Two important institutions of American Studies in Germany celebrated major anniversaries in 2013: the German Association of American Studies (DGfA) turned sixty and the John F. Kennedy Institute at the Free University of Berlin passed the fifty-year mark. While both events triggered retrospective glances at the history of the field, the conference "Looking Forward, 2014" will survey major research projects of the coming years, mostly (but not exclusively) from Germany's American Studies community.
In presenting their current projects, scholars will showcase diverse approaches to American culture, literature, and society. The field of American Studies has reached a point where its capacious multi-disciplinarity extends across an unprecedented variety of artifacts, practices, and media. What does it entail, then, to study American culture under such rubrics as cognition, materiality, narrative, or seriality? Which methodologies are fit to explicate the complex media ecologies of the present, as well as the archives of the American past? How do researchers navigate the currents of aesthetics, politics, hermeneutics, and theory? Is the field destined to prolong the rhetoric of "turns" and paradigm shifts or can it replace perennial appeals to do things differently with sustainable ideas for how to do things better?
Presentations will include reports from larger, ongoing or emerging, often interdisciplinary research ventures as well as from forthcoming or recent book publications of younger scholars (especially "Habilitationsschriften").