The German Association for the Study of British Cultures aims, as expressed in its constitution, to promote “academic activity in the field of British and other English-speaking cultures.”
The Association’s main concern is to bring a scholarly cultural dimension to the subject matter and perspectives of English Studies at German universities and schools; and to give this dimension more conceptual depth, thematic differentiation, and institutional recognition. The list of founding members shows that the Association grew out of English Studies, but it was established in the attempt to create a new cross-disciplinary forum outside the traditional sort of English Studies association. This new development is vulnerable to dilettantism, however, and it is for this reason particularly that a British Studies section within English Studies needs dialogue partners and colleagues from Social and Media Studies, History, Urban Studies, Social Psychology and other relevant areas. A “unified field of theory” of culture, something along the lines of the Birmingham Centre, can easily hide the fact that the inclusion of visual texts and signifying practices in English teaching demands practical and theoretical skills that are not automatically possessed by practitioners within English Studies.
The Association therefore tries, through such channels as its conferences and publications, to mediate between two sets of people: on the one hand, British Studies specialists from English Studies, who for the most part have found and tried out their new concepts of “text,” “meaning,” “representation,” etc. within their own discipline; and on the other hand potential partners from neighbouring disciplines, who are professionally familiar with the evaluation of hegemonic relations or the semiotics of film or visual art. To be realistic, it must be said that this interdisciplinary dialogue, to say nothing of intermixture, will progress only slowly within the Association. The heavy literary bias at recent conferences has shown that most members are still moving (for understandably pragmatic reasons) in the borderlands between literary and cultural studies. Many potential partners regard this somewhat sceptically as half-heartedness.
It is clear from the foregoing remarks that, as far as theoretical and conceptual matters are concerned, the Association must remain a “broad church” (Kastendiek/Berg). It can learn here from the German Association for American Studies, which brings together not only context-oriented “philologists” but also literary and cultural sociologists, arts and media specialists, post-colonial experts, and feminists. Our Association, too, should avoid tying itself to one cultural concept or one field of analytical objects or one (e.g. semiotic) method. Instead, we should be happy to profit from the unfamiliar methods and procedures of sociologists or historians. If we do not do this, we run the risk of a sort of inbreeding which could lead, for example, to the Association leaving it more and more at the literary-studies type of analysis of discursive representations and not even asking the social scientist’s question about the “why” of a particular social development (Kastendiek/Berg).
As to its position on theory and method, the Association’s real task is to protect the field of dialogue from excessive monopolization and to remain open for encounters as controversial as possible.
The German Society for the Study of British Cultures reserves a small fund for the sponsorship of events (workshops, study-days, symposia etc.) organized by their members, especially those who have little experience in applying for external funding.
- Prof Dr Christian Huck
Chair / Kiel University
- Prof Dr Jana Gohrisch
Vice Chair / Leibniz University Hannover
- Dr Lena Steveker
Treasurer / Saarland University