Illustration: Louisa Kron



Winter semester 2020/21

Difference and Representation


In this seminar we ask about the connection between categories of difference and politics of representation. On the basis of some key texts from gender and queer studies, disability studies and critical race theory, we deal with the origin and effectiveness of stereotypes on the one hand, on the other hand, we discuss the self-empowering strategies in artistic works on the topics of gender and sexuality, disability, “race” and class. A second perspective is the ethical question of how to deal with potentially hurtful images and words and the limits of what can be shown. The online events in the context of the series differenz_Gestalten with Jens Kastner ("Class as a fighting term: To hide classes in the fine arts"), Jasco Viefhues (who will talk about his film Save the Fire about the photographer Jürgen Baldiga), Natascha Frankenberg ("Marriage, Death and Queer Cinema”) and Alexandra Hartmann ("Race, Representation and Pop Culture") are included in the content of the seminar. All texts are made accessible via Moodle at the beginning of the semester.

Illness, pandemic, care work


The year 2020 is defined by the Corona pandemic. In addition to the illnesses and deaths, the pandemic is having massive and far-reaching effects on our working conditions, our leisure activities, and it is redefining the conditions of our social relationships. And once again the pandemic makes the effectiveness of our categories of difference - gender, class and race - obvious. Corona is an occasion to develop theoretical approaches, social discourses and artistic positions on the subject of illness and pandemic in this seminar. Based on the current exhibitions “Keith Haring” and “Save Love: International Posters Against AIDS” in the Folkwang Museum, we will first look at artistic and literary positions on HIV / AIDS since the 1980s. On the basis of texts by Susan Sontag, Brigitte Weingart and Douglas Crimp, we question the metaphorical vocabulary about this pandemic and discuss the artistic positions of Keith Haring and the Berlin photographer Jürgen Baldiga. Then we will address the current situation and discuss selected texts from the newly published anthology "Die Corona Gesellschaft" and focus on, among other things, the categories of gender and age. Finally we concentrate on the topic of care work. The AIDS crisis spawned new models of care work, and the situation of caregivers during the Corona pandemic shows that care work, gender and class are intertwined. The content of the online events that take place as part of the differenz_Gestalten lectures series with Jasco Viefhues on his film "Rettet das Feuer" about the photographer Jürgen Baldiga (December 1st at 6 p.m.) and Francis Seeck about queer care work (January 12th at 6 p.m.) are integrated into the seminar.

Summer semester 2020

Gender, Race and Visual Representation


The seminar "Gender, Race and Visual Representation" addresses the construction of "race" and theories of racism and asks how the differences between gender and race interrelate. We build on texts by Stuart Hall, bell hooks, Audre Lorde, James Baldwin, José Esteban Muñoz and the Combahee River Collective and discuss the concept of intersectionality in order to analyze visual representations in different media, especially film, photography and graphic novels. Among other things, we will deal with current discourses surrounding Black Lives Matter, including those based on the films Get Out (2017) and Queen & Slim (2020).



In this seminar we use the term "retroactivism" to describe aesthetic and political strategies that relate affirmatively to earlier political movements and their aesthetic forms, whether as a re-enactment, remake or through the re-activation of archival material. We cover works in which elements of earlier political emancipation movements are updated for the present, such as Jeremy Deller’s The Battle of Orgreave (2001), Cheryl Dunye’s The Watermelon Woman (1996), Isaac Julien’s Looking for Langston (1989), Benny Nemerofsky Ramsay’s The Rosa Song (2011) and Conny Karlsson Lundgren’s Y'all Better Quiet Down (2013). We discuss their intertextual references and ask how they refer to the categories of class, race, sexuality and gender and their overlaps, and to what extent they envision new forms of politics. As part of an excursion to the Duisburg Archive for Alternative Literature, we then deal with archives of political movements and try to find ways to approach them retroactively.

Winter semester 2019/20

Black Lives Matter: Text, Image, Context


For several years now, German media have addressed police violence against black citizens in the US and the Black Lives Matter movement. Both are the subject of the seminar "Black Lives Matter: Text, Image, Context". Claudia Rankine's text Citizen serves as the starting point, a lyrical examination of racism in which autobiographical experiences and visual representations of blackness enter into a dialogue with one another. Starting from Citizen, this seminar will deal with racism and critical race theory.

The seminar discussions will focus on: W.E.B. DuBois' concept of double consciousness, the aesthetics and politics of the Black Arts Movement of the 1960s, black feminism after the Combahee River Collective, Paul Gilroy's theory of the Black Atlantic, post-blackness and current intersectional (Kimberlé W. Crenshaw) and afropessimist (e.g. Saidiya Hartman) theoretical approaches. Wherever possible, theoretical and artistic positions are considered at the same time.

Rebecca Brückmann’s talk "'Black Pink Wave' - Rosa Parks and #Black Lives Matter," which is part of the the lecture series "Differenz_gestalten," will also be discussed in our seminar.

Perspectives of Gender Studies and Queer Theory


As academic disciplines, gender studies and queer theory emerged in the early 1990s from two lines of development, the feminist and LGBT movements on the one hand, and the reception of French post-structuralist theories on the other. An important prerequisite were the Women’s Studies and Gay and Lesbian Studies programs, which had been founded primarily at North American universities as a result of the emancipatory movements since the 1970s. The AIDS crisis and the experience of the possibility of effective political organization beyond the constraints of identity politics were also decisive for the emergence of queer theory. The initial focus of our seminar "Perspectives of Gender Studies and Queer Theory” lies on the beginnings of gender studies and queer theory and their post-structuralist foundations. Then current trends, in particular affect-theoretical and materialistic approaches and the question of queer temporalities, are included in the discussion. Two talks relevant for this seminar will take place as part of the lecture series "Differenz_gestalten": "Hipster Porn: Queer Masculinity and Affective Sexualities in the fanzine Butt" by Peter Rehberg (November 19, 2019) and "Ongoing Interventions: Four Decades of HIV and AIDS" by Martin Dannecker (3.12.2019).

Summer semester 2019

Disability, Body, Culture


In the wake of the Disability Rights Movement, the independent academic discipline of Disability Studies has emerged in recent decades. In the seminar we will discuss some of the key developments within the discipline. One example is the transition from the medical to the social model of disability, which sees disability as a social construction: Within the social model, disability is no longer conceptualized as a deficit of the body, but it is located in the environment, which is usually designed in anticipation of normate bodies. This paradigm shift connects disability studies to post-structuralist theories that deal with the relationship between body, power and knowledge, and open them up to the domain of cultural studies. In the seminar, these approaches are supplemented with current phenomenological and materialistic approaches which point to the limits of the social model, for example by addressing the experience of physical pain. Using examples from photography, film, comics and literature, we deal both with hegemonic and resistant representations of disabilities, with a focus on blindness, deaf culture, and normative views on people with disabilities.

Didier Eribon in Theoretical Context


With the publication of the German translation of Returning to Reims in 2016, the French sociologist Didier Eribon became one of the most influential living intellectuals in the German-speaking world. In his autobiography, he reflects on how his class origin, his academic career and his gay identity are connected and uses the example of his family to analyze the working class’s political shift to right-wing ideologies, which can be observed in different countries and regions.

Eribon's thinking is based on various theoretical approaches: A student of Pierre Bourdieu, he is strongly influenced by his theory of the habitus, as a biographer of Michel Foucault he reflects on his theory of power and expands on Foucault's idea of the societal effect of new relationships, as an enthusiastic reader of Simone de Beauvoir and Annie Ernaux he engages with their feminist approaches, as queer theorist he directs constructive criticism at Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick and Judith Butler, and as a keen critic of psychoanalysis, he proposes a social theory based on historical materialism.

In the seminar we will discuss selected texts from Eribon’s oeuvre and consult the abovementioned positions for a more comprehensive understanding.

Archives of social movements and artistic practice


In traditional archives, assembling collections that commemorate the progress of emancipatory movements is usually not a high priority. For this reason, political activists often take care of the task of remembering the history of their own movement. With the emergence of the new social movements since the 1960s and 70s, for example the women's and lesbian movement, the gay movement, or movements of migrant self-organization, some archives were established near Essen. The seminar first discusses theoretical approaches related to archiving and memory culture. Then we deal with artists’ negotiations with such archives and begin a conversation with Bochum’s project Emanzenexpress. Another part of the seminar consists of archival research with a focus on the collections of the following four archives: AusZeiten Women's Archives (Bochum), Archives for Alternative Literature (Duisburg), Documentation Center and Museum on Migration in Germany e.V. (Cologne) and Centrum Schwule Geschichte (Cologne). Participants are asked to formulate a research question concerning these collections and develop a first idea for a theoretical and/or artistic position, when visiting these archives.

Winter semester 2018/19


No seminars on gender and diversity took place during the winter semester 2018/19.



Summer semester 2018

Identity and difference in comics and graphic novels


Alison Bechdel's comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For (1983-2008) traces the key theoretical and political debates of the second and third waves of the women's movement, the lesbian and gay movement, and queer politics in the United States. In her autobiographical graphic novels Fun Home (2006) and Are You My Mother? (2012) Bechdel succeeds in a multi-faceted theoretical examination of the categories of gender and sexual orientation, in which post-structuralist and psychoanalytic approaches are interwoven. The medium comics offers many other texts that deal with the construction of identity, categories of difference and oppressive relationships such as racism, anti-Semitism and animosity toward the disabled.

The seminar will discuss theories from the areas of gender and queer studies, critical race theory, and disability studies with reference to selected comics and graphic novels. Next to the texts by Alison Bechdel, these include Charles Burns's Black Hole (1995-2005), Samuel R. Delany and Mia Wolff’s Bread and Wine (1999/2013), Howard Cruse’s Stuck Rubber Baby (1995) and Art Spiegelman’s Maus (1991).

(In)visibility and Recognition


The visual sense plays a crucial role in the question of whether we perceive a person as white or black, female or male. In his book Black Skin, White Masks (French first edition 1952), the French psychiatrist and anti-colonial theorist Frantz Fanon analyzes the consequences of this link between visibility and race using the term "epidermization". In “Invisibility: On the Epistemology of Regognition” (2003), on the other hand, the philosopher Axel Honneth examines the strategy of expressing social superiority by looking through certain people – as if they were invisible. In addition, there are categories that are not visibly marked on bodies. For example, the political strategy of coming out of the lesbian and gay movement is used because it makes a previously invisible difference visible. The sociologist Didier Eribon describes shame or awkwardness as the physical effects of homonegative insult before a coming out, which indicates that invisibility can also be the reason for discrimination.

In the seminar, we will discuss these different meanings and contexts of visibility, difference, discrimination and recognition. In doing so, we also take a critical look at ocularcentrism, the unquestioned primacy of vision. The theoretical approaches are related to positions from literature, art and photography, such as the work of Adrian Piper, Ralph Ellison, James Baldwin or Jeff Wall.