Berlin, Hamburg, Bamberg: Expanding our Rivalrous Masculinities Network
by Steffen Kaupp
In January, I had the pleasure of visiting our current (University of Bamberg) and future (Humboldt University Berlin and University of Hamburg) overseas collaborators for Rivalrous Masculinities, our Emerging Humanities Network. In Bamberg, I joined our sister seminar--we had met with Prof. Bennewitz's class twice via video-conferencing in the fall semester--and was amazed by the high quality of the German students' research on the objects that will go into their virtual exhibition. In Hamburg and Berlin, I met with Prof. Claudia Benthien and Prof. Andreas Kraß to discuss our collaboration for the fall 2013 Rivalrous Masculinities class; it will be the first experience for all participants with a three-way collaboration and we are all excited about the productive moments that will emerge from the broad range of research expertise.
The most memorable impression from my three weeks, however, was the exponential rate at which I was able to expand our humanities network. On a walk through Berlin, I discovered that the Humboldt University has a specialized Gender Library. Two emails and three hours later, I met with Dr. Karin Aleksander, the head librarian at this fine institute library. They have an outstanding selection of books, journals, and digital media that cover a broad range of topics relating to gender, queer and sexuality studies. Their advanced catalog system allows users to even find individual essays from journals and edited volumes through a sophisticated tagging system, which is an immensely helpful research tool. Since our students work with a lot of art objects from German speaking lands, she offered to function as a support person for our fall 2013 class. In Hamburg, Prof. Benthien and I started planning several visits of German students to Duke in the fall, which will allow our students to expand their own networks and it will give them insights into a university system that is fundamentally different from their own. In Bamberg, among many other things, I was invited to give a lecture on my dissertation research, which deals with the representation of masculinity in the works of contemporary Turkish German authors, and which is thus closely linked to our Rivalrous Maculinities project. This 45-minute presentation led to many follow up meetings with professors and doctoral students from fields as diverse as English Literature, German Literature, German Medieval Studies, Turkology, and Islamic Studies. Not only did they have helpful comments for my dissertation research, but they were all eager to find out more about the Rivalrous Masculinities project, which puts us on the radar of a broad network of international scholars.
This trip has shown that there is an added value of traveling to Germany, and physically—rather than virtually—meeting with scholars from different fields. It allowed me to make new connections, and to introduce our project to many people in only three weeks. Doing this virtually would have either not led to any substantial interactions at all, or it would have taken months to do so. I can safely say that our Rivalrous Masculinities network has grown, and thus broadened its expertise.