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The John F. Kennedy Institute is one of the most important centers for North American Studies in Europe and host institution to various research activities. While faculty members carry out numerous individual research projects on North American topics collaborative research covers a wide range of topics in North American Studies, e.g. urban culture in metropolitan America, serial formats in American popular culture, neoliberal economic policy, and the history of colonial North America.

The Graduate School of North American Studies has been part of the John F. Kennedy Institute since 2006. It has won the competition of the Excellence Initiative of the German Federal and State Governments twice and has been funded by the German Research Foundation. With the establishment of the Graduate School, the JFKI has become one of the few academic institutions in Germany that offer Bachelor and Master Programs as well as Doctoral education.

The Graduate School’s program is dedicated to a comprehensive and interdisciplinary analysis of the social, economic and cultural changes facing North America at the beginning of the 21st century. Special attention is given to the crisis-like transformation running through American society today, apparent in both domestic and foreign policy and economic development, as well as in the media, the arts, culture, and religion. Each year, the School awards ten doctoral scholarships to excellent applicants from the fields of American Literature or Culture (American Studies), History, Political Science, Sociology and Economics.

The Research Unit "Popular Seriality—Aesthetics and Practice", funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG), is based at the JFKI. From 2013 to 2016, the Department of Culture houses three sub-projects of this Research Unit, along with the central project. Among the successfully concluded research projects are the postgraduate program (Graduiertenkolleg) "Democracy in the USA", the project "From Welfare to Work" (a project carried out by the Department of Political Science and funded by the German Research Foundation), as well as the International TransCoop-Project "Transnational American Studies" and the project "Coolness in Black and White" within the excellence cluster "Languages of Emotion".

The JFKI is partner institution of the International Graduate Program Berlin-New York-Toronto "The World in the City: Metropolitanism and Globalization from the 19th Century to the Present". In the past, the Institute participated in the Berlin-New York Transatlantic Postgraduate Program  "History and Culture of Metropolis in the 20th Century" and in the Research Center (SFB) 700 "Governance in Areas of Limited Statehood".

Besides numerous individual publications by faculty members, which are documented on the respective staff pages, the JFKI itself offers various possibilities for publications. These series attest to the innovative and ongoing research activities at the institute.

The JFKI library contains the largest North American Studies collection in Germany and the broad range of subjects represented at the library make it unique on the European continent. The library contains books, periodicals, audiovisual and electronic materials relating to North American Studies in the humanities and social sciences. There are research grants available for German and European researchers.