centered discourses and disciplines and begin to recognize that no one benefits from white supremacy.
Course Revision in the Age of White Supremacy
While I have discussed my approach and opinion about teaching in the age of white supremacy, I find it crucial to not simply rely upon vague talking points but also concrete examples. I’d like to provide two examples of courses that I’ve revised while keeping critical race theory and naming white supremacy in mind. These are courses that I inherited, which many of us do. The first is a course that was broadly conceptualized as a German media course for advanced undergraduate German students. For me, approaching this course meant asking myself what I mean by “German media” and how can I actually confront aspects of white supremacy and the centering of whiteness in this course while also talking about media and related theory. In many ways, I sought to trace the trail of white supremacy and whiteness through the lens of media in Germany, of thinking about the concepts of orality and reading, reading groups, readership, publishing, and how these practices have impacted whose voices are readily and more easily consumed and whose have been sidelined. It involved asking questions about which groups have been included (and excluded) in “standard” German studies courses, whose works have been privileged and centered, and which have been marginalized and dubbed “elective” or optional.
I wanted to confront the non-neutrality of newspapers and magazines and expose the various ways that voices that have been marginalized sought out new avenues to publish and circulate their works to the public. In thinking about the longue dureée of this development of media practice, I begin with Gutenberg and Luther. I then discussed critical media practice as a mode through which social critique is disseminated (Karl Kraus was the example I used). I also wanted to address the connection between media and propaganda. For me it was crucial to outline and establish the point that the history of media, in fact its very origins, are connected to aspects of propaganda and supremacy—first a normalized Christian identity and then a white, German one. Media helped to develop and standardize the language of that identity and provided the means to bring that media into the daily lives of German-speakers.
The second example is another inherited course offered in the German department but one that fulfills a general education requirement and attracts high enrollment, as well as students from many disciplines. The fairy tales and folklore course needed to be Eurocentric—as per the catalog description and the requirement it fulfilled—but I aimed to broaden the conversation to include texts and discourses from outside the borders of Europe, and certainly beyond German-speaking countries. I focused on the following points while revising the course structure and content:
In addition to the course content and structure, I felt it necessary to mirror my revised approach in the aesthetics of the syllabus, emphasizing care and concern for a variety of viewpoints, while simultaneously increasing representation of non-white, Germanic cultures.
I included specific mention of concern for mental health and stress. I spent time to reflect upon and meaningfully integrate a land acknowledgement, positionality statement, and clear objectives for the course that prioritized tasks. In addition and in an attempt to push back against normalized forms of academic discourse and expectation, I stated which sections were crucial to reading and which were more optional on the course Moodle page, demystifying objectives but also letting students know that I recognized the specific difficulties of trying to live, work, and learn during the age of COVID-19.
As a closing thought, I’d like to point out that there isn’t one way to teach during the age of white supremacy but it is crucial that discussion of whiteness and naming white supremacy remains an active part of our curricula (should we focus on white-authored works) or turns away from centering whiteness (should we focus on marginalized-identity authored works).
Adam Oberlin (Princeton University)
In response to the quotation from James Baldwin cited by Adrienne: if it is difficult to act on what you know, how much harder when you don't know! The following is a something of a call to action, recognizing that the call should not be universal and that the burden of immersing oneself in a morass of extremism is not evenly borne, so maybe not you personally, and maybe not fair, in a sense, to anyone, but certainly a needed direction in several fields. The more we can share the better.
Recent positive developments in medievalism studies notwithstanding, there remains overall a lag and at times a lack of understanding in the field(s) under discussion today, e.g., German studies, medieval studies, medievalism studies, and, frankly, the humanities generally (though some, as David notes, have made more strides than others in some areas).
As a first principle, you cannot fight what you do not know, and we are collectively rather bad at knowing the limits of our ignorance in this particular area—2016 both was and was not the watershed moment we imagine it to be.
The stakes are not simply large, but all-encompassing: if the common direction of the radical right is toward fascism, if, as Walter Benjamin notes, “[a]lle Bemühungen um die Ästhetisierung der Politik gipfeln in einem Punkt. Dieser eine Punkt ist der Krieg[,]” we are not only speaking about defending the ‘proper’ understanding of the past or contextualizing symbols, figures, events, peoples, and concepts in the service of reducing or eliminating ‘misuse’ or ‘appropriation’ (506). We are speaking about preventing the further radicalization of our students, our communities, our nations, and our world. To that end, a few points:
Of particular importance: this is not a struggle against ‘bad’ history, historiography, linguistics, biology, literary criticism, etc., that can be remedied by educating students or the broader public about ‘good’ history, historiography, linguistics, biology, literary criticism, etc. If we think it is, we have missed the point entirely and failed already in the admittedly limited capacity we may have to shape public opinion. This is certainly about internal historiographies, on the one hand, but I think a useful and perhaps even vital intervention is the notion that it is indeed more about a shared storyworld, a narratological phenomenon with very real implications in the sociological reality of subcultures, and here is precisely where a concrete task with real-world implications CAN be taken up in the academic humanities.
Medieval studies in this sense must always already be medievalism studies. Let's Take as an example Thor’s Hammer, a symbol employed generally by Norse neopagans and reconstructionalists, fans of several genres of heavy metal, white supremacist gangs incarcerated and outside of the prison system, non-white supremacist pagans as part of prison outreach programs designed to combat the former, military service members in the USA thanks for another outreach project after the acceptance of Ásatrú as a valid religion by the US armed forces, and some people, I suppose, who simply think it looks cool. The wider context within which such a symbol must be interpreted is not typically difficult to determine provided one apprehends that distinct and sometimes overlapping groups use the same symbols with the same intended signification but different ideological backgrounds. In the case of the hammer, most possible interpretations will by definition involve identification with and pride in Nordic heritage and/or identification with the pre-Christian religious practices of Germanic Europe. That Varg Vikernes wearing Thor’s Hammer can only be interpreted through a white nationalist, white supremacist, radical traditionalist, esoteric lens requires knowing who he is, what he has done, and what he currently represents. Someone on the street wearing the same jewelry while sporting the shirt of Vikernes’ solo act Burzum, or perhaps of the Viking metal band Amon Amarth, presents more questions than immediate answers, whose dimensions may or may not change from place to place (e.g., the public perception of and messaging from Ásatrúar in Iceland is hardly the same as in North America). Similar and detailed analyses of runes can give rise to further questions about identity and culture, appropriation and misuse, pre-modern history, and medievalism generally, as well as particularly the twentieth-century esoteric adaptations that form both the pop-cultural patina and national socialist legacy lurking under the surface.
While teaching Germanic languages, literatures, and cultures in a pre-modern or modern context requires experience with the manifold and heterogenous expressions of the past and its symbolism, the benefits of looking into some of the darker or stranger corners of the world are many. If the goal is to reveal to students not simply that symbols are being misused by the obvious villains, but also how to identify, probe, and question various uses tangential or adjacent to them, as well as bring them into dialogue both with pop-cultural phenomena deemed ‘safe’ and the philosophical, political, and other writings that inform their journey from the Middle Ages to the twenty first century, it is to our advantage not to stop at the low-hanging fruit and journalistic buzzwords that have largely defined the past five years of medievalist commentary in formal and informal settings. This is not to disparage some of the excellent and informative work that has been done for wider audiences, but to mention that we have only begun to investigate the interconnectedness of the contemporary narratives that cannot be subsumed under the period-centric interests of medievalists, nor ignore the work of sociologists on subcultures, narratologists on storyworlds, or a host of others on race and ethnicity, gender and sexuality, nationalism, decolonization, and contemporary anti-democratic, anti-egalitarian, anti-pluralistic political movements. You cannot fight what you do not recognize, after all. My hope is that deeper engagement with the moving, changing strands of symbolic, historical, and other types of 'misuse' can provoke questions and debate about the limits of engagement with the past, who tells which stories, what ownership means, whether concepts such as ‘reclamation’ are even possible, let alone desirable, and more—at the level of the highest good, maybe even steer someone away from paths better left untrodden.
Maureen Gallagher (The Australian National University)
Like many, I have spent the past days glued to social media and news feeds, taking in the shocking images from Washington, DC, the image of the Confederate flag being proudly marched through the halls of Congress a reminder of the frailty of democracy and the persistence of white supremacy. The iconography of these events is by now familiar—American flags, the Gadsden flag, Trump flags, hats, and t-shirts, military uniforms and insignia—but also horned helmets, Thor’s hammer tattoos, and Camp Auschwitz shirts. In a panel on Thursday, Nahir Otaño Gracia of the University of New Mexico remarked, “Medieval Studies is compatible with white supremacy,” but so, I would argue, is German studies. After all, this disturbing iconography points not to a generic Medieval past, but to a specifically Germanic past that white supremacists claim ownership of. It is also this German past that Illinois Congresswoman Mary Miller referenced in a speech on Wednesday (January 6, 2021) when she quoted Adolf Hitler--“Whoever has the youth has the future”—and noted he “was right on one thing.”
I’ve been thinking about the relationship of this panel to the MLA presidential theme, “persistence.” While we have seen increased boldness and visibility from white supremacists, white supremacy, of course, isn’t new. It is persistent, and we are not the first generation of Germanists to be teaching in its shadow. In 1846, a group of linguists, historians, folklorists, literary and legal scholars gathered for the first Germanistentag in Frankfurt. This was not only an important event in the history of the German nation (many delegates would later go on to serve in the Frankfurt National Assembly in 1848) but in our discipline. Randall Halle noted in his 2017 GSA speech that it is arguably the founding moment of German studies. At this meeting, historical painter Wilhelm Lindenschmit presented to Jacob Grimm his book, Die Räthsel der Vorwelt, oder: Sind die Deutschen eingewandert? in which he argued, “Der deutsche Mensch allein ist der wirkliche weisse Mann” (46). There is no evidence Lindenschmit or his ideas had much of an impact on the meeting, but I mention this as one example among many of the embeddedness of discourses of whiteness with discourses of Germanness.
Both the nation and whiteness are persistent constructs that shape our field. For all we might talk about intercultural and transnational contexts, much of our field is still wedded to the national context of Germany, a fact borne out by a cursory glance at textbooks, program descriptions, and syllabus reading lists. Further, many German programs without adequate funding rely on the German Embassy’s Campus Weeks program to fund or supplement their co-curricular programs, thereby participating directly in the German government’s foreign cultural and educational policy. For more on this point, I encourage you to read Sigrid Weigel’s report “Transnational Foreign Cultural Policy – Beyond National Culture.” On the persistence of whiteness, I invite you to look at research from Dianna Murphy and Seo Young Lee published in the 2019 ADFL Bulletin, which shows that German remains the whitest modern language discipline, with 84.6% of BA degrees awarded to non-Hispanic white students.
The question then, is how we build a discipline that is incompatible with white supremacy. As a first step, we must work to decenter whiteness and disrupt the normative connection between Germanness and whiteness. We should cultivate and maintain close alliances with fields like history, women’s and gender, queer studies, Jewish studies, and critical race and ethnic studies and place an emphasis on studying and teaching the history (and present) of racism, antisemitism, and fascism. We must be mindful of the images and arguments we use to market German studies and the language we use to describe our programs and justify their existence to continue to resist neoliberalization and easy or monolithic understandings of the Germanophone world. We should also continue to free ourselves of ideas of canonicity, coverage, and just what it is that a German major “has to” have read or be able to do.
We should seek out methods for doing German studies in ways that center minoritized voices and perspectives and resist dominant ideas of whiteness. In my Black Germany course, we begin with works by Noah Sow (Deutschland Schwarz Weiß, 2008) and Tupoka Ogette (exit RACISM, 2017) that introduce concepts like white privilege, white fragility, everyday and structural racism, police violence, and racial profiling in accessible language. This serves the dual purpose of foregrounding the voices and experiences of People of Color in Germany—all primary and secondary literature, with only one or two exceptions, is written by PoCs—and enabling students to think through their own subject positions in relation to both Germany and Australia, a country that defines itself as multicultural but until the 1970s maintained official “White Australia” immigration policies. Another approach is that taken by Obenewaa Oduro-Opuni of the University of Arizona in her presentation in the Language and Literature Program Innovation Room at the 2021 MLA conference. In her “Black Studies approach to the 18th century,” she brings slave plays like August von Kotzebue’s The Negro Slaves (1796) into conversation with other works from the Age of Goethe as a way of centering abolitionist discourses. Yet another example is from Jamele Watkins of the University of Minnesota, who, in centering works by women, queer, Black, and Jewish authors, has constructed a survey of modern German literature without texts from what might be called “majority” German authors.
It is necessary, as well, to think of this work from the very first semester of our German curriculum. Relying solely on textbooks is inadequate to disrupt the normative connection between Germanness and whiteness. Multiliteracies approaches offer one promising alternative (see, for example, Jennifer Redmann’s recent essay in the ADFL Bulletin).Grenzenlos Deutsch, a project I have been involved with since 2016, is an online German curriculum designed to offer flexibility, diversity, accessibility, and a social justice approach to German. In focusing on Austria, it decenters the national context of Germany, and as an open educational resource, it is available at no cost to anyone with an internet connection. Even a gesture as simple as sourcing more diverse images (using public domain images and illustrations from sources like the Gender Spectrum Collection, Black Illustrations, Nappy, or the resources listed here and here) can be an important first step.
Before I conclude, I want to highlight three pressure points or potential problems that can impede this work:
To conclude I would like to note that recent events have almost overshadowed that this week marks sixteen years since the death of Oury Jalloh in police custody in Dessau, and we remain without answers and without justice for his killing. The case of Jalloh is one of many examples of state violence against Black and brown bodies in German contexts. In 2017 a delegation of the United Nations’ Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent visited Germany to investigate the status of Black people in Germany, and in their report they note the widespread racial profiling, racism, and disparate access to education, work, housing, and healthcare faced by People of Color there. This reality—the reality of white supremacy, racism, and the interlinked histories of anti-Black racism and oppression in Germany and the United States—must remain at the center of what we do as we work to decenter whiteness, dismantle white supremacy and create a more just world. It is clear to me that to achieve these monumental tasks we must work together to create communities in our classrooms, departments and campuses that cultivate an ethics of care and shared norms and values and place at their center the idea that Black Lives Matter.
David Gramling (University of British Columbia)
I’d like to start with a thought from the writer and labor columnist Kim Kelly, who—reflecting on the siege of the US Capitol on 6 January 2021—writes: “It costs a lot of money to fund this fascist bullshit. Don’t lay the blame solely on the lazy avatar of the ‘blue collar Trump voter.’ There were lawyers and CEOs and a judge’s son leading the charge. One of them took her private jet out to storm the Capitol!”
I’d add to Kim Kelly’s thoughts that it didn’t just take a lot of money to fund this fascist bullshit, but a lot of education and curricular enabling. Here in Canada, we have at the moment an organization called Students for Western Civilization, which is not some grassroots movement, but an astroturf, glossy, very well-funded so-called student group, which curates itself around Aryan and Nazi aesthetics and combines these with all the additional contemporary tools of white grievance culture. This is what their very well-funded promotional materials say about them: “SWC advocates for the rights, interests and identity of European-Canadians by promoting viewpoint diversity in academia and the media; combating anti-white discrimination; fighting anti-white hate speech; and preserving and enhancing our cultural heritage.”
If the medieval historian David Perry asked us in 2017, “What happens when Neo-Nazis Lay Claim to your Field,” I don’t think German studies has stepped up to this question honestly. Classicists have, and medievalists have, along of course with Indigenous and ethnic studies which have been doing it all along. The Society for Classical Studies and the Medieval Society of America have undertaken quite frank measures to figure out how their fields, and the way they teach them, open up an interactive space of symbolic projection where learners can play out white supremacist fantasy. Where they can take what they’ve learned from Game of Thrones and 8chan and legitimate it in our world with a few modules on the Crusades, some group projects on Old High German heroic verse, some creative experimenting Fraktur typesetting, some lectures on so-called German military history and a bit of reactionary modernism, and now the news of the restoration of the Berliner Schloss with all its colonial holdings.
What they end up with is precisely the emergent, dynamic emotional experience that Robert Paxton describes in his “anatomy of fascism” book. It excites and awakens white supremacy as a space of uncompromising emotional possibility, in an age desiccated by the ruins and atomization of neoliberalism. So the mob at the US Capitol the other day not only had private jet owners, lawyers, judges’ kids, and CEOs kids in it, but also German majors, minors, so-called heritage learners, and also students who gave us their student credit hours in our large gen-ed lecture classes on emotionally fascinating topics. Some of them took German 1 just long enough to pronounce Deutsch with a Nazi accent as Deitsch. Some, previously, had gone to schools with Western Civ style programs or Humane Letters programs that sought to restore a sense of core, historically shared ethical values in their student body.
All of these codes and signals and idioms have added up to a powerful and opportunistic myth today, in Roland Barthes sense, upon which those learners and their families can project almost anything they want. It becomes a vague reservoir of semiotic and sense-making potential, not entirely different in its psychic intensity than Germanic medieval imagery and Roman classicism were for fascist-curious kids in the early 20th century.
And it is the presence of this semiotic basis, and not its absence, that made for instance the Camp Auschwitz sweatshirt a potential student learning outcome. The point for me is that we teachers and instructors are 100% responsible for that psychic intensity, in quite the same way that firearms instructors are responsible for teaching how exactly firearms kill and maim. It’s a sober responsibility, not an alarmist one, and not a distraction from our so-called “real work.” This is now our primary, and not secondary, realm of attention and concern. We are either mythologizers or de-mythologizers; there is no in-between for us now.
But as far as I know, unlike the affirmative developments in classics and medieval studies, our foremost national and international organizations that deal with German and other colonial and fascist legacies have not taken responsibility for this fascist and supremacist semiotic potential that brought siege to the seat of US representative democracy on Wednesday. Instead, in the worse case, we’ve sent two of our highest profile Germanists to serve on Mike Pompeo’s white supremacist curriculum committee. In the best case, our marketing has relied on diversity- and inclusion-based multiculturalism. This does about as little to combat white supremacy in its explicit and implicit structures as does calling the colonial Berliner Schloss a “Forum.”
But because of what I call the enrolment-supremacist complex, we have been hedging our bets on this for decades, low-key afraid of alienating anyone. Not wanting to alienate crypto-nationalist heritage agendas and their money while in the same breath NOT acknowledging Black Germans and Black adoptees from Germany as heritage learners too. Not wanting to acknowledge that German-Americans and German-Canadians are settler colonials involved in Indigenous displacement and genocide and not just emigrants and Auslandsdeutsche. And really doubling down on a wealth-driven rationale for studying German with notions of German as the “strongest economy in Europe,” without regard to the decades and decades of labor by People of Color and labor migrants to make that economy possible at all.
So I think our national orgs and our departmental curricula really need to take a cue from the good work of the Society for Classical Studies and openly ask ourselves, without thinking AT ALL about enrolments for once:
This isn’t navel-gazing. It’s our responsibility as teachers and as a field. And we are LATE to the discussion, despite many serious efforts in the 1990s to do much of this work, which petered out because of lack of institutional support and the sheer and persistent power of white supremacist neo-conversative culture wars, and of course white supremacy has never ceded power willingly.
I note in closing that this past week, the American Association of Teachers of German has passed, for the first time in their 100-year history, an amendment to their organization’s constitution, to introduce an Equity Officer into their volunteer Executive Leadership. I think, once that position is filled, these three questions from the SCS would be a great place for that serious and hopeful work in the organization to commence.
Ansley, Frances Lee. “Stirring the Ashes: Race Class and the Future of Civil Rights Scholarship.” Cornell Law Review74.6 (1989): 994–1073.
Baldwin, James. The Fire Next Time. London: Michael Joseph, 1963.
Benjamin, Walter. Das Kunstwerk im Zeitalter seiner technischen Reproduzierbarkeit. Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1980.
Lindenschmit, Wilhelm. Die Räthsel der Vorwelt, oder: Sind die Deutschen eingewandert? Mainz: Seifert, 1846.
Merritt, Adrienne. “A Question of Inclusion: Intercultural Competence, Systemic Racism, and the North American German Classroom.” Diversity and Decolonization in the German Curriculum, eds. Regine Criser and Ervin Malakaj. New York: Palgrave, 2020. 177–196.
Lorde, Audre. Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches by Audre Lorde. Berkeley: Crossings Press, 2007.
Roy, Arundhati. “The Pandemic is a Portal.” Department of African American Studies. Princeton University. May 1, 2020. https://aas.princeton.edu/news/pandemic-portal. Accessed: March 3, 2021.
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