Articles

I’ve Been to the Mountaintop! I

In German Culture in ATL, Sina's Posts, Transportation, Trips on April 27, 2012 by SN

Last year, I sent abstracts to two prestigious conferences. The first one is the CLA Conference which celebrated its 75th anniversary in Atlanta. CLA is the largest association of African American college teachers in the United States and invites research on African American, Hispanic literature and culture in particular and people of color in general. The second conference is the Show and Prove conference on hip-hop organized by the NYU Department of Multicultural Education and Programs in New York City. As it soon turned out, I was accepted to both of them, and this is the story of my extraordinary conference weekend.

Thursday, March 29, and Friday, March 30, I attended CLA at the Hyatt Regency just across from our home. I found the topic on the newly emerging field Afro German Studies highly interesting and attended the panel entitled “German-African American Scholarly and Cultural Legacies” moderated by Margaret Hampton. The panel demonstrated that there is a growing body of research investigating the connection between African American identities and the German culture. Leroy Hopkins, for instance, examined two late 19th century autobiographies. He showed how the authors had romanticized ideas of Germany, which to them was a nation unburdened by a history of oppression and slavery. One of the authors even wrote about going to Dresden to learn the most sophisticated German dialect! Ironically, their idealization of Germany happened amidst a climate of German colonization and increasing exotification of ethnic difference as exemplified by the many Völkerschauen. The panel affirmed the fact that there had been a long history of African Americans and Germany. W.E.B. Du Bois, for instance, lived in Germany in order to experience the motherland of American education. German philosophy, to give another example, has influenced many Black intellectual leaders. The novel Slumberland, which I discussed with my students in my course German Culture in the United States: Identities, Representations, and Politics, uses Germany as a place to discuss the state of race-relations in the supposed age of “post-race”. I was very intrigued by the panel not only in an academic way, but also on a more practical level: How can we inspire African American, Hispanic, and students of color to come over to Germany? After the panel I had a long conversation with Ms. Hampton and Mr. Hopkins about all of those issues.

On Friday morning I moderated a panel on “Looking to Ancestors, Autobiography and Memoir for Post-Colonial and Political Insight”. My presentation examined how Sister Souljah’s 1994 autobiography No Disrespect reconfigured of the slave narrative genre in order to make the point that slavery continues to exist in American society. The panel went very well and I got great feedback on my talk. Yeah!

Attending CLA brought me many new ideas for research projects, but also projects that involve student exchanges. If I were at Oglethorpe University longer, I would definitely look into those programs more closely and set up an exchange program.

After attending CLA in the morning, I rushed to the airport and boarded the plane to New York City.

Off to NYC! Downtown Atlanta from the Plane.

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One Response to “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop! I”

  1. […] work. It was coordinated by my colleague Dr. Mario Chandler who was also a committee member of CLA conference earlier this month. For me LASS constituted a wonderful opportunity to learn more about what our […]

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