Reenvisioning BIPOC German Studies and Decolonizing Knowledge (Roundtable)


German / Pedagogy & Professional

Maria Grewe (John Jay College of Criminal Justice-CUNY)

Maya Nitis (Johns Hopkins University)

The 21st century can be characterized by efforts to address systemic racism, increasingly taken up in academic scholarship and praxis. Nevertheless, systems of secondary education continue to be a major participant in the reproduction of privilege, specifically vis-à-vis race. Literature on critical pedagogy tends to focus on certain fields, and in particular, on the study of education. Contemporary scholars of decolonization argue that most university classrooms today remain mired in hierarchical models of education, which, largely inadvertently, privilege those students already privileged in terms of race, class, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, and more. This roundtable builds on ongoing discussions on the topic of decolonization to which networks and events such as "Diversity, Decolonization and the German Curriculum," "Research Network in Queer Studies, Decolonial Feminisms and Cultural Transformations," and a recent roundtable at Johns Hopkins University have contributed.

This roundtable also examines what it means to teach German studies at Minority Serving Institutions (such as HBCUs, HSIs, TCUs, AAPISIs) in keeping with the unique missions and programming of these institutions of higher education. German studies, when presented and practiced as unmarked whiteness in the cannon, curricula, and programs, and where diversity is peripheral, reproduces existing power structures and excludes the voices and experiences of our students. This lack of representation and identification leads to underrepresentation of Students of Color in German studies. Drawing on the rich work of scholars and activists to decolonize and diversify German studies, this roundtable seeks to further develop ways to not only facilitate an increased interest in German studies at MSIs, but to mobilize BIPOC students as agents in investigating and critically reflecting on their own positionalities as well as in dismantling white, colonial and ethnonationalist power structures in a transnational context.

This roundtable examines what the practice of decolonizing knowledge looks like in our institutions and classrooms. What would it mean to decolonize epistemology in languages, literatures, philosophy, media and other fields across the humanities? Does this require an interdisciplinary or a transdisciplinary approach? This roundtable also asks scholars, teachers, and activists across disciplines to share and examine how we can re-imagine and shape BIPOC German studies at Minority Serving Institutions. How do the voices and experiences of our students shape our curriculum design, pedagogy, and praxis so they are relevant to and transformational for our students? How do we support faculty at Minority Serving Institutions in sharing and developing BIPOC German studies programming, primary and secondary sources, and other relevant material that mobilize BIPOC students as agents in investigating and critically reflecting on their own positionalities in a transnational context?