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Statement on Racism, White Supremacy, and Police Brutality

Department of German Studies
Statement on Racism, White Supremacy, and Police Brutality
June 8, 2020

Black lives matter. We, the faculty and staff of the Department of German Studies, are deeply grieved and outraged by the recent racist killings of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Nina Pop, Tony McDade, and many others. We stand in solidarity with those exercising their moral and constitutional right to protest against these injustices. 

We recognize these tragedies as the most recent manifestations of structural and individual racism, white supremacy, and police brutality in the United States. These histories have indelibly shaped the academic institutions of which we are a part. As a department focused on German- and Yiddish-speaking societies, we are committed to teaching, research and outreach that emphasizes the interwoven histories of anti-Black racism, antisemitism, fascism, genocide, colonialism, xenophobia, misogyny, Islamophobia, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, and economic exploitation. We believe it is our duty to critically examine cultural memories of oppression and resistance, and to explore how they have been forgotten and repressed.

We strongly support the organizations and networks of scholars committed to fostering an inclusive and socially just vision of German Studies, including the Initiative on Diversity, Equality and Inclusion of the German Studies AssociationWomen in German, and Diversity, Decolonization and the German Curriculum, and we are committed to centering the voices of marginalized and underrepresented individuals and communities in our classrooms.

The German Studies Department at Emory University is a team of teacher-scholars that has as its threefold mission (a) the interdisciplinary research of cultural phenomena in the German- and Yiddish-speaking worlds, (b) the development of students’ foreign cultural literacy through an articulated undergraduate curriculum, and (c) the fostering of connections between the department and other disciplines both at Emory University and beyond.

To carry out this mission, the German Studies faculty maintains an active research agenda into German and Yiddish culture and constantly looks to involve that research in its courses. The courses offered range from beginning German for those with no prior background in the language to advanced courses on cultural, literary, and historical topics relevant to the German-speaking world. In addition, the department offers courses on Yiddish language and culture as well as courses in English on German film, literature, and culture. Central to all of the department's course offerings is a conscious effort to move beyond the boundaries of a strictly national literature department and to explore phenomena that transcend political borders (e.g., German-Jewish cultures, the cultural diversity of the former Austrian Empire). All of the departmental courses are part of a recently revised curriculum that has abolished the bifurcation between so-called "language" courses at the lower level of instruction and so-called 'content' courses at the upper level. Long the norm in foreign language departments throughout the United States, this counter-productive division is ill-suited to maximize the limited contact hours that mark the undergraduate language learning experience. In contrast, a well-designed four-year curriculum that links the study of language with content at all levels of instruction is able to establish a clear trajectory for achieving advancedness in the language in spite of the short amount of time available. Moreover, with a much stronger content orientation in the lower levels, students can already in their very first semester begin examining themes, texts, and discourses that (re)signify German-speaking cultures. In a divided curriculum that kind of inquiry does not really began in earnest until the third year of instruction. Please consult the online Emory College Course Catalogue for a complete overview of the department's course offerings and the Online Course Atlas for the courses currently being offered. For those who have studied German before coming to Emory the department offers an online placement test.

In addition to its course offerings at Emory, the department has affiliations with semester- and year-long study abroad programs at the universities of Freiburg, Berlin and Vienna, as well as its own seven-week-long summer program in Vienna, the longest running summer study abroad program at Emory. German Studies majors and minors are also eligible to participate in the American Chamber of Commerce in Germany Internship Program, a three-month paid summer internship in Germany.

The department offers both a major and minor in German Studies, and many students combine their study of German with another discipline. For instance, in the past few years German majors and minors have also majored or minored in Biology, Physics, Philosophy, Political Science, Business, History, Sociology, and Italian and then used that combination to gone on to pursue careers in medicine, education, law, business, and non-profit work. In addition to their course work in the department, majors and minors are encouraged to take electives with affiliated faculty that deal with topics relevant to the German-speaking world (e.g., a History course on World War I; a Music course on Richard Wagner; a Philosophy course on German Romanticism; a Political Science course on German politics).

Outside of the classroom, the department sponsors a range of extra-curricular activities for its students. The majority of the events originate with the residents of the on-campus German House who plan a calendar of events each year under the supervision of the department's Fulbright Teaching Assistant from Austria. In addition, German Studies majors and minors coordinate a weekly Mittagstisch that allows students to get together over lunch and practice their spoken German.

For its successful implementation of these many curricular and extra-curricular opportunities the department was recognized as one of the first two Centers of Excellence by the American Association of Teachers of German in 2012.