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Book of the Month - February 2019

The Immigrant Scene: Ethnic Amusements in New York, 1880–1920

by Sabine Haenni
© University of Minnesota Press

Explores the relationship between immigrant and national culture

Yiddish melodramas about the tribulations of immigration. German plays about alpine tourism. Italian vaudeville performances. Rubbernecking tours of Chinatown. In the New York City of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, these seemingly disparate leisure activities played similar roles: mediating the vast cultural, demographic, and social changes that were sweeping the nation’s largest city.

In The Immigrant Scene, Sabine Haenni reveals how theaters in New York created ethnic entertainment that shaped the culture of the United States in the early twentieth century. Considering the relationship between leisure and mass culture, The Immigrant Scene develops a new picture of the metropolis in which the movement of people, objects, and images on-screen and in the street helped residents negotiate the complexities of modern times.

In analyzing how communities engaged with immigrant theaters and the nascent film culture in New York City, Haenni traces the ways in which performance and cinema provided virtual mobility—ways of navigating the socially complex metropolis—and influenced national ideas of immigration, culture, and diversity in surprising and lasting ways

Sabine Haenni is associate professor in the Department of Theatre, Film, and Dance and in the American Studies Program at Cornell University.

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Center for German-American Educational History


The Center for German-American Educational History has been established in January 2014 at the Institut für Erziehungswissenschaft of the Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster. Thus, for the first time a German academic institution is dedicated entirely to the exploration of the conditions and processes of transatlantic educational history – from its beginnings in the 17th century up to today. The Center’s research and teaching is focused on the wide scope and special quality of the multifaceted interrelationships between German and American pedagogues, school founders and education-policy makers from the colonial period up to the 21st century.

The Center’s policy of information provision, teaching and research is based on the premise that the development of the different systems of education in Germany and America has been marked by fruitful competition as well as mutual interaction and interference since the Early Modern Period. Both educational systems profit from the knowledge of their entangled and intertwined history. The awareness of a common history sharpens the sense of the fact that there exists indeed a transatlantic community with shared values even with regard to ideals of education – in theory and practice.

The current ideals of education both in the United States and in Germany are derived from and related to a set of key values propagated in the Age of Enlightenment: Self-responsibility and autonomy of the citizen, religious toleration, individual rights of freedom and a broad general education available to all people as a sign of their human dignity. These values were first formulated in the 18th century as the predominant goals of modern self-education and self-government. They can be traced back to the American Constitution of 1787/88 and they can be detected in the Grundgesetz of 1949, the German post-war Constitution that came into being with the support of United States officials. This is why the Center’s research and teaching has a particular but by no means exclusive emphasis on the early phase of German-American educational history in the Age of Enlightenment.

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