September 26, 2005

German Speakers Meet At Culture, History Seminar

Print More

About 70 German-speaking students, professors and speakers came together to sample the offering of Cornell’s Department of German Studies in a two-day seminar this weekend. Entitled “Made in Germany: Kinematics, Culture, Politics,” the annual German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) Conference included lectures from a variety of experts in German studies as well as a screening of the film Jacob the Liar.

Speeches included topics ranging from religion to technology.

“One of the purposes of DAAD weekend is to help students understand the many ways German history and philosophy have been significant, and this selection of speakers does a great job,” said Leslie Adelson, German studies department chair.

Prof. Wolf Kittler, German studies, organizer of the weekend, said that in choosing the speakers, he “didn’t want to stick to just German religion or philosophy … the idea is to give a little picture of what the department does and to speak about what came out of Germany, from the world wars, racism and genocide. German culture is not just literature and art. I had the intention of it being even more eclectic: I wanted to have a mathematician talk about developments in math which enabled us to develop computers and a musicologist talk about German music.”

The first lecture in the series was given by Prof. Francis Moon, mechanical and aerospace engineering, on the topic of technological innovations in Germany.

Megan Whipple, a freshman at Nazareth College of Rochester, was surprised by the inclusion of Moon’s lecture.

“I was expecting the lectures to be more along the lines of politics rather than engineering,” she said.

Moon’s lecture received a positive response from those who attended the event.

“I especially liked the inclusion of Professor Moon’s talk on the history of the study of machines. We’ve never had a talk on that subject before,” said Adelson.

Another highlight of the weekend was a talk from Prof. Bassam Tibi, A.D. White Professor at Large, who gave the final lecture of his two week visit to Cornell at the conference on Saturday. He spoke about his theories on culture and immigration in Europe, specifically the incorporation of Islamic peoples into German society. He spent the greater part of his time discussing the controversial term ‘Leitkultur,’ which can be approximately translated to mean guiding culture.

The ideas Tibi discussed in his lecture not only provoked debate among audience members in the form of questions after the talk, but, as Tibi pointed out, “I have enemies within the Islamic community and among the Germans … people have tried four times to kill me between the years 1990 and 1995.”

The conference drew an audience from colleges throughout New York including SUNY Binghamton, SUNY Oswego and Nazareth College of Rochester.

Heather Darsie, a junior at SUNY Oswego, traveled to Cornell with her professor Ana Djukic-Cocks and three other students for the conference. One of the things she most enjoyed about the weekend was the lecture given by Prof. Emeritus Herbert Deinert, German studies, “The Political Doctrine of Martin Luther (1483-1546).”

“I was surprised to learn about how politically oriented Martin Luther was. I knew about his involvement with the church, but his political views were really interesting,” she said.

Other speakers included Prof. David Bathrick, German studies and theatre, film and dance; Prof. Wolf Kittler, department of German Studies; and Prof. Geoffrey Waite, department of German studies.

Archived article by Mariel Bronen
Sun Contributor