W.E.B. Du Bois Lectures: Mabel O. Wilson
The W.E.B. Du Bois Lecture Series in American Culture Studies offers new contributions to the urgently needed intercultural dialogue by inviting scholars and intellectuals to
The W.E.B. Du Bois Lecture Series in American Culture Studies offers new contributions to the urgently needed intercultural dialogue by inviting scholars and intellectuals to give lectures open to a wider audience that address some of the crucial aspects and problems of public culture and the modes of cultural critique today.
The lectures are named in honor of William Edward Burghardt Du Bois (1868 to 1963) an important and influential intellectual, scholar, public figure, and writer of 20th century America. After doing graduate work at Harvard University, he was a doctoral student at Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität (now Humboldt-Universität) from 1892 to 1894. In Berlin he studied with Gustav von Schmöller, Adolf Wagner, Heinrich von Treitschke, and Max Weber. The first African American ever to receive a Ph.D. from Harvard in 1895, he was subsequently professor of economics and history at Atlanta University from 1897 to 1910 and became widely known for his numerous historical and analytical studies of the social, economic, political, and cultural status of black people in the United States. In his famous book The Souls of Black Folk (1903), which combined political essays, cultural critique, autobiographical sketches, and fiction, Du Bois elaborated his notion of the inescapable „double-consciousness“ that characterizes the lives of black Americans and his vision of the crucial role racial conflicts were to play all over the world in the new century: „The problem of the Twentieth Century is the problem of the color line.“ He was a co-founder of the racially integrated civil rights organization National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and organized several Pan-African Congresses (from 1919 to 1945) which addressed the problems of imperialism and decolonization in a worldwide context. As editor of The Crisis, the journal of the NAACP, from 1910 to 1934, and of Phylon, from 1940 to 1944, Du Bois created a forum for black American literature, cultural and political debate, and social thought that situated African Americans in the wider frame of a revised notion of a multicultural democratic society in the United States and its interrelations with other parts of a postcolonial world. In 1958/59, he received an honorary doctorate from Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin. He emigrated to Ghana in 1961 where he edited the Encyclopedia Africana. Du Bois died in Ghana in 1963.
American Studies in Perspective
In the age of globalization, the gradual unification of Europe, and the increasing awareness of the crucial importance of the political organization of social heterogeneity and cultural differences, a critical engagement with U.S. American culture and society has become ever more urgent. The repercussions of American multiculturalism, the interplay of competing public cultures, the impact of the new media, and the transnational perspectives of American cultural production have fundamentally changed the direction, the academic organization, and the public role of the interdisciplinary project of American Studies in the United States. These new developments not only challenge our understanding of the role American Studies should play in German universities, but also demand a new, genuinely dialogical conception of American Studies that articulates different and conflicting experiences and visions of the future from both sides of the Atlantic in a globalizing context. American Studies in Germany, seen in the wider European frame, can provide a forum in which the most pressing issues of the powerful dynamics of cultural differences, of the reorganization of the production of cultural knowledge, and of the implications of a reconstitution of the public sphere, all of them critical issues for the new Berlin Republic, can be debated in a transnational, comparative perspective.
The American Studies Program at Humboldt-Universität defines its research objectives and curricula in this context. It therefore focuses on the literary and cultural representations of, and theoretical approaches to, categories such as ‚race,‘ ethnicity, gender, class, region, and age, and their complex interrelations within and beyond American society. Literary studies are complemented by studies of other print media, film, television, the internet, and the arts. The American Studies Program is involved in the new interdisciplinary Gender Studies program and cooperates closely with Cultural Studies, Cultural Anthropology, and the Modern Literature and Language Departments at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin. Intercultural dialogues are pursued in collaborative research projects with scholars from the United States and European countries. These activities materialize in a number of student and faculty exchange programs with various American and European universities.
Mabel O. Wilson (Columbia University)
„Can We Forget? A Memorial to Enslaved Laborers“
The degradation, violence, and dehumanization of racialization threads through modernity—its subjectivities, social relations, politics, culture, capitalism, and built environment, especially within institutions like universities that order all of these formations. Mabel O. Wilson will explore how the Memorial to Enslaved Laborers at the University of Virginia engages the university’s hidden history of slavery. She shares how the memorial’s complicated design process and public dialogues wrestled with the legacy of anti-black racism in its remembrance of the pain of bondage and the dignity of this enslaved community. Her talk asks if commemoration can serve as a means of repair and care for those living in the slavery’s wake? Can one make spaces to remember those who were enslaved without, as Saidiya Hartman poignantly reminds us, recasting the violence of archival erasure?
BIO: Mabel O. Wilson is the Nancy and George E Rupp Professor of Architecture, Planning and Preservation and a Professor in African American and African Diaspora Studies at Columbia University. She is currently the Berthold Leibinger Fellow at the American Academy in Berlin completing work on her book manuscript Building Race and Nation: Slavery, Dispossession, and U.S. Civic Architecture. With her practice Studio&, she was a member of the design team that recently completed the Memorial to Enslaved Laborers at the University of Virginia. Wilson has authored of Begin with the Past: Building the National Museum of African American History and Culture (2016), Negro Building: Black Americans in the World of Fairs and Museums (2012), and co-edited the volume Race and Modern Architecture: From the Enlightenment to Today (2020). She is the co-host of the podcast Black Lives in the Era of COVID 19, a close look at the impact of the virus on New York City communities. For the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, she was co-curator of the exhibition Reconstructions: Architecture and Blackness in America (2021).
Unter den Linden 6, Raum 2070a
HU BerlinUnter den Linden 6